A World of Words: The Middle East and Central Asia - Middle School

Practice this list to learn all about the geography of the Middle East and Central Asia. Discover the countries, religious traditions, and natural resources of this part of the world. Explore features of the desert, learn about Middle Eastern architecture and clothing, and familiarize yourself with different types of rulers, including emirs, sheiks, and sultans.
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  1. abaya
    a loose black robe from head to toe
  2. Abu Dhabi
    a sheikhdom of eastern Arabia and capital of the United Arab Emirates
  3. accord
    a written agreement between two states or sovereigns
  4. Afghanistan
    a mountainous landlocked country in central Asia
  5. agriculture
    the practice of cultivating the land or raising stock
  6. Aleppo
    a city in northwestern Syria
  7. Allah
    Muslim name for the one and only God
  8. Almaty
    the largest city in Kazakhstan and the capital until 1998
  9. Amman
    the capital and largest city of Jordan
  10. Anatolia
    a peninsula in southwestern Asia that forms the Asian part of Turkey
  11. Ankara
    the capital of Turkey
  12. aqueduct
    a conduit that carries water over a valley
  13. aquifer
    underground layer of rock or sand that yields groundwater
  14. Arab
    a member of a Semitic people from the Middle East
  15. Arabian Desert
    a desert on the Arabian Peninsula in southwestern Asia
  16. Arabian Peninsula
    a peninsula between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf
  17. Aral Sea
    a lake to the east of the Caspian Sea lying between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan
  18. archipelago
    a group of many islands in a large body of water
  19. arid
    lacking sufficient water or rainfall
  20. Armenia
    a landlocked republic in southwestern Asia
  21. Ashkhabad
    the capital and largest city of Turkmenistan
  22. Assyria
    an ancient kingdom in northern Mesopotamia which is in present-day Iraq
  23. Astana
    remote city of Kazakhstan that was made the capital in 1998
  24. autonomy
    political independence
  25. 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
  26. Ayatollah Khomeini
    Iranian religious leader of the Shiites
  27. Babylon
    the chief city of ancient Mesopotamia and capital of the ancient kingdom of Babylonia
  28. Baghdad
    capital and largest city of Iraq
  29. Bahai
    a teacher of or believer in Bahaism
  30. Bahrain
    an island country in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia; oil revenues funded progressive programs until reserves were exhausted in 1970s
  31. basin
    the geographical area drained by a river and its tributaries
  32. Bedouin
    a member of a nomadic tribe of Arabs
  33. Beirut
    capital and largest city of Lebanon
  34. Bosporus
    a strait connecting the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
  35. burka
    a loose garment (usually with veiled holes for the eyes) worn by Muslim women especially in India and Pakistan
  36. Caesarea
    an ancient seaport in northwestern Israel
  37. canal
    long and narrow strip of water for boats or for irrigation
  38. caravan
    a procession traveling together in single file
  39. caravanserai
    an inn in some eastern countries with a large courtyard that provides accommodation for caravans
  40. censorship
    deleting parts of publications or theatrical performances
  41. 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
  42. civil law
    the non-criminal legal code established by a state or nation
  43. civil war
    a war between factions in the same country
  44. clan
    group of people related by blood or marriage
  45. coastal
    located on or near or bordering on a shore
  46. conquest
    the act of defeating and taking control of
  47. conservation
    careful management of the environment and natural resources
  48. Constantinople
    the largest city and former capital of Turkey
  49. constitution
    law determining the fundamental principles of a government
  50. corruption
    use of a position of trust for dishonest gain
  51. crusade
    fight a holy war
  52. Cyprus
    an island in the eastern Mediterranean
  53. dam
    a barrier constructed to contain the flow of water
  54. 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
  55. 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)
  56. Dead Sea
    a saltwater lake on the border between Israel and Jordan
  57. deforestation
    the removal of trees
  58. democracy
    a political system in which power lies in a body of citizens
  59. democratic
    representing or appealing to the people at large
  60. demonstration
    a public display of group feelings
  61. desalinization
    the removal of salt, especially from sea water
  62. desert
    arid land with little or no vegetation
  63. development
    making some area of land or water more profitable or useful
  64. diffusion
    spread of social institutions from one society to another
  65. Doha
    the capital and chief port of Qatar
  66. domesticate
    adapt something wild to the environment
  67. drought
    a shortage of rainfall
  68. Druze
    an adherent of an esoteric monotheistic religious sect living in the relative security of the mountains of Syria and Lebanon who believes that Al-hakim was an incarnation of God
  69. Dubai
