Muslim Empires and the Middle East - High School

Learn about the history of the Middle East with this list of essential vocabulary. Explore the geography and politics of the region, as well as its three major religions, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.
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Full list of words from this list:

  1. Afghanistan
    a mountainous landlocked country in central Asia
  2. Alhazen
    an Egyptian polymath (born in Iraq) whose research in geometry and optics was influential into the 17th century; established experiments as the norm of proof in physics (died in 1040)
  3. Allah
    Muslim name for the one and only God
  4. alms
    money or goods contributed to the poor
  5. al-Qaeda
    a terrorist network intensely opposed to the United States that dispenses money and logistical support and training to a wide variety of radical Islamic terrorist groups; has cells in more than 50 countries
  6. Anatolia
    a peninsula in southwestern Asia that forms the Asian part of Turkey
  7. Andalusia
    a region in southern Spain on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean; formerly a center of Moorish civilization
  8. Anwar Sadat
    Egyptian statesman who (as president of Egypt) negotiated a peace treaty with Menachem Begin (then prime minister of Israel) (1918-1981)
  9. Arab
    a member of a Semitic people from the Middle East
  10. arabesque
    an intricate ornament that interlaces simulated foliage
  11. Arabian Peninsula
    a peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf
  12. armillary sphere
    a celestial globe consisting of metal hoops
  13. astrolabe
    instrument used to calculate positions of celestial bodies
  14. astronomy
    the branch of physics that studies celestial bodies
  15. ayatollah
    a high-ranking Shiite religious leader who is regarded as an authority on religious law and its interpretation and who has political power as well
  16. Ayatollah Khomeini
    Iranian religious leader of the Shiites
  17. Baghdad
    capital and largest city of Iraq
  18. Bedouin
    a member of a nomadic tribe of Arabs
  19. bureaucracy
    a government administered primarily by nonelective officials
  20. caliph
    the civil and religious leader of a Muslim state
  21. caliphate
    the territorial jurisdiction of a Muslim civil leader
  22. calligraphy
    beautiful handwriting
  23. Christianity
    a monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus as embodied in the New Testament and emphasizing the role of Jesus as savior
  24. clan
    group of people related by blood or marriage
  25. Constantinople
    the largest city and former capital of Turkey
  26. Crimean War
    a war in Crimea between Russia and a group of nations including England and France and Turkey and Sardinia; 1853-1856
  27. Damascus
    an ancient city (widely regarded as the world's oldest) and present capital and largest city of Syria; according to the New Testament, the Apostle Paul (then known as Saul) underwent a dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus
  28. David Ben Gurion
    Israeli statesman (born in Poland) and active Zionist who organized resistance against the British after World War II; prime minister of Israel (1886-1973)
  29. desert
    arid land with little or no vegetation
  30. diaspora
    the dispersion of something that was originally localized
  31. divan
    a Muslim council chamber or law court
  32. dynasty
    a sequence of powerful leaders in the same family
  33. emir
    an independent ruler or chieftain
  34. Esfahan
    city in central Iran; former capital of Persia
  35. fast
    abstain from foods, as for religious or medical reasons
  36. Fatah
    a Palestinian political and military organization founded by Yasser Arafat in 1958 to work toward the creation of a Palestinian state; during the 1960s and 1970s trained terrorist and insurgent groups
  37. Fatima
    youngest daughter of the prophet Mohammed and wife of the fourth calif Ali; revered especially by Shiite Muslims (606-632)
  38. fundamentalism
    the interpretation of sacred texts as literal truth
  39. Gamal Abdel Nasser
    Egyptian statesman who nationalized the Suez Canal
  40. Gaza
    a coastal region at the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean bordering Israel and Egypt
  41. Golan Heights
    a fortified hilly area between southern Lebanon and southern Syria
  42. Golda Meir
    Israeli statesman (born in Russia) (1898-1978)
  43. hadith
    (Islam) the way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Muhammad and interpretations of the Koran
  44. Hagia Sophia
    a 6th century masterpiece of Byzantine architecture in Istanbul; built as a Christian church, converted to a mosque in 1453, and made into a museum in the middle of the 20th century
  45. hajj
    a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a religious duty for Muslims
  46. Hamas
    a militant Islamic fundamentalist political movement that opposes peace with Israel and uses terrorism as a weapon; seeks to create an Islamic state in place of Israel; is opposed to the PLO and has become a leading perpetrator of terrorist activity in Israel; pioneered suicide bombing
  47. harem
    living quarters for wives in some Muslim households
  48. Hegira
    the flight of Muhammad from Mecca to Medina in 622 which marked the beginning of the Muslim era; the Muslim calendar begins in that year
  49. Hezbollah
    a Shiite terrorist organization with strong ties to Iran
  50. Hosni Mubarak
    Egyptian statesman who became president in 1981 after Sadat was assassinated (born in 1929)
  51. ibn-Roshd
    Arabian philosopher born in Spain
  52. infidel
    a person who does not acknowledge your god
  53. intifada
    an uprising by Palestinians against the Israeli government
  54. Islam
    the monotheistic religious system of Muslims
  55. Israel
    Jewish republic in southwestern Asia at eastern end of Mediterranean; formerly part of Palestine
  56. Istanbul
    the largest city and former capital of Turkey
  57. Janissary
    a Turkish soldier
  58. Jerusalem
    capital and largest city of the modern state of Israel
  59. jihad
