Table of Contents

Introduction

If you’re old enough, you’ll remember learning to “walk like an Egyptian” back in the 1980s.* Little did you know back then that you’d be learning to talk like an Egyptian decades later!

But that’s easier said than done. One of the greatest challenges in learning any language is mastering idiomatic expressions so you can sound more natural and better understand native speakers.  Most learning materials–dictionaries and even course books–may present idiomatic expressions and­­ adverbs but usually with a simple translation and little guidance on when and how to use them.

And that’s why Talk Like an Egyptian is a unique and powerful language learning tool for intermediate learners. We go into depth with each word or phrase, providing detailed explanations, both literal and figurative translations, and dialogues that show you just how native speakers use it in context. We were careful to include only natural, high-frequency expressions in current use so that you can be confident in using them to sound more fluent and impress your Egyptian friends.  يَلّا بينا! Let’s go!

* The American band ‘The Bangles’ had a number-one hit single called ‘Walk Like an Egyptian’ that popularized a dance with movements mimicking human poses depicted in Ancient Egyptian art.

Follow along with Alaa and other learners in her Clubhouse room as they go through materials from the book and practice them.

How to Use The Book

There’s really no wrong way to use this book. You can study the segments in any order or work through the book systematically. You can use the tables of contents to find a topic, or you can randomly flip to any page and learn something new.

At the beginning of each segment, you can find an icon can in the top-right corner with the corresponding audio track number on which the dialogue(s) can be found.

The segment’s key word or expression appears as the title, followed by a title in English, which may be a translation that shows one meaning, or it may be a literal translation or other title to pique your interest and encourage you to read more.

Next, we give you explanations, translations, tips on usage, background information, and cultural notes to help you really understand the word or expression and how it is used in natural language.

Short dialogues show you the word or expression in context.

Extra information and useful footnotes are given in gray boxes after many dialogues.

Although the book features over 100 key words and expressions, there are hundreds more throughout the dialogues–and this is where the real value and fun comes in. By being observant and comparing the Arabic to the translations, you can learn many, many more useful idiomatic expressions, structures, interjections, adverbs, and other vocabulary.

We hope you enjoy the book and learning to TALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN!

Sections of the Book

Section 1: Key Expressions

In section 1, we’ll learn a variety of common everyday expressions, adverbs, and structures that will help you talk like an Egyptian. 

track 001page 2like thisكِده
track 002page 9to be interested inلُهْ في
track 003page 13‘thing’بِتاع
track 004page 20to “die”مات
track 005page 24Believe it or not!قال أيْه
track 006page 25to be welcomeنوّر
track 007page 27Very much!أوي أوي
track 008page 29Go ahead!اِتْفضّل
track 009page 37outsideبرّه
track 010page 40alreadyخلاص
track 011page 46Heavenly!نعيماً
track 012page 48reasonableمعْقول
track 013page 51hope and faithعشم

Section 2: Being Negative

In section 2, we learn more, essential, everyday expressions and adverbs–but these all have negative connotations.

track 014page 58Enough!بسّ
track 015page 60Never mind!معلِشّ
track 016page 65No way!اِبْقى قابِلْني
track 017page 67No can do!مَيِنْفعْش
track 018page 69“without anything”بلاش
track 019page 73nonsenseأيّ كلام
track 020page 76unacceptableعيْب
track 021page 80forbiddenحرام
track 022page 85corruptشِمال
track 023page 88not in a million yearsفي المِشْمِش
track 024page 89Oh, my Joy!يا فرْحِتي

Section 3: Addressing People

We’ll start off section 3 with a formal way to address people. Then we’ll look at various ways to address strangers. Next, we’ll move on to people with whom you have a relationship. (When addressing someone who is not a stranger and who has certain respected occupations, you should use a specific form of address to acknowledge their professional status.) And finally, we’ll examine some familial terms and how they are used with actual family members but also with non-relatives in Egyptian culture.

When you know someone’s name and are on familiar terms, of course, you can simply address that person by their name. But when the person is a stranger, or the relationship is more formal, there are special forms of address in Egyptian Arabic. Using the wrong one can be amusing at best and offensive at worst, so it’s important to know when to use–and when not to use–certain terms. How you address someone depends not only on their gender, age, and social/professional status but also on yours and your relation to that person.

track 025page 92formal ‘you’حضْرِتك
track 026page 96 أُسْتاذ and أُسْتاذة
track 027page 97 حاجّ and حاجّة
track 028page 99 مدام and آنِسة
track 029page 100 حبيبي and حبيبْتي
track 030page 103 كابْتِن
track 031page 104 شيْخ
track 032page 105 ريِّس
track 033page 106 يافنْدِم
track 034page 107 باشا
track 035page 109 حضْرِةْ الظّابِط
track 036page 110 دُكْتوْر
track 037page 112 باشْمُهنْدِس
track 038page 113 مِتْر
track 039page 114 مِسْتر and ميس
track 040page 115 أُسْطى
track 041page 116 يابْني and يا بِنْتي
track 042page 118 عمّو and طنْط
track 043page 120 بابا and ماما
track 044page 121 جِدّو and تيْتة

Section 4: Numbers in Idioms

There are numerous idioms in Egyptian Arabic that contain numbers. Some are straightforward and logical. Others seem as if there must be a story behind them, but Egyptians usually have little idea why this or that number is used in a particular idiom; they just use them without questioning them too much. In English, why do we say ‘on cloud nine,’ ‘in seventh heaven,’ ‘at sixes and sevens’? The point is, don’t worry too much about the history and logic behind such idioms. Just learn them and their meanings. A third kind of idiom with numbers is hyperbole, where any large number would do, but Egyptians have some favorites, as you’ll see in this section.

track 045

page 124

Slow down!

