While reading a recent issue of the Canadian Geographic, I came across a news item mentioning two Canadians in Thailand, who run a magazine targeted for Westerners, called Farang. The similarity of this term to the Arabic ones piqued my interested, so I did some research on it.
The term Arabs used for Eastern Europe in the seventh century was Rum الروم being the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium). For Western Europe, the term Firinjia فرنجة، فرنج came to be used somewhat after that, and specially during the Crusades, since a large percentage of the Crusaders were Franks. Hence the term Firinjah stuck to all Western Europeans.
As Arab traders travelled to East Asia, the term was borrowed into the languages of that region. Initially describing the Portuguese, it was used for all "whites" later.
|Transliteration in Latin characters
|Singular of above term
|Another plural form
Here are the derivations in other languages.
|"Westerner", "Latin Catholics", "Land of the Franks"
|"a European", "The Country of the Franks; Western Europe; Latin language or church"
|afrangi, ifranji, faranji
|Arabic variations. See details in table above.
|afrang,faranj, ferang, ferangi, feringhi
|farengi, farangi, pirangi
|paalagi, papalangi, vaalagi, papa-'aa
|Likely a coincidence ?