    a holy struggle by a Muslim for a moral or political goal
  60. Judaism
    the monotheistic religion of the Jews having its spiritual and ethical principles embodied chiefly in the Torah and in the Talmud
  61. Kurd
    a member of a people who live in Kurdistan, a region in southwest Asia; the largest ethnic group without their own state
  62. Kurdistan
    an extensive geographical region in the Middle East to the south of the Caucasus
  63. Mecca
    joint capital of Saudi Arabia
  64. Medina
    a city in western Saudi Arabia
  65. Menachem Begin
    Israeli statesman (born in Russia) who (as prime minister of Israel) negotiated a peace treaty with Anwar Sadat (then the president of Egypt) (1913-1992)
  66. migration
    the movement of persons from one locality to another
  67. millet
    small seed of any of various annual cereal grasses especially Setaria italica
  68. mosque
    a Muslim place of worship that usually has a minaret
  69. Muhammad
    the Arab prophet who, according to Islam, was the last messenger of Allah (570-632)
  70. Muslim
    a believer in or follower of Islam
  71. observatory
    a building equipped to view astronomical phenomena
  72. OPEC
    an organization of countries formed in 1961 to agree on a common policy for the production and sale of petroleum
  73. optics
    the branch of physics that studies the physical properties of light
  74. Osman I
    the conqueror of Turkey who founded the Ottoman Empire and the Ottoman dynasty that ruled Turkey after the 13th century; conquered most of Asia Minor and assumed the title of emir in 1299 (1259-1326)
  75. Ottoman
    of or relating to the Ottoman Empire or its people or its culture
  76. Palestine
    an ancient country in southwestern Asia on the east coast of the Mediterranean Sea; a place of pilgrimage for Christianity and Islam and Judaism
  77. Palestine Liberation Organization
    a political movement uniting Palestinian Arabs in an effort to create an independent state of Palestine; when formed in 1964 it was a terrorist organization dominated by Yasser Arafat's al-Fatah; in 1968 Arafat became chairman; received recognition by the United Nations and by Arab states in 1974 as a government in exile; has played a largely political role since the creation of the Palestine National Authority
  78. Palestine National Authority
    combines the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under a political unit with limited autonomy and a police force; created in 1993 by an agreement between Israel and the PLO
  79. partition
    divide into parts, pieces, or sections
  80. pasha
    a civil or military authority in Turkey or Egypt
  81. peninsula
    a large mass of land projecting into a body of water
  82. Persia
    a theocratic Islamic republic in the Middle East in western Asia; Iran was the core of the ancient empire that was known as Persia until 1935; rich in oil
  83. Persian Gulf
    a shallow arm of the Arabian Sea between Iran and the Arabian peninsula; the Persian Gulf oil fields are among the most productive in the world
  84. pilgrimage
    a journey to a sacred place
  85. prophet
    someone who speaks by divine inspiration
  86. Quran
    the sacred writings of Islam revealed by God to the prophet Muhammad during his life at Mecca and Medina
  87. Ramadan
    a month-long Islamic fast from sunrise to sundown
  88. salaam
    a deep bow; a Muslim form of salutation
  89. salat
    the second pillar of Islam is prayer
  90. Shah
    title for the former hereditary monarch of Iran
  91. Shah Pahlavi
    Shah of Iran who was deposed in 1979 by Islamic fundamentalists (1919-1980)
  92. sharia
    the code of religious law derived from the Quran
  93. sheik
    the leader of an Arab village or family
  94. Shia
    one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
  95. Shiite
    a member of one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
  96. Sinai Peninsula
    a peninsula in northeastern Egypt; at north end of Red Sea
  97. Six-Day War
    tension between Arabs and Israeli erupted into a brief war in June 1967; Israel emerged as a major power in the Middle East
  98. social class
    a group of people sharing similar wealth and status
  99. Suez Canal
    a ship canal in northeastern Egypt linking the Red Sea with the Mediterranean Sea
  100. Sufi
    a Muslim who represents the mystical dimension of Islam
  101. sultan
    the ruler of a Muslim country
  102. Sunna
    (Islam) the way of life prescribed as normative for Muslims on the basis of the teachings and practices of Muhammad and interpretations of the Koran
  103. Sunni
    a member of one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
  104. synagogue
    the place of worship for a Jewish congregation
  105. terrorism
    the use of violence against civilians for ideological goals
  106. Thousand and One Nights
    a collection of folktales in Arabic dating from the 10th century
  107. Timur
    Mongolian ruler of Samarkand who led his nomadic hordes to conquer an area from Turkey to Mongolia (1336-1405)
  108. tolerance
    willingness to respect the beliefs or practices of others
  109. ulama
    the body of Mullahs (Muslim scholars trained in Islam and Islamic law) who are the interpreters of Islam's sciences and doctrines and laws and the chief guarantors of continuity in the spiritual and intellectual history of the Islamic community
  110. Umayyad
    the first dynasty of Arab caliphs whose capital was Damascus
  111. Umma
    the Muslim community or people, considered to extend from Mauritania to Pakistan
  112. vizier
    a high government official in some Muslim countries
  113. West Bank
    an area between Israel and Jordan on the west bank of the Jordan river; populated largely by Palestinians
  114. Yasser Arafat
    Palestinian statesman who was chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization (1929-2004)
  115. Yom Kippur War
    Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in October 1973
  116. Zionism
    a policy for establishing and developing a national homeland for Jews in Palestine
Created on February 15, 2017 (updated March 31, 2017)

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