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Egyptian Arabic
مصرى Mari
Pronunciation [ˈmɑsˤɾi]
Spoken in Egypt and a few other countries
Total speakers 76,000,000 +[1]
Language family Afro-Asiatic
Writing system Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 arz
ISO 639-3 arz

Egyptian Arabic (in Egyptian Arabic written in Arabic script: اللغه المصريه الحديثه[2], Romanization: il-luɣa l-Mariyya l-adīsa, Egyptian pronunciation: [elˈloɣæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejːɑ l.ħæˈdiːsæ], literally means The Modern Egyptian Language; or shortened to مصرى Mari, [ˈmasˤɾɨ], meaning Egyptian; formally known as: اللغه المصريه العاميه, il-luɣa l-mariyya l-ʕammiyya,[3][4] Egyptian pronunciation: [elˈloɣæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejːɑ l.ʕæmˈmejːæ]); compare the Modern Standard Arabic pronunciation: /al.luɣatu l.misˤrijjatu l.ħadiːθata/, /al.luɣatu l.misˤrijjatu l.ʕaːmmijjata/, literally means The Egyptian colloquial language) is a variety of the Arabic language of the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. It originated in the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt around the capital Cairo. Descended from the spoken Arabic brought to Egypt during the AD seventh-century Muslim conquest, its development was influenced mainly by the indigenous Copto-Egyptian language of pre-Islamic Egypt,[5][6][7] and later by other languages such as Turkish/Ottoman Turkish, Italian, French and English. The 76 million Egyptians speak a continuum of dialects, among which Cairene is the most prominent. It is also understood across most of the Arab World due to the predominance of Egyptian media, making it the most widely spoken and one of the most widely studied varieties of Arabic.

The terms Egyptian Arabic and Masri are usually used synonymously with "Cairene Arabic", the dialect of the Egyptian capital. The country's native name, Mar, is used locally to refer to the capital Cairo itself. Similar to the role played by Parisian French, Masri is by far the most dominant in all areas of national life. While it is essentially a spoken language, it is encountered in written form in novels, plays, poems (vernacular literature) as well as in comics, advertising, some newspapers and transcriptions of popular songs. In most other written media and in TV news reporting, a standard register of Classical Arabic is used. The Egyptian vernacular is normally written in the Arabic alphabet for local consumption, although it is commonly transcribed into Latin letters or in the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics text and textbooks aimed at teaching non-native learners. Also, it is written in ASCII Latin alphabet mainly online & SMSs.


Geographic distribution

Egyptian Arabic is spoken by more than 77 million Egyptians in Egypt in several regional dialects, as well as by immigrant Egyptian communities in the Middle East, Europe, North America, Australia and South East Asia. Among the spoken varieties of Arabic, standard Egyptian Arabic (based on the dialect of the Egyptian capital) is the only one to have become a lingua franca in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world for two main reasons[8][9]: the proliferation and popularity of Egyptian films and other media in the region since the early 20th century; and the great number of Egyptian teachers and professors who were instrumental in setting up the education systems of various countries in the Arabian Peninsula and who also taught there and in other countries such as Algeria and Libya. This trend may now be shifting[citation needed] with the recent ascendancy of Lebanese media in the region, though many Lebanese artists choose to sing in Egyptian as well as Lebanese.


The Egyptians slowly adopted the Arabic language as a written language following the Arab-Muslim conquest of Egypt in the 7th century AD. Up till then, they were speaking Egyptian in its Coptic form. For more than three centuries, there existed a period of Coptic-Arabic bilingualism in Lower Egypt. This trend would last for many more centuries in the south. Arabic may have been already familiar to Egyptians through pre-Islamic trade with Bedouin Arab tribes in the Sinai and the easternmost part of the Nile Delta. Egyptian Arabic seems to have begun taking shape in Fustat, the first Islamic capital of Egypt, and now part of modern-day Cairo. The variety of Arabic spoken by the Muslim military troops stationed in Fustat was already different from Classical Arabic[10], which in part accounts for some of the unique characteristics of the Egyptian dialect.

One of the earliest linguistic sketches of Egyptian Arabic is a 16th century document entitled Daf` al-'iṣr`an kalām 'ahl Miṣr ('The Removal of the Burden from the Language of the People of Egypt') by Yūsuf al-Maġribi. It contains key information on early Egyptian Arabic and the language situation in medieval Egypt. The main purpose of the document was to show that while the Egyptians' vernacular contained many critical "errors" vis-à-vis Classical Arabic, according to Maġribi, it was also related to Arabic in other respects. With the ongoing Islamization and Arabization of the country, Egyptian Arabic slowly supplanted spoken Egyptian. Local chroniclers mention the continued use of Coptic Egyptian as a spoken language until the 17th century AD by peasant women in Upper Egypt. Coptic is still the liturgical language of the Egyptian Coptic Church.

Official status

Egyptian Arabic has no official status, and to date it is not officially recognized. Standard Arabic, a modernized (constructed) form of Classical Arabic (Koranic Arabic), is the official language of Egypt (see diglossia). Interest in the local vernacular began in the 1800s as the Egyptian national movement for independence was taking shape. Questions about the reform and modernization of Arabic came to the fore, and for many decades to follow they were hotly debated in Egyptian intellectual circles. Proposals ranged from developing neologisms to replace archaic terminology in Standard Arabic; to the simplification of syntactical and morphological rules and the introduction of colloquialisms; to complete 'Egyptianization' (tamīr) by abandoning the so-called Standard Arabic in favor of Masri or Egyptian Arabic.[11]

Proponents of language reform in Egypt included Qasim Amin, who also wrote the first Egyptian feminist treatise, former president of the Egyptian University, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, and noted intellectual Salama Moussa. They adopted a modernist, secular approach and disagreed with the assumption that Arabic was an immutable language because of its association with the Qur'an. For a while, Egyptian Arabic enjoyed a period of rich literary output until the movement was halted with the continuing rise of Islamism and Arab nationalism in Egypt and the Middle East, particularly with Gamal Abdel Nasser's assumption of power in 1954. The first modern Egyptian novel to be written in the vernacular was Muhammad Husayn Haykal's Zaynab in 1913. Other notable novelists such as Ihsan Abdel Quddous and Yusuf Idris, and poets such as Salah Jaheen, Abnudi and Fagoumi, helped solidify vernacular literature as a distinct literary genre.[11]

Nasser undertook an Arabization campaign in Egypt's education system and government administration, which stoutly relegated Egyptian Arabic to secondary status. In the last fifty years, educated Egyptian as a result became heavily influenced by the official language - Standard Arabic. Following Nasser's death, interest in the Egyptian dialect was rekindled by vernacular authors, and calls for making Egyptian Arabic an official language and the language of education reappeared, after it did when Egypt's independence was recognized by the United Kingdom in 1922. In the 21st century, the Liberal Egyptian Party was founded by a group of secular activists promoting political reform in Egypt, and calling for the official recognition of both Egyptian Arabic and indigenous Egyptian ('the languages of Egypt'). Some of its views continue to be a source of controversy among Egyptians, particularly with organizations such as the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

As the status of Egyptian Arabic vis-à-vis Classical Arabic can have such political and religious implications in Egypt, the question of whether Egyptian Arabic should be considered a "dialect" or "language" can be a source of debate. In sociolinguistics, Egyptian Arabic can be seen as one of many distinct varieties which, despite arguably being languages on abstand grounds, are united by a common dachsprache in Literary Arabic (MSA). See also Macrolanguage

Spoken Varieties in Egypt

The Egyptian variants spoken in central and southern Egypt, referred to collectively as Sa'idi Arabic (Upper Egyptian) and given a separate identity in Ethnologue and ISO 639-3, are mainly descended from the northern Egyptian variety but are distinct from the Cairene variety in their phonology due to early contacts with Bedouin Arab dialects & because of the different dialect of Coptic language spoken in the South. They carry little prestige nationally though continue to be widely spoken, including in the north by rural migrants who have adapted partially to the Lower Egyptian variety. For example, the Sa'idi genitive exponent is usually replaced with Lower Egyptian bitāʕ, but the realization of [ʔ] as [ɡ] is retained. Second and third-generation southern Egyptian migrants are monolingual in the Cairene variety, but maintain cultural and familial ties to the south.

The traditional division between Lower and Upper Egypt and their respective differences go back to ancient times. Egyptians today commonly refer to the people of the north as baḥarwa ([bɑˈħɑɾwɑ]) and to those of the south as ṣaʻayda ([sɑˈʕɑjdɑ]). The differences throughout Egypt, however, are more wide ranging and do not neatly correspond to this simple division. There is a linguistic shift from the eastern to the western parts of the delta, and the varieties spoken from Gizah to el Minya are further grouped into a Middle Egypt cluster. Despite these differences, there are features distinguishing all the Egyptian Arabic varieties of the Nile Valley from any other Arabic variety. Such features include reduction of long vowels in open and unstressed syllables, the postposition of demonstratives and interrogatives, the modal meaning of the imperfect, and the integration of the participle.[12]

The variety of the western desert is different from all forms of Egyptian, as linguistically it forms part of the Maghrebi group of varieties. The same was formerly true of the Egyptian form of Judaeo-Arabic.


This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.


Vowel phonemes

The Egyptian Arabic vocalic system has changed from the Classical system. The main system of vowels is as follows:

  • 1. Main short vowels:
  • 2. Main long vowels:
  • /aː/: [æː], or [ɑː] (usually in emphatic environment)
  • /iː/: [iː]
  • /uː/: [uː]
  • /eː/: [eː]
  • /oː/: [oː]
  • /aj/: [æj], [ɑj]
  • /ij/: [ej]
  • /aw/: [æw], [ɑw]
  • /iw/: [ew]
  • /uw/: [ow], as in the word كويّس [koˈwæjːes]: ([ew] predominates [ow], though one diphthong of the two may be used instead of the other.)

/eː/ and /oː/ are derived from the Classical Arabic diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/, respectively, when occurring in closed syllables (i.e. not followed by a vowel). Note that the diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ also occur in the same environment, due to later deletion of unstressed vowels and resulting contraction, e.g. /mudawla/ "consultation" < Classical /mudaːwala/.[13] Minimal pairs such as /ʃajla/ "carrying (fem. sg.)" vs /ʃeːla/ "burden" also occur, both derived from */ʃaːjila/, from Classical /ʃaːˈila/. In this case, short /i/ and /u/ are regularly deleted from open unstressed internal syllables. Historically, this occurred prior to monophthongization, and /ʃeːla/ is the expected result; /ʃajla/ is an analogical reformation based on masculine /ʃaːjil/. (Deletion of /a/ in a similar environment is not normal. It regularly occurs only in form III verbal nouns such as /mudawla/ above, and apparently occurred too late for monophthongization to apply.)

