Is it a Hookah or a Shisha?

Sometimes understanding the names of things and the terms when it comes to traditional smoking methods can be tricky. It is especially hard when sometimes one term used in one country means something different in another! Take the words hookah and shisha for example. Beginners or recreational smokers often use those terms interchangeably to mean the device you use for smoking. But more experienced or passionate users make a distinction between the two. In that case, when people starting using both terms it can get confusing as to what is being spoken about. Here is a look at the two terms, why they might get mixed up and how they are connected, and what to expect globally.

The difference between a hookah and a Shisha

The word Hookah comes from the Indian subcontinent where it is thought this means of smoking was first developed. From there it spread first to countries close by and then eventually overseas. The British picked it up from India during the period in the 1800s when it was a colony. The name Hookah comes from the words for pot or jar and then hollow or cavity. It essentially is named after what it looks like. The hookah is the smoking device, the whole thing. On the other hand in the Middle East where smoking like this was also very popular, in places like Palestine, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Iran the pipe-like smoking equipment was called an Argileh or Argilah.

Shisha comes from the word shishe, a Persian word that means glass. If you head to Egypt and certain places in the part of the world, when people use Shisha they are referring to the water pipe but not the whole device. It is the glass base of the device. If you go to say the US things are definitely different. Hookah refers to the whole device still but in some situations, Shisha refers to the tobacco you smoke with the device. It is the substance, not the pipe. You can get different flavors of shisha so there is a lot to explore if you want to mix it up and try new things.


Not sure how well that cleared things up for you because essentially, while the Hooka is the whole smoking device and the Shisha is the glass base of it in some parts of the world, in others it is the device and what you put in it to smoke. To some, both terms mean the same thing and just come from different parts of the world. Usually, you can tell what people are talking about by considering the context of the conversation or if you are unsure ask! If you are looking for a hookah there are some great places you can buy them online. Choose one that suits your taste and lifestyle and make sure you clean it regularly to get the best hits.