Al-Wāḥa Blog

Thank you for visiting the blog for Al-Wāḥa, an Arabic Language Village. Subscribe by email to receive notifications of new posts directly to your inbox. 

Some Egyptian Arabic Phrases to Suit Your Toughest Emotional Needs

Published: October 11, 2019

The debate of whether we should teach Modern Standard Arabic, the form of Arabic used in newspapers, in the news, and in the Qur’an, or teach dialects, a country’s or region’s local way of speaking Arabic, has long existed. However, there’s no denying that dialects have a ton of fun phrases that come in handy for self-expression. Here are some phrases in the Egyptian dialect of Arabic to suit some of your toughest emotional needs:

  1. شدي حيلك  / Shiddee hailik. – It’s 1 AM in the morning. You are on page 6 out of 7 on an essay, so you’re almost done, but you just want to give up! One eye is already shut, and the other is drooping, on its way to slumberville, when suddenly, BANG! Your dad pops up in your room on his way back from a trip to the kitchen or bathroom. In shock, he asks if you’re still working. When you tell him you’re still working, he drops this phrase: Shiddee hailik. It literally means “pull yourself.” Stay strong. Keep going. So you thank your dad, stare gloomily after him, and muddle miserably through the rest of that paper.
  2. أنا عندي شعرة ساعة تروح و ساعة تيجي  / Ana ‘andee sha’ra, sa’a trooh wi sa’a teegi. – Two seconds ago, you were flying high, skipping back home after getting off your cheerful yellow school bus. It was a good day today. You got a Dum Dum™ lollipop for helping to pick up trash off the floor of your classroom, and you’re feeling like you have conquered life. Suddenly, you become extremely mad or terrifically sad. Maybe you go to your room and discover that your sister borrowed a shirt without asking. Maybe you remember a tiny sad thing that happened to you five years ago. The point is, without much warning, you’re not happy anymore. You’re see-sawing between emotions. That’s when your mom drops this phrase, which literally translates to “I have one hair, one hour it goes, and another hour it comes.” It is a line from a movie where one of the characters’ emotions is volatile. Hearing this from your mom is perhaps a wake-up call to try to moderate your feelings. Or maybe you just block out her words and run off in an angry, whirling hurricane.
  3. هزي كتافك  / Hizzee Ktafik. – It’s Saturday. You’re couch-potato’ing. You have been for the past seven hours. Suddenly an angry pink blob blocks your view of the TV. It’s your little sister wearing a disturbing all-neon pink exercise ensemble. In a high pitch, almost never heard from humankind, little Emily yells about how she organized her room and helped dad mow the lawn. She repeats, without fully knowing what it means, what she’s heard your mom and dad say to you a bazillion times: HIZZEE KTAFIK!!! Shake your shoulders! Move it, you lazy bum! You throw a pillow at her to get her out of the way, but she is relentless. In the end, you relocate to your room, or maybe a dark, hidden corner of the basement.
  4. كم معلقة سكر؟ / Kam ma’laqit sukkar? You’re a little tired and a little thirsty, so you make your way to your nearest Arab neighbor. Any one will do as they are all generous to a fault. You ring that doorbell, maybe more than once so they can hear you over the sound of their screeching children. As soon as they open that door and see you, their face lights up with the force of a thousand megawatt lightbulbs. They usher you in and sit you down. As you expected, they don’t sit down with you, but commence asking you which of a thousand drinks, fruits, desserts, chocolates, meals you would like, and then proceed to bring you everything they mentioned, no matter what you say. The one constant that they bring out is tea, and the first thing they ask you is “Kam ma’laqit sukkar?” How many spoons of sugar would you like? The best part? Rapidly, your energy lifts, and your thirst is quenched. When you go to bed that night, you send a thousand prayers up for those wonderful Arab neighbors.
  5. دمك خفيف زي السكر  / Dammik khafif zay issukar! – You’re having a spectacular day. That serotonin is popping! That dopamine is flowing! And that means that your wit is in A+ shape. You’re strolling down your neighborhood, snapping your fingers and whistling to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” which has been playing in your head all day. Serendipitously, you run into your Arab neighbor, who also happens to love to talk. You exchange puns. You regale each other with the hilarious things that happened to you that day. You do a little slapstick. When you finally part ways, your neighbor says, “OMG, I had the best time! Dammik khafif zay issukar!” That’s right: your blood is light like sugar. Your neighbor really thinks you’re hilarious. Feeling proud and affirmed, you head home, ready to share your joy with the rest of the family.
  6. قلب جوزك معدته  / Alb gowzik mi’dito. You’re chilling with your mom’s friends and all of you are eating your mom’s delicious food. Suddenly, the auntie at your shoulder looks at you suspiciously. She asks if you cooked any of this food. You chuckle and say no. You don’t offer the food you cook to humans for consumption. You’re too nice to do that. The auntie totally misses the joke. She asks what you are going to do when you get married. Don’t you know that alb gowzik mi’dito? You want to glare at her in anger and disgust, and shout “What do you mean that the heart of my husband is his stomach?” and “UGGGHHH!” and “Aren’t we in the 21st century?!” Instead, you tell her that your heart is your stomach too, pat her hand reassuringly, and keep digging into the fat plate in front of you.
  7. سكتنا له دخل بحماره / Sikitnalo, dakhal bihmaro. – You’re a chatterbox, a social animal. You have been from birth. You go to your first day of class. Maybe it’s at the incredible Al-Wāḥa or regular public school or your after-school gymnastics class. You decide to test the waters. You start by whispering in class while the teacher’s talking. When you don’t get yelled at, you start talking at a normal volume. Then you’re shouting across the room or cafeteria or gym. Next thing you know, you’re chasing your friend over and under tables and partying all over the place. Your teacher finally intercedes, and says, “Sikitnalo, dakhal bihmaro,” which means, “We stayed silent for him, and so he came in with his donkey.” Your teacher clearly regrets not setting expectations for volume level and behavior in the very first class. He realizes that his staying silent allowed your behavior to become more and more outrageous. You feel sad for a little bit, and sorry to your teacher, but you guys shake hands and promise to make the rest of the day more beautiful for you both!