Origin of the Word Algebra
Algebra is a separate and special branch of mathematics, which basically differs from arithmetic in the use of abstractions, such as using letters to stand for numbers that are either unknown or allowed to take on many values. In its most general form, algebra is the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating these symbols. Though the root of algebra can be traced back to the ancient period, the word ‘algebra’ is somewhat a newcomer in the English language.
A Persian mathematician and astronomer, Abu Ja'far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, is known to be the father of algebra. Around 825 AD, he wrote a book named “Kitab al-jabr w’al-muqabalah”. His work specifically covered the branch of mathematics which we now know as algebra and it was the most notable work on the subject during that period.
It covers such things as polynomial equations up to the second degree, introducing methods for reduction and balancing and other such staple algebraic methods. It was such a notable and interesting work that it eventually found its way into Europe, becoming the first textbook on the subject of Algebra in Europe.
In English, the title roughly means, ‘Rules of Reintegration and Reduction’, or ‘Anthology on the calculation by restoring and balancing’. The English word ‘algebra’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘al-jabr’, which meant, ‘reunion of broken parts’, basically describing the method for solving both sides of an equation. The Europeans used the Arabic name “al-jabr” for the name of this subject, which in the translated Latin text version was ‘algebrae’.
The word entered the English language during the fifteenth century, from Spanish, Italian, or Medieval Latin text version “algebrae”, and subsequently the accent shifted 17c., from the second syllable to first, making it known as ‘Algebra’.