Egyptian Arabic maintains in all positions the early post-Classical distinctions between short /i/ and /u/. Contrast, for example, Levantine dialects, which merge /i/ and /u/ into /ə/ in most positions. In particular, note the different shapes and vowel distinctions between /kitaːb/ "book", /ɡumaːl/ "beautiful (pl.)" vs. /ɡimaːl/ "camels", /ixtaːr/ "he chose"; in most dialects, all the short vowels in these words are elided, leading to the identical shapes /ktaːb/, /d͡ʒmaːl/, /xtaːr/.

Emphasis spreading

Egyptian Arabic is in the process of splitting the two allophones each of /a/ and /aː/ into separate phonemes. In general, the back allophone ([ɑ] or [ɑː]) occurs in the vicinity of an emphatic consonant or of /q/, or sometimes also in the vicinity of /r/. This process by which certain (generally "emphatic" consonants) affect the quality of nearby vowels is called "emphasis spreading". Some /r/'s appear to cause emphasis spreading and some don't; hence, some linguists postulate the existence of two separate /r/-like phonemes, which differ mainly in whether they trigger emphasis spreading. Originally, whether the /r/ triggered emphasis spreading was determined by the nature of adjacent vowels: if /r/ was adjacent to /i/, it became "plain" and triggered no emphasis spreading; however, when adjacent to /a/ or /u/, the emphatic version resulted. However, there are many exceptions to this rule, so it is no more than a rough guideline.

The rule works specifically as follows: If the /r/ is directly followed by /i(ː)/ (short or long), or if not followed by a vowel and directly preceded by /i(ː)/ (short or long), the /r/ will be "plain" and trigger no emphasis spreading; in other cases (i.e. the adjacent vowel in question is /a/ or /u/), the /r/ will be "emphatic" and trigger emphasis spreading. The /r/ is able to "see across" derivational but not inflectional morphemes. For example, /tigaːra/ [tegɑːɾˤɑ] ('commerce') but /tigaːri/ [tegæːɾi] ('commercial'); on the other hand, /tikbar/ [tekbɑɾˤ] ('you (masc.) grow') and /tikbari/ [tekbɑɾˤi] ('you (fem.) grow'). In this case, the derivational ending /i/ (which forms new dictionary entries) is visible to the /r/ and changes it to the non-emphatic type, but the inflectional /i/ (which in this case indicates the feminine singular form of the word, but does not create a new dictionary entry) is invisible to the /r/.

When emphasis spreading occurs, it generally spreads forward and backward throughout the entire word, including any prefixes and suffixes. Unlike in some other dialects, there are no specific sounds that stop spreading from preceding (as e.g. /ʃ/ or /j/ in spoken Palestinian Arabic). However, emphasis spreading is not completely reliable in its operation, and sometimes may not extend through to prefixes or suffixes in words of many syllables.

In words of native extraction or borrowed from Classical Arabic that contain the backed allophones [ɑː] and [ɑ], there is essentially always a consonant of the "emphatic" sort in the word, which can be said to be the cause of the backed allophones. In words borrowed from European languages, however, this is often not the case, with [æ(ː)] and [ɑ(ː)] seeming to lead a separate existence (and in particular, many words containing [ɑ(ː)] without any possible emphatic trigger). Hence, [ɑ(ː)] can be said to be minor phonemes in that they only occur independently in a small number of words, and incipient phonemes in that a phoneme split is in process of taking place.

Vowel shortening, lengthening, deletion, insertion, elision, linking

Vowel shortening

All long vowels are shortened when followed by two consonants (including geminated consonants), and usually also in unstressed syllables (but note /qa:híra/ "Cairo" and a few other borrowings from Classical Arabic with similar shapes). For some speakers[citation needed], the long vowels maintain their same quality even when shortened; as a result, /gibna/ [ˈɡɪbna] ('cheese') is distinguished both from [ˈɡibna] ('bring us!') (from /ɡiːb/ + /na/) and [ˈɡebna] ('our pocket', from [ɡeːb] + /na/).[14] More commonly, shortened [eː] and [iː] both merge with /i/. Similar variation applies to the back vowels [oː], [uː] and /u/.


  • /ʔaːl/ ('he said') + /li/ ('to me') (*/ʔaːlli/) → /ʔalli/ ('he said to me')
Vowel lengthening

Final short vowels are lengthened when the stress is brought forward onto them as a result of the addition of a suffix:

  • /kátabu/ "they wrote" + -/ha/ "it (fem.)" → /katabúːha/ "they wrote it (fem.)"
Vowel deletion (syncope)

Unstressed /i/ and /u/ are deleted (i.e. syncope) when occurring in the context /VCVCV/, i.e. in an internal syllable with a single consonant on both sides. This also applies across word boundaries in cases of close syntactic connection, e.g.:

  • /fiː/ "in" + /kiˈtaːb/ "a book" → /fi-ktaːb/ "in a book"
Vowel insertion (epenthesis)

Three consonants are never allowed to appear together, including across a word boundary. When such a situation would occur, an epenthetic short /i/ (often indicated as such by superscripting it) is inserted between the second and third consonants:

  • il-binti di "this girl" (from /il-bint/ + /di/)
Vowel elision, linking

Unlike in most Arabic dialects, Egyptian Arabic has many words that logically begin with a vowel (e.g. ana "I"), in addition to words that logically begin with a glottal stop (e.g. ʔawi "very", from Classical qawiyy "strong"). When pronounced in isolation, both types of words will be sounded with an initial glottal stop. However, when following another word, words beginning with a vowel will often follow smoothly after the previous word, while words beginning with a glottal stop will always have the glottal stop sounded, e.g.:

  • il-wálad áħmar [ʔelˈwælæˈdɑħmɑrˤ] "the boy is red"
  • inta kbí:r ʔáwi [ˌʔentækˈbiːr ˈʔæwi] "you are very big" (from 'kibi:r' "big" with deletion of /i/). The preceding word must end with a vowel. If the latter words starts with a vowel, it will be deleted & merges with a vowel of one of the two words (sometimes the preceding word & other times the latter word). If the latter word starts with a consonant+vowel, then this vowel may be deleted, or if the preceding word ends with a vowel, then that vowel may be deleted instead. Another example for both cases: huwwánta kbí:r? [ˌhowˈwæntæ kˈbiːr]? "are you big?" (from 'huwwa+inta' "you (s)(m) + are (s)(m)" with deletion of /i/)

The phonetic pronunciations indicated above also demonstrate the phenomenon of linking, a normal process in Egyptian Arabic where syllable boundaries are adjusted across word boundaries to ensure that every syllable begins with exactly one consonant.

Elision of vowels often occurs across word boundaries when a word ending with a vowel is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, especially when the two vowels are the same:

  • int-áħmar [ʔenˈtɑħmɑrˤ] "you are red" (ínta + áħmar)

More specifically, elision occurs in the following circumstances:

  • When both vowels are the same
  • With final /i/ is followed by initial /a/, e.g. b-áktib "I write" (bi- + áktib), ná:w-arú:ħ "I intend to go" (ná:wi + arú:ħ), xallí:n-aráwwaħ "let me go home" (xallí:-ni + aráwwaħ, where xallí:-ni is xálli + -ni with lengthening of /i/ before a suffix along with stress movement)
  • When any vowel follows initial /i/, e.g. dá-ll-ana-ʕáwzu "that's what I want" (da + illi + ana + ʕáwz-u, where ʕáwz-u is ʕá:wiz + -u, with deletion of /i/ leading to shortening of /a:/)
Multiple processes

Multiple processes often apply simultaneously. Example of insertion and deletion together:

  • il-binti kbiːra "the girl is big (i.e. grown up)" (from /il-bint/ + /kibiːra/); compare il-walad kibiːr "the boy is big", where neither process applies.

Example of both syncope and long-vowel shortening:

  • /ˈsˁaːħib/ (friend m.) + /-a/ "fem." (*/ˈsˁaːħiba/) → [ˈsˁɑħbɑ] (compare with Classical Arabic /sˁaːħiba/)

The operation of the various processes can often produce ambiguity:

  • ana-ʕawz-aːkul "I want to eat", ambiguously masculine or feminine (ana "I" + ʕaːwiz "want (masc.)" + aːkul "I eat", with elision of glottal stop, syncope of /i/ in the resulting open environment, and then shortening of /aː/ in the subsequently resulting closed environment; or ana "I" + ʕawza "want (fem.)" + aːkul "I eat", with ʕawza from /ʕaːwiz/ + /a/ by syncope and vowel shortening, followed by elision of the /a/ suffix)


The position of stress is essentially automatic. The basic rule is that, preceding from right to left in a word, the stress goes on the first encountered syllable of any of these types:

  • (1a, 1b) a heavy syllable: i.e. a syllable closed with a long vowel (1a) (i.e. ...C'V:...) or with two consonants (including a geminate) (1b) (i.e. ...C'VCC...)
  • (2a, 2b) a non-final light syllable that directly follows a heavy syllable
  • (3) a non-final light syllable that directly follows two light syllables (i.e. ...CVCVC'VCV...)
  • (4) the first syllable of the word.

Examples, followed by the number of the rule that applies: /kátab/ (4) "he wrote", /katábt/ (1b) "I wrote", /ká:tib/ (1a) "writer", /kátba/ (1b) "female writer", /kitá:b/ (1a) "book", /máktab/ (1b) "desk", /maktába/ (2b) "library", /tíktib/ (1b) "you (masc.) write", /tiktíbi/ (2b) "you (fem.) write", /tiktibí:/ (1a) "you (fem.) write it", /kátabit/ (4) "she wrote", /katabítu/ (3) "she wrote it", /qa:híra/ (2a) "Cairo".


