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We were watching a movie set in and around North Africa and an enormous desert sandstorm blew up. My husband asked what those were called, and from somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain out popped “sirocco.” I had always assumed it was an Arabic word. Turns out I was only half wrong. Here are the details:

si·roc·co
noun

  • 1 a : a hot dust-laden wind from theLibyan deserts that blows on thenorthern Mediterranean coast chieflyin Italy, Malta, and Sicily
    b : a warm moist oppressivesoutheast wind in the same regions
  • 2 : a hot or warm wind of cyclonicorigin from an arid or heated region

Other forms: plural si·roc·cos

Variants: also sci·roc·co \shə-ˈrä-(ˌ)kō, sə-\
Origin: Italian scirocco, sirocco,alteration of Old Italian scilocco, fromArabic dialect (Maghreb) šlōqsoutheast wind, alteration of Arabicshalūq, shulūq.

First use: 1617

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