I remember the good old days when “hardware” mostly meant “metal goods and utensils such as locks, tools, and cutlery,” in the words of the American Heritage Dictionary. Those were the days when hardware was contrasted with silverware and glassware. Al-Mawrid, even in its 2001 edition, still calls hardware خردوات.
Leaving Al-Mawrid behind, today’s language is clearly swept up by the information age. When someone now says “hardware,” the first thing that jumps to mind is a mini tower, not a pickaxe.
Arab IT wordsmiths seem to have settled on عتاد, which is clearly borrowed from the military usage of “hardware” or, more likely, of its French counterpart, “materiél.” Computer manuals in Cairo, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi are full of it. Of course, that alone cannot justify a word.
You are asking for a “general term.” How general do you want it to be? are you looking for a term that covers both crowbars and printed circuits?
If that is what you have in mind, then Al-Mawrid’s خردوات will not do. I think it was hardly good enough even in its old sphere, as the word sounded more applicable to scrap metal than to useful tools. I, for one, would never let anyone call my printer خردة, until I decide to trash it.
Is عتاد good enough as a general term? According to محيط المحيط, the root intransitive verb means to get ready by getting equipped, while the transitive verb means to prepare (something). The only Qur’anic reference given is وَأَعْتَدَتْ لَهُنَّ مُتَّكَئًا, she being the wily, wayward Egyptian lady (from the Sura of Yusuf). There is even a hint that أَعتَد was possibly a modified form of أَعَدَّ.
So far the term sounds general enough, but does it give the desired contrast with “software”? In some sense, عَتاد, mainly because of its military association, gives that sense of “equipment” and “solid objects.”
The real test of the word’s usefulness is in its usage possibilities. Can one honestly use the word to translate a sentence like, “I think the problem you have involves both a hardware defect and a software conflict”? Notice that “hardware” here is an adjective. Would you then say خَلَل عَتادي or مُشكلة عَتاديّة? Possibly. Incidentally, my Arabic spellchecker accepted عَتادي and rejected عَتاديّة. I think it was compiled by a bunch of men.
It seems that عتاد may be a good candidate. It is still a debutant of a word, like the expression أشعة مقطعية twenty years ago. It may gain greater currency or it may fade away like مرناة and make room for هاردوير.
Al-Mawrid, Muheet Al-Muheet
1 day 2 hrs
If talking about computers, the word refers to the computer system physical equipment as opposed to software (programs).
So, you may say الأجهزة or أجهزة الحاسوي أو النظام depending on the context.
Local time: 01:06
Native speaker of: Arabic
PRO pts in pair: 12
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