Egyptian Arabic consonant phonemes[15]
  Labial Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyn-
plain emphatic plain emphatic
Nasal m ()1 n            
Stop voiceless (p)1   t   k (q)1   ʔ
voiced b ()1 d 1 ɡ      
Fricative voiceless f   s ʃ x   ħ h
voiced (v)1   z (ʒ)1 2 ɣ   ʕ  
Tap     ɾ~r ɾˤ~ 1          
Approximant     l ()1 j w      
1  [mˤ], [p], [bˤ], [v], /rˤ/, [q], [dˤ], [lˤ], [ʒ] might be pronounced, depending on the speaker. If not pronounced, they are approximated to [m], [b], [b], [f], /r/, [k], [d], [l], [ʃ], respectively.
  • [q], [dˤ], [lˤ] are exclusively Modern Standard Arabic & are approximated to [k], [d], [l], respectively.
  • [q] may be Egyptianized to [ʔ].
  • [v], [ʒ], [p] are pronounced by educated speakers in loanwords, from other languages than Modern Standard Arabic.
  • [ʒ] tends to be Egyptianized & merge with [ʃ]; example: 'garage' جراش is only pronounced /gɑrɑːʃ/ even by educated speakers.
2  Few rural speakers pronounce [ʒ] instead of [g]; away from Cairo. Pronouncing [ʒ] instead of [g] is not considered prestigious.
  • Non-Egyptianized Arabic loanwords which have interdental consonants ([θ], [ð], [ðˤ]) are always approximated to [s], [z], [zˤ], respectively. Egyptians usually never pronounce [ðˤ] even when pronouncing Modern Standard Arabic, & pronounce instead [zˤ].

Traditionally the interdental consonants /θ ð ðˤ/ corresponded to the /t d dˤ/. This is a feature common to all North African Arabic varieties, and is attested in pre-modern words:

  • /ˈtaʕlab/ تعلب (fox) as opposed to /ˈθaʕlab/ (and never /ˈsaʕlab/). Likewise: /ˈtalɡ/ تلج (ice); /ˈtaman/ (price); /taˈlaːta/ (three); /niˈtaːja/ نتاية (female); /miħˈraːt/ محرات (plough); /ˈʕatar/ عَتَر (tripped/found)
  • [ˈdeːl] ديل (tail) as opposed to /ˈðajl/ and never /ˈzajl/. Likewise [ˈdɑkɑɾˤ] دكر (male); /ˈkidib/ كِدِب (lied); [ˈdiːb] ديب (wolf)
  • /ˈdˤufr/ ضفر as opposed to /ˈðˤufr/ ظُفر (nail) and never /ˈzˤufr/. Likewise [ˈdˤɑlmɑ] ضلمة (darkness)

Unlike other North African varieties, Egyptian Arabic also shows another feature where /θ ð ðˤ/ correspond to sibilant consonants /s z zˤ/ [16]. This has been specially the result of modernisation and the increase of literacy, and the classicisation practice in official media, as well as a tendency to imperfectly imitate the pronunciation of the Levant and Arabia as it is commonly perceived more suitable for Islamic religious[citation needed] preaching, and as a trait of Egyptian diaspora. But also due to historical influence[citation needed] by Levantine dialects which constitute the eastern influx of the continuum.

  • [ˈsɑwɾˤɑ] ثَورة (revolution) as opposed to /ˈθawra/
  • /iˈzaːʕa/ إذاعة (broadcasting) as opposed to /iˈðaːʕa/
  • [ˈbɑzˤɾ] بظر (clitoris) as opposed to /ˈbaðr/

Classical Arabic reflex <d͡ʒim> ج is realized velar in Cairene in the same way as it is in some southern Arabic dialects since antiquity and still present in Yemen and Oman. So that جَبَل (mountain) is pronounced /ˈɡabal/ rather than /ˈd͡ʒabal/.

Other consonants are more marginal. In addition to appearing in native words, /rˤ/ also appears in loanwords from European languages, such as /barˤaˈʃut/ (parachute), and native words with guttural vowels, such as [ˈbɑʔɑɾˤi] (my cows).[17] Labial emphatics /bˤ/ and /mˤ/ also come from loanwords; minimal pairs include /bˤaːbˤa/ (pope/pontiff/patriarch) vs /baːba/ (Paopi).[18] Classical Arabic /q/ became /ʔ/ in Cairo and the eastern Delta (a feature shared with Lebanese and other forms of Levantine Arabic), but /q/ is retained natively in some dialects of the western Delta outside of Alexandria,[19] and has been reintroduced as a marginal phoneme from Standard Arabic in other dialects.[16] /v/, /p/, and /ʒ/ also appear in loanwords, though only the latter is not restricted to more educated speakers, /ʒaˈkitta/ (jacket).[20] ~/ˈʒakit/




Verbs in Arabic are based on a stem made up of three or four consonants. The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes and/or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as tense, person and number, in addition to changes in the meaning of the verb that embody grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive.

Each particular lexical verb is specified by two stems, one used for the past tense and one used for non-past tenses along with as subjunctive and imperative moods. To the former stem, suffixes are added to mark the verb for person, number and gender, while to the latter stem, a combination of prefixes and suffixes are added. (Very approximately, the prefixes specify the person and the suffixes indicate number and gender.) The third person masculine singular past tense form serves as the "dictionary form" used to identify a verb, similar to the infinitive in English. (Arabic has no infinitive.) For example, the verb meaning "write" is often specified as kátab, which actually means "he wrote". In the paradigms below, a verb will be specified as kátab/yíktib (where kátab means "he wrote" and yíktib means "he writes"), indicating the past stem (katab-) and non-past stem (-ktib-, obtained by removing the prefix yi-).

The verb classes in Arabic are formed along two axes. One axis (described as "form I", "form II", etc.) is used to specify grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive, and involves varying the stem form. For example, from the root K-T-B "write" is derived form I kátab/yíktib "write", form II káttib/yikáttib "cause to write", form III ká:tib/yiká:tib "correspond", etc. The other axis is determined by the particular consonants making up the root. For example, defective verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant, which is often reflected in paradigms with an extra final vowel in the stem (e.g. ráma/yírmi "throw" from R-M-Y); meanwhile, hollow verbs have a W or Y as the middle root consonant, and the stems of such verbs appear to have only two consonants (e.g. gá:b/yigí:b "bring" from G-Y-B).

Strong Verbs

Strong verbs are those that have no "weakness" (e.g. W or Y) in the root consonants. Each verb has a given vowel pattern for Past (a or i) and Present (a or i or u). Combinations of each exist.

Regular verbs, form I

Form I verbs have a given vowel pattern for past (a or i) and present (a, i or u). Combinations of each exist:

Vowel patterns Example
Past Present
a a dˤárab - yídˤrab to beat
a i kátab - yíktib to write
a u tˤálab - yítˤlub~yútˤlub to order, to demand
i a fíhim - yídfham to understand
i i misik - yímsik to hold, to touch
i u sikit - yískut~yúskut to be silent, to shut up
Regular verb, form I, fáʕal/yífʕil

Example: kátab/yíktib "write"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st katáb-t katáb-na á-ktib ní-ktib bá-ktib bi-ní-ktib ħá-ktib ħá-ní-ktib
2nd masculine katáb-t katáb-tu tí-ktib ti-ktíb-u bi-tí-ktib bi-ti-ktíb-u ħa-tí-ktib ħa-ti-ktíb-u í-ktib i-ktíb-u
feminine katáb-ti ti-ktíb-i bi-ti-ktíb-i ħa-ti-ktíb-i i-ktíb-i
3rd masculine kátab kátab-u yí-ktib yi-ktíb-u bi-yí-ktib bi-yi-ktíb-u ħa-yí-ktib ħa-yi-ktíb-u
feminine kátab-it tí-ktib bi-tí-ktib ħa-tí-ktib

Note that, in general, the present indicative is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of /bi-/ (/bi-a-/ is elided to /ba-/). Similarly, the future is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of /ħa-/ (/ħa-a-/ is elided to /ħa-/). The /i/ in /bi-/ or in the following prefix will be deleted according to the regular rules of vowel syncope:

  • híyya b-tíktib "she writes" (híyya + bi- + tíktib)
  • híyya bi-t-ʃú:f "she sees" (híyya + bi- + tiʃú:f)
  • an-áktib "I write (subjunctive)" (ána + áktib)

Example: kátab/yíktib "write": non-finite forms

Number/Gender Active Participle Passive Participle Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. ká:tib maktú:b kitá:ba
Fem. Sg. kátb-a maktú:b-a
Pl. katb-í:n maktub-í:n
Regular verb, form I, fíʕil/yífʕal

Example: fíhim/yífham "understand"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st fihím-t fihím-na á-fham ní-fham bá-fham bi-ní-fham ħá-fham ħá-ní-fham
2nd masculine fihím-t fihím-tu tí-fham ti-fhám-u bi-tí-fham bi-ti-fhám-u ħa-tí-fham ħa-ti-fhám-u í-fham i-fhám-u
feminine fihím-ti ti-fhám-i bi-ti-fhám-i ħa-ti-fhám-i i-fhám-i
3rd masculine fíhim fíhm-u yí-fham yi-fhám-u bi-yí-fham bi-yi-fhám-u ħa-yí-fham ħa-yi-fhám-u
feminine fíhm-it tí-fham bi-tí-fham ħa-tí-fham

Boldfaced forms fíhm-it and fíhm-u differ from the corresponding forms of katab (kátab-it and kátab-u due to vowel syncope). Note also the syncope in ána fhím-t "I understood".

Regular verb, form II, fáʕʕil/yifáʕʕil

Example: dárris/yidárris "teach"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st darrís-t darrís-na a-dárris ni-dárris ba-dárris bi-n-dárris ħa-dárris ħa-n-dárris
2nd masculine darrís-t darrís-tu ti-dárris ti-darrís-u bi-t-dárris bi-t-darrís-u ħa-t-dárris ħa-t-darrís-u dárris darrís-u
feminine darrís-ti ti-darrís-i bi-t-darrís-i ħa-t-darrís-i darrís-i
3rd masculine dárris darrís-u yi-dárris yi-darrís-u bi-y-dárris bi-y-darrís-u ħa-y-dárris ħa-y-darrís-u
feminine darrís-it ti-dárris bi-t-dárris ħa-t-dárris

Boldfaced forms indicate the primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab:

  • The prefixes /ti-/, /yi-/, /ni-/ have elision of /i/ following /bi-/ or /ħa-/ (all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant behave this way).
  • The imperative prefix /i-/ is missing (again, all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant behave this way).
  • Due to the regular operation of the stress rules, the stress in the past tense forms darrís-it and darrís-u differs from kátab-it and kátab-u.
Regular verb, form III, fá:ʕil/yifá:ʕil

Example: sá:fir/yisá:fir "travel"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st safír-t safír-na a-sá:fir ni-sá:fir ba-sá:fir bi-n-sá:fir ħa-sá:fir ħa-n-sá:fir
2nd masculine safír-t safír-tu ti-sá:fir ti-sáfr-u bi-t-sá:fir bi-t-sáfr-u ħa-t-sá:fir ħa-t-sáfr-u sá:fir sáfr-u
feminine safír-ti ti-sáfr-i bi-t-sáfr-i ħa-t-sáfr-i sáfr-i
3rd masculine sá:fir sáfr-u yi-sá:fir yi-sáfr-u bi-y-sá:fir bi-y-sáfr-u ħa-y-sá:fir ħa-y-sáfr-u
feminine sáfr-it ti-sá:fir bi-t-sá:fir ħa-t-sá:fir

The primary differences from the corresponding forms of darris (shown in boldface) are:

  • The long vowel /a:/ becomes /a/ when unstressed.
  • The /i/ in the stem /sa:fir/ is elided when a suffix beginning with a vowel follows.