واحْدة واحْدة

track 046

page 125

one, two, three…

الله واحِد

track 047

page 126

What’s the third of three?

تِلْت التّلاتة كام؟

track 048

page 127

a third tripled-up

تالِت و مْتلِّت

track 049

page 128

the third is final

التّالْتة تابْتة

track 050

page 130

five minutes

خمْسة

track 051

page 131

Knock on wood!

خمْسة و خميسة

track 052

page 132

to be beside oneself

ضرب أخْماس في أسْداس

track 053

page 133

‘donuts’

خمْسات

track 054

page 134

to search and search

لفّ سبع لفّات

track 055

page 135

with seven lives

بِسبع ترْواح

track 056

page 136

in a deep sleep

في سابِع نوْمة

track 057

page 137

we’re all equal

كُلِّنا وِلاد تِسْعة

track 058

page 138

‘full moon’

قمر أرْبعْتاشر

track 059

page 139

It’s useless!

ملْهاش تلاتين لازْمة

track 060

page 140

centipede

أُم أرْبعة و أرْبعين

track 061

page 141

Go to hell!

في سِتّين داهْيَة

track 062

page 143

Son of a … !

إبْن سِتّين في سبْعين

track 063

page 144

110 jasmine flowers

ميةْ فُلّ و عشرة

track 064

page 145

300 welcomes!

يا تُلْتُميةْ مرْحبا

track 065

page 146

a zillion times

عشْروميةْ مرّة

track 066

page 148

A thousand congratulations!

ألْف مبْروك

track 067

page 149

A thousand thanks!

ألْف شُكْر

track 068

page 150

Welcome back!

ألْف حمْدِلْله عَ السّلامة

Section 5: الله God

اللّه Allah is the Arabic name for God. It’s important to note that it’s used to refer to God not only by Muslims but also by Christians and Jews. The word originally comes from إلهْ god and, with the addition of the definite article الـ, has taken on the unique form اللّه: the [one and only] God

Unlike most other Arabs, however, Egyptians almost always refer to God as ربِّنا our Lord and rarely say اللّه except in set expressions and proverbs or when swearing. Note that, while some Christians in the West might take issue with “using the Lord’s name in vain”–even in expressions such as “Oh my God!”–it is not offensive to do so for Arabs. In fact, the word اللّه is, on its own, a common interjection in Egyptian Arabic and has acquired a variety of meanings to express different feelings as in the first expression presented in this section.

track 069

page 153

God!

الله!

track 070

page 157

By God!

واللهِ

track 071

page 162

God Willing!

إن شاء الله

track 072

page 167

… and the Evil Eye

ما شاء الله

track 073

page 170

Praise be to God!

الحمْدُ لِلّه

track 074

page 176

Reliance on God

التّوَكُّل على الله

track 075

page 179

May God make it easy!

ربِّنا يْسهِّل

track 076

page 181

Damn you!

ربِّنا ياخْدك

track 077

page 182

May God be generous with you!

ربِّنا يِكْرِمك

Section 6: إيد hand

Body parts appear in so many idioms and proverbs in Egyptian Arabic. In this section, we’ll take a special look at the word إيد hand, which is particularly interesting. Its metaphorical senses are similar to those of ‘hand’ in English, expressing character traits, human behavior, and actions (after all, we do so many things with our hands), assistance, accessibility (being within reach), among others.

track 078

page 186

light-handed

إيدُه خفيفة

track 079

page 188

heavy-handed

إيدُه تْقيلة

track 080

page 189

deaf-handed

إيدُه طرْشا

track 081

page 190

long-handed

إيدُه طَويلة

track 082

page 191

dry-handed

إيدُه ناشْفة

track 083

page 192

pierced-handed

إيدُه مخْرومة

track 084

page 193

loose-handed

إيدُه سايْبة

track 085

page 195

Be frugal!

اِمْسِك إيدك!

track 086

page 197

as he witnessed…

على إيدُه

track 087

page 199

Stop here!

على إيدك

track 088

page 200

I support you

إيدي على كِتْفك

track 089

page 201

to extend one’s hand

مدّ إيدُه

track 090

page 203

out of reach

العيْن بصيرة و الإيد قصيرة

track 091

page 205

to have a good grip on someone

مِسْكُه مِن إيدُه اللي بْتِوْجعُه

track 092

page 206

to be right under one’s nose

تحْت إيدُه

track 093

page 207

May your hands be safe!

تِسْلم إيدك

track 094

page 208

to kiss one’s hand

باس إيدُه

track 095

page 209

Gasp!

كُنْت حاطِط إيدي على قلْبي

track 096

page 211

to ask for one’s hand in marriage

طلب إيدْها

track 097

page 212

A single hand cannot clap.

إيد لِوَحْدها متْسقّفْش

track 098

page 213

a hand upon a hand

إيد على إيد تِساعِد

track 099

page 214

to lift one’s hand from

شال إيدُه مِن

track 100

page 216

The answer’s right in front of you.

الحلّ في إيدُه

track 101

page 217

generous

اللي في إيدُه مِش لُه

track 102

page 218

a lost cause

إيدك مِنُّه و الأرْض

track 103

page 220

I’m game!

أنا مِن إيدك دي لِإيدك دي

track 104

page 221

Hey, watch it!

لِمّ إيدك و لْسانك

track 105

page 223

essential

إيدي و رِجْلي

track 106

page 225

to come back empty-handed

إيد وَرا و إيد قُدّام

track 107

page 227

How was I supposed to know?

هشِمّ على ضهْر إيدي

track 108

page 229

to wait and watch

وِقِف على إيدُه

track 109

page 231

You don’t get it!

اللي إيدُه في المايّة…

track 110

page 233

Idle hands are the devil’s tool.

الإيد البطّالة نِجْسة

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