Greetings and polite expressions in Egyptian Arabic
I tried to include as many useful greetings and courteous expressions as I could on this page, focusing on the expressions used in Egypt (so when I say "Colloquially people say such-and-such," I'm referring to Egypt). In some cases, I gave a standard variant and then detailed the colloquial usage below. Also, I gave everything in the masculine form, just because it's easier than including the feminine and plural forms for everything.
Do make sure to memorize the proper responses to each expression; it can be quite awkward if someone tells you something nice and you don't know what to say back! If you don't know the right response, no one will get angry at you, but if you do know what to say, it can make a really nice impression. Conveniently, usually the main verb in the response comes from the same root as the main word used in the first expression — for example, "ma3a s-salāma," "salāmtak," "Hamdillāh 3as-salāma" and "sallimli 3a...," which all have words from the s-l-m root. They all have the same response, "allāh ysallimak," with another s-l-m root word. So if you keep that in mind, it helps in remembering the right response.Welcome; hello: أهلا وسهلا (ahlan wa sahlan)
Response: أهلا بيك (ahlan bīk)
You can say أهلا وسهلا when welcoming someone (ex. to your country or home). And you can also say اهلا to mean just "hello."
Welcome; hello: مرحبا (marHaban)
Response: مرحبا بيك (marHaban bīk)
مرحبا can be used in much the same way as أهلا وسهلا, and it has a more colloquial pronunciation of "marHaba." One colloquial response is مرحبتين (marHabtein - lit. two welcomes). مرحبا is not really used in Egypt outside of tourist signs and so forth, but in other places like the Gulf and Levant, it's used frequently to say hello.
Hello: السلام عليكم (as-salāmu 3aleikum) - lit. Peace be upon you
Response: وعليكم السلام (w3aleikum as-salām)
A common greeting used by Muslims. You can also add ورحمة الله وبركاته (waraHmatu llāhi wabarakātu - and God's mercy and blessings) to the end.
Good morning: صباح الخير (SabāH al-xeir)
Response: صباح النور (SabāH an-nūr)
There are more colloquial variants on صباح الخير/النور that you can use, like صباح القشطة (SabāH il-'išTa - lit. morning of cream), صباح الفل (SabāH il-full - lit. morning of jasmine), and صباح الورد (SabāH il-ward - lit. morning of rose). They're a little "baladi" (i.e. used more by the rural and lower classes), but you can still use them to add some color to your speech.
Good evening: مساء الخير (masā' al-xeir)
Response: مساء النور (masā' an-nūr)
You can also say مساء القشطة, مساء الفل, and مساء الورد here too.
How are you?: كيف حالك؟ (keif Hālak)
Response: بخير الحمد لله (bexeir al-Hamdulillāh) - Fine, thank God
كيف حالك can be said in a colloquial context, especially in the Levant. In Egypt, however, the commonly used expression for "How are you?" is ازيك (izzayyak). You can also say, ازي الاحوال؟ (izzayy il-aHwaal?), "How are things?" or ازي الصحة؟ (izzayy iS-SiHHa), "How's [your] health?" A common colloquial response would be كويس الحمد لله (kwayyis al-Hamdulillāh), "Good, thank God," or just "al-Hamdulillāh" on its own.
How are things going?: ايه أخبار؟ (eih axbār); أخبارك ايه؟ (axbārak eih); عامل/ة ايه؟ (3amil/3amla eih)
These expressions are kind of like "What's up?" as it's used in the U.S.; you don't really proceed to explain what's going on in your life — and don't say مافيش أخبار, mafīš axbār, "No news," like I did once; people will laugh at you! If you want to say "Nothing new," you can say لا جديد la gedīd. People usually just say something like "al-Hamdulillāh" or كويس (kwayyis, "Good") or كلو تمام (kullu tamām, "Everything's fine").