Defective Verbs

Defective verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant.

Defective verb, form I, fáʕa/yífʕi

Example: ráma/yírmi "throw"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ramé:-t ramé:-na á-rmi ní-rmi bá-rmi bi-ní-rmi ħá-rmi ħa-ní-rmi
2nd masculine ramé:-t ramé:-tu tí-rmi tí-rm-u bi-tí-rmi bi-tí-rm-u ħa-tí-rmi ħa-tí-rm-u í-rmi í-rm-u
feminine ramé:-ti tí-rm-i bi-tí-rm-i ħa-tí-rm-i í-rm-i
3rd masculine ráma rám-u yí-rmi yí-rm-u bi-yí-rmi bi-yí-rm-u ħa-yí-rmi ħa-yí-rm-u
feminine rám-it tí-rmi bi-tí-rmi ħa-tí-rmi

The primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab (shown in boldface) are:

  • In the past, there are three stems: ráma with no suffix, ramé:- with a consonant-initial suffix, rám- with a vowel initial suffix.
  • In the non-past, the stem rmi becomes rm- before a (vowel initial) suffix, and the stress remains on the prefix, since the stem vowel has been elided.
  • Note also the accidental homonymy between masculine tí-rmi, í-rmi and feminine tí-rm-i, í-rm-i.
Defective verb, form I, fíʕi/yífʕa

Example: nísi/yínsa "forget"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st nisí:-t nisí:-na á-nsa ní-nsa bá-nsa bi-ní-nsa ħá-nsa ħa-ní-nsa
2nd masculine nisí:-t nisí:-tu tí-nsa tí-ns-u bi-tí-nsa bi-tí-ns-u ħa-tí-nsa ħa-tí-ns-u í-nsa í-ns-u
feminine nisí:-ti tí-ns-i bi-tí-ns-i ħa-tí-ns-i í-ns-i
3rd masculine nísi nísy-u yí-nsa yí-ns-u bi-yí-nsa bi-yí-ns-u ħa-yí-nsa ħa-yí-ns-u
feminine nísy-it tí-nsa bi-tí-nsa ħa-tí-nsa

This verb type is quite similar to the defective verb type ráma/yírmi. The primary differences are:

  • The occurrence of /i/ and /a/ in the stems are reversed: /i/ in the past, /a/ in the non-past.
  • In the past, instead of the stems ramé:- and rám-, the verb has nisí:- (with a consonant-initial suffix) and nísy- (with a vowel initial suffix). Note in particular the /y/ in nísyit and nísyu as opposed to rámit and rámu.
  • Elision of /i/ in nisí:- can occur, e.g. ána nsí:t "I forgot".
  • In the non-past, because the stem has /a/ instead of /i/, there is no homonymy between masculine tí-nsa, í-nsa and feminine tí-ns-i, í-ns-i.

Note that some other verbs have different stem variations, e.g. míʃi/yímʃi "walk" (with /i/ in both stems) and báʔa/yíbʔa "become, remain" (with /a/ in both stems). The verb láʔa/yilá:ʔi "find" is unusual in having a mixture of a form I past and form III present (note also the variations líʔi/yílʔa and láʔa/yílʔa).

Verbs other than form I have consistent stem vowels. All such verbs have /a/ in the past (hence form stems with /-é:-/, not /-í:-/). Forms V, VI, X and IIq have /a/ in the present (indicated by boldface below); others have /i/; forms VII, VIIt, and VIII have /i/ in both vowels of the stem (indicated by italics below); form IX verbs, including "defective" verbs, behave as regular doubled verbs:

  • Form II: wádda/yiwáddi "take away"; ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen"
  • Form III: ná:da/yiná:di "call"; dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure"
  • Form IV (rare, classicized): ʔárdˤa/yírdˤi "please, satisfy"
  • Form V: itʔáwwa/yitʔáwwa "become strong"
  • Form VI: itdá:wa/yitdá:wa "be treated, be cured"
  • Form VII (rare in the Cairene dialect): inħáka/yinħíki "be told"
  • Form VIIt: itnása/yitnísi "be forgotten"
  • Form VIII: iʃtára/yiʃtíri "buy"
  • Form IX (very rare): iħláww/yiħláww "be/become sweet", iʕmáyy/yiʕmáyy??? "be/become blind"
  • Form X: istákfa/yistákfa "have enough"
  • Form Iq: need example
  • Form IIq: need example

Hollow Verbs

Hollow have a W or Y as the middle root consonant. Note that for some forms (e.g. form II and form III), hollow verbs are conjugated as strong verbs (e.g. form II ʕáyyin/yiʕáyyin "appoint" from ʕ-Y-N, form III gá:wib/yigá:wib "answer" from G-W-B).

Hollow verb, form I, fá:l/yifí:l

Example: gá:b/yigí:b "bring"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st gíb-t gíb-na a-gí:b ni-gí:b ba-gí:b bi-n-gí:b ħa-gí:b ħa-n-gí:b
2nd masculine gíb-t gíb-tu ti-gí:b ti-gí:b-u bi-t-gí:b bi-t-gí:b-u ħa-t-gí:b ħa-t-gí:b-u gí:b gí:b-u
feminine gíb-ti ti-gí:b-i bi-t-gí:b-i ħa-t-gí:b-i gí:b-i
3rd masculine gá:b gá:b-u yi-gí:b yi-gí:b-u bi-y-gí:b bi-y-gí:b-u ħa-y-gí:b ħa-y-gí:b-u
feminine gá:b-it ti-gí:b bi-t-gí:b ħa-t-gí:b

This verb works much like dárris/yidárris "teach". Like all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant, the prefixes differ in the following way from those of regular and defective form I verbs:

  • The prefixes /ti-/, /yi-/, /ni-/ have elision of /i/ following /bi-/ or /ħa-/.
  • The imperative prefix /i-/ is missing.

In addition, the past tense has two stems: gíb- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and gá:b- elsewhere (third person).

Hollow verb, form I, fá:l/yifú:l

Example: ʃá:f/yiʃú:f "see"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ʃúf-t ʃúf-na a-ʃú:f ni-ʃú:f ba-ʃú:f bi-n-ʃú:f ħa-ʃú:f ħa-n-ʃú:f
2nd masculine ʃúf-t ʃúf-tu ti-ʃú:f ti-ʃú:f-u bi-t-ʃú:f bi-t-ʃú:f-u ħa-t-ʃú:f ħa-t-ʃú:f-u ʃú:f ʃú:f-u
feminine ʃúf-ti ti-ʃú:f-i bi-t-ʃú:f-i ħa-t-ʃú:f-i ʃú:f-i
3rd masculine ʃá:f ʃá:f-u yi-ʃú:f yi-ʃú:f-u bi-y-ʃú:f bi-y-ʃú:f-u ħa-y-ʃú:f ħa-y-ʃú:f-u
feminine ʃá:f-it ti-ʃú:f bi-t-ʃú:f ħa-t-ʃú:f

This verb class is identical to verbs such as gá:b/yigí:b except in having stem vowel /u/ in place of /i/.

Doubled Verbs

Doubled verbs have the same consonant as middle and last root consonant, e.g. ħább/yiħíbb "love" from Ħ-B-B.

Doubled verb, form I, fáʕʕ/yifíʕʕ

Example: ħább/yiħíbb "love"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ħabbé:-t ħabbé:-na a-ħíbb ni-ħíbb ba-ħíbb bi-n-ħíbb ħa-ħíbb ħa-n-ħíbb
2nd masculine ħabbé:-t ħabbé:-tu ti-ħíbb ti-ħíbb-u bi-t-ħíbb bi-t-ħíbb-u ħa-t-ħíbb ħa-t-ħíbb-u ħíbb ħíbb-u
feminine ħabbé:-ti ti-ħíbb-i bi-t-ħíbb-i ħa-t-ħíbb-i ħíbb-i
3rd masculine ħább ħább-u yi-ħíbb yi-ħíbb-u bi-y-ħíbb bi-y-ħíbb-u ħa-y-ħíbb ħa-y-ħíbb-u
feminine ħább-it ti-ħíbb bi-t-ħíbb ħa-t-ħíbb

This verb works much like gá:b/yigí:b "bring". Like that class, it has two stems in the past, which are ħabbé:- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and ħább- elsewhere (third person). Note that /é:-/ was borrowed from the defective verbs; the Classical Arabic equivalent form would be *ħabáb-, e.g. *ħabáb-t.

Other verbs have /u/ or /a/ in the present stem: basˤsˤ/yibúsˤsˤ "to look", sˤaħħ/yisˤáħħ "be right, be proper".

As for the other forms:

  • Form II, V doubled verbs are strong: ħáddid/yiħáddid "limit, fix (appointment)"
  • Form III, IV, VI, VIII doubled verbs seem non-existent
  • Form VII and VIIt doubled verbs (same stem vowel /a/ in both stems): inbáll/yinbáll "be wetted", itʕádd/yitʕádd
  • Form VIII doubled verbs (same stem vowel /a/ in both stems): ihtámm/yihtámm "be interested (in)"
  • Form IX verbs (automatically behave as "doubled" verbs, same stem vowel /a/ in both stems): iħmárr/yiħmárr "be red, blush", iħláww/yiħláww "be sweet"
  • Form X verbs (stem vowel either /a/ or /i/ in non-past): istaħáʔʔ/yistaħáʔʔ "deserve" vs. istaʕádd/yistaʕídd "be ready", istamárr/yistamírr "continue".

Assimilated Verbs

Assimilated verbs have W or Y as the first root consonant. Most of these verbs have been regularized in Egyptian Arabic, e.g. wázan/yíwzin "to weigh" or wísˤíl/yíwsˤal "to arrive". Only a couple of irregular verbs remain, e.g. wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (see below).

