Where the Word “Algebra” Came From

Today I found out the origins of the word “Algebra”.

It all started back around 825 AD when a man named Abū ʿAbdallāh Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī, the “father” of Algebra, wrote a book called “Kitab al-jabr wa al-muqabalah”.  This roughly translates to “Rules of Reintegration and Reduction”.  This work was specifically covering the branch of mathematics we now know as Algebra and was the most notable work on the subject during this period, covering such things as polynomial equations up to the second degree; introducing methods for reduction and balancing; and other such staple algebraic methods.

It was so notable that it eventually found its way into Europe, becoming the first text book on the subject of Algebra in Europe.  The Europeans eventually used the name “al-jabr” for the name of this subject (which in the translated Latin text version was “algebrae”, hence “algebra”).

“Al-jabr” more or less just means “reunion of broken parts”; basically describing the method for solving both sides of an equation.

Bonus Fact:

  • The word “algorithm” comes from none other than al-Khwarizmi’s name.    If you distort the name slightly when you say it, you’ll get the connection.
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  • Christopher Abraham

    Algebra was not invented by Arabs as they want to claim. What happened was that they went to India, to the place now known as Kerala and learnt it from the Indians there.

    Upon return to the Arab countries, they started teaching it and subsequently this guy Al Jabr wrote this book and and everyone accredited him to be the founder of Algebra.

    Many of the medical knowledge the Arabs claim that they discovered were all learnt from Indians way back. India had the oldest University in the world and many people from all over the world went there to study and ring back the knowledge to their own countries. There were even students from China studying in Nalanda University in the early part of the first millennium.

    • Pathetic liar!..it was Muslim Arab Khawrzimi and Chemistry was also by Geber who is actually Abu Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān

    • I get that you are very patriotic towards India, but that does not mean that India invented and discovered everything. Algebra is a purely Arab concept, that was simply adapted by the rest of the world

    • It was by Indians first and brpught to west by Am-khwarizmi. Read below.

      The Father of Algebra: Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī – The Muslim Times
      The Muslim Times › 2018/11/11

      “AI-jabr-or in English, algebra.
      Al-Khwarizmi may not have invented algebra in the modern sense.
      The credit goes to the Hindus for first practicing this mathematical art. But it was al- Khwarizmi who introduced algebra to the West. ”

      The Book of Bringing Together and Separating According to the Hindu Calculation(Kitāb al-Jamʿ wa-l-tafrīq bi-ḥisāb al-Hind)

    • Great article. But, the comments on origins and credit for discoveries is sad. Why shouldn’t Europeans thankfully acknowledge they received this knowledge from their contact with The East? Those French knights of the crusades brought back more than Mathematics. They also brought back script writing or cursive writing, it’s called Aribic script. Also, numbers 12345, they are called aribic numbers. Also the ancient writings of the Greeks and Persians long lost to Europe were restored through our Arab relations. Even manners and table etiquette the list goes on and on. The Arabs should thank Persia, they the Greeks and India and China…….. the human race should be grateful.

  • Some hypocrites do not want to give any credit to Muslims. Even if the origin is possibly from India and even China the modern albebra owes a lot to Al Khwarizmi whose book Kitab Al-jabr gave the name algebra.

    • Al Khwarizmi gives credit to an Indian text for his original works. He admits that he didn’t invent it. He says he got it from the Indians. That is in his own writings.

      • You are a LIAR & Algebra has NOTHING to do with indians, …..Not only Algebra, the father of Chemistry Gaber was Abu Mūsā Jābir ibn Hayyān!

        • SKS, It is a fact. There are ancient Indian text that use algebra well before any evidence of arabs using it. The author’s name is Narayana Pandit (c. 1340-1400). It is written in ancient Malayali text, in current day Kerala. It was in the Bijganita Vatamsa. That is the earliest known algebra book.

          • You people have no shame! Stop with your fraudulent misinformation & propaganda..In fact, there may have been inspirations…and that from Greeks! however, al-Khwarizmi (who died 850) wrote the book from whose title we get the term algebra. Moreover, The book starts out with a mathematical introduction, and proceeds to explain how to solve then-commonplace issues involving trade, inheritance, marriage, and slave emancipations. (Its methods involve no equations or algebraic symbols, instead using geometrical figures to solve problems that today would be solved using algebra.) Despite its grounding in practical affairs, this book is the primary source that contributed to the development of the algebraic system that we know today.