Nice to meet you: فرصة سعيدة (furSa sa3īda) - lit. Happy chance
Response: أنا الأسعد (ana l-as3ad) - lit. I am happier
Good night: تصبح على خير (tiSbaH 3ala xeir) - lit. Wake up healthy
Response: وانت من أهله (winta min ahlo)
Goodbye: مع السلامة (ma3a s-salāma) - said to the person leaving; lit. Go in peace
Response: الله يسلمك (allāh ysallimak) - said by the person leaving; lit. May God protect you
Often when people are leaving they just say "salām" or "as-salāmu 3aleikum" and those remaining say "ma3a s-salāma."
Used when s.o. leaves on a trip:
Bon voyage: رحلة سعيدة (reHla sa3īda)
ربنا يجيبك بالسلامة (rabbina ygībak bis-salāma) - lit. May God bring you safely
ربنا يوصلك بالسلامة (rabbina yiwaSSalak bis-salāma) - lit. May God deliver you safely
تروح وتيجي بالسلامة (tirūH witīgī bis-salāma) - lit. Go and come safely
Response: الله يسلمك (allāh ysallimak)
Used to welcome s.o. arriving from a trip or greet s.o. who has just recovered from an illness:
حمد لله عالسلامة (Hamdilla 3as-salāma) - lit. Thank God for (your) safety
Response: الله يسلمك (allāh ysallimak)
Welcome to Egypt: نوّرت مصر (nawwart maSr) - lit. You have lit up Egypt
Response: ده نورك كفاية (da nūrak kifāya), lit. Your light is enough - or مصر منوّرة بيك (maSr menawwara bīk), lit. Egypt is lit up by you - or منوّرة بأهلها (menawwara bi-ahlaha), lit. It is lit up by its people
You can also say "Menawwara" on its own to welcome someone anywhere.
You honor us with your visit: خطوة عزيزة (xaTwa 3azīza) - lit. dear step
Response: شكرا (šukran) or الله يخليك (allāh yxallīk)
Get well soon: سلامتك (salāmtak) or الله يشفيك (allāh yišfīk) - lit. "May God heal you"
Response: الله يسلمك (allāh ysallimak) - this is the response to سلامتك. However, الله يشفيك has no set response; you can just say شكرا (šukran)
Please: من فضلك (min faDlak)
Please: لو سمحت (law samaHt) - can also be used to get a waiter's attention, for example
Please, go ahead: اتفضل (itfaDDal) - an invitation to sit, enter a room, take something, etc.
Thank you: شكرا (šukran) or a stronger variant,
A thousand thanks: ألف شكر (alf šukr)
Another way to say "Thank you" is متشكر (mutašakkir), which also has a feminine variant متشكرة (mutašakkira) and plural variant متشكرين (mutašakkrīn). مرسي (mersi) is another colloquial alternative. To say "Thank you very much," you can say شكرا جزيلا (šukran gazīlan) or متشكر قوي (mutašakkir 'awi).
Also, when someone compliments you or something you did, you can tell them, شكرا\مرسي \ الله يخليك (šukran/mersi/allāh yxallīk), followed by ده من ذوقك (da min zoo'ak), lit. "That's from your taste." This is used much like the English "Thank you, you're too kind."
Thank you: كتر خيرك (kattar xeirak) - lit. May God increase your good fortune
Response: خيرك سابق (xeirak saabi') - lit. Your goodness preceded mine
Thank you: تسلم ايدك (teslam iidak) - lit. (May God) bless your hand
Response: وايدك (wa-iidak) - lit. And your hand
Used to thank a cook for a great meal, or more generally to thank someone for a present.
You're welcome: عفوا (3afwan)
Other ways to say "You're welcome": العفو (il-3afw) or العفو على ايه (il-3afw 3ala eih, "It was nothing").
Sorry: آسف (āsif)
Another way to say "Sorry" is متآسف (mut'asif), which follows the same pattern of variants as متشكر.
Pardon me: لا مؤآخذة (la mo'axza)
Excuse me: بعد اذنك or عن اذنك (ba3d iznak or 3an iznak)
Used to express admiration or praise: ما شاء الله (ma ša' allāh) - lit. God has willed it.
This might be used when someone shows you a picture of their kids or grandkids; when someone introduces you to their kids; if someone shows you something great they just bought; when you enter someone's home for the first time and admire its decor; or if you want to compliment someone's beautiful appearance. It's like saying, "Wow, how beautiful!"
