The other day I stumbled upon the Arabic word طاولة "tawila".

It occurred to me that it in fact sounds quite close to Italian "tavolo".

Is this just coincidental or was the word loaned in either direction at some point in time?

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    According to Italian dictionaries, "tavolo" comes from Italian "tavola", which comes from Latin "tăbula", which has an unknown etimology. – Charo Jul 23 '19 at 6:49
  • @Charo yes now when you mention it "tabula rasa" is famous concept in philosophy, no? But maybe it was loaned to/from arabic to latin then? – mathreadler Jul 23 '19 at 6:58
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    If the information in the above Wiktionary link is correct (that is, that the Arabic word comes from Italian), this is actually a question about Arabic, and I doubt there are here many people that are qualified to answer. Linguistics.SE, perhaps, which includes several question tagged “arabic”? – DaG Jul 23 '19 at 7:18
  • @DaG weuw, that was easy. Thanks. – mathreadler Jul 23 '19 at 7:21

It is true that the Italian word tavola comes from the Latin tabŭla of uncertain origin. But the Etymological Dictionary of Latin by Michiel de Vaan can help shed some light into that uncertainty, and at least show that a Semitic origin is unlikely.

According to de Vaan, it comes from an original Proto-Italic form, either *taf or *taþla. It has an attested cognate tafle in Umbrian ("instrument for transporting the sacrificial fire").

If the Proto-Italic form was *taþla, it is probably coming from a root *ta- plus an instrumental suffix *-dʰlo, with the root coming a from s-less *steh₂- (the origin of the Latin stāre, to stand) as in the Proto-Tocharian and Proto-Celtic *tā- (which also means "to stand").

So, in brief the etymology of tabŭla is likely Indoeuropean, cognate of stāre (cfr. stābilis). Even if this hypothesis is not correct, it will still come from Proto-Italic and so a Semitic loan is very unlikely (especially since the possible Proto-Italic roots look very different from the Arabic word).

As Charo said in the comments it seems that the borrowing went in the other direction

According to Hans Wehr's 4th edition of Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic the Arabic word طاولة comes from the Italian "tavola" -- Charo

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    According to Hans Wehr's 4th edition Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic the Arabic word طاولة comes from the Italian "tavola". – Charo Jul 23 '19 at 14:42
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    Here it's the link to such dictionary. It says: طاولة (It. tavola) ṭāwila ... – Charo Jul 23 '19 at 14:42
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    I think this answer gives detailed information and shows the unlikely possibility of an Arabic origin of “tavolo.” – user519 Jul 23 '19 at 15:44
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    Mhm, maybe word got transferred from latin or greek via trade during like.. greek golden age or roman empire then.. – mathreadler Jul 23 '19 at 19:25
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    If the word, as the dictionary says, comes from Italian (rather than Latin), it must have happened quite some time after Roman empire. At the very earliest, around XI century. – DaG Jul 23 '19 at 23:24

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