          • SKS, Wow, you are one big fat bigot. You obviously have a problem with Indians and giving credit where credit should be given. Al-Khwarizmi was given the credit, but he was not the one who invented it. He was the one who introduced it to the europeans, but he was no the one who invented it. Brahmagupta (598 AD to 670 AD) in his book Brahmasphutasiddhanta was the one who wrote the foundations for algebra. It is his works that help create algebra. If there was no Brahmagupta, there would be no algebra. In fact it probably should be called Brahmagupta instead of algebra. And what we consider algebra today actually comes from Naryan Pandit (1340 to 1400). In his book Bijganita Vatamsa. And yes, there is some Greek works that contributed to algebra as well, but most of the credit goes to Brahmagupta (598 AD to 670 AD) and Naryan Pandit (1340 to 1400). Their work is the most detailed and extensive of them all.

          • First you said it was a guy named Pandit that came 500 years after khwarzimi & when I told u that khawarzimi died in 850 and is recognized globally as the authority on algebra…you decided to pull a Gupta (maybe a Bollywood fairytale) out of ur ass and u have the gaul to call me a bigot…pathetic Indian troll!

          • SKS, it is obvious you aren’t interested in the truth. You are just interested in chauvinism and egoism. Even after I gave you the facts, you still won’t believe. Why don’t you look up Brahmagupta. And his works in the book Brahmasphutasiddhanta. Go look it up. Go lookup the dates he was alive, 598 AD to 670 AD. You can see. Instead of loving your arabian dancer al-khwarizmi, probably a belly dancer, you should actually look at facts. I admitted greeks contributed to algebra as well. And I also showed you the evolution of algebra. How the early works were put together by Brahmagupta and later the deeper works were put together by Naryan Pandit. Something as deep as algebra couldn’t be done by one guy. There was evolution. Even your so called arab numbers came from India. Arabs back then call them al-adad al-hindi. A reference to Indian numbers. They got it from India.

          • knowledge evolves! & I agree with that. However, your attempts to continue to give credit for algebra to some Pandit & Gupta you pulled out of ur ass are laughable! Moreover, you are a pathetic imbicle for making those comments with respect to Arabs as it’s clear you have a deep inferiority complex for being ruled by Muslims for centuries. The numbering system also evolved and 0 was added & the current numbers as we know came into being as it evolved but aren’t the signs reflected by those numbers used by Hindus. I posted some links to videos which are detailed with khawrzimi being the father of algebra. apparently they haven’t been posted by DISQUS, however, videos are readily available. Complex math existed with Egyptians 6000 years ago, so shall we assume that pandit & Gupta got their math from them too? Atleast we have proof unlike your bull shit as the pyramids themselves are indications of the sophistication of Egyptian mathematics. Better go watch some more Bollywood fairy tales..

          • Wow, you sound like an utter moron. You have no clue what you are talking about. Instead of looking at the LATEST evidence, you just want to hold on to some inaccurate information. When new evidence comes up, it is the responsibility of a true scientist and someone who supports the TRUTH to look at it. Instead you are soooo indoctrinated you refuse to look at the facts. Fact is arabs were traders, and they got a lot of information from the EAST and the WEST. Many times the West accidentally gave credit to the arabs because they didn’t know the arabs got it from somewhere else. What you are trying to do is rip off the Indians. Many of the so called “original” ideas that arabs got were either from Greeks, Indians, Chinese, or Egyptians. That is a fact. There were many Indians that would visit and work in the arabs areas even during ancient times to this day. And India has the Indus Sarasvati Valley civilization that goes back 10,000 years, like the Mehrgarh I. They just found digs in India, Haryana area, that has the oldest civilizations in the world. Also these are the largest. We are talking over a million in each city. And they found over 7 of them. These cities were complex cities, and to make and run such huge complex cities they needed complex mathematics and language. So it is logical algebra came from India. Actually look up Pandit and Gupta. Or go go back to your flying carpets and belly dancing. And let the big boys handle the facts and science. Because obviously you have none.

          • More smoke & mirrors by you Indian trolls. Egyptians were using complex mathematics back 6000 years ago. So, can we say that Gupta got his math from them? Right? As far as Indus civilizations is concerned they settled and farming began around 4000 BCE and around 3000 BCE there appeared to be the first signs of urbanization. Don’t know how you keep pulling rabbits out of your ass.., as now you claim Indus civilization as the source of math since it was highly urbanized…but that was 3000 years after the Egyptians.

            Your Gupta & pandit got their math knowledge from the Egyptians & Greeks thus u have no claim being the fountain of math and your pathetic attempts at claiming Algebra is from Gupta is laughable and perpostours at best and only relevant in Bollywood!

