Arabic Language Blog

Arabic expressions about keeping dignity (1) Posted by on May 28, 2021 in Arabic Language, Culture, Idioms, Pronunciation, Proverbs, Vocabulary

In today’s post, I would like to focus on the concept of dignity الكرامة in Arabic and how it’s talked about in the Arabic-speaking world. This 3-part post will look at a number of proverbs and everyday expressions/phrases that are used in spoken Arabic. In the first two parts, the focus will be several proverbs in different Arabic dialects. The final part will focus on common phrases as featured in a song.


Image by Frida Bredesen on


How is “Karaamah” “dignity” is perceived in Arabic?

As in most cultures and languages, dignity is associated with one’s self-image  الصورة الذاتية للشخص


Saving face and keeping one’s dignity can be a very serious issue when personal relationships are involved, whether it was romantic or not.


*To save one’s face – in Arabic is> يحفظ ماء وجهه which literally translate to: “to keep his face’s water”!

*To keep one’s dignity –  in Arabic is> يحافظ على كرامته   Yu-HaafiZ  ʕala  Karaama-t-ih

*However, to lose one’s dignity – in Arabic is> يخسر كرامته  Yaxsar   Karaama-t-ih

= = = = = =


Before we look at 4 specific proverbs, there is a concept that’s related to that of dignity, which is

> buying البيع  and selling الشراء!


In Arabic:

*When someone leaves or ditches you, it’s said that this person “sold you” بَاعَكْ or he’s a “seller” بَايِعْ

*When someone is keen to keep you in his life, it’s said that this person “bought you” شَراك or he’s a “buyer” شاري

= = = = = =


This idea of buying and selling is apparent in the first proverb we have. Although it’s used in many Arab countries, the one I provide here is in Egyptian Arabic. It goes as follows >>



اللي يبيعك بالفول بيعه بقشره

illi   y-bee ʕ-ak    bi-l-fool   beeʕ-oh   bi-‘išr-uh


*In Libyan Arabic, it’s pronounced as the following >>


(اللي يبيعك بالفول بيعه بقشوره)

illi   y-bee ʕ-ik    bi-l-fool   beeʕ-ah   bi-gšoor-ah


Literal meaning: That who sold you for (flava) beans, sell him for its peels

Intended meaning: If someone ditches you, don’t care and do the same/ or worse!

= = = = = =


A similar proverb to the previous one is >>


اللي يبيعك برخيص بيعه ببلاش 

illi   y-bee ʕ-ak    bi-rxeeS   beeʕ-oh   bi-balaaš


Literal meaning: That who sold you cheap, sell him for free.

Intended meaning: (same as proverbs no. 1).

= = = = = =


The last proverb we’re looking at today is the following >>



ريّح واتراح

 RayyaH  w(e)  irtaaH


Literal meaning: He gave us rest and he got rest

Intended meaning: It’s a way in which the person, who was left/ dumbed, says “it’s better this way – for both parties” – even though this person may not feel this way. It can be considered a way with which one console himself.

= = = = = =


Stay tuned for more about dignity! 😉



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About the Author: Hanan Ben Nafa

Hi, this is Hanan :) I'm an Arabic linguist. I completed my PhD in Linguistics - 2018. My PhD thesis was entitled Code-switching as an evaluative strategy: identity construction among Arabic-English bilinguals. I'm also a qualified public service translator & interpreter.