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Word-formation in Arabic: Blending in Egyptian Dialect Posted by on Feb 13, 2018 in Grammar, Pronunciation, Vocabulary

Colloquial use of Arabic is associated with mistakes in grammar, pronunciation, and word-formation. This is not new; it’s been around since the early days of Islam, mainly in the speech of non-Arabs. It first emerged in the wrong assignment of final diacritical marks, that is parsing or I‘raab إِعْرَاب. Except for borrowed words, colloquial usage in all Arabic varieties is derived from Classical Arabic. This post highlights an aspect of colloquialism in Egyptian dialect—blending or النَّحْت.

Contrary to the common belief, especially by many learners of Arabic, Egyptian Dialect of Arabic is not hugely different and separate from Modern Standard Arabic. Besides I‘raab إِعْرَاب, which it has almost completely lost and replaced by taskeen تَسْكِين, i.e. regular assignment of sukuun to word endings, it varies in the pronunciation of certain speech sounds, assignment of internal diacritics, and word formation, such as blending النَّحْت.

Blending النَّحْت is a way of creating new words in many world languages. Take the case of smog and brunch in English, which derived from two words, namely smoke and fog and breakfast and lunch, respectively. It is essentially taking one part of a word and combining it with one part from another word to form a new word.

In Arabic, blending النَّحْت is triggered by the desire to be swift and concise particularly while speaking. It occurs between two or more words. Following are explanations of some commonly used blends in Egyptian dialects. (note: all examples are in colloquial Egyptian).

1)  كَمَان

كَمَان means ‘also’ or ‘too’. It is taken from كَمَا and إِنَّ / إَنَّهُ ‘and certainly also’, as in these examples:

  • مَحَمَّد عَايِز بِبْسِي ‘Mohammed wants Pepsi.’، وَأَنَا كَمَان ‘and me too’
  • اُكْتُب اِسْمَك ‘write your name’ ، وِكَمَان عِنْوَانَك ‘and also your address’
2)  إِيْوَه / أَيْوَه

إِيْوَه means ‘yes’. It is taken from إِي ‘yes’ and و ‘preposition for swearing, i.e. I swear’ and the هـ at the end is for pausing, called haa al-saktah هَاء السَّكْتَة in Arabic grammar, as in these examples:

  • شِرِبْت شَاي؟ ‘did you drink teas?’ ، إِيْوَه! ‘yes!’
  • رَتَبْتِ الغُرْفَة وألا لا؟ ‘did you tidy the room or not?’ ، إِيْوَه، رَتَّبْتَها. ‘yes, I tidied it.’
3)  إِشْمِعْنَا

إِشْمِعْنَا means ‘why’. It is taken from إِيْش المَعْنَى ‘what’s the meaning’, as in these examples:

  • أَنَا عَايِز عَسَل. ‘I want honey.’ ، إِشْمِعْنَا؟ ‘why’
  • إِشْمِعْنَا إِنْتَ دَائِمًا مَتَأَخَر؟! ‘why are you always late?’
4)  إِزَّيَّك

إِزَّيَّك means ‘how are you?’. It is taken from إِيْش زَيَّك ‘what are your wearing’ and used to mean how is your health, as in these examples:

  • صَبَاحِ الخِيْر! إِزَّيَّك؟ ‘good morning! how are you?’
  • إِزَّيْ الصَّحَّة؟ ‘how’s your health?’
5)  بَعْدِيْن

بَعْدِين means ‘later’. It is taken from بَعْدًا ‘later’ (Classical Arabic form) or بَعْد إِنَّه or بَعْد أَيْن depending on the context, as in these examples:

  • اِتَّصِل لِهَانِي! ‘call Hani!’ بَعْدِيْن، أَنَا دِل وأتِ مَشْغُول. ‘later, I am busy now.’
  • عَمَلْتُم إِيْه؟ ‘what did you do?’ بَعْدِين، أؤلَّك ‘later, I will tell you.’
6)  بَيِنَّك

بَيِنَّك means ‘you seem ..’.It is taken from بَايِنْ أَنَّك ‘your certainly seem’, as in these examples:

  • مَسَاءِ الخِيْر يَا طِيْر، بَيِنَّك تَعَبَان! ‘good evening dude, you seem tired!’
  • بَيِنُّه مُشْ مِرَكِّز ‘it seems he’s not focused.’
7)  عَلَشَانْ / عَشَان

عَلَشَان and عَشَان mean ‘in order to’ or ‘for’. Both are taken from عَلَى شَأن ‘idiomatic expression from Modern Standard Arabic that mean in order to’, as in these examples:

  • أَنَا رَايِح المَدْرَسَة عَشَان أَشُوْف هَانِي. ‘I am going to school in order to see Hani.’
  • بَابَاه! أَنَا عَايِز فُلُوس ‘dad! I want money.’ عَشَان إِيْه؟ ‘for what?’
  • عَلَشَان تِنْقَح، لَازِم تَزَاكِر! ‘in order to success, you must study!
8)  أَنْهُو / إِنْهُو

أَنْهُو / إِنْهُو means ‘which one / where is he/it’. It is taken from أَيْن هُو or أَيّ هُو, both used in Modern Standard Arabic to mean ‘where is it / he’, as in these examples:

  • أَنْهُو اللَّاعِب الحِرِّيْف؟ ‘where is the skillful player?’
  • بِكَام الكِتَاب دَه؟ ‘how much is this book?’ أَنْهُو؟ ‘which one?’ ، دَه! ‘ this!’
9)  أَنْهِي / أَنْهُم

أَنْهِي  and أَنْهُم are variation of أَنْهُو in (8). They are for أَيْن هِي / أَيّ and أَيْن هُم / أَيّ هُم, respectively.

