**Now, let’s go straight to our question:**

## What is the total number of roots in Arabic?

### Number of roots in Hans Wehr

There are many Arabic dictionaries. **Hans Wehr’s** Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart (named after a German scholar, published in 1952) is the **most complete dictionary of Standard Arabic** ever published in the West. It contains **2967 roots** (جِذْر) with 3 letters and 362 with 4 letters.

### Number of roots in Lisan al-Arab

The most famous dictionary of Classical Arabic is** Lisān al-‘Arab** (لِسان الْعَرَب), compiled by Ibn Manzūr (ابْن مَنْظُور) in the early 14th century (711 AH). It contains around 80,000 entries and in total (3 + 4 letters + foreign words) **9273 roots**.

### Mathematically possible number of roots

Since the Arabic alphabet consists of 28 letters (consonant phonemes) there are **21,952** theoretical combinations (=28^{3}) of roots with three radicals. However, certain combinations are impossible (with few exceptions):

- There is no Arabic root which consists of
**three identical**consonants. - There are no Arabic roots with
**identical**consonants in the**first**and**second**position. - There are almost no Arabic roots with identical consonants in the
**first**and**third**position. An exception would be قلق (@Erik – thanks for telling me; see comment). - However, there are roots whose
**second**and**third**letter are**identical**, for example,*to pass*(م-ر-ر).

Considering all possible restrictions, the theoretical number of all possible combinations of roots (morphemes) with three letters is **6332.**

**What are the most common root letters?**

n *Hans Wehr*, the most common root letter is ر (722 times). The ظ is the least common: only 42 times (1.4 %). The ن is the most common first radical (235 times).

## A joke about Arabic roots

The joke goes as follows.

Every root denotes** four things:**

- its basic concept
- the opposite
- something related to a camel or horse
- and something so obscene you need to look it up for yourself.

Okay, this is only a joke, but it may work quite well with the root جمل.

**Question:** Do you know which letters you can theoretically add to an Arabic root? Hint: There aren’t many.

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Picture credit: Image by Erzsébet Apostol from Pixabay