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Specifically, did Muslims coin it or non-Muslims?

Is there any evidence, recorded in history, about the first usage of this term?

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2 Answers 2

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No one "coined" it; it is a romanization of the genitive form of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. The -i suffix is the usual way to transliterate it, just as we have Saudi, Kuwaiti, Omani, and so on. (The more common way in English to create a genitive for a thinker would be to use the Greek-derived -ic or the Latin-derived -an, hence you do see Wahhabic and Wahhabian like Platonic and Aristotelian).

Its first use in English is attested in various dictionaries to the first decade of the 19th century.

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As an addendum to Choster's answer, Here is the English usage of "Wahhabi", according to Google's book data:

(Click for larger image)
History of Wahhabi

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    Good graph but be careful of Google book data as there are false positives, for example the internet was unlikely to be referred to in the 17th century. Not to say this is not useful data (it is) but care must be taken in how we interpret it. Sep 17, 2012 at 8:22
  • @Sardathrion, yes, no large dataset is perfect, but don't discount English either. "Inter" is a very common prefix, inherited from Latin, (EG: "Interstitial", "Intercept", etc.). It is possible that early uses were real, but meant something different than the innerwebz. Maybe: "We caught the fish internet" (between nets). ... ... This is supported by the fact that "internets" and "inter net" both appear hundreds of years ago, but are hardly in use today. Sep 17, 2012 at 8:45
  • Indeed. My comment was in no way a criticism of your graph/answer/Google Book. Just a grain of salt. ^_~ Sep 17, 2012 at 8:48
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    @Sardathrion, And I agree with the salt, but I also know that many strange and ¿terrifying? things lurk in the history of the English language. Sep 17, 2012 at 8:50

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