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.

    • SKS

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

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  • Jaffar Shaikh

    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.

    • Krishna Rao

      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.

      • SKS

        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!

        • Krishna Rao

          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.

          • SKS

            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.

          • Krishna Rao

            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.

          • SKS

            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!

          • Krishna Rao

            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.

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  • Rebecca Smith

    @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.

      • Krishna Rao

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

  • Richard Cabeza

    Al Gore invented algebra.