Used to refer to events taking place in the future: إن شاء الله (in ša' allāh) - lit. if God wills
This is used a lot, anytime you talk about something taking place in the future. "See you tonight in ša' allāh." "I'll do it tomorrow in ša' allāh." "Can you finish the report by Thursday?" "In ša' allāh." And so on.
Used when you see s.o. with a new haircut, or if s.o. has just taken a bath or shower:
Response: الله ينعم عليك (allāh yin3am 3aleik)
Greeting to a Muslim who has just finished praying: حرما (Haraman)
Response: جمعا (gama3an)
Bon appetit: بالهنا والشفا (bil-hana wiš-šifa) - lit. with pleasure and health
Response: الله يهنّيك (allāh yihannīk)
Said by a guest to the host at the end of a meal: دايما or دايما عامر (dayman or dayman 3āmir) - lit. May you always prosper
Response: دامت حياتك (dāmit Hayātak) - lit. May your life last long
When someone sneezes:
The sneezer says: الحمد لله (il-Hamdu lillāh) - lit. Praise to God
Someone else: يرحمكم الله (yarHamkum llāh) - lit. May God have mercy on you (pl.)
The sneezer: يرحمنا ويرحمكم (ويغفر لنا ولكم) (yarHamna wa-yarHamkum [wa-yaġfir lana wa-lakum]) - lit. May He have mercy on us and you (and forgive us and you)
This is what Muslims in Egypt say when someone sneeezes. The ويغفر لنا ولكم part is an optional addition that some people say.
"Very gladly" responses to requests:
بكل سرور (bikull sirūr) - lit. with all pleasure
غالي والطلب رخيص (ghāli wiT-Talab rixīS) - lit. [You are] precious, and the request is cheap. That is, you're so dear that anything you ask for seems cheap.
على العين والراس (3al-3ein wir-rās) - lit. on the eye and head
من عيني دي وعيني دي (min 3eini di w3eini di) - lit. from this eye and this eye
The last two are pretty "baladi," but still good to know.
Say hello to (s.o.) for me; give them my regards: سلّم لي عـ (sallimli 3a...)
Response: الله يسلمك (allāh ysallimak)
Good luck: ربنا يوفقك (rabbena ywaffa'ak) - lit. May God make you succeed
بالتوفيق إن شاء الله (bit-tawfī' in ša' allāh)
The standard way to say "Good luck" is حظ سعيد (HaZZ sa3īd).
Happy birthday: عيد ميلاد سعيد (3īd mīlād sa3īd)
This is how you would say "Happy birthday" literally, but people actually just use their local variant of كل عام وأنتم بخير (see below).
Used for birthdays and all kinds of holidays: كل سنة وانت طيب (kulle sana winta Tayyib) - lit. May you (and your family) be well every year.
Response: وانت طيب (winta Tayyib)
This is the Egyptian variant of the standard كل عام وأنتم بخير (kull 3ām wa-antum bexeir). For someone's birthday, you might say كل سنة وانت طيب وعقبال ١٠٠ سنة ان شاء الله (kulle sana winta Tayyib wa-3o'bāl mīt sana in ša' allāh) — "Happy birthday, and many more."
Happy Ramadan: رمضان كريم (ramaDān karīm)
Response: الله أكرم (allāhu akram)
This is the greeting used for Ramadan in Egypt, but رمضان مبارك (ramaDān mubārak) is often used in other areas.
Happy Eid: عيد مبارك (3īd mubārak)
Response: الله يبارك فيك (allāh yibārik fīk)
This is the greeting used for the Muslim Eids (holidays/festivals): Eid al-Fitr, at the end of Ramadan, and Eid al-Adha.
Congratulations: مبروك (mabrūk) or a stronger variant,
A thousand congratulations: ألف مبروك (alf mabrūk)
Response: الله يبارك فيك (allāh yibārik fīk)
Good job; well done: برافو عليك (braavo 3aleik) or
الله ينوّر عليك (allāh ynawwar 3aleik)
Response: no set response; you can say شكرا, or in response to الله ينوّر عليك, you can say وعليك (انت كمان) (wa 3aleik [inta kaman])
I wish the same for you: عقبالك (3o'bālak)
Response: no set response, but you could say الله يخليك (allāh yxallīk) - God keep you.