          • You aren’t even looking at the evidence. Look at you. Just making allegations, but NO PROOF. Just want to hold on to something with out any evidence. I actually gave you facts. Where is your facts that Gupta & pandit got it from the Egyptians and Greeks. Prove it.

            Al-Khwarizmi should be given credit for taking Pandit and Greek ideas, and putting it in one book. He was an appropriator. And that is what he should be given credit for. And it makes sense. the middle east is between India and Greece, it would have gotten knowledge from both. That is exactly what Al-Khwarizmi did. Even his book, “The compendious book on Calculation by completion and balancing” is a dead give away. He admits it in his own title of his book that it was a gathering of information from many different sources. But logic doesn’t seem to work with you.

            You really have NO clue. Here are some facts about Indus Sarasvati Valley civilization:

            1. Rakhigarhi (4600 BCE): For the uneducated, that is 8600 years old. Look it up.
            2. Kalibangan (3500 BC – 2500 BC): That is 5500 years old.
            3. Kunal (4000 BCE): That is 6000 years old

            There are over 40 to 50 different sites like this. Some of which were larger than a million people. And over 8,000 years in age. Some of them, they haven’t even tested yet for the age. But many scholars are predicting, based on their location, it is over 10,000 years old. But I know you, you won’t do an ounce of research and use the same tired response with bollywood. You aren’t interested in getting educated. You just want to insult. You really aren’t interested in perusing the truth. You have proven it here. It must be the nature of your culture.

            Even the number system, base 10 system, is Indian. Even the arabs called it al-adad al-hindi. Hello, another dead give away. Arabs called the number system after the very people they took it from, Indians.

            Also: Varahamihira (505–587 CE) – described the algebraic properties of negative numbers, and discovered trigonometric formulas such as sin^2x + sin^2y = 1.

            Here is a list of a few more famous Indian mathematicians:

            Baudhayana (fl. 700 B.C.E.)
            Apastamba (fl. 600)
            Katyayana (fl. 500)
            Umaswati (fl. 150 B.C.E.)
            Aryabhata (476-c. 550 C.E.)
            Varahamihira (c. 505-c. 558)
            Brahmagupta (c. 598-c. 670)
            Govindaswami (c. 800-850)
            Mahavira (Mahaviracharya) (fl. 850)
            Pruthudakaswami (fl. 850)
            Sridhara (fl. 900)
            Manjula (fl. 930)
            Aryabhata II (fl. 950)
            Prashastidhara (fl. 958)
            Halayudha (fl. 975)
            Jayadeva (fl. 1000)
            Sripathi (fl. 1039)
            Hemachandra Suri (b. 1089)
            Bhaskara (1114-c. 1185)
            Cangadeva (fl. 1205)
            Madhava of Sangamagramma (c. 1340-1425)
            Narayama Pandit (fl. 1350)
            Paramesvara (1360-1455)
            Nilakantha Somayaji (1455-1555)
            Sankara Variar (c. 1500-1560)
            Narayana (c. 1500-1575)
            Jyesthadeva (fl. 1550)
            Acyuta Pisarati (c. 1550-1621)
            Putumana Somayaji (c. 1660-1740)
            Jaganath Pandit (fl. 1700)
            Sankara Varman (fl. 1800)

          • SO WHAT! Big F***king deal! I know how old the F***king indus civilization is…it’s my heritage and culture! Indus BS is already obliterated with civilizations dating back 50K years!

            It’s wickedly preposterous for you to continue to marginalize the entire work of Khwarizmi by fraudulently misrepresenting his original work as mere gathering/plagiarizing of so called original works of Gupta ,which, don’t hold any weight considering the timeline below. You have no answer thus you keep pulling rabbits out of your ass and latched on to the ancient civilization of indus to further your argument.

            Reputable scholars across the globe fully acknowledge Khwarizmi’s ORIGINAL WORKS including Al-Kitab al-mukhtasar fi hisab al-jabr wa’l-muqabala.

            Now run along as there are plenty of videos/information online for anyone to independently verify the facts.

            Prehistoric Mathematics
            Sumerian/Babylonian Mathematics
            Egyptian Mathematics
            Greek Mathematics
            Hellenistic Mathematics
            Roman Mathematics
            Mayan Mathematics
            Indian Mathematics
            Islamic Mathematics

          • Your argument reminds me of Al Gore claiming that he invented the INTERNET.

            Copying/Pasting irrelevant CRAP to prove that original works in terms of Algebra are not by Khwarizmi are absurd/laughable and without any merit…even you don’t believe your own hubris!

            Your claim that Indus civilizations are OLD thus the source of Algebra is juvenile at best. I have already given you a timeline with respect to Math and ancient civilizations.

