30 Essential Arabic Words You Are Going to Need
Anyone who’s heard Arabic knows that it’s one of the most fascinating languages in the world. Its throaty sounds, its eloquence, and the elusiveness of some of its meanings are some of the reasons why it sounds so beautiful to foreign years.
Arabs are so in love with their own language that they are constantly updating their dictionaries and encyclopedias to reflect the current state of their mother tongue, in all its beauty and complexity. The largest of these dictionaries features 120,000 words, which can be pretty scary.
However, there is some good news. By learning about 10% of the Arabic vocabulary you can have a fluent conversation and understand most articles or stories written in Arabic. Also, with each new term you learn, you will become more skilful at guessing the meaning of words you’ve never heard before.
As with every other language, if you want to learn Arabic, you need to start somewhere. That’s why we have compiled a list of common Arabic words that every learner, tourist, or expat should learn if they want to talk to Arabs.
Greetings and courtesy
– مرحبا (marhabaan) = Hello
Not very original, we know. But hey, how else would you start a conversation? One thing you should know about Arabs is that they are extremely polite and they expect you to behave the same way. So, before asking a random person in the street what the best bar in Dubai is, please remember to say this word.
– رجاء (raja’) = Please
Talking about please, no request is complete unless you use this magical word. By saying please, you acknowledge that you are asking a favour and that you value your interlocutor’s time.
– شكرا لك (shukraan lak) = Thank you
These two words, however, are not enough to get Arabs to like you. If you really want to impress them, you will need to thank them for their time. This shows that you have made an effort to learn a word whose only purpose is to show gratitude and kindness.
– مع السلامه (mae alsalamih) = Goodbye
However, no polite conversation can end unless you say goodbye. Whether you have got the recommendation you were looking for or you’ve just got an elusive لا اعرف انا اسف (la ‘aerif ‘iinaa asif) = “I don’t know, I’m sorry”, put on a nice smile and say goodbye.
If street conversations were a sandwich, the Arabic words above would be the bread. But we are still missing the most important part. So let’s get to it.
– كيف استطيع الوصول الى…؟ (kayf ‘astatie alwusul ala…؟) – How can I get to…?
With this phrase, you can get anywhere you need to go. You just need to insert the name of the place at the end of the question and you’re ready to go. Well, not quite. First, you’ll need to understand the instructions. The good news is that, if you ask your question in Arabic, it will be appreciated and they surely won’t mind answering in English.
Here are some Arabic words that you might need to complete this question.
– مستشفى (mustashfaa) – Hospital
– الفندق (alfunduq) – Hotel
– مطار (matar) – Airport
– كافيه (kafyh) – Café
– موقف باص (mawqif bas) – Bus Stop
– محطة الباص (mahatat albas) – Bus Station
Alternatively, you can phrase your question like this:
– أين هو الأقرب…؟ (‘ayn hu al’aqrab…?) – (Where is the nearest?)
However, if you really want to practise your language skills, you will need to have a real conversation at some point. You didn’t expect to spend all your trip asking for favours and directions, did you? In fact, it’s very likely that the very people you ask for directions will notice your accent and want to know more about you. With the following Arabic words and phrases, you will be able to have an authentic and rewarding interaction.
– ما اسمك؟ (ma asmak?) – What’s your name?
Imagine you’re in a club and you see an attractive girl or gal across the room. You slowly walk towards them, you put on a winning smile, and then realise the only thing you know how to say is “How can I get to the nearest hospital?” Complete disaster. Although you might not be able to have a full conversation, asking somebody their name is the first step to show them that you are into them.
Did you get them to tell you their name and ask you yours? Awesome. Then continue by asking them how they are. Tip: They might answer by saying something like انا جيد.
(‘iinaa jayid, I’m fine) or عظيم شكرا. وأنت؟ (eazim shukrana. wa’ant?, Great, thanks, and you?) If they answer something like لست في المزاج (last fi almazaj, Not in the mood), smile politely and run.
– ماذا تفعل؟ – (madha tafiel?) – What do you do?
However, if they show interest, follow up the conversation by asking them what they do for a living. This might get them to speak for a few minutes and it will be a great opportunity to listen to lots of Arabic. Will you understand every word? Probably not. Just nod every time your new friend makes a pause and you will be fine.
– هل أنت أعزب؟ (hal ‘ant ‘aezab?) – Are you single?
Are you starting to like this person? Then you might want to find out what their relationship status is. It’s very important you get this answer right. So be ready to hear any of the following Arabic words:
– أعزب (‘aezab) – Single
– متزوج (mutazawij) – Married
– فى علاقة (fa ealaqa) – In a relationship
– انه لامر معقد (‘iinah li’amr mueaqad) – It’s complicated!
– هل ترغب في الذهاب إلى مكان آخر؟ (hal targhab fi aldhahab ‘iilaa makan akhr?) Would you like to go somewhere else?
If the answer you got to the last question is good enough for you, then why not invite your new friend to a place where you can listen to each other better? You can go for a walk or to a quiet café where you can continue your chat (at least until you run out of Arabic words).
If you’re feeling comfortable with the language and you want to show Arab people that you understand their culture, there are some informal Arabic words that you can use to impress them.
– Yallah – Similar to “let’s go”, this is a word you can say when you want to get someone to do something or when you’re ready to get moving.
– Ya rab – Like “My God!” in English, this is the right word to use when you want to show annoyance or frustration at something.
– Khallas – A favourite word from teenagers to parents, this expression means “to end something”, but is usually said to ask somebody to stop nagging you.
– Inshallah – This is one of the most popular Arabic words among older people. It means “God willing”, and it’s used to say that you’re not sure something will happen or that it’s not up to you to make it so.
– Akeed – This one, in turn, is one of the most commonly used Arabic words among youngsters to mean “sure”, or “of course”. It’s frequently used at the end of sentences and it’s one you can use to make your interactions brighter and friendlier.
– Ya Haraam – This expression is used to show sympathy or pity for somebody, especially when they are telling you about an accident or a problem they’ve had. It’s the equivalent for phrases such as “I’m so sorry” or “Poor you”.
– Bi sharafak – This Arabic word, which is most popular in the Levant areas, means something along the lines of “Are you serious, dude?”, so you can use it to show disbelief at something funny or implausible.
Do you still feel unsure about your Arabic? Would you like to be able to move on from word-level learning and make your own sentences? Then it sounds like you might be needing a personalised course with a native Arabic tutor. At Language Trainers, you will find the best one-to-one, tailor-made lessons for learners of every level. Contact us now and find out how easy it is to get started.