Useful Arabic Words and Phrases

August 21, 2008 · Print This Article

Here’s a list of common Arabic words and phrases which you’ll find useful when traveling to Syria, or indeed any Arabic speaking country. Familiarize yourself with them, but also remember that a lot of people in Syria speak English and quite a few speak French too, so you shouldn’t have too much of a problem communicating.


- There are two types of Arabic, the first is called classical or formal, and is used in all official documents, school and university text books, news broadcasts, and most newspapers and magazines. It adheres to very strict grammatical, spelling and pronunciation rules, and is therefore understood by any Arab speaker even though it is never used in everyday conversation. The second type of Arabic is known as common, or local. It’s akin to slang, and is used primarily for conversation. This type of Arabic varies widely from country to country, and region to region. It has almost no rules whatsoever, and much of it’s vocabulary contains non Arabic words. Consequently, this type of Arabic is heavily accented, and will usually not be understood by other Arab speakers from outside the region. The type of common Arabic spoken in Syria and the surrounding countries is known as Levantine Arabic.

- “el” or “al” in Arabic, are the equivalent of “the” in English, ie: definite article.

- an ‘ apostrophe, is used to denote a glottal stop.

- There are quite a lot of Latin words used in common Syrian Arabic, a legacy of the French mandate.

- The following words and phrases are in common Levantine Arabic, and will be understood throughout the Levantine region.

Airports, Borders, Customs:

Gamarek,  Gimrok – customs

Hidood – border

Hajez – checkpoint

Basbor – passport

Visa – visa

Ta’sheera – entry, exit stamp

Rosoom – fees

Souk el Hurra – duty free

Mamnoo’ – banned, no entry

Bawabeh – gate

Dokhool – entry

Khorooj – exit


Al Salamu Aleykom – translates to peace be upon you. used to greet and sometimes also to say goodbye. This is the formal type of greeting.

Wa Alaykom el Salam – translates to : and peace upon you too. used to reply to the greeting/farewell above.

Ma al Salamah: translates to – peace be with you. used to say farewell.

Marhaba: translates to hello. Informal greeting, used with friends and close associates.

Shopping, Bartering:

Andak – Do you have

Kam, Be Kam – How much is it.

Kteer – its too much

Gheir lon- different color

Qmasheh, Qmash – Fabric, fabrics

Sigadeh – carpet, rug

Sigadeh Ajameyeh – persian rug

Kindra, Kanader – shoe, shoes

Amis – shirt

bantalon – trousers

Slib – underpants

Jrab – socks

Shahata – slippers

Klasheh – sandals

Mayo- swimwear

Manshafeh – towel

zeit – sunblock

Nadarat – eye glasses

Nadarat shamseya – sun glasses

Situational, Assistance, Places:

Shokran – thank you

Afwan – when used to reply to the above, it means you’re welcome. when used on its own, it can mean sorry or excuse me.

Min Fadlak, Lao Samahet – please

Bidee – i want

Taxi – Taxi

Ila el – to the

Wakef Andak – stop here

Wein el, Ayna el – where is the

Mathaf – museum

Bolice, Shirta – police

Makhfar Shirta, bolice – police station

Hotel – hotel

Matar – airport

Mahtat Bas, Bolman – bus, coach station

Mahatat Qitar – train station

Toilet, Hammam – toilet, bathroom, washroom

Mashfa, Mostashfa – hospital

Safara – embassy

Mat’am – restaurant

Souk – shops

Mak’ha – cafe

Mak’ha Internet – internet cafe

Talephone – telephone

Food, drink:

Akel – food

Khobez – bread

Somen – Buns

Maiye (pronounced “my”) – water

Kazooz, kola – soft drink

Fawakeh – Fruit

Beera – beer

Nbeet – wine


27 Responses to “Useful Arabic Words and Phrases”

  1. alharaka on August 21st, 2008 4:20 pm

    That is a good introductory list. What is interesting though is that this is a “Syrian path,” but you give the Egyptian phrase for “how much.” I was told that Shami dialect prefers:

    ‘edaysh (اديش، from قد ايش)

    Is this not correct?

  2. Syria Guide on August 22nd, 2008 5:34 am

    Hello, yes this list is indeed in Shami, or Levantine common Arabic, but it’s also meant to be as simple as possible to avoid any confusion.
    You see, ‘edaysh is used in Damascus, whereas in Aleppo for example, shkad or kam is used instead. This is ofcourse just an example of different usages or preference, and you could use any of these words and still be understood. On the other end of the scale however, some cities use words that won’t be understood at all in other parts of the country. For example, in Aleppo alot of Turkish words are used which will not be known by anyone from outside Aleppo.

