One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Any of various resins, oils, and pitch-like substances with a practical use; specifically (a) mineral pitch, native asphalt; (b) the resin from trees such as pine and cedar.
Late Middle English; earliest use found in Cleanness. Partly (i) from Anglo-Norman alketran, alktran, Middle French alkitran, alquitran liquid resin which flows from fir trees, also mineral pitch, bitumen from Spanish alquitrán from Arabic al-qaṭrān and its variant al-qiṭrān from al the + qaṭrān and its variant qiṭrān resin of fir trees, pitch, tar, of uncertain origin, probably a loanword from another Semitic language (perhaps from Aramaic ʿiṭrān ‘kind of resin’, which is etymologically related, although its different initial consonant poses phonological problems; compare also Arabic qaṭara to drip));.
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