The derivation of the term Arab is unclear, and the meaning of the word has changed several times through history. Some Arab scholars have equated Joktan (Gen. 10.25) with the ancient Arab patriarch Qahtan whose tribe is thought to have originated in S Arabia. The Assyrian inscriptions (9th cent. BC) referred to nomadic peoples inhabiting the far north of the Arabian Peninsula; the sedentary population in the south of the peninsula was not called Arab. In classical times the term was extended to the whole of the Arabian Peninsula and to all the desert areas of the Middle East, and in the Middle Ages the Arabs came to be called Saracens.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Peoples (except New World)