One way to make Egyptians smile

One way to make Egyptians smile

It’s good to understand a little of the language of the country that you will visit and in Egypt this is no different. It gives you a better understanding of what is being talked about and it also makes the Egyptians happy to know that you are trying to understand their language. We will share with you some of the most used words in Egyptian Arabic.

Arabic is very diverse and the fact is that in each country where Arabic is an official language has its own dialect. Egypt uses an Egyptian dialect that differs from classical Arabic. There are other words used, a lot of grammar is different. Sometimes it feels like a completely different language from classical Arabic.

We will give you 20 words from the Egyptian dialect that are worth knowing when travelling to Egypt. You will certainly hear them somewhere and you can come across these words in many situations. When you know them, it will be a little easier for you to understand what's going on.

  1. Khalas - which means enough or finished. For example, if we want someone to stop doing something or stoptalking, we can simply say 'khalas'. Enough, end, stop. If someone says something to us and we don't have the strength to listen to him anymore and we are not interested. We can say 'khalas'. Stop it, that's it, that's enough. It is a very useful word.
  2. Yalla - which means let's go. We use this word when we want to hurry someone, when we want to give a sign that it's time to go. We have to go now, we have to start doing something. In Egypt it is especially important because the Egyptians are not in a hurry and they are often late. So you can come across this word in many situations.
  3. Insha'Allah - a word loved by the Egyptians, it means God willing. If you ask for something or talk about the future, such as traveling, meeting another person, you use "insha'Allah", which means I hope it will be so, God willing, it will happen. Expressions referring to religion and to God are very common in Arabic, and they are also used in Egypt. It does not matter if someone is a Muslim or a Christian, if he is very religious or if he has a neutral approach to religion. These terms are always used, they are used in the Arabic language and also in the Egyptian dialect. You will surely come across this word while in Egypt.
  4. Bukra - which means tomorrow. Egyptians generally don't like to rush. So if you ask them to do something for you, you will very often hear that they will do it 'bukra'. And although that means tomorrow, it does not mean that they will do it tomorrow. They might as well do it in three days, a week, a month or not, but for the moment they're putting it back on 'bukra' or ‘bukra insha'Allah’.
  5. Ba’adin - another word in the Egyptian dialect to postpone matters because it simply means later. As is the word "bukra", which doesn't always actually mean that something will happen tomorrow. Likewise, the word 'ba’adin' puts things indefinitely later on. It could be in a few hours, in a few days, in a few weeks, or even in a month.
  6. Mashy - this is the Egyptian version of OK. Just saying 'mashy' we nod. Are we going shopping? "Mashy". Are we eating chicken today? 'Mashy'. Just 'mashy'. 
  7. Kullu tamam - that means, all is well. In Egypt, in Arabic and the Egyptian dialect there is no culture of saying something is wrong. If someone asks how are you feeling? How do you do? Nobody will answer that it is wrong. Everyone will say it’s good. Usually Egyptians will answer 'kullu tamam' (all is good) or just 'tamam' which means good.
  8. Mafish mushkila - which means no problem. The Egyptians are very laid back people. They don't worry about a lot of things and they don't get stressed like foreigners. In a situation where a foreigner is upset in Egypt, everyone will just say "mafish mushkila". Nothing happened, no problem and nothing to worry about at all. "Mafish" means nothing or there's something missing, and "mushkila" means problem. So 'mafish mushkila' - no problem.
  9. Habibi / habibti - habibi is used by women to men because it means my beloved, 'habib' means beloved, the "i "at the end says that something belongs to me. So 'habibi' is my beloved. 'Habibti' is used by men for women as it’s feminine. Interestingly, it's not just men saying it to women and women saying it to men. Often men to each other or women to each other say 'habibi / habibti' - my beloved. If someone wants to show that he/she is very close to someone, that this person is important. My love can be said to another person of the same sex. 
  10. Shukran, that is, thank you. A word worth remembering and using often when in Egypt. This polite phrase is very useful. Even if we do not know the language, we can at least thank and show respect to the people we meet there. Certainly the Egyptians will look at us differently if we show that we know at least a few words in Arabic. So "shukran" means thank you. We can also say "shukran gazilan" which is thank you very much. "Gazilan" means a lot. In Egypt you also often say "shukran awy" which also means thank you very much. So we have two options: "shukran gazilan" and "shukuran awy".
  11. Afwan - you're welcome. This is how we respond to 'shukran'. So shukuran - afwan, shukuran gazilan - afwan, shukran awy - afwan.
  12. Maalesh - it means OK, nothing happened, never mind. If someone is worried about something, we can say to him maalesh. Don't worry, it's okay, nothing happened.
  13. Helu / helwa - "helu" literally means sweet and is a masculine word. "Helwa" is feminine. In the Egyptian dialect, this word also means tasty. If you try any food in Egypt and someone asks you "helu" or "helwa" depending on what the food will be, say yes, even if the food is not sweet but tasty. This word can also be used when talking about people or items. For example, when someone looks nice, a man can be called "helu" and a woman "helwa" meaning handsome or pretty. Besides, if you watched a nice movie and you liked it, you can say that this movie is "helu". This word has many meanings and uses in the Egyptian dialect.
  14. aiwa / naam - means yes, in the Egyptian dialect we have two ways of saying "yes". "Aiwa" is an Egyptian dialect word and "naam" is a classical Arabic word. Both are used in Egypt, so you can choose which one you prefer. If someone asks if the food is "helu", we reply "aiwa, helu awy" which means yes, very tasty.
  15. la means no. This is how we respond when we do not agree to something. For example, when someone wants to sell something and we don't want to buy it, so we want to refuse, just say "la shukran", which means no thanks.
  16. Gamil / gamila. Gamil means beautiful, and it is an adjective in the masculine gender, and gamila is an adjective in the feminine gender. Most often, these adjectives are used to talk about people. If a man is handsome we will call him "gamil", and if a woman is beautiful we will call her "gamila". If you describe an item that is exceptionally beautiful, you can also call it "gamil / gamila".
  17. Hader is a word similar to "mashy" and means good, okay. If someone asks us to do something, we can just say "hader", okay, I'll do it. The Egyptians use the word in conjunction with "mashy" and when asked they reply "mashy hader", okay, I'll do it.
  18. Ma einfaash means it doesn't work, it won't work, and it doesn't make sense. It is the opposite of the word "hader". If you ask for something impossible to do, you will hear from Egyptian: "la, ma einfaash" - no, it won't work.
  19. Haram - means forbidden, this word is often used in the context of religion to say that something is forbidden in religion. Like alcohol in Islam, for example. Alcohol is "haram". It is banned, it is forbidden.
  20. Shweia means little. You can use this word when someone asks you: do you speak a little Arabic? Then you can reply: "shweia, shweia".

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