May 2022

This Glossary is a guide to the terms, derived from the different languages used in the Islamic world, that broadly relate to the subject of this website. Some of the terms used apply to the same, or similar, objects and techniques. On the other hand, the cultural cohesiveness of Islam has always meant that many expressions, particularly in the religious sphere, have a widespread usage.

(Ar.) = Arabic; (Gen.) = General usage throughout the Islamic world; (Ind.)= Indian; (Per.) = Persian; (Sp.) = Spanish; (Tur.) = Turkish

  • Ablaq
    (Ar.) Term used to describe alternating light and dark courses of masonry
  • Ajimez
    (Sp.) A pair of windows sharing a central column
  • Akhi
    (Ar.) Guilds of artisans and craftsmen, sometimes living and working in communities
  • Alicatado
    (Sp.) Ceramic mosaic, particularly that using geometric decorative motifs
  • Al-Fann
    (Ar.) Art
  • A.H.
    Anno Hegira, the Muslim lunar calendar, dating from 622 C.E.
  • Artesonado
    (Sp.) Wooden panelled ceiling
  • Ataurique
    (Sp.) Arabesque decoration using abstract vegetal elements
  • Azulejos
    (Sp.) Decorative ceramic tiles
  • Band-i-rumi
    (Per.) Geometric interlace pattern
  • Banna'i
    (Per.) Decorative brickwork, including that using glazed bricks
  • Bayt al-mal
    (Ar.) Treasury; in Friday mosques a room raised on columns in the courtyard
  • Caravanserai
    (Gen.) combined hostel and trading centre, providing accommodation for travellers, merchants and animals, found both in towns and along major trade routes
  • Eslimi
    (Per.) Arabesque decoration using abstract vegetal elements
  • Fatiha
    (Ar.) Book illumination, particularly of Qur'an
  • Funduq
    (Ar.) Caravanserai
  • Gunbad
    (Per.) also Gumbaz (Ind.) Dome; domed Tomb
  • Hakkaki
    (Ar.) Ceramic inlay
  • Hazar Baf
    (Per.) Decorative brickwork
  • Hammam
    (Gen.) Bath House (public or private)
  • Han
    (Tur.) Caravanserai
  • Haram
    (Gen.) Private quarters of house; sanctuary of Mosque
  • Haveli
    (Ind.) Residential building complex, often multi-storied
  • Hazarbaf
    (Per.) Decorative brickwork
  • Hegira
    (Gen.) The Muslim lunar calendar, dating from 622 C.E.
  • Imamzadeh
    (Per.) Tomb of saint or holy man
  • Iwan
    (Per.) (Tur.) Vaulted hall, walled on three sides, with one end open
  • Jali
    (Ind.) Lattice; pierced stone screen
  • Jami Masjid
    (Gen.) Friday, or congregational Mosque
  • Karkhana
    (also Khitabkhan) (Pers.) Royal workshops for the applied arts
  • Kashi
    (Per.) Ceramic architectural decoration
  • Khan
    (Per.) Caravanserai
  • Khanqah
    (Gen.) Sufi convent
  • Kulliyat
    (also Kulliye) (Ar.) Architectural complex, usually including Mosque, Hospital, School etc.
  • Lazo
    (Sp.) Interlaced geometrical pattern
  • Madrassa
    also Madrasah, Medresse (Gen.) Educational institutions, usually with sleeping and working accommodation for students
  • Maristan
    (Ar.) Hospital
  • Mashrabiyya
    (Ar.) Wooden screen covering windows or balconies
  • Masjid
    (Gen.) Mosque
  • Mihrab
    (Gen.) Niche used to indicate the direction of prayer in Mosques
  • Minar
    (Gen.) Minaret; tower-like structure associated with Mosques, used for the adhan, the call to prayer
  • Minbar
    (Gen.) Pulpit
  • Mishkah
    (Ar.) Niche for a lamp
  • Moarraq
    (Per.) Ceramic mosaic
  • Mu'arraq kari
    (Ir.) Glazed tile-mosaic
  • Muqarnas
    (Gen.) System of niches and projected 'stalactites', used as a transitional and decorative device in architecture
  • Naqqash
    (Gen.) Designer of architectural decoration
  • Nakkashkhan
    (Tur.) Royal workshops for the applied arts
  • Pishtaq
    (Per.) Monumental panels framing arch-front of Iwan
  • Qal'a
    (Ar.) Castle, fortress or citadel
  • Qashani
    (Ar.) Ceramic tiling
  • Qasr
    (Ar.) Palace or mansion
  • Qibla
    (Gen.) Wall indicating the direction of Mecca, hence of prayer
  • Qubba
    (Ar.) Dome; shrine
  • Rahlah
    (Ar.) Folding stand for holding the Qur'an
  • Riwaq
    (Ar.) Arcade or portico, open on one side
  • Rumi
    (Tur.) Arabesque decoration using abstract vegetal elements
  • Sabil
    (Tur.) Drinking fountain
  • Sahn
    Courtyard of Mosque
  • Serai
    (Ar.) Palace
  • Taq
    (Per.) Arch
  • Tawriq
    (Ar.) Arabesque decoration using abstract vegetal elements
  • Turbe
    (also Turba) (Gen.) Mausoleum
  • Ulu Cami
    (Tur.) Friday, or congregational Mosque
  • Wakala
    (Ar.) Urban complex, combining Caravanserai, warehouse and market
  • Waqf
    (Ar.) Pious architectural foundation of public utility (i.e. of Mosques, Hospitals, Baths, Fountains etc.}
  • Zanana
    (Ind.) Women's quarters in a palace or house
  • Zilij
    (also Zellij) (Ar.) North African term for glazed tiles