  • البِتْ دِيه قَمِيْلَة! ‘this girl is beautiful!’ ، أَنْهِي؟ ‘which one / where is she?’
  • اِلْوِلَاد دُوْل مُشَاغِبِيْن! ‘these boys are naughty!’ ، أَنْهُم؟ ‘which ones / where’re they?
10)  بَلاش

بَلاش means ‘for free’ or ‘with little money’. It is taken form بِلا شَيء ‘without anything in return’. This word is common in many Arabic dialects, and dates back to centuries ago.

  • اِشْتِرِيت الكُوْب دَه بَلاش. ‘I bought this cup with little money’
  • اِلأَكْل اِليُوم بَلَاش ‘food is free today’ ، لِيّه؟ ‘why?’ ، عِيْد مِيْلَاد اِلرَيِّس! 😊 ‘the president birthday!’ 😊
11)  مَاعَلِيْهش / مَاعَلِيْش

مَا عَلِيْهش / مَاعَلِيْش means ‘never mind’ or ‘apologies’ depending on the context. It is taken from مَا عَلِيْه شِيء ‘he’s nothing to do with it’.

  • أَنَا آسِف. ‘I’m sorry. ، مَاعَلِيش! ‘never mind!’
  • مَا عَلِيْهش يَا صَاحِبي، ‘apologies my friend’ ، مُمْكِن أَخُوش أَبْلِيْك؟ ‘can I enter before you.’
12)  أُمَّال

أُمَّال has multiple meanings depending on the context. It means ‘then/ therefore’, ‘sure!’, ‘why not’ and ‘how’. It is taken from إِنْ مَالا ‘you must’ (in Classical Arabic)’

  • اِجْلِسْ يَا صَاحِبِي! ‘sit down my friend. اِجْلِسْ أُمَّالْ!! ‘you must sit down’
  • تِعْرَف تِتْكَلَّم يَابَانِي. ‘you know how to speak Japanese.’ ، اُمَّال! ‘sure!’
  • اِلطَّرِيء زَحْمَة . ‘there’s so much traffic.’ ، اِمْشِي مِن هِنَه أُمَّال! ‘why not drive through here.’
  • عَايْز أَجِيْب مَقْمُوع السَّنَة دِي ‘I want to get high score this year.’ ، اُدْرُس أُمَّال! ‘study then!’
13)  مَفِيْش / مَافِيْش

مَفِيْش / مَافِيْش means ‘nothing’ or ‘no’. It is taken from مَا فِي شَيء / مَا فِيْه شَيء ‘there’s nothing’.

  • هَانِي! فِيْه إِيْه؟ Hani! What’s wrong? ، مَفِيْش! ‘nothing’
  • مَفِيْش مَيَّه اِلْيُوم! ‘there’s no water today.’ ، لِإنُّوه مَفِيْش كَهْرَبا! Because there’s not electricity!’
14)  … أَجْرَنَّك / أَجَرَنِّي / أَجَرَنُّه

أَجْرَنَّك means ‘because you are’. It is taken from مِنْ أَجْل أَنَّ ‘so that / because’.

  • مَا تُخْرُجش اِليُوم ‘don’t go out today.’ ، أَجَرَنَّك تَعْبَان . ‘because you’re tired.’
  • هَانِي مَا جَاش اِلنَّهَار ده. ‘Hani didn’t come today.’ ، أَجْرَنُّه مِسَافِر ‘because he’s travelling.’

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About the Author:Ibnulyemen اِبْنُ اليَمَن

Marhaban! I am from Yemen. I am a language teacher. I teach English and Arabic. In this blog, I will be leading you through Arabic language learning in a sequential fashion. I will focus on Modern Standard Arabic. To learn more, you can also visit my website Ibnulyemen Arabic or my facebook page.


  1. azman mohammad:

    hello.. im from malaysia, as for now i’m doing a research on arabic blending. is there any dictionary for blended words? because its hard to identify the words

    • Ibnulyemen:

      @azman mohammad If you competence of Arabic is good enough you should be able to find a few books that pertain this. Check this short list out (they are available online):
      – المدخل إلى تقويم اللسان – ابن هشام اللخمي
      – بحر العوام فيما أصابف فيه العوام رضي الدين الحنبلي
      – تثقيف اللسان وتلقيح الجنان – عمر الصقلي
      – تقويم اللسان – أبي فرج الجوزي