Translating the Qur’an from Arabic into English: A Semantic Examination of Some Lexical Equivalents

  • Nosiru Olajide Onibon Lagos State University
  • Sekinat Olanike Arimiyau Lagos State University
Keywords: Translation, the Qur’an, Semantics, Lexeme, Equivalent


The Holy Qur’an was originally revealed and compiled in the Arabic language. It employs many linguistic, stylistic and rhetorical features to convey its intended meanings. The use of those features poses serious challenges to the translators of the Holy Qur’an, who are to naturally be agents of conveying the understanding of its messages. Here, this paper makes a semantic examination of English translations of some lexical items in the Holy Qur’an using, intermittently, Marmaduke Pickthall’s (1930) and Yusuf Ali’s (1975) translation versions of the Qur’an as references. This study traces the selected lexemes to their etymological origins in order to reveal their original meanings and juxtapose them with the sample translations, so as to understand the possible loss during translations. The paper finds out that there are semantic losses in the selected lexemes during translation and thus suggests, among others, that translators must be mindful of the etymology of the Arabic lexical items and cultural context of the target audience before their equivalents are chosen.