    port city in the United Arab Emirates on the Persian Gulf
  70. Dushanbe
    the capital of Tajikistan; formerly Stalinabad 1926-1991
  71. election
    a vote choosing the winner of a position or political office
  72. elevation
    distance of something above a reference point
  73. emir
    an independent ruler or chieftain
  74. emirate
    the domain controlled by an emir
  75. empire
    the domain ruled by a single authoritative sovereign
  76. erosion
    the process of wearing or grinding something down
  77. Euphrates River
    a river in southwestern Asia
  78. exploitation
    the act of making use of and profiting from resources
  79. export
    sell or transfer abroad
  80. extraction
    taking out something
  81. faction
    a dissenting clique
  82. Farsi
    the language of Persia (Iran) in any of its ancient forms
  83. fertile
    marked by great fruitfulness
  84. Fertile Crescent
    a geographical area of fertile land in the Middle East stretching in a broad semicircle from the Nile to the Tigris and Euphrates
  85. free trade
    the exchange of goods without governmental interference
  86. fundamentalism
    the interpretation of sacred texts as literal truth
  87. Gaza Strip
    a coastal region at the southeastern corner of the Mediterranean bordering Israel and Egypt
  88. geopolitics
    influence of location, demographics, etc. on foreign policy
  89. globalization
    growth to a worldwide scale
  90. Golan Heights
    a fortified hilly area between southern Lebanon and southern Syria
  91. Golda Meir
    Israeli statesman (born in Russia) (1898-1978)
  92. gross domestic product
    the value of all things made and sold by a country in a year
  93. guerilla
    one who fights a stronger force by sabotage and harassment
  94. Gulf of Aden
    arm of the Indian Ocean at the entrance to the Red Sea
  95. Gulf of Aqaba
    a northeastern arm of the Red Sea
  96. Gulf of Oman
    an arm of the Arabian Sea connecting it with the Persian Gulf
  97. Gulf War
    a war fought between Iraq and a coalition led by the United States that freed Kuwait from Iraqi invaders; 1990-1991
  98. habitat
    the type of environment in which an organism normally lives
  99. hajj
    a pilgrimage to Mecca that is a religious duty for Muslims
  100. highland
    elevated (e.g., mountainous) land
  101. Himalayas
    a mountain range extending 1500 miles on the border between India and Tibet; this range contains the world's highest mountain
  102. Hindu Kush
    a mountain range extending to the west of the Himalayas
  103. homeland
    the country where you were born
  104. human right
    any basic freedom to which all people are entitled
  105. hydroelectric
    of or relating to or used in the production of electricity by waterpower
  106. idol
    a material effigy that is worshipped
  107. imam
    the person who leads prayers in a mosque
  108. import
    bring in from abroad
  109. infrastructure
    basic facilities needed for the functioning of a country
  110. insurgency
    an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a government
  111. intifada
    an uprising by Palestinians against the Israeli government
  112. Iran
    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
  113. Iran-Iraq War
    a dispute over control of the waterway between Iraq and Iran broke out into open fighting in 1980 and continued until 1988, when they accepted a UN cease-fire resolution
  114. Iraq
    a republic in the Middle East in western Asia
  115. irrigation
    the act of supplying dry land with water by artificial means
  116. Islam
    the monotheistic religious system of Muslims
  117. Israel
    Jewish republic in southwestern Asia at eastern end of Mediterranean; formerly part of Palestine
  118. Istanbul
    the largest city and former capital of Turkey
  119. Jericho
    a village in Palestine near the north end of the Dead Sea
  120. Jerusalem
    capital and largest city of the modern state of Israel
  121. jihad
    a holy struggle by a Muslim for a moral or political goal
  122. Jordan
    an Arab kingdom in southwestern Asia on the Red Sea
  123. Jordan River
    a river in Palestine that empties into the Dead Sea
  124. Judaism
    the monotheistic religion of the Jews having its spiritual and ethical principles embodied chiefly in the Torah and in the Talmud
  125. Kaaba
    (Islam) a black stone building in Mecca that is shaped like a cube and that is the most sacred Muslim pilgrim shrine; believed to have been given by Gabriel to Abraham; Muslims turn in its direction when praying
  126. Kabul
    the capital and largest city of Afghanistan
  127. Kandahar
    a city in southern Afghanistan; an important trading center
  128. Karakorum Range
    a mountain range in northern Kashmir
  129. Kara Kum
    a desert in Turkmenistan to the south of the Aral Sea
  130. Karbala
    a city of central Iraq to the south of Baghdad
  131. Kazakhstan
    a landlocked republic to the south of Russia and to the northeast of the Caspian Sea; the original Turkic-speaking inhabitants were overrun by Mongols in the 13th century; an Asian soviet from 1936 to 1991
  132. Khartoum
    the capital of Sudan located at the confluence of the Blue Nile and White Nile
  133. kibbutz
    a collective farm or settlement in modern Israel
  134. King Hussein
    king of Jordan credited with creating stability at home and seeking peace with Israel (1935-1999)
  135. Kurd
