Sheriff

This article, like another one, was originally made for Italian readers, since in the Italian language, in both cases, words with different origins converge into a single one.

The first word we talked about was Italian “genio” that means both the English “genius” (from Latin) and “genie” (Arab root).

This time we talk about the Italian word “sceriffo”, which can be referred to three different words and meanings, with two very different origins. This happens in Italian, due to assonance between them and a certain similarity in meaning.

The Italian “sceriffo” can translate as the English “sheriff”, an Anglo-Saxon word that now refers to, in particular, the US local police officer that has become famous especially due to western movies, but it can also refer to an Arab word, or more correctly, two different Arab words, with the similar meaning of: nobles, dignitaries.

Sheriff, in English, comes from late Old English scirgerefa “representative of royal authority in a shire” from scir (see shire) + gerefa “chief, official, reeve” (see reeve). Wikipedia and etymonline.com say the same.

The other “sceriffo”, confused in Italian, but not in English, where it is written “sherif”, comes from Arabic sharif (Arabic: شريف) meaning “noble”, from sharafa meaning “to be highborn”. Like the following word, it refers to someone who is descended from Muhammad by way of his daughter Fatimah (Wikipedia).

Finally there is (see Wikipedia, again) Sharīf (in English), Asharif or Alsharif (Arabic: شريف šarīf) or Chérif (Darija: Chorfa) which is a traditional Arab title.

In origin, the word is an adjective meaning “noble”, “highborn”. The feminine singular is sharifa(h) (Arabic: شريفة šarīfah). The masculine plural is Ashraf (Arabic: اشراف ʾašrāf).

Sunnis in the Arab world reserve the term sharif for descendants of Hasan ibn Ali, while sayyid is used for descendants of Husayn ibn Ali, Hasan’s younger brother.

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