The word adobe /əˈdoʊbiː/ has existed for around 4,000 years, with relatively little change in either pronunciation or meaning. The word can be traced from the Middle Egyptian (c. 2000 BC) word dj-b-t "mud [i.e., sun-dried] brick." As Middle Egyptian evolved into Late Egyptian, Demotic, and finally Coptic (c. 600 BC), dj-b-t became tobe "[mud] brick." This was borrowed into Arabic as al-tub (الطّوب al "the" + tub "brick") "[mud] brick," which was assimilated into Old Spanish as adobe [aˈdobe], still with the meaning "mud brick." English borrowed the word from Spanish in the early 18th century.
Adobe structures are extremely durable, and account for some of the oldest existing buildings in the world. Compared to wooden buildings, adobe buildings offer significant advantages due to their greater thermal mass, in hot climates, but they are known to be particularly susceptible to earthquake damage.
Buildings made of sun-dried earth are common in West Asia, North Africa, West Africa, South America, southwestern North America, Spain, Eastern Europe and East Anglia, particularly Norfolk, known as clay lump. Adobe had been in use by indigenous peoples of the Americas in the Southwestern United States, Mesoamerica, and the Andean region of South America for several thousand years, although often substantial amounts of stone are used in the walls of Pueblo buildings. (Also, the Pueblo people built their adobe structures with handfuls or basketfuls of adobe, until the Spanish introduced them to the making of bricks.)
Adobe brickmaking was used in Spain starting by the Late Bronze Age and Iron Age, from the eighth century B.C. on. Its wide use can be attributed to its simplicity of design and manufacture, and the economy of creating it.
Homes of sun-dried bricks were built in Egypt in 3800 B.C. Mud from the bottom of the Nile River was mixed with straw, shaped and dried in the sun until as hard and strong as rock. Adobe homes were the most efficient structures for the hot and dry Egyptian climate.