    a member of a people who live in Kurdistan, a region in southwest Asia; the largest ethnic group without their own state
  136. Kurdish
    an Iranian language spoken in Turkey and Iran and Iraq and Syria and Russia
  137. Kuwait
    an Arab kingdom in Asia on the northwestern coast of the Persian Gulf; a major source of petroleum
  138. Kuwait City
    a seaport on the Persian Gulf and capital of Kuwait
  139. Kyrgyzstan
    a landlocked republic in west central Asia bordering on northwestern China; formerly an Asian soviet but became independent in 1991
  140. Kyzyl Kum
    a desert in Uzbekistan to the southeast of the Aral Sea
  141. landlocked
    surrounded entirely or almost entirely by land
  142. Lebanon
    an Asian republic at east end of Mediterranean
  143. Levant
    the former name for the geographical area of the eastern Mediterranean that is now occupied by Lebanon, Syria, and Israel
  144. livestock
    any animals kept for use or profit
  145. lowland
    low level country
  146. Manama
    the capital of Bahrain
  147. market economy
    an economy that relies on market forces to determine prices
  148. Mecca
    joint capital of Saudi Arabia
  149. Medina
    a city in western Saudi Arabia
  150. Mediterranean Sea
    the largest inland sea; between Europe and Africa and Asia
  151. Mesopotamia
    the land between the Tigris and Euphrates
  152. Middle East
    the area around the eastern Mediterranean
  153. minaret
    a slender tower with balconies, especially on a mosque
  154. mineral
    a solid inorganic substance occurring in nature
  155. monarchy
    autocracy governed by a ruler who usually inherits authority
  156. monotheism
    belief in a single God
  157. mosque
    a Muslim place of worship that usually has a minaret
  158. mountainous
    containing many mountains
  159. Mount Ararat
    the mountain peak that Noah's ark landed on as the waters of the great flood receded
  160. Muhammad
    the Arab prophet who, according to Islam, was the last messenger of Allah (570-632)
  161. Muscat
    a port on the Gulf of Oman and capital of the sultanate of Oman
  162. Muslim
    a believer in or follower of Islam
  163. Mutawa'een
    religious police in Saudi Arabia whose duty is to ensure strict adherence to established codes of conduct; offenders may be detained indefinitely; foreigners are not excluded
  164. nationalize
    put under state control or ownership
  165. natural gas
    a fossil fuel in the gaseous state
  166. natural resource
    material in the environment that can be used by people
  167. Negev Desert
    a desert in southern Israel
  168. neocolonialism
    control by a powerful country of less developed countries
  169. Nineveh
    an ancient Assyrian city on the Tigris across from the modern city of Mosul in the northern part of what is now known as Iraq
  170. nomad
    a member of a people who have no permanent home
  171. nomadic
  172. nuclear weapon
    a weapon of mass destruction whose explosive power derives from a nuclear reaction
  173. oasis
    a fertile tract in a desert
  174. Oman
    a strategically located monarchy on the southern and eastern coasts of the Arabian Peninsula; the economy is dominated by oil
  175. OPEC
    an organization of countries formed in 1961 to agree on a common policy for the production and sale of petroleum
  176. Operation Desert Storm
    the United States and its allies defeated Iraq in a ground war that lasted 100 hours (1991)
  177. Ottoman Empire
    a Turkish sultanate of southwestern Asia and northeastern Africa and southeastern Europe; created by the Ottoman Turks in the 13th century and lasted until the end of World War I; although initially small it expanded until it superseded the Byzantine Empire
  178. Palestine
    a former British mandate on the east coast of the Mediterranean; divided between Jordan and Israel in 1948
  179. Palestine 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
  180. 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
  181. Pamir Mountains
    a mountain range in central Asia that is centered in Tajikistan but extends into Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan and Pakistan and western China
  182. 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
  183. 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
  184. petroleum
    a dark oil consisting mainly of hydrocarbons
  185. pilgrim
    someone who journeys to a sacred place as an act of devotion
  186. pilgrimage
    a journey to a sacred place
  187. pipeline
    a pipe used to transport liquids or gases
  188. plateau
    a relatively flat raised area of land
  189. pollution
    contamination of the natural environment
  190. population growth
    increase in the number of people who inhabit a territory or state
  191. port
    where people and merchandise can enter or leave a country
  192. precipitation
    the falling to earth of any form of water
  193. protest
    a public manifestation of dissent
  194. Qatar
    an Arab country on the peninsula of Qatar
  195. Quran
    the sacred writings of Islam revealed by God to the prophet Muhammad during his life at Mecca and Medina
  196. Red Sea
    a long arm of the Indian Ocean between northeast Africa and Arabia; linked to the Mediterranean at the north end by the Suez Canal
  197. refinery
    an industrial plant for purifying a crude substance
  198. reform