  3. Fernando on August 22nd, 2008 10:43 am

    Can you send me to my @mail new phrases Because I Am study Arabic. and up date

  4. Syria Guide on August 22nd, 2008 11:05 am

    Hello Fernando,
    I’m not quite sure how I’m supposed to send new Arabic phrases to your email, but if you have any questions about Arabic I’d be more than happy to help you out. Just sign up at the forums and post your questions there.

  5. lover of syria on November 12th, 2008 10:20 am

    i am studying syrian arabic. who can send me an offline dictionary about syria (not modern arabic, about syria)
    my email address
    you can also send me list of vocabulary, put please with their arabic script.


  6. Wendy on April 22nd, 2009 1:10 pm

    People should read this.

  7. Kathy Showah bin Charles Showah 1915-1979 on May 28th, 2009 7:00 pm

    I am Syrian/American.
    Father born in Syria, mother not.
    I wish to speak the language of Syrian people.
    I wish to visit my father’s homeland someday.
    Allah be with us.

  8. Kathy Showah bin Charles Showah 1915-1979 on May 28th, 2009 7:09 pm

    Does anyone know the family Showah??? It was my fathers family name

  9. Sparkly on August 19th, 2009 1:12 pm

    Hi, I believe Levantine Arabic is spoken in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. Will these phrases be understood in the other two countries as I will be visiting all three?
    Thanks very much for your help.

  10. Liam Mac on November 25th, 2009 5:14 pm

    Can someone please tell me the following;
    I am researching Lebanese Arabic words for a song and I need the Phrase ‘Very Quiet’ translated . I believe the close translation I’m looking for is ‘Teery Quais’ ? is this correct ?

    Also there is a place-name in southern Lebanon called ‘Saf-El-Howa’ but I can’t find it on any google-map. Does anyone know the correct Arabic Spelling ? Kind regards – Liam.

  11. willy showah on January 9th, 2010 6:31 am

    im a showah

  12. javed on February 28th, 2010 4:47 pm

    Salaam Everybody,

    Can anybody send me links where I can download free Arabic tutorials, what ever dialect, be it Levantine, Eqypyian etc.

  13. NICK BALENTINE on May 16th, 2010 10:34 pm


  14. NICK BALENTINE on May 16th, 2010 10:38 pm


  15. i am tarek from syria on August 26th, 2010 7:51 pm

    i can give you a help

  16. Anena on August 29th, 2010 9:49 pm

    Hi…I’m writing a story of my travels in Syria, and I can’t remember the phrase I was taught for how to say “I have a husband.” Can you help me out?

  17. Holly Gilster on October 27th, 2010 7:08 pm

    I have a student from Iraq who speaks Syrian. How do you say?

    1. Look at me please
    2. Good job
    3. Repeat after me.

  18. Daryl Dee on January 18th, 2011 11:58 pm

    Marhaba, hi i am very much interested to learn syrian arabic way of conversation. If you can respond to my request to my email, i will be glad to hear from you.

    Even few words a day is a step to miles away,….

    Thank you.


  19. Kathy Showah on February 21st, 2011 8:09 am

    I am the daughter of a Syrian father/American mother both deceased
    I would like to learn Arabic and to learn more of the country and customs and cooking…any tips or useful websites to refer me to…
    Allah Akbar…..

  20. feliza renteria on April 11th, 2011 1:29 am

    thanks for the list i’m dating a syrian man and i just wanted ti impress him so thanks

  21. saj on June 24th, 2011 3:57 pm

    hello.. this site is really cool! i have been learning arabic for a while and i know quite abit! but i am not the best at this lang!
    would it be possible if someone could tell me phrases and sayings from syrian that are used all over the arab world!


  22. saj on June 24th, 2011 3:58 pm

    also i have heard this phrase but i am not sure what it really means! can someone help me out!

    nomit ahl al kahf =

  23. saj on June 24th, 2011 4:00 pm

    and i hope you dont mind but can you tell me the turkish words used in syrian please! i am going turkey soon so this would be helpful!


  24. christopher on November 30th, 2011 4:06 am

    assalamu alaikum it is best preserved culture of nablus community of jews that their culture will be preserved.

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  27. Fidan on February 11th, 2012 6:02 pm

    Hi, there! I have been learning Arabic with long breaks for about 4 years and I also took in 2004 some beginning level of Arabic in Cairo University. However, being able to speak formal language, I understood that the basis of knowing Arabic language is spoken Arabic, everyday language. So, please, can any one of you suggest me some online source of informal Arabic? I would be too grateful!

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