Maltese, the official language of Malta, may surprise you with its connection to Arabic. With its unique blend of Semitic roots and Romance vocabulary, Maltese shares a fascinating linguistic parallel with Arabic. But how exactly do these two languages relate?

Maltese is a language that has evolved from the Arabic spoken by the Arab conquerors who arrived on the shores of Malta in the 9th century. However, it has also been heavily influenced by Italian and other romance languages due to the island’s history of colonization. As a result, Maltese has an intriguing mixture of Arabic grammar and vocabulary with an Italianate twist. Interestingly, around half of the words in the Maltese lexicon are derived from Arabic, making it the only Semitic language written in the Latin script. This unique blend of influences creates a captivating linguistic tapestry that sets Maltese apart.

is maltese similar to arabic?


Is Maltese Similar to Arabic?

In this article, we will explore the relationship between Maltese and Arabic languages. Maltese is the official language of Malta and is believed to have evolved from Sicilian Arabic. Despite its similarities to Arabic, Maltese also incorporates influences from Italian, English, and other languages. We will delve into the history, grammar, vocabulary, and cultural aspects of Maltese to determine the extent of its similarity to Arabic.

The Origins of Maltese

Maltese is a Semitic language that has its roots in the Arabic spoken in Sicily during the Arab rule of Malta and the surrounding areas in the 9th century. Over time, Maltese evolved as a distinct language while retaining a substantial Arabic influence. This influence is most evident in the vocabulary and grammatical structure of Maltese.

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Having undergone significant changes and adaptations throughout history, Maltese has also absorbed vocabulary from Italian, English, and several other languages due to Malta’s historical ties with various civilizations. Today, Maltese is a unique language that reflects both its Arabic origins and the subsequent cultural interactions that shaped the Maltese archipelago.

The Grammar and Structure of Maltese

While Maltese shares many similarities with the Arabic language, it has its own unique grammar and structure. Maltese is written in the Latin script and, like Arabic, is read from right to left. However, unlike standard Arabic, Maltese does not use case endings or a strict verb conjugation system. Instead, it relies on prepositions, word order, and context to convey meaning.

In terms of vocabulary, Maltese retains a significant amount of Arabic words. About 40% to 50% of the vocabulary in Maltese is derived from Arabic, with many words related to daily life, family, food, and religion. However, it is important to note that the pronunciation and spelling of Arabic-derived words in Maltese may differ slightly from their counterparts in standard Arabic.

Cultural Influences on Maltese

As a language that has developed within the context of Malta’s history, Maltese has been influenced by various cultural interactions. Aside from Arabic, Italian has had a significant impact on the vocabulary and pronunciation of Maltese. This influence is due to Malta’s membership in the Kingdom of Sicily and its proximity to Italy. Additionally, English has become increasingly prevalent in modern-day Malta, leading to more English loanwords and phrases making their way into the Maltese language.

Malti, as the language is referred to by its speakers, is not only the language of everyday communication but also plays a vital role in preserving Maltese culture and identity. It is used extensively in literature, music, films, and other forms of artistic expression. The Maltese language is a symbol of national pride and a testament to the country’s rich and diverse heritage.

Maltese and Arabic: Similarities and Differences

When comparing Maltese to Arabic, it is clear that they share a significant historical and linguistic connection. The influence of Arabic on the Maltese language is undeniable, particularly in its vocabulary. However, due to the various cultural influences over the centuries, Maltese differs from standard Arabic in terms of grammar, structure, and pronunciation.


The similarities between Maltese and Arabic lie primarily in vocabulary and some grammatical features. Many words in Maltese have direct equivalents in Arabic, especially those related to family, daily life, nature, and religion. Additionally, Maltese shares the Arabic system of plurals and possessives, as well as some verb tenses and pronouns.

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Despite the shared vocabulary and some grammatical similarities, there are notable differences between Maltese and standard Arabic. Maltese lacks case endings, the strict verb conjugation system, and the dual number found in Arabic. The pronunciation and spelling of Arabic-derived words may differ in Maltese, and the influence of Italian and English has shaped the development of the Maltese language.