Doubly Weak Verbs

"Doubly weak" verbs have more than one "weakness", typically a W or Y as both the second and third consonants. This term is in fact a misnomer, as such verbs actually behave as normal defective verbs (e.g. káwa/yíkwi "iron (clothes)" from K-W-Y, ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen" from ʔ-W-Y, dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure" from D-W-Y).

Irregular Verbs

The irregular verbs are as follows:

  • ídda/yíddi "give" (endings like a normal defective verb)
  • wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (áʔaf, báʔaf, ħáʔaf "I (will) stop"; úʔaf "stop!")
  • kal/yá:kul "eat" and xad/yá:xud "take" (kalt, kal, kálit, kálu "I/he/she/they ate", also regular ákal, etc. "he/etc. ate"; á:kul, bá:kul, ħá:kul "I (will) eat", yáklu "they eat"; kúl, kúli, kúlu "eat!"; wá:kil "eating"; mittá:kil "eaten")
  • ga/yí:gi "come". This verb is extremely irregular (with particularly unusual forms in boldface):
Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st gí:-t or gé:-t gí:-na or gé:-na á:-gi ní:-gi
2nd masculine gí:-t or gé:-t gí:-tu or gé:-tu tí:-gi tí:-g-u taʕá:l taʕá:l-u
feminine gí:-ti or gé:-ti tí:-g-i taʕá:l-i
3rd masculine or gé:
  gá:-ni (or -li)
"he came to me"
but not *gé:-ni
  but gu:-ni (or -li)
"they came to me" and magu:-ʃ "they didn't come"
yí:-gi yí:-g-u
feminine gat tí:-gi

Example: ga/yí:gi "come": non-finite forms

Number/Gender Active Participle Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. gayy migíyy
Fem. Sg. gáyy-a
Pl. gayy-í:n

Table of Verb Forms

In this section all verb classes and their corresponding stems are listed, excluding the small number of irregular verbs described above. Verb roots are indicated schematically using capital letters to stand for consonants in the root:

  • F = first consonant of root
  • M = middle consonant of three-consonant root
  • S = second consonant of four-consonant root
  • T = third consonant of four-consonant root
  • L = last consonant of root

Hence, the root F-M-L stands for all three-consonant roots, and F-S-T-L stands for all four-consonant roots. (Traditional Arabic grammar uses F-ʕ-L and F-ʕ-L-L, respectively, but the system used here appears in a number of grammars of spoken Arabic dialects and is probably less confusing for English speakers, since the forms are easier to pronounce than those involving /ʕ/.)

The following table lists the prefixes and suffixes to be added to mark tense, person, number and gender, and the stem form to which they are added. The forms involving a vowel-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAv or NPv, are highlighted in silver. The forms involving a consonant-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAc, are highlighted in gold. The forms involving a no suffix, and corresponding stem PA0 or NP0, are unhighlighted.

Tense/Mood Past Non-Past
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st PAc-t PAc-na a-NP0 ni-NP0
2nd masculine PAc-t PAc-tu ti-NP0 ti-NPv-u
feminine PAc-ti ti-NPv-i
3rd masculine PA0 PAv-u yi-NP0 yi-NPv-u
feminine PAv-it ti-NP0

The following table lists the verb classes along with the form of the past and non-past stems, active and passive participles, and verbal noun, in addition to an example verb for each class.


  • Italicized forms are those that follow automatically from the regular rules of vowel shortening and deletion.
  • Multisyllabic forms without a stress mark have variable stress, depending on the nature of the suffix added, following the regular rules of stress assignment.
  • Many participles and verbal nouns have acquired an extended sense. In fact, participles and verbal nouns are the major sources for lexical items based on verbs, especially derived (i.e. non-Form-I) verbs.
  • Some verb classes do not have a regular verbal noun form; rather, the verbal noun varies from verb to verb. Even in verb classes that do have a regular verbal noun form, there are exceptions. In addition, some verbs share a verbal noun with a related verb from another class (in particular, many passive verbs use the corresponding active verb's verbal noun, which can be interpreted in either an active or passive sense). Some verbs appear to lack a verbal noun entirely. (In such a case, a paraphrase would be used involving a clause beginning with inn.)
  • Outside of Form I, passive participles as such are usually non-existent; instead, the active participle of the corresponding passive verb class (e.g. Forms V, VI, VIIt/VIIn for Forms II, III, I respectively) is used. The exception is certain verbs in Forms VIII and X that contain a "classicized" passive participle that is formed in imitation of the corresponding participle in Classical Arabic, e.g. mistáʕmil "using", mustáʕmal "used".
  • Not all forms have a separate verb class for hollow or doubled roots. When no such class is listed below, roots of that shape appear as strong verbs in the corresponding form, e.g. Form II strong verb dˤáyyaʕ/yidˤáyyaʕ "waste, lose" related to Form I hollow verb dˤá:ʕ/yidˤí:ʕ "be lost", both from root Dˤ-Y-ʕ.
Form Root Type Stem Participle Verbal Noun Example
Past Non-Past Active Passive
Person of Suffix 1st/2nd 3rd
Suffix Type Cons-Initial None Vowel-Initial None Vowel-Initial
Suffix Name PAc PA0 PAv NP0 NPv
I Strong FaMaL FMaL Fá:MiL maFMú:L (varies, e.g.
fátaħ/yíftaħ "open"
FMiL kátab/yíktib "write"
FMuL dáxal/yúdxul "enter"
FiMiL FiML FMaL fíhim/yífham "understand"
FMiL mísik/yímsik "hold, catch"
FMuL síkin/yúskun "reside"
I Defective FaMé: FáMa FaM FMa FM Fá:Mi máFMi (varies, e.g.
FaMy, máFMa)
báʔa/yíbʔa "remain"
FMi FM ráma/yírmi "throw"
FiMí: FíMi FíMy FMa FM nísi/yínsa "forget"
FMi FM míʃi/yímʃi "walk"
I Hollow FíL Fá:L Fí:L Fá:yiL (mitFá:L, properly
Form VIIt)
(varies, e.g.
Fe:L, Fo:L)
ga:b/yigí:b "bring"
FúL Fú:L ʃa:f/yiʃú:f "see"
FíL Fá:L na:m/yiná:m "sleep"
FúL xa:f/yixá:f "fear"
I Doubled FaMMé: FáMM FíMM Fá:MiM maFMú:M (varies, e.g.
ħabb/yiħíbb "love"
FúMM ħatˤtˤ/yiħútˤtˤ "put"
II Strong FaMMaL miFáMMaL taFMí:L ɣáyyarˤ/yiɣáyyarˤ "change"
FaMMiL miFáMMiL dárris/yidárris "teach"
II Defective FaMMé: FáMMa FáMM FáMMi FáMM miFáMMi taFMíya wárra/yiwárri "show"
III Strong FaMíL Fá:MiL FáML Fá:MiL FáML miFá:MiL miFáMLa zá:kir/yizá:kir "study"
III Defective FaMé: Fá:Ma Fá:M Fá:Mi Fá:M miFá:Mi miFáMya ná:da/yiná:di "call"
IV Strong ʔáFMaL FMiL míFMiL iFMá:L ʔársal /ˈʔarsal/ /yírsil "send"
IV Defective ʔaFMé: ʔáFMa ʔáFM FMi FM míFMi (uncommon) ʔárˤdˤa/yírˤdˤi "please"
IV Hollow ʔaFáL ʔaFá:L Fí:L miFí:L ʔiFá:La ʔafá:d/yifí:d "inform"
IV Doubled ʔaFaMMé: ʔaFáMM FíMM miFíMM iFMá:M  ???
V Strong itFaMMaL tFaMMaL mitFáMMaL taFáMMuL (or Form II) itmárˤrˤan/yitmárˤrˤan "practice"
itFaMMiL tFaMMiL mitFáMMiL itkállim/yitkállim "speak"
V Defective itFaMMé: itFáMMa itFáMM tFáMMa tFáMM mitFáMMi (use Form II) itʔáwwa/yitʔáwwa "become strong"
VI Strong itFaMíL itFá:MiL itFáML tFá:MiL tFáML mitFá:MiL taFá:MuL (or Form III) itʕá:win/yitʕá:win "cooperate"
VI Defective itFaMé: itFá:Ma itFá:M tFá:Ma tFá:M mitFá:Mi (use Form III) iddá:wa/yiddá:wa "be treated, be cured"
VIIn Strong inFáMaL nFíMiL nFíML minFíMiL inFiMá:L (or Form I) inbásˤatˤ/yinbísˤitˤ "enjoy oneself"
VIIn Defective inFaMé: inFáMa inFáM nFíMi nFíM minFíMi (use Form I) inħáka/yinħíki "be told"
VIIn Hollow inFáL inFá:L nFá:L minFá:L inFiyá:L (or Form I) inbá:ʕ/yinbá:ʕ "be sold"
VIIn Doubled inFaMMé: inFáMM nFáMM minFáMM inFiMá:M (or Form I) inbáll/yinbáll "be wetted"
VIIt Strong itFáMaL tFíMiL tFíML mitFíMiL itFiMá:L (or Form I) itwágad/yitwígid "be found"
VIIt Defective itFaMé: itFáMa itFáM tFíMi tFíM mitFíMi (use Form I) itnása/yitnísi "be forgotten"
VIIt Hollow itFáL itFá:L tFá:L mitFá:L itFiyá:L (or Form I) itbá:ʕ/yitbá:ʕ "be sold"
VIIt Doubled itFaMMé: itFáMM tFáMM mitFáMM itFiMá:M (or Form I) itʕádd/yitʕádd "be counted"
VIII Strong iFtáMaL FtíMiL FtíML miFtíMiL, muFtáMiL (classicized) muFtáMaL (classicized) iFtiMá:L (or Form I) istálam/yistílim "receive"
VIII Defective iFtaMé: iFtáMa iFtáM FtíMi FtíM miFtíMi, muFtáMi (classicized) (use Form I) iʃtára/yiʃtíri "buy"
VIII Hollow iFtáL iFtá:L Ftá:L miFtá:L, muFtá:L (classicized) iFtiyá:L (or Form I) ixtá:rˤ/yixtá:rˤ "choose"
VIII Doubled iFtaMMé: iFtáMM FtáMM miFtáMM, muFtáMM (classicized) iFtiMá:M (or Form I) ihtámm/yihtámm "be interested (in)"
IX Strong iFMaLLé: iFMáLL FMáLL miFMíLL iFMiLá:L iħmárˤrˤ/yiħmárˤrˤ "be red, blush"
X Strong istáFMaL stáFMaL mistáFMaL, mustáFMaL (classicized) istiFMá:L istáɣrˤab/yistáɣrˤab "be surprised"
istáFMiL stáFMiL mistáFMiL, mustáFMiL (classicized) mustáFMaL (classicized) istáʕmil/yistáʕmil "use"
X Defective istaFMé: istáFMa istáFM stáFMa stáFM mistáFMi, mustáFMi (classicized) (uncommon) istákfa/yistákfa "be enough"
X Hollow istaFáL istaFá:L staFí:L mistaFí:L, mistaFí:L (classicized) istiFá:L a istaʔá:l/yistaʔí:l "resign"
X Doubled istaFaMMé: istaFáMM staFáMM mistaFáMM, mustaFáMM (classicized) istiFMá:M istaħáʔʔ/yistaħáʔʔ "deserve"
staFíMM mistaFíMM, mustaFíMM (classicized) istamárˤrˤ/yistamírr "continue"
Iq Strong FaSTaL miFáSTaL FaSTáLa láxbatˤ/yiláxbatˤ "confuse"
FaSTiL miFáSTiL xárbiʃ/yixárbiʃ "scratch"
Iq Defective FaSTé: FáSTa FáST FáSTi FáST miFáSTi (uncommon)  ???
IIq Strong itFaSTaL tFaSTaL mitFáSTaL itFaSTáLa itláxbatˤ/yitláxbatˤ "be confused"
itFaSTiL tFaSTiL mitFáSTiL itʃáʕlil/yitʃáʕlil "flare up"
IIq Defective itFaSTé: itFáSTa itFáST tFáSTa tFáST mitFáSTi (uncommon)  ???


