The “root” √MRS displays an enormous variety of values.
▪ Some of these are easily recognizable as borrowings from outside Ar (māris ‘March’, mirsī ‘merci’, marsīn ‘myrtle’).
▪ Others conform to common morphological patterns and therefore look genuinely Ar although they might not be so, or actually belong to another root. Thus, some dictionaries list marsà ‘anchor’ under √MRS, although it is definitely from √RSW (but not perhaps the Qur’anic mursà ).
▪ Among the items that look Ar but actually are borrowings we find the Ar name of the Andalusian city of Murcia, mursiyaẗ ; it looks as if it could be from √MRS or from √RSW, but with all likelihood, it is from neither, going back to a local, non-Ar place name.
▪ Perfectly “disguised” as Ar words is also hot mistral-like wind blowing from the south, called il-marīsī in EgAr (but to be found also in MSA texts); its name goes back to the Copt expression for a southern Eg province.
▪ Another group of items comprises those that not only look Ar but may also actually be so; but some scholars have suggested a foreign origin. Among these we find the kind of beer (or, in ClassAr, date wine) called marīsaẗ ; for the beer, at least, a Copt < Eg etymology has been proposed, but it may also simply be a pseudo-PP I from marasa ‘to soak, macerate’ (barley, or dates, in order to let them ferment). marasaẗ ‘rope’ may either be genuinely Ar or a loan from Syr. And for mars , a technical term in playing cards or backgammon, an Ar etymology has been put forward (*‘to sink’ < ‘to soak’), although it is more likely to be a borrowing (both Pers and Tu have been suggested).
▪ A number of the remaining values can be explained as having developed from a basic notion of ‘strength, power, force, effort, energy’ (which has survived into MSA unaltered only in the n. marāsaẗ , and perhaps in vb. VI, ‘to struggle, contend with each other’, i.e., use power against each other, put o.’s efforts into reaching a goal, competing with others in doing so). Strength and effort put into s.th. later became identified with practical experience and proficiency, hence the adj. maris ‘seasoned, practiced, experienced, veteran’ (in ClassAr first and foremost ‘strong’) and the vb. III, mārasa ‘to exercise, pursue, practice s.th.’ To the same semantic complex seems to belong the n., now obsolete, †maris ‘sort, kind, type’, as in the expression hum ʕalà maris wāḥid ‘they are alike in dispositions’ (Lane1885), ‘they are of the same sort’ (Hava1899), i.e., they are used to apply the same approaches, or practices, they treat things/people in a similar way.
▪ The other basic value on which a number of derivatives seem to be dependent, is ‘rope’, marasaẗ . The ClassAr intr. vb. I †marisa ‘to fall from the pulley and get stuck’ (said of a rope) and the tr. vb. IV †ʔamrasa ‘to set right (a rope), restore (the rope) to the place in which it ran; to remove (the rope) from there’ are clearly denominative from ‘rope’. Perhaps the same holds true also for ‘to rub o.s. with/against, have trouble, be at odds with’ (tamarrasa , vb. V). These values may be akin to the ClassAr †marasa ‘to wipe (o.’s hands, bi‑ with)’.
▪ According to Ehret1989 as well as Gabal2012, the movement (of o.’s fingers or hands) over or across s.th., a surface, is the nuclear meaning of the bi-consonantal root *MR‑ [→MRː (MRR)] from which marasa can be regarded to be an extension. Ehret distinguishes two values of marasa , the one meaning ‘to wipe’ having developed from *mar‑ through the addition of a “non-finitive” *‑c (which later became ‑s ). Unlike Ehret, for whom the bi-consonantal nucleus does not include the use of ‘force’, Gabal thinks that some kind of force, tightening, or pressure accompanies the movement associated with *mar‑ . This idea brings Gabal’s nuclear *mar‑ already close to the ‘rubbing’ and ‘pressing’ that accompanies the getting stuck of the rope, marasaẗ , that has fallen from the pulley, and the ‘strength, power, effort, force, energy’ we encountered in marāsaẗ above.
▪ No word from the root √MRS appearing in the Qurʔān, neither Jeffery1938 nor Gabal2012 treat it; so we do not know either how Gabal would explain the relation between the other—and in the dictionaries primary—meaning marasa , namely ‘to soak, macerate’ and, according to many also: ‘to mash, crush with the hand’. The latter aspect is lost in MSA marasa (accord. to WehrCowan1979, at least), but mentioned in many dictionaries of ClassAr, cf. Lane vii 1885: marasa-hū ‘he macerated, steeped, or soaked, it [...] and mashed it with the hand [...], he rubbed and pressed it (namely, a quantity of dates,) with the hand, in water, so that it became mashed [... or ...] soft [...]’. The value is also still repeated in Hava1899: marasa u (mars) ‘to dilute and mash (a medicine)’. For Ehret, this marasa is an extension in »fortative (> intensive)« *‑s .
▪ Summarizing the above (as far as the three “genuinely” Ar values ‘to soak’, ‘to use force, to crush, smash; power, effort, energy’, and ‘rope’ are concerned), we may, with Ehret and Gabal, assume I a bi-consonantal nuclear *MR‑ ‘to brush with the fingers’ (perhaps accompanied by some pressure). II This nucleus was extended, forming (accord. to Ehret), among many others, two new 3-radical bases: II.1 *MR-C ‘to wipe’ and II.2 *MR-S ‘to macerate and crush with the hand’, which both III merged into Ar *MRS. III.1 From II.1 ‘to wipe’ is the vb. I, now obsolete, †marasa ‘to wipe’. III.2 continues II.2, splitting in III.2.a marasa ‘to soak, macerate (and crush with the hand)’, a value that has cognates in Akk marāsu A ‘to stir into a liquid’, or marsu ‘mixed, mashed’, and III.2.b the idea of crushing, rubbing, pressing, i.e., using force on the object under one’s treatment, as preserved in MSA marāsaẗ ‘strength, power, force, effort, energy’. — The ‘rope’, marasaẗ , is difficult to relate: it may belong to III.2.b, either as *‘the one obstructing the pulley when falling from it’, but more likely as *‘the thing that is produced (i.e. twisted) with a lot of energy, the thing that is strong’. Fraenkel1886 is unclear, but in one place he thinks it is an Aramaeism, derived from Syr maršā ‘strong hempen rope’ (p. 93); on another occasion, however, he thinks marasaẗ »is probably genuine« (p. 229). — For further derivations, see individual entries →marasa , →marasaẗ , →marāsaẗ .