The Importance of Maltese and Arabic

Both Maltese and Arabic are essential languages that contribute to the cultural heritage of their respective regions. Maltese serves as a symbol of Maltese identity, reflecting the historical and cultural interactions that have shaped Malta. Arabic, on the other hand, is one of the world’s major languages and holds significant religious and cultural importance as the language of the Quran and the Islamic tradition.

While Maltese and Arabic may have their differences, they both play a crucial role in preserving history, communicating traditions, and fostering cultural understanding. Whether you are interested in exploring the complexities of Maltese or delving into the richness of Arabic, these languages offer valuable insights into the diverse linguistic landscape of our world.

Key Takeaways – Is Maltese Similar to Arabic?

  • Maltese is a Semitic language spoken in Malta.
  • Arabic and Maltese share similarities due to their common Semitic roots.
  • Both languages have similar grammatical structures.
  • Some vocabulary in Maltese has Arabic origins.
  • Despite the similarities, Maltese has evolved into a distinct language with influences from various cultures.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are you curious about the similarities between the Maltese and Arabic languages? We’ve got your back! Check out these frequently asked questions and learn more about the relationship between these two languages.

1. How similar are Maltese and Arabic?

While Maltese and Arabic share some similarities, they are also quite distinct. Maltese is considered a Semitic language, just like Arabic, and it draws heavily from Arabic vocabulary. Around 40% of Maltese words have Arabic roots. However, Maltese has evolved over time and incorporated influences from other languages like Italian and English. This blending of influences has resulted in a unique language that may not be immediately recognizable as Arabic.

Additionally, despite the shared roots, Maltese and Arabic have different grammar systems. Arabic has a more complex grammatical structure with a complex verb conjugation system, while Maltese has simplified some aspects and incorporated elements from Italian and English. So while there are connections between the two, there are also significant differences in vocabulary and grammar.

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2. Can a speaker of Arabic understand Maltese?

Speakers of Arabic may be able to recognize some words or phrases in Maltese due to the shared vocabulary. However, full comprehension may be challenging because of the differences in grammar and pronunciation. While there are similarities, Maltese has its own distinct sound system, making it sound quite different from Arabic.

That being said, a person with a good understanding of Arabic may have an easier time learning Maltese than someone starting from scratch. The shared vocabulary and some grammatical similarities can provide a helpful foundation, but additional effort will still be required to attain fluency in Maltese.

3. How difficult is it to learn Maltese if you already know Arabic?

If you already know Arabic, learning Maltese may be somewhat easier for you compared to someone unfamiliar with a Semitic language. The vocabulary overlap will give you a head start, and you may find some grammatical concepts familiar. However, it is important to note that Maltese has evolved significantly and incorporated influences from other languages, so there will still be new elements to learn.

Additionally, the pronunciation of Maltese can be challenging, as it has its own distinct sounds that differ from Arabic. Patience and practice will be essential to master the unique phonetics of Maltese, but your existing knowledge of Arabic can certainly be a valuable asset in the learning process.

4. Can a Maltese speaker understand Arabic?

A native Maltese speaker may not immediately understand Arabic due to the differences in vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. However, they may be able to recognize some words or phrases due to the shared roots and similar vocabulary. It’s important to note that this comprehension would likely be limited and not equivalent to full proficiency in Arabic.

To develop a strong understanding of Arabic, a Maltese speaker would need to study the language further and become familiar with its grammatical structure and pronunciation. With dedication and language learning resources, it is certainly possible for a Maltese speaker to become proficient in Arabic.

5. Are there any other languages that are similar to Maltese?

While Maltese has its unique characteristics, it does share some similarities with other languages due to historical influences. Due to its geographic location, Maltese has borrowed words from Italian, particularly in the areas of food, culture, and daily life. Some English words have also made their way into Maltese, especially in modern contexts.

However, if we are specifically considering languages within the Semitic family, Maltese does not have any close relatives. The connections between Maltese and Arabic remain the most significant, even with the other language influences that have shaped the Maltese language over time.

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So, is Maltese similar to Arabic? Well, yes and no.

While they have some similarities in vocabulary and grammar, Maltese is ultimately its own unique language. Sure, there are some Arabic words and influences in Maltese, but it also has elements from Italian and other European languages. So, it’s like a beautiful blend of different cultures and languages.

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