One characteristic of Egyptian syntax which it shares with other North African varieties as well as some southern Levantine dialect areas is in the two-part negative verbal circumfix /ma-...-ʃ(i)/

  • Past: /ˈkatab/ "he wrote" /ma-katab-ʃ(i)/ "he didn't write" ماكتبشِ
  • Present: /ˈjik-tib/ "he writes" /ma-bjik-tib-ʃ(i)/ "he doesn't write" مابيكتبشِ

/ma-/ comes from the Classical Arabic negator /ma:/. /-ʃ(i)/ is a development of Classical /ʃayʔ/ "thing". The development of a circumfix is similar to the French circumfix ne ... pas, where ne comes from Latin non "not" and pas comes from Latin passus "step". (Originally, pas would have been used specifically with motion verbs, as in "I didn't walk a step", and then was generalized to other verbs.)

The structure can end in a consonant (ʃ) or in a vowel (i), varying according to the individual or region. The fuller ending /ʃi/ is considered rural, and nowadays Cairene speakers usually use the shorter /ʃ/. However, /ʃi/ was more common in the past, as attested in old films.

The negative circumfix often surrounds the entire verbal composite including direct and indirect object pronouns:

  • /ma-katab-hum-ˈliː-ʃ/ "he didn't write them to me"

However, verbs in the future tense typically instead use the prefix /miʃ/:

  • /miʃ-ħa-ˈjiktib/ (or /ma-ħa-jikˈtibʃ/ "he won't write"

Interrogative sentences can be formed by adding the negation clitic "miʃ" before the verb:

  • Past: /ˈkatab/ "he wrote"; /miʃ-ˈkatab/ "didn't he write?"
  • Present: /ˈjiktib/ "he writes"; /miʃ-bi-ˈjiktib/ "doesn't he write?"
  • Future: /ħa-ˈjiktib/ "he will write"; /miʃ-ħa-ˈjiktib/ "won't he write?"

Addition of the circumfix can cause complex changes to the verbal cluster, due to the application of the rules of vowel syncope, shortening, lengthening, insertion and elision described above:

  • The addition of /ma-/ may trigger elision or syncope:
    • A vowel following /ma-/ is elided: /ixtá:r/ "he chose" -> /maxtárʃ/.
    • A short vowel /i/ or /u/ in the first syllable may be deleted by syncope: /kíbir/ "he grew" -> /makbírʃ/.
  • The addition of /-ʃ/ may result in vowel shortening or epenthesis:
    • A final long vowel preceding a single consonant shortens: /ixtá:r/ "he chose" -> /maxtárʃ/.
    • An unstressed epenthetic /i/ is inserted when the verbal complex ends in two consonants: /kunt/ "I was" -> /makúntiʃ/.
  • In addition, the addition of /-ʃ/ triggers a stress shift, which may in turn result in vowel shortening or lengthening:
    • The stress shifts to the syllable preceding /ʃ/: /kátab/ "he wrote" -> /makatábʃ/.
    • A long vowel in the previously stressed syllable shortens: /ʃá:fit/ "she saw" -> /maʃafítʃ/; /ʃá:fu/ "they saw" or "he saw it" -> /maʃafú:ʃ/.
    • A final short vowel directly preceding /ʃ/ lengthens: /ʃá:fu/ "they saw" or "he saw it" -> /maʃafú:ʃ/.

In addition, certain other morphological changes occur:

  • /ʃafú:/ "they saw it" -> /maʃafuhú:ʃ/ (to avoid a clash with /maʃafú:ʃ/ "they saw/he saw it").
  • /ʃá:fik/ "He saw you (fem. sg.)" -> /maʃafkí:ʃ/.
  • /ʃúftik/ "I saw you (fem. sg.)" -> /maʃuftikí:ʃ/.


Coptic substratum

Egyptian Arabic appears to have retained a significant Coptic substratum in its lexicon, phonology, and syntax. Coptic was the latest stage of the indigenous Egyptian language spoken until the mid-17th century when it was finally completely supplanted by Arabic. Some features that Egyptian Arabic shares with the original ancient Egyptian language include certain prefix and suffix verbal conjugations, certain emphatic and glottalized consonants, as well as a large number of biliteral and triliteral lexical correspondences.

Two syntactic features that are particular[citation needed] to Egyptian Arabic inherited from Coptic[21] are:

  • postposed demonstratives "this" and "that" are placed after the noun.
Examples: ir-rᾱ̄gil da "this man" (lit. "the man this"; in Standard Arabic hāðā-r-radʒul) and il-binti di "this girl" (lit. "the girl this"; in Standard Arabic hāðihi-l-bint).

It should be noted[citation needed] that this order is found in several other varieties of Arabic, including:

  • Classical Arabic
  • Palestinian Arabic
  • Hijazi Arabic
  • Bedouinic dialects
  • in-situ wh words (i.e. "who", "when", "why" remain in their "logical" positions in a sentence rather than being preposed, or moved to the front of the sentence, as in Standard Arabic and English).
  • rħ mɑri ʔimta ? (راح مصر إمتى؟) "When (imta) did he go to Egypt/Cairo?" (lit. "He went to Egypt/Cairo when?")
  • rħ mɑri lēh ? (راح مصر ليه؟) "Why (lēh) did he go to Egypt/Cairo? (lit. "He went to Egypt/Cairo why?")
  • mīn [illi] rħ mɑr ? (مين [اللي] راح مصر؟) "Who (mīn) went to Egypt/Cairo? (literally - same order)
The same sentences in Standard Arabic (with all the question words (wh-words) in the beginning of the sentence) would be:
  • متى ذهب إلى مصر؟ matā ðahaba ʔilā mir?
  • لِمَ ذهب إلى مصر؟ lima ðahaba ʔilā mir?
  • من ذهب إلى مصر؟ man ðahaba ʔilā mir?

Also since Coptic, like other North African languages, lacked interdental consonants it could possibly have influenced the manifestation of their occurrences in Classical Arabic /θ ð ðˤ/ as their dental counterparts /t d/ and the emphatic dental /dˤ/ respectively. (see consonants)

Studying Egyptian Arabic

Egyptian Arabic has been a subject of study by scholars and laypersons in the past and the present for many reasons, including personal interest, egyptomania, business, news reporting, and diplomatic and political interactions. Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA) is now a field of study in both graduate and undergraduate levels in many higher education institutions and universities in the world. When added to academic instruction, Arabic language schools and university programs provide Egyptian Arabic courses in a classroom fashion, while others facilitate classes for online study.

Text example

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Egyptian/Masri (Arabic script):

الاعلان العالمى لحقوق الانسان، البند الاولانى

البنى ادمين كلهم مولودين حرين و متساويين فى الكرامه و الحقوق. اتوهبلهم العقل و الضمير, و المفروض يعاملو بعضيهم بروح الاخويه.

Egyptian/Masri - (Franco/Arabic Chat Alphabet), which is used in the web-site “Frankowia” [f(e)rænkæˈwejːæ] [22]:

el e3lan el 3alami le 72u2 el ensan, el band el awalani

el bani2admin kollohom mawlodin 7orrin we metsawyin fel karama wel 7o2u2. Etwahablohom el 3a2l wel damir, wel mafrud ye3amlo ba3dihom be ro7 el a5aweya.

Egyptian (phonemic transcription):

ʔil-iʕlān il-ʕālami li-ħʔūʔ il-insān, ʔil-band il-ʔawwalāni

ʔil-baniʔadmīn kulluhum mawludīn ħurrīn wi-mitsawwiyīn fil-kɑrmɑ w-il-ħuʔūʔ. ʔitwahab-luhum il-ʕɑʔli w-i-ɑmīr w-il-mɑfrū yiʕamlu bɑʕīhum be-rōħ il-ʔaxawiyya.


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.

Characteristic words and sentences in Egyptian Arabic

  • إزيك - ʔizˈzayyak? ("How are you [m.]")
  • إزيك - ʔizˈzayyik? ("How are you [f.]")
  • إزيكو - ʔizzayˈyuku (ʔizzayˈyuku)? ("How are you [pl.]")
  • إيه ده - ˈʔēh da? ("What's all this?", "What's the point", "What's this?" - expression of annoyance)
    • Ex.: (ˈʔinta) bitʔulˈluhum ʕaˈlayya ˈkida ˈlēh, ˈʔēh da? "Why are you telling them such things about me, what's all this?"
  • خلاص - xɑˈlɑ: several meanings, though its main meaning is "enough", often adverbial
    • "Stop it!" Ex.: ziˈhiʔt, xɑˈlɑ! "I'm annoyed, stop it!"
    • "It's over!", "finally, eventually" Ex.: ˈʔummi ˈkānit ʕayˈyāna w-ˈmātit, xɑˈlᾱṣ. "My mother was ill and died finally." [or "...and it's over now."]
    • "Ok, then!" Ex.: "خلاص، أشوفك بكرة" "xɑˈlᾱṣ, ʔʃūfak ˈbukrɑ" meaning "I'll see you tomorrow then"
  • خالص - ˈxli "at all"
    • maʕandiˈnāʃ ˈħāga naˈkulha ˈxli "We have nothing at all to eat."
  • كفاية - kiˈfāya! ("It's enough!" or "That's enough")
  • يعني - ˈyaʕni ("that's to say" or "meaning" or "y'know")
    • As answer to إنت عامل إيه؟ ˈinta ˈʕāmil ˈʔēh? ("How do you do [m.]?") (as an answer: "I am so so" or "half half" = "not perfect")
    • يعني إيه؟ ˈyaʕni ˈʔēh? ("What does that mean?")
    • إمتى هتخلص يعني؟** ˈimta hatˈxɑllɑ ˈyaʕni? ("When are you finishing exactly, then?)
  • بقى - ˈbaʔa (particle of enforcement --> "just" in imperative clauses and "well,...then?" in questions)
    • .هاته بقى ˈhātu ˈbaʔa! "Just give it to me!"
      عمل إيه بقى؟ ˈʕamal ˈʔēh ˈbaʔa? "Well, what did he do then?"