    a change for the better as a result of correcting abuses
  199. refugee
    an exile who flees for safety
  200. republic
    a political system in which power lies in a body of citizens
  201. reserve
    a district that is set aside for a particular purpose
  202. reservoir
    lake used to store water for community use
  203. Riyadh
    joint capital of Saudi Arabia located in the central oasis
  204. Rub al-Khali
    a desert in southern Saudi Arabia
  205. Saddam Hussein
    Iraqi leader who waged war against Iran
  206. salt flat
    a flat expanse of salt left by the evaporation of a body of salt water
  207. Samarkand
    city in southern Uzbekistan
  208. Sanaa
    the capital and largest city of Yemen
  209. sanction
    the act of punishing
  210. Saudi Arabia
    an absolute monarchy occupying most of the Arabian Peninsula in southwest Asia; vast oil reserves dominate the economy
  211. secular
    not concerned with or devoted to religion
  212. settlement
    people far from home who maintain ties with their homeland
  213. Shah
    title for the former hereditary monarch of Iran
  214. sharia
    the code of religious law derived from the Quran
  215. sheik
    the leader of an Arab village or family
  216. Shiite
    a member of one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
  217. shrine
    a place of worship associated with something sacred
  218. Silk Road
    an ancient trade route between China and the Mediterranean
  219. Sinai Peninsula
    a peninsula in northeastern Egypt; at north end of Red Sea
  220. 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
  221. standard of living
    the level of material goods and services available
  222. steppe
    an extensive plain without trees
  223. Strait of Hormuz
    a strategically important strait linking the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman
  224. Sufi
    a Muslim who represents the mystical dimension of Islam
  225. sultan
    the ruler of a Muslim country
  226. sultanate
    country or territory ruled by a sultan
  227. Sumer
    an area in the southern region of Babylonia in present-day Iraq; site of the Sumerian civilization of city-states that flowered during the third millennium BC
  228. Sunni
    one of the two main branches of orthodox Islam
  229. Syria
    an Asian republic in the Middle East at the east end of the Mediterranean; site of some of the world's most ancient centers of civilization
  230. Tajikistan
    a landlocked mountainous republic in southeast central Asia to the north of Afghanistan; formerly an Asian soviet
  231. Taliban
    a fundamentalist Islamic militia
  232. Tashkent
    the capital of Uzbekistan
  233. Tehran
    the capital and largest city of Iran
  234. Tel Aviv
    the largest city and financial center of Israel
  235. temple
    the place of worship for a Jewish congregation
  236. terrace
    make land into level shelves, as for cultivation
  237. terrorism
    the use of violence against civilians for ideological goals
  238. theocracy
    a political unit governed by a deity
  239. Tigris River
    an Asian river; a tributary of the Euphrates River
  240. trade
    the commercial exchange of goods and services
  241. Turkey
    a Eurasian republic in Asia Minor and the Balkans
  242. Turkmenistan
    a republic in Asia to the east of the Caspian Sea and to the south of Kazakhstan and to the north of Iran; an Asian soviet from 1925 to 1991
  243. unemployment
    the state of not having a job
  244. United Arab Emirates
    a federation of seven Arab emirates on the eastern Arabian peninsula; achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1971; rich in oil reserves
  245. Ur
    an ancient city of Sumer located on a former channel of the Euphrates River
  246. uranium
    a heavy toxic silvery-white radioactive metallic element
  247. urbanization
    the social process whereby cities grow
  248. Uzbekistan
    a landlocked republic in west central Asia
  249. volatile
    liable to lead to sudden change or violence
  250. wadi
    a gully that remains dry except during the rainy season
  251. Wahhabi
    a member of a strictly orthodox Sunni Muslim sect from Saudi Arabia; strives to purify Islamic beliefs and rejects any innovation occurring after the 3rd century of Islam
  252. Wahhabism
    a conservative and intolerant form of Islam that is practiced in Saudi Arabia
  253. Wailing Wall
    a wall in Jerusalem
  254. warlord
    a military leader who controls a region or territory
  255. water right
    right of access to water
  256. weapon of mass destruction
    a weapon that kills or injures civilian as well as military personnel (nuclear and chemical and biological weapons)
  257. West Bank
    an area between Israel and Jordan on the west bank of the Jordan river; populated largely by Palestinians
  258. Yemen
    a republic on the southwestern shores of the Arabian Peninsula on the Indian Ocean; formed in 1990
  259. Yom Kippur War
    Egypt and Syria attacked Israel in October 1973
  260. Zionism
    a policy for establishing and developing a national homeland for Jews in Palestine
  261. Zoroastrianism
    system of religion founded in Persia in the 6th century BC by Zoroaster; set forth in the Zend-Avesta; based on concept of struggle between light (good) and dark (evil)
Created on February 28, 2017 (updated March 31, 2017)

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