Egyptian Arabic forms of address


Egyptian Arabic has many different ways to address people, varying according to age, gender, and social class of the person being addressed.

Note: If you are directly calling or addressing someone, you must use the vocative particle — the word يا (ya) — before their name or title. This is like how the word "o" used to be used in English ("O Hamlet, speak no more!"): a word that came directly before the name/title of the person you were talking to. But while "o" is no longer used in English, "ya" is used all the time in Arabic. It is not optional; you need to use it when talking to people.

ازيك يا احمد؟ (izzayyak ya Ahmed?)
How are you, Ahmed?

انتى فين يا ليلى؟ (inti fein ya Leila?)
Where are you, Leila?

انا تحت امرك يا افندم (ana taHt amrak ya fendim)
I'm at your service, sir/ma'am.

Also note that if you use a title with someone's name, you should use their first name, not their last.

اوصّلك فين يا آنسة مريم؟ (awaSSilik fein ya aanesa Maryam?)
Where shall I take you, Miss Maryam?

صباح الخير يا استاذة صفاء (SabaaH il-xeir ya ustaaza Safaa')
Good morning, Professor Safaa.

Keep in mind that in Arabic, titles in reference to one's profession are very commonly used, more so than in English. A doctor (either medical or someone with a PhD) would be addressed as دكتور doktoor; a general in the army, even if retired, would be addressed as لوا lewa; an engineer would be addressed as مهندس mohandis or بشمهندس bašmohandis; and so forth.

List of forms of address

I've tried to arrange this list roughly according to class, starting with the words used to address the upper-class and moving on to the words used to address those lower on the social ladder.

افندم (efendim), sir/ma'am

The best general Arabic equivalent to the English "sir/ma'am." From the Turkish "efendim."

حضرتك (HaDritak [masc.] - HaDritik [fem.])

The formal/respectful equivalent of inta/inti, similar to the French "vous." This would be used not only with someone older than you, but also with people like your boss, a judge, university professor, police officer, etc. You wouldn't use it with "ya"; you'd simply plug it into a sentence where you'd ordinarily say enta/enti. Like ازي حضرتك؟ (izzayy HaDritak?), How are you? Or it can take the place of an object pronoun, like ممكن اسأل حضرتك سؤال؟ (mumkin as'al HaDritak su'aal?), Can I ask you a question?

سعدتك (sa3adtak - sa3adtik), Your Honor

Similar to HaDritak but more formal/respectful, and less commonly used, especially among the middle class.

استاذ - استاذة (ustaaz - ustaaza), lit. "professor"

Commonly used to address white-collar/educated men or women.

بيه (beih) and باشا (baaša)

Both of these are used to address people respectfully. (They are from the Turkish "bey" and "pasha.") However, a middle-class Egyptian probably wouldn't use either too much except with — for example — a government official they were trying to butter up. Servants, on the other hand, might use يا باشا or يا بيه to address their employer.

حبيبي - حبيبتي (Habiibi - Habibti), my dear

Commonly used to address family members (parents, siblings, etc.), children, and friends, including friends of the same sex. It's worth noting that the masculine form, Habiibi, is often used to address women.

مادام (madaam), Mrs.

From the French "madame," this word can be used to respectfully address a married woman, usually from the middle/upper class.

مداموازيل (madamwazeil) or آنسة (aanesa), Miss

Used to respectfully address a young unmarried woman. The former is from the French "mademoiselle."

طنط (TanT), aunt

From the French "tante," this word can be used to respectfully address an older woman.

عمّ (3amm), paternal uncle

Can be used to address someone like a family friend, or someone who may be older and from a lower social class (like a doorman or a man selling food at a market). Or it can be used very casually to address a friend (this is usually between young men).

كابتن (kaptin), lit. "captain"

Used to politely address a young man.

حضرة الظابط (HaDrit iZ-ZaabiT), officer

Used to politely addres police officers.

حاجّ - حاجّة (Hagg - Hagga), lit. someone who has gone on the Hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca)

Used to address old, usually working-class, men or women. It's best to be sparing in your use of this, especially if you don't know if the person you're addressing is Christian or not, and also since it will make people feel old.

ريّس (rayyis), lit. "president"

Can be used to address working-class men. And taxi drivers use it a lot when they ask strangers on the street for directions — "Ya rayyis! Fein šaari3 (whatever)?"

اسطى (osTa)

Used to address working-class people who are trained in a skilled trade, like car mechanics or carpenters. Commonly used to address taxi drivers. From the Turkish "usta."

معلّم (mi3allim)

May generally be used to address a lower/working-class man, particularly those in professions like butchers or bakers. Or may be more specifically used to address a working-class man in a position of authority, like a business owner, foreman or gang leader.

All vocabulary lists Greetings & polite expressions