See also

Egyptian Arabic edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


  1. ^ Egyptian Arabic UCLA Language Materials Project
  2. ^ Present Culture in Egypt (in Arabic language & little Egyptian Arabic) (PDF). This book is for Bayoumi Andil, who is an Egyptian linguist, thinker and writer who authored many books on Egyptian culture and Modern Egyptian language. He is one of the most renowned researchers and linguists on the topic of Modern Egyptian Language.
  3. ^ Islam online on Mahmoud Timor
  4. ^ Arabworld books
  5. ^ Nishio, Tetsuo. "Word order and word order change of wh-questions in Egyptian Arabic: The Coptic substratum reconsidered". Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference of L'Association Internationale pour la Dialectologie Arabe. Cambridge: University of Cambridge. 1996, pp. 171-179
  6. ^ Bishai, Wilson B. "Coptic grammatical influence on Egyptian Arabic". Journal of the American Oriental Society. No.82, pp. 285-289.
  7. ^ Youssef (2003), below.
  8. ^ Haeri (2003)
  9. ^ Jenkins, Siona. Egyptian Arabic Phrasebook. Lonely Planet Publications, 2001. p. 205
  10. ^ Holes, Clive (2004). Modern Arabic: Structures, Functions, and Varieties (2nd ed ed.). Washington: Georgetown University Press. ISBN 1589010221. 
  11. ^ a b Gershoni, I., J. Jankowski. (1987). Egypt, Islam, and the Arabs. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  12. ^ Versteegh, p. 162
  13. ^ Watson (2002:23)
  14. ^ T.F. Mitchell, An Introduction to Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, p. 112.
  15. ^ Watson (2002:21)
  16. ^ a b Watson (2002:22)
  17. ^ Watson (2002:16)
  18. ^ Watson (2002:14)
  19. ^ Behnstedt and Woidich 1985
  20. ^ Watson (2002:22)
  21. ^ Nishio, 1996
  22. ^, a web-site that uses Frano/Arabic Chat Alphabet to write Egyptian Arabic


  • Abdel-Massih, Ernest T.; A. Fathy Bahig (1978). Comprehensive Study of Egyptian Arabic: Conversation Texts, Folk Literature, Cultural Ethnological and Socio Linguistic Notes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. ISBN 0-932098-11-8. 
  • Peter, Behnstedt; Manfred Woidich (1985). Die ägyptisch-arabischen Dialekte, vols. I, II. Wiesbaden: L. Reichert. 
  • Gary, Judith Olmsted, & Saad Gamal-Eldin. 1982. Cairene Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Lingua Descriptive Studies 6. Amsterdam: North Holland.
  • Haeri, Niloofar (2003). Sacred Language, Ordinary People: Dilemmas of Culture and Politics in Egypt. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23897-5. 
  • Harrell, Richard S. 1957. The Phonology of Colloquial Egyptian Arabic. American Council of Learned Societies Program in Oriental Languages Publications Series B, Aids, Number 9. New York: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • Hinds, Martin; El-Said Badawi (1987). A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic. French & European Pubns. ISBN 0-8288-0434-6. 
  • Mitchell, T.F. 1956. An Introduction to Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mitchell, T.F. 1962. Colloquial Arabic: the Living Language of Egypt. London: The English Universities Press.
  • Presse, Karl G.; Katrine Blanford, Elisabeth A. Moestrup, Iman El-Shoubary (2000). 5 Egyptian-Arabic One Act Plays: A First Reader (Bilingual edition ed.). Museum Tusculanum. ISBN 87-7289-612-4. 
  • Youssef, Ahmad Abdel-Hamid (2003). From Pharaoh's Lips: Ancient Egyptian Language in the Arabic of Today. American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 977-424-708-6. 
  • Tomiche, Nada. 1964. Le parler arabe du Caire. Paris: Mouton.
  • Versteegh, Kees (2001). The Arabic Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0748614362. 
  • Watson, Janet (2002), The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic, New York: Oxford University Press 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Egyptian Arabic phrasebook article)

From Wikitravel

Egyptian Arabic (maSri مصري) is the modern Egyptian vernacular and the most widely spoken and understood colloquial variety of Arabic. It is spoken by 77 million people, mainly in Egypt. It is used in everyday speech, comics, advertising, song lyrics, teen magazines, plays, and TV shows, but rarely in novels, newspapers, and never in news reporting, which use Modern Standard Arabic instead.



Egyptian Arabic has many more vowels (Hàràkât حركات) than the three of Classical Arabic, and it differentiates between short and long vowels. Long vowels are shown in this phrasebook with a macron above the vowel. The stress falls on the long vowels. Long vowels can be shortened when not stressed.

Main Egyptian vowels

Arabic Vowel-letters may act as semi-vowels. Acting as vowels at the middle & end of words, they are pronounced as:

  • alef; ا: /æ/, /a/
  • wâw; و: /o/, /u/
  • ye; ي: /e/, /i/

Acting as semi-vowels, mainly pronounced as:

  • wâw; و: /w/
  • ye; ي: /j/ ("y" as in the English word "yes")
like ā but shorter. (IPA: [æ])
as in "hand" (long). (IPA: [æː])
like â but shorter. (IPA: [ɑ])
as in "bar". (IPA: [ɑː])
o ~
similar to "put" (short). Tends to be merged into short /o/, or in between /u/ & /o/ (IPA: /ɵ/)
similar to "float". (IPA: /oː/)
as in "shoe" (long). (IPA: /uː/)
e ~ ı 
as in "fig" (short). Tends to be merged into short /e/, or in between /i/ & /e/ (IPA: /ɪ/)
similar to "fate" (long). (IPA: /eː/)
as in "sheet" (long). (IPA: /iː/)


Most Arabic consonants (Sàwâet صوائت) are not too difficult:

You should notice, also, that in Egyptian Arabic, consonants can be long (doubled).
b ب (be)
as in English
f ف (fe)
as in English
t ت (te)
as in English, pronounced more forward in the mouth
d د (dāl)
as in English, pronounced more forward in the mouth
g ج (gīm)
as in English, not "j" (IPA: /dʒ/) as in Modern Standard Arabic
k ك (kāf)
as in English
r ر (re)
as in English, pronounced trilled (as in Spanish)
l ل (lām)
as in English, pronounced more forward in the mouth
h هـ (he)
as in English, but occurs in unfamiliar positions
m م (mīm)
as in English
n ن (nūn)
as in English
s س (sīn)
as in English
s ث (se)
as in English, not "th" (IPA: [θ]) as in Modern Standard Arabic
z ز (zēn)
as in English
z ذ (zāl)
as in English, not (IPA: [ð]) as in Modern Standard Arabic
w و (wâw)
as in English
y ي (ye)
as in English
š ش (šīn)
as "sh" in the English word "she". (IPA: [ʃ])
j چ  
as "s" in the English word "pleasure" (only found in loanwords). (IPA: [ʒ]). Its counterpart ج may be used instead, in transliterations.
p پ  
as in English (only found in loanwords). Its counterpart ب may be used instead, in transliterations.
v ڤ  
as in English (only found in loanwords). Its counterpart ف may be used instead, in transliterations.

The following are a little more unusual:

S ص (Sâd)
emphatic s pronounced with the tongue raised and mouth tensed. (IPA: /sˤ/)
T ط (Tà)
emphatic t pronounced with the tongue raised and mouth tensed. (IPA: /tˤ/)
D ض (Dâd)
emphatic d pronounced with the tongue raised and mouth tensed. (IPA: /dˤ/)
Z ظ (Zà)
emphatic z pronounced with the tongue raised and mouth tensed. (IPA: /zˤ/)
q ق (qâf)
a hard k pronounced in the back of the mouth (IPA: /q/), not the glottal stop of Modern Standard Arabic
x خ (xà)
a harsh sound found in some English words like bach and loch. (IPA: [x])
ğ غ (ğēn)
a voiced x like a French "r". (IPA: [ɣ])
H ح (Hà)
a hard h made in the pharynx. (IPA: [ħ])

And the last two are very hard indeed for non-native speakers to get right, so try to get a native speaker to demonstrate. That said, most beginners tend to opt for the simple approach of ignoring those pesky apostrophes entirely, but it's worth it to make the effort.

a glottal stop (IPA: ʔ), or the constriction of the throat as between the syllables uh-oh, but in Arabic this is often found in strange places such as the beginning of a word. Known in Arabic as hamza ء
a voiced H (IPA: ʕ), famously equated to the sound of someone being strangled. Known in Arabic as `ayn ع or `ēn.
lestet el `ebàrât ليستة العبارات
asaseyyāt أساسيات

Many Arabic expressions are different for men and women, depending both on the gender of the person talking (you) and the person being addressed.

