Gazelle is derived from the Arabic name غزال ġazāl. The first Romance language to adopt it was Middle French, and the word entered the English language around 1600 from French. The Arab people traditionally hunted the gazelle. Appreciated for its grace, it is a symbol most commonly associated in Arabic literature with female beauty.
One of the traditional themes of Persian love poetry involves comparing the gazelle with the beloved, and linguists theorize ghazal, the word for love poetry in Persian, is related to the word for gazelle.[It is related that the Caliph Abd al-Malik (646–705) freed a gazelle that he had captured because of her resemblance to his beloved:
O likeness of Layla, never fear!
For I am your friend, today, O wild deer!
Then I say, after freeing her from her fetters:
You are free for the sake of Layla, forever!
The theme is found in the ancient Hebrew Song of Songs. (8:14)
Come away, my beloved,
and be like a gazelle
or like a young stag
on the spice-laden mountains.