Can be used when someone congratulates you on any happy occassion (a wedding, new baby, promotion, etc.) to wish them the same good fortune. However, you would want to be tactful when using it; for example, if you'd just had a baby and a friend who couldn't have children congratulated you, it would be better not to say "3o'bālik" to her.
Congratulations on an engagement
In addition to simply saying مبروك or ألف مبروك, you can say the following to congratulate someone on an engagement. Note that people often will say مبروك and pair it with one of the following:
- ربنا يتمم بخير\يتمم لك على خير (rabbina ytammim bi-xeir/ytammimlak 3ala xeir)
"May God grant a successful conclusion (to the engagement)."
- عقبال الفرح\الليلة الكبيرة (3o'bāl il-faraH/il-leila k-kibīra)
"May the wedding/the big night be soon." A Christian might say عقبال الاكليل (3o'bāl il-iklīl).
Again, in addition to مبروك and الف مبروك, you can say:
- ربنا يسعدكو (ويهنيكو) (rabbina yis3idku [wa-yhannīku])
"May God make you (both) happy."
- عقبال البكاري (3o'bāl il-bakāri)
"May you have your first-born soon."
- بالرفاة والبنين ان شاء الله (bir-rafā' wal-banīn in ša' allāh)
"May you live in comfort and have children." رفاء is sometimes written as رفاة. This is more of a written expression than a spoken one.
- ربنا يبارك لكم (rabbina ybārik lakum)
"May God bless you."
- بارك الله لكما وبارك عليكما وجمع بينكما في خير (bāraka allāhu lakuma wa-bāraka 3aleikuma wa-jama3a beinakuma fi xeir)
"May God bless you, surround you with blessings, and bring you both together in virtue and prosperity." As it was first said by the prophet Muhammad, this expression is used by Muslims.
In addition to مبروك and الف مبروك, you can say:
- ربنا يتمم لك\يكمل لك على خير (ويكرمك بولادة سهلة) (rabbina ytammimlik/ykammillik 3ala xeir [wa-ykrimik bi-wilāda sahla])
"May God grant a successful conclusion (to the pregnancy) (and favor you with an easy delivery)."
- ربنا يرزقك بطفل سليم معافي\ببيبي زي القمر (rabbina yirzu'ik bi-Tifl salīm mu3āfi/bi-beibi zayy il-'amar)
"May God provide you with a strong, healthy child/a beautiful baby." The first option is more standard, the second is more colloquial.
- يا رب يجعله ذرية صالحة (ya rabb yig3alu zurriyya SāliHa)
"May God make it a good/worthy progeny." This is standard Arabic.
- ربنا يقومك (انتى والبيبى) بألف سلامة (rabbina y'awwamik [inti wel-beibi] bi'alf salāma)
"May God deliver you (and the baby) in safety."
- تقومي بالسلامة ان شاء الله (ti'ūmi bis-salāma in sha' allāh)
"May you recover safely, God willing."
- ربنا ينتعك بالسلامة (rabbina yinta3ik bis-salāma)
"May God deliver you (through your delivery) safely."
- ربنا معاكي (rabbina ma3āki)
"May God be with you."
In addition to مبروك and الف مبروك, you can say:
- يتربى في عزكو (yitrabba fi 3ezzoko)
"May [the baby] be brought up in your wealth." If the baby is a girl, then it would be تتربى (titrabba).
- يا رب يخليكو لبعض (ya rabb yixallīku li-ba3D)
"May God keep you (safe) for each other."
- ربنا يخليه لك ويبارك لك فيه (rabbina yxallīlak wa-ybāriklak fīh)
"God keep him (the baby) safe for you and bless you." If the baby is a girl, then you'd say ربنا يخليها لك ويبارك لك فيها (rabbina yxallihālak wa-ybāriklak fīha). Note that you can also say ربنا يبارك لك فيه\فيها on its own.
