al-qamus-al-muhitThe Arabic Dictionary Al-Qāmūs al-Muḥīṭ was compiled by Muḥammad b. Ya’qūb al-Fayrūzābādī (d. 817 AH).

Al-Fayrūzābādī relied primarily on Al-Muḥkam of Ibn Sīdah (d. 458 AH) and Al-Ubāb of Al-Ṣāghānī (d. 660 AH). He arranged his dictionary by order of the final letters in the roots, rather than the first, in imitation of Al-Jawharī’s (d. 393) Al-Ṣiḥāḥ, in order to more easily engage in commenting on and criticising the latter work.

Al-Fayrūzābādī was thus able to combine the contents of the three most prestigious dictionaries which preceded him. While doing so, he took out the many references and quotations from classical poets and other extraneous information which is typically found in larger dictionaries, to make his dictionary as concise as possible.

In this one-volume Arabic dictionary, Al-Fayrūzābādī was able to include 60,000 entries – a vast number, when one thinks that Ibn Mandhūr’s (d. 711 AH) multi-volume Lisān al-‘Arab, which is many times greater in size, has only 20,000 more entries.

Thus, Al-Qāmūs al-Muḥīṭ was a quick and reliable reference, and it gained immense popularity amongst Arabic students (which it enjoys to this day). This in turn led to major commentaries on the book, the greatest of which was Al-Zabīdī’s (d. 1205) Tāj al-‘Urūs, which later became the main source of Lane’s Lexicon (which is why Lane gave his dictionary the Arabic name Madd al-Qāmūs, or ‘The Extension of al-Qāmūs’).

Al-Qāmūs al-Muḥīṭ‘s significance now is largely historical. English speaking students of Arabic in particular will find little of use in it, as it doesn’t go into enough detail regarding those things which will be of particular interest and concern to them. In our opinion, a student looking to start using an Arabic-Arabic dictionary would do better to begin with the much more useful Al-Mu’jam al-Wasīṭ.