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five of my favorite Arabic words and phrases

Published: January 19, 2019

We all have our favorite words and phrases to say during specific situations or in our daily conversations. In English, that could be tongue-twisters like “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,” or inspirational quotes from Dr. Seuss like, “You’re off to great places!/ Today is your day!/ Your mountain is waiting!/ So get on your way!” It could also be smaller words or phrases like “How utterly ridiculous!,” “pumpernickel,” or “scrumptious.” If you’re the sort of person who loves not only reading and writing, but also speaking in the new languages you’re learning, you’ve probably found some words or phrases you like to say. I am the same way! The following is my entirely subjective list of favorite Arabic words to say:

  1. tarallali – I became reacquainted with this word after hearing the song “Tarallali” by Ens O Jam. In the lyrics, the artist expresses, “Shoo Hal-7ob El-Tarallali? Makhid kol shi wa la mkhali.” The word “tarallali” means ridiculous or crazy, so the artist in the song asks his love, “What is this ridiculous love? That takes everything and never gives.” Take a listen to the song here:

Although the song is relatively upbeat (even the expressions on the singers’ and musicians’ faces in the video are happy), the main singer’s tone is nostalgic, and the song is really about a love that has ended and isn’t coming back.

  1. haballola – This word is a cousin of tarallali’s, but while tarallali is an adjective, the word “haballola” is a noun. Haballola means silliness or ridiculousness. My mom often uses a shorter version of this word to tell me to stop being silly: “Battali habal!” or “Stop the silliness!”


  1. hizze ktafek – The phrase “hizze ktafek” literally means “shake your shoulders”! Figuratively, it means that whoever says it to you wants you to get moving. It’s one of those annoying things that parents say to you when they want you to get off the couch and start getting chores or homework done. While I’ve never liked hearing the phrase, I acknowledge that it’s a fun one! By the way, if you want to say this to a guy, you would change the phrase to “hizz ktafak.”
the credit class organizing our carnival night did not need to be told to get moving!













  1. mabrook – The word “mabrook” translates to “congratulations.” You can use it for things as big as graduations and engagements or as small as getting a new pair of shoes. For example, the phrase “mabrook 3al ard” literally means “congrats on (gaining) the ground,” which is really someone congratulating you on your new pair of shoes. I love this phrase because it’s a nod to the comfort and excitement that you feel when you put on a really great pair of shoes for the first time.


  1. 3o‘balik – This word usually comes in the middle of a conversation where you are congratulating someone or their parents about his or her marriage or getting into a great school or getting a great job. You say “mabrook” and they reply, “3o’balik,” (3o’balak if it’s said to a guy) which basically means, “Inshallah, it’ll be your turn soon.” Inshallah is a word that means “God-willing” or “hopefully” and is used frequently in daily conversations.

Here's a snapshot of our wedding simulation night last summer, a chance to say our mabrooks and 3o'baliks:


I hope you enjoyed reading about my five favorite Arabic words and phrases! What are some of your favorites?