- ربنا يحفظه ويفرّحك بيه (rabbina yHfaZu wa-yfarraHak bīh)
"God protect him (the baby) and make you rejoice in him." If the baby is a girl, then you'd say ربنا يحفظها ويفرّحك بيها (rabbina yHfaZha wa-yfarraHak bīha).
- ربنا يحفظه من كل سوء (ويجعله قرة عين والديه) (rabbina yiHfaZu min kull sū' [wa-yig3alu qurrit 3ein wālideih])
"May God protect him from all evil (and make him his parents' delight)." This is more standard than colloquial. If the baby is a girl, then it'd be ربنا يحفظها من كل سوء (ويجعلها قرة عين والديها) (rabbina yiHfaZha min kull sū' [wa-yig3alha qurrit 3ein wālideiha]).
- حمد لله على سلامتك (Hamdilla 3a-salamtik)
"Thank God for your safety." Said to the mother after a successful delivery.
The following expressions can be used by both Muslims and Christians in Egypt. They are followed by condolences used specifically by Muslims and Christians.
Be strong; keep your chin up: شدّ حيلك (šidd Heilak) - lit. Pull your strength
Response: الشدة على الله (iš-šidda 3ala-llah)
This expression can be used as a condolence, or anytime someone is about to face a challenging event, like a test or job interview.
May his/her spirit/memory remain in your life: البقية في حياتك (il-ba'iyya fi Hayātak)
Response: حياتك البقية (Hayātak il-ba'iya)
Another condolence. Some say it's a reference to the rest of the deceased's lifespan, which was cut short, being added to yours. On that basis, it could be viewed as sacriligeous; some would say that everyone only lives their alloted lifespan, and God doesn't cut anyone's life shorter than it's meant to be. See here, for example. So you may want to stick with other condolences such as شد حيلك if you want to be really safe.
May God have mercy on him: الله يرحمه (allāh yirHamu)
This is usually paired with an additional condolence. For instance, one could say الله يرحمه ويسكنه فسيح جناته (allāh yirHamu wa-yuskinu fasiiH jannātu), "May God have mercy on him and make him live in His vastest paradise." This is standard rather than colloquial, and would be a Muslim condolence.
يربنا يجعلها آخر الاحزان\يا رب تكون آخر الاحزان (rabbina yig3alha ākhir il-aHzān/ya rabb tikūn ākhir il-aHzān)
"May God make it the last of [your] sorrows/May it be the last of [your] sorrows." The first option is more standard, the second is more colloquial.
ربنا يصبرك (على الفراق) (rabbina ySabbarak [3ala l-furā'])
"May God give you patience (to withstand the loss)."
Condolences used by Muslims:
Only God is eternal: البقاء لله (al-baqā' lillāh)
Response: ونعم بالله (wa-ne3ma billāh)
A condolence that's standard Arabic but also sometimes used in Egypt by Muslims.
إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون (inna lillāh wa'inna ileihi rāgi3ūn)
"We belong to God, and to Him we shall return." This is from the Qur'an (verse 156 of Al-Baqara).
Condolences used by Copts:
ربنا ينيح نفسه\روحه (rabbina ynayyaH nafsu/rūHu)
"May God give his soul rest." There are some variations on this expression; you can add:
- فى فردوس (النعيم) (fi firdūs [in-na3īm]), "in paradise"
- في احضان القديسين (fi aHDān il-'addisīn), "in the arms of the saints"
- في ملكوت السموات (fi malakūt is-samawāt), "in the kingdom of heaven"
"May God sanctify his soul (and give us the blessing of his prayers)."
ربنا يعزيك (ويعزي اسرتك) (rabbina yi3zīk [wa yi3zi usritak])
"May God give you [and your family] consolation."
Note: "In advance" (as in "thanks in advance," "congratulations in advance," or "happy birthday in advance") is مقدما (standard pronunciation "muqaddaman," colloquial pronunciation "mu'addaman"). So you could say شكرا مقدما, مبروك مقدما, كل سنة وانت طيب مقدما, etc.
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