Open sesame

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Open Sesame (phrase))
Ali Baba overhearing one of the thieves saying "Open Sesame".

"Open sesame" (French: Sésame, ouvre-toi; Arabic: افتح يا سمسم, romanizediftaḥ yā simsim) is a magical phrase in the story of "Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves" in Antoine Galland's version of One Thousand and One Nights. It opens the mouth of a cave in which forty thieves have hidden a treasure.


The phrase first appears in Antoine Galland's French translation of One Thousand and One Nights (1704–1717) as Sésame, ouvre-toi (English, "Sesame, open yourself").[1] In the story, Ali Baba overhears one of the 40 thieves saying "open sesame". His brother later cannot remember the phrase, and confuses it with the names of grains other than sesame, becoming trapped in the magic cave.

Galland's phrase has been variously translated from the French into English as "Sesame, open",[2] "Open, sesame" and "Open, O sesame".[3][failed verification]

Sesame seeds grow in a seed pod that splits open when it reaches maturity,[4] and the phrase possibly alludes to unlocking of treasures.[5] Babylonian magic practices used sesame oil.[6] But it is not certain that the word "sesame" actually refers to the sesame plant or seed.[7] Sesame may be a reduplication of the Hebrew šem 'name', i.e., God, or a kabbalistic word representing the Talmudic šem-šāmayīm ("shem-shamayim"), 'name of heaven'.[8]


Open sesame has been classified by Stith Thompson as motif element D1552.2, "Mountain opens to magic formula".[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Les mille et une nuits : contes arabes / traduits par Galland, ornés de gravures". 2009-05-25. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  2. ^ "The Novelist's Magazine - Google Boeken". 1785. Retrieved 2013-08-15.
  3. ^ Burton
  4. ^ "Sesame: Origin, History, Etymology and Mythology". 2015-11-30. Archived from the original on 2018-01-25. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  5. ^ "Open Sesame". The New York Times Magazine. 2015-04-08. Retrieved 2018-01-25.
  6. ^ Theodor Nöldeke in Zeitschrift für Assyriologie (1914), as reported in Haupt.
  7. ^ Armstrong, Marian (2007). Wildlife and Plants. Vol. 16. Marshall Cavendish. p. 972. ISBN 978-0761477105. Retrieved 2014-12-24.
  8. ^ Felix Ernst Peiser in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung (1902), as reported in Haupt.
  9. ^ S. Thompson, Motif-index of folk-literature : a classification of narrative elements in folktales, ballads, myths, fables, mediaeval romances, exempla, fabliaux, jest-books, and local legends", 1955-1958. [1] cf. Aarne–Thompson classification system


  • (in English) Paul Haupt, "Open Sesame" in Beiträge zur assyriologie und semitischen Sprachwissenschaft 10:2, 1927, p. 165ff. Originally presented at the meeting of the American Oriental Society, Washington, April 15, 1916.