            Knowledge is bestowed by God. There is a Chinese saying “if you were so smart you would’ve been born yourself”. and you actually claim that in terms of Gupta/indian mathematicians. Your Gupta isn’t god and the timelinein terms of math is as follows and clear!;
            Prehistoric Mathematics
            Sumerian/Babylonian Mathematics
            Egyptian Mathematics
            Greek Mathematics
            Hellenistic Mathematics
            Roman Mathematics
            Mayan Mathematics
            Chinese Mathematics
            Indian Mathematics

            Humanity learns and gathers knowledge builds upon it and humans and knowledge has also evolved. The guidance comes from God.

            I know about the numbers and let me just enlighten you with respect to Arabs and Arabic. Arabic is the mother of all languages!. I know you are going to get your undies in a twist over this but it’s a fact and the numbering system was largely Arabic to begin with.

          • Krishna Rao, Don’t be so gullible. India is a respectable country, with many contributions toward mathematics and science, but they cannot take credit for the creation of algebra. Algebra was a purely Arab concept, and did not originate in India as you are assuming. It may be said in the scriptures of India, but true algebra came from the Arabs and Khwarizmi. Even the word “algebra” comes from the Arab word “al-Jabr”. Please get your facts right. What you “quote” are biased blogs, not credible sources

  • @Jaffar Shaikh – why is someone a HYPOCRITE if they don’t want to give credit to a group of people who are in no way responsible for something?

    You are correct when you imply that al-Khwarizmi was a great mathematician who added to the information he learned when he TRANSLATED A BOOK from Indian to Greek and Arabic – the book that you reference was NOT written by him in the year 825, it was TRANSLATED by him from old Indian texts and he wrote ‘commentary’ on it. But the point is HE NEVER COULD HAVE ADDED TO SOMETHING IF IT HAD NOT ALREADY BEEN CREATED BY SOMEONE ELSE. IN ADDITION THERE IS EVIDENCE HE WAS NOT MUSLIM, BUT ZOROASTRIAN – BECAUSE HE WAS PERSIAN, NOT ARABIC.

    The Alexandrian Greek mathematician Diophantus (in the 200s, 600 yrs before Khwarizmi), sometimes called “the father of algebra”, wrote a series of books, called Arithmetica, dealing with solving algebraic equations.

    Another Hellenistic mathematician who contributed to the progress of algebra was Hero of Alexandria, as did the Indian Brahmagupta in his book Brahmasphutasiddhanta.

    • hello first you should no that persians and arabians are muslims and the father of algebra is Al-khwarizmi.India was not educated at that time they dont know what was maths at that time they know only how to fight. algebra was started from arabians only.and afterverse some of the indian sailors visited Arabia and learned algebra from arabians and translated their books from Arabian text.And then made books like brahmasphutasiddhanta.And al-khwarizmi was a pure muslim .so this is the correct history of Algebra.

      • Actually Al Khwarizmi admits he got the knowledge of algebra from the Indians. He wrote it down himself.

        • Krishna Rao, That is a pathetic lie. Please don’t assume things because your parents told it to you, or you read it in a blog. You have no credible sources

  • Al Gore invented algebra.

    Diophantus was a Hellenistic Greek (or possibly Egyptian, Jewish or even Chaldean) mathematician who lived in Alexandria during the 3rd Century CE. He is sometimes called “the father of algebra”, and wrote an influential series of books called the “Arithmetica”, a collection of algebraic problems which greatly influenced the subsequent development of number theory.

    One of the first Directors of the House of Wisdom in Bagdad in the early 9th Century was an outstanding Persian mathematician called Muhammad Al-Khwarizmi. He oversaw the translation of the major Greek and Indian mathematical and astronomy works (including those of Brahmagupta) into Arabic, and produced original work which had a lasting influence on the advance of Muslim and (after his works spread to Europe through Latin translations in the 12th Century) later European mathematics.


  • Did any of you morons notice the title of the article? Stay on topic… only people with a lot of time on their hands (read as “students” or the unemployed) would spend so much time arguing a point that can never be “proven”. Human nature has changed little over millenia – Charles Darwin didn’t “invent” evolution, he described it – mathematical principles pre-existed human intelligence. Furthermore, history is littered with people who steal (or borrow, if you like) others’ discoveries and present them as their own for egotistical reasons- who cares who wrote it down first? Which came first, the writing or the thoughts and spoken word? No way to verify this objectively- the Nazis promoted similar nationalistic cultural ideas and created elaborate “proofs” that the Aryans invented everything good in the world…that level of ignorance must be painful- grow up.