es-salāmu-`alēku السلام عليكو
Hello (informal
ahlan أهلاً
Good morning. 
SàbâH el-xēr صباح الخير
Good evening. 
masā el-xēr مساء الخير
Good night (to sleep
teSbàH `ala xēr تصبح على خير (to a male)
teSbàHi `ala xēr تصبحي على خير (to a female)
teSbàHu `ala xēr تصبحو على خير (to a group)
How are you? 
ezzayyak? إزيك (to a male)
ezzayyek? إزيك (to a female)
ezzayyoku? إزيكو (to a group)
Fine, thank you. 
kowayyes šukran كويس شكرا (male)
kowayyesa šokràn كويسة شكرا (female)
kowayyısīn šokràn كويسين شكراً (group)
A far more common response to the question "how are you" is simply to thank God - el-hamdu lillah الحمد لله
What is your name? 
esmak ēh? إسمك ايه؟ (to a male)
esmik ēh? إسمك ايه؟ (to a female)
My name is ______ . 
ana esmi ______ أنا إسمي
min fàDlàk من فضلك (to a male)
men fàDlek من فضلك (to a female)
men fàDloku من فضلكو (to a group)
Thank you. 
šokràn شكراً
You're welcome. 
el `afw العفو
aywa أيوا
la لأ
Excuse me. (getting attention
law samaHt لو سمحت (to a male)
law samaHti لو سمحتي (to a female)
law samaHtu لو سمحتو (to a group)
Excuse me. (avoiding offence
ba`d eznak بعد إذنك (to a male)
ba`d eznek بعد إذنك (to a female)
ba`d eznoku بعد إذنكو (to a group)
Excuse me. (begging pardon
lā muaxza لا مؤاخذة
I'm sorry 
ana āsef أنا آسف (male)
ana asfa أنا آسفة (female)
ma`as-salāma مع السلامة
Goodbye (informal
salām سلام
I can't speak Arabic well. 
mabakkallemš `arabi kwayyes ما بتكلمش عربي كويس
Do you speak English? 
betekkallem ıngılīzi? بتتكلم إنجليزي؟ (male)
betekkallemi ıngılīzi? بتتكلمي إنجليزي؟ (female)
Is there someone here who speaks English? 
fī Hadd hena beyekkallem ıngılīzi? فيه حد هنا بيتكلم إنجليزي؟
elHaūni! إلحقوني
Look out! 
Hāseb حاسب (to a male)
Hasbi حاسبي (to a female)
Hasbu حاسبو (to a group)
I don't understand. 
ana meš fāhim أنا مش فاهم (male)
ana meš fahma أنا مش فاهمة (female)
Where is the toilet? 
fēn el-Hammām? فين الحمام؟
mašākel مشاكل
Leave me alone. 
sıbni! سيبني (to a male),
sıbīni! سيبيني (
to a female)

sıbūni! سيبوني (to a group)

Go away! 
emši! إمشي (to a male or a female)
emšu! إمشو (to a group)
Don't touch me! 
matelmesnīš! ما تلمسنيش (to a male)
matelmısınīš! ما تلمسينيش (to a female)
I'll call the police. 
ana hakallem el-bulīs أنا هكلم البوليس
bulīs! بوليس
Hàrâmi! حرامي
I need help. 
ana meHtāg mosa`da أنا محتاج مساعدة (male speaking)
ana meHtāga mosa`da أنا محتاجة مساعدة (female)
It's an emergency. 
Hāla Târea حالة طارئة
I'm lost. 
ana taayeh أنا تايه (male speaking)
ana tayha أنا تايهة (female)
I lost my purse/handbag. 
ana Dàyyà`t šànTeti أنا ضيعت شنطيتي
I lost my wallet. 
ana Dàyyà`t màHfàZti أنا ضيعت محفظتي
I'm sick. 
ana `ayyān أنا عيان (male speaking)
ana `ayyāna أنا عيانة (female)
I'm injured. 
ana met`àwwàr أنا متعور (male speaking)
ana met`àwwàra أنا متعورة (female)
I need a doctor. 
ana meHtāg doktōr أنا محتاج دكتور (male speaking)
ana meHtāga doktōr أنا محتاجة دكتور (female)
Can I use your phone? 
momken asta`mel telıfōnak? ممكن أستعمل تيلفونك؟ (to a male)
momken asta`mel telıfōnek? ممكن أستعمل تيلفونك؟ (to a female)
mumken asta`mel telıfonku? ممكن أستعمل تيلفونكو؟ (to a group)
Can I use your cell phone? 
momken asta`mel mobàylak? ممكن أستعمل موبايلك؟ (to a male)
momken asta`mel mobàylek? ممكن أستعمل موبايلك؟ (to a female)
momken asta`mel mobayloku? ممكن أستعمل موبايلكو؟ (to a group)
`àrqâm أرقام

It is not uncommon to see what is formally called "Eastern Arabic Numerals", in Arabic known as "Indian numbers" (أرقام هندية arqām hendeyyah). Be careful in that zero is represented as a dot (٠) while five (٥) looks like the zero with which we're familiar. Furthermore, numbers are read left-to-right and not right-to-left as is text.

0 (٠)
Sefr صفر
1 (١)
wāHed واحد
2 (٢)
etnēn إتنين
3 (٣)
talāta تلاتة
4 (٤)
àrbà`à أربعة
5 (٥)
xamsa خمسة
6 (٦)
setta ستة
7 (٧)
sab`a سبعة
8 (٨)
tamanya تمانية
9 (٩)
tes`a تسعة
10 (١٠)
`àšàrà عشرة
11 (١١)
Hedâšàr حداشر
12 (١٢)
itnâšàr إتناشر
13 (١٣)
tàlàttâšàr تلاتاشر
14 (١٤)
àrbà`tâšàr أربعتاشر
15 (١٥)
xàmàstâšàr خمستاشر
16 (١٦)
settâšàr ستاشر
17 (١٧)
sàbà`tâšàr سبعتاشر
18 (١٨)
tàmàntâšàr تمنتاشر
19 (١٩)
tesà`tâšàr تسعتاشر
20 (٢٠)
`ešrīn عشرين
21 (٢١)
wāHed we-`ıšrīn واحد و عشرين
22 (٢٢)
etnēn we-`ıšrīn إتنين و عشرين
23 (٢٣)
talāta we-`ıšrīn تلاتة و عشرين
30 (٣٠)
talatīn تلاتين
40 (٤٠)
àrbı`īn أربعين
50 (٥٠)
xamsīn خمسين
60 (٦٠)
sıttīn ستين
70 (٧٠)
sab`īn سبعين
80 (٨٠)
tamanīn تمانين
90 (٩٠)
tıs`īn تسعين
100 (١٠٠)
meyya مية
200 (٢٠٠)
metēn متين
300 (٣٠٠)
toltomeyya تلتمية
400 (٤٠٠)
rob`omeyya ربعميه
1000 (١٬٠٠٠ )
alf ألف
2000 (٢٬٠٠٠)
alfēn ألفين
1,000,000 (١٬٠٠٠٬٠٠٠)
melyōn مليون
nemra نمرة or ràqàm رقم
noSS نص
aall أقل
àktàr أكتر
wat وقت
delwati دلوقتي
ba`dēn بعدين
abl قبل
ba`d بعد
SàbâH صباح
in the morning 
eS-SobH الصبح
ba`d eD-Dohr بعد الضهر
in the afternoon 
eD-Dohr الضهر
mesa مسا or masā مساء
in the evening 
mesāan مساءاً
lēla ليلة
in the night 
bel-lēl بلليل

Clock time

wat el sā`a وقت الساعة
what time is it? 
es-sā`a kām? الساعة كام؟
it is ___  
es-sā`a ___ الساعة...‏
it is 3 o'clock 
es-sā`a talāta (beZZàbT) الساعة تلاتة (بالظبط)‏
quarter past 
we rob` و ربع
quarter to 
ella rob` إلا ربع
half past 
we noSS و نص
it is half past 3 
es-sā`a talāta we noSS الساعة تلاتة و نص


el modda المدة


el ayyām الأيام
yōm el-etnēn يوم الإتنين
yōm el-talāt يوم التلات
yōm el-arba` يوم الأربع
yōm el-xamīs يوم الخميس
yōm el-gom`a يوم الجمعة
yōm es-sabt يوم السبت
yōm el-Hadd يوم الحد


eš-šohūr الشهور
yanāyer يناير
febrâyer فبراير
māres مارس
ebrīl ابريل
māyu مايو
yonya يونيه
yolya يوليه
ağosTos اغسطس
sebtamber سبتمبر
oktōbàr اُكتوبر
nofamber نوفمبر
dısamber ديسمبر

Writing time and date

ketabet el wat wet-tarīx كتابة الوقت و التاريخ
alwān ألوان
àbyàD أبيض
eswed إسود
àHmàr أحمر
àxDàr أخضر
azra أزرق
àSfàr أصفر
bortoâni برتقاني
bambi بمبي
banafsegi بنفسجي
el mowaSlât المواصلات

Bus and train

el bàSS wel-àTr الباص و القطر
Can I buy a ticket? 
momken Ašteri tazkara? ممكن أشتري تذكرة
I will step down in (Heliopolis) 
Ana nāzel fe (màSr el-gıdīda) أنا نازل في (مصر الجديدة)‏ (male speaking)
Ana nazla fe (màSr el-gıdīda) أنا نازلة في (مصر الجديدة)‏ (female)


ettegahāt إتجاهات

oddām قدام
wàrà ورا
yemīn يمين
šemāl شمال
taHt تحت


taksi تاكسي
Can you drive me to (the hospital)? 
momken tewaSSàlni (elmostašfa)? ممكن توصلني (المستشفى)؟
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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun

Egyptian Arabic


Egyptian Arabic

  1. The dialect of Modern Arabic spoken in Egypt. Egyptian Arabic is a dialect continuum.


External links

Simple English

This language has its own Wikipedia Project.
Egyptian Arabic
مصري Ma
Pronunciation [mɑsˁɾi]
Spoken in Egypt and a few other countries
Total speakers 76,000,000 + [1]
Language family Afro-Asiatic
  • Semitic
    • West Semitic
      • Central Semitic
        • South Central Semitic
Writing system Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-1 None
ISO 639-2 arz
ISO 639-3 arz

Egyptian Arabic (Ma مصري) is a kind of the Arabic language of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family.

It came from the people living in the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt around the capital Cairo. Its origin is from the spoken Arabic brought to Egypt during the AD seventh-century Muslim conquest of Egypt.

Masri was formed also of Copto-Egyptian language of pre-Islamic Egypt,[2][3][4] and other languages such as Turkish.

Egyptian Arabic language is not officially recognized by Egyptian government.

More than 76 million people in Egypt speak Masri.[1] also a lot of people in the Middle East can understand Masri .


  1. 1.0 1.1 Egyptian Arabic UCLA Language Materials Project
  2. Nishio, Tetsuo. "Word order and word order change of wh-questions in Egyptian Arabic: The Coptic substratum reconsidered". Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference of L'Association Internationale pour la Dialectologie Arabe. Cambridge: University of Cambridge. 1996, pp. 171-179
  3. Bishai, Wilson B. "Coptic grammatical influence on Egyptian Arabic". Journal of the American Oriental Society. No.82, pp. 285-289.
  4. Youssef (2003), below.


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