AcidKid and Jomo, very good posts. Just wanted to make one more: many Arab-speaking Christians use the word ‘rubb’ (usually spelled with a dumma, thereby giving a ‘u’ instead of an ‘a’) in their services when referring to “God.” It does mean ‘lord’, and is often used it would be in English-speaking Christian services.

A note: most subtitle creators (here in the ME pretty much every broadcast now has a subtitle in Arabic) use ‘rubb’ when the English word is “God”; this is common among Syrian, Lebanese, and Egyptian Christians. Among those communities, at least, there does exist a differentiation between Allah and ‘rubb’; for instance, a common utterance among Muslims is ‘wallahi’ or ‘wallahi ala’zim’, meaning roughly “By God” (this is kind of like the usage in the phrase ‘by God, I mean to do that right now’). Among Christians in the Levant and Egypt, the same meaning is often conveyed by ‘ia rubbi’ or "oh my Lord.’

Hope this adds to the already interesting discussion.


So does the unique “emphatic [L]” exist in the other combining forms of Allah (mullah, ayatollah, abdullah, for example), or only in that one word?

Mjollnir, those “other combining forms” you cited (except for “mulla[h]”, which is not an Allah-word, more on that later) are each a two-word phrase in Arabic. They’re not written combined into one word. Those Anglicized spellings are misleading. In the Library of Congress romanization system, the compound phrases are shown as two words, to accurately reproduce the Arabic orthography: <âyat Allâh>, <‘Abd Allâh>. You see? The form of the name of Allah remains unchanged in the original Arabic of these compounds. So to answer your question, yes, it keeps the emphatic /L/ sound. As for mullâ, first of all, there is no h at the end of it. It is a Persian word that is a corruption of the Arabic mawlá, ‘master’. It actually has no h in it at all. It should be transliterated as <mulla>.

Here is one more fascinating tidbit of Allah-lore: Some Sufi linguists have speculated that the name of Allah is derived from the Arabic verb walaha, meaning ‘to lose one’s head, become mad (with love, grief, or the like), go off the deep end’! This refers to the mystical spiritual state attained by the Sufis who totally immerse their being in Allah. Even though their etymology is factually wrong, nevertheless by this wordplay they allude to a deeper truth within. Sufis have always used such wordplay to uncover suggestive connections between ideas.

I had once heard that since the Arabic alphabet has no capital letters, “Allah” comes from “al”, meaning “the”, and “lah”, which translates roughly to “god” (small “g”), to differentiate between “the God” (big “G”) and minor gods. Is any of that true?

ProjectOmega, if you will read AcidKid’s explanations above, he already covered that.