Arabic Language Blog

Colloquial phrases: Arabic vs. English (1) Posted by on Aug 16, 2021 in Arabic Language, Culture, Pronunciation, Vocabulary

One of the tricky aspects of learning most languages is colloquial expressions, which make an important part of the spoken dialect/variety of a language. Unless the learner is exposed to them, they are almost impossible to come up with them. In today’s post (and the next one), we’re going to look at sixteen popular English colloquial phrases and the Arabic equivalent to them. You will also be able to hear me say each one of them and how each is pronounced.

Image by aditya_wicak / 3 imageson


So, what are colloquial phrases? 

Colloquial phrases or عبارات عامية  are part of the informal register طريقة الحديث غير الرسمية of a language or dialect. They are usually hard to translate because their intended meaning المعنى المُراد can’t be figured out from the literal meaning of each word. The meaning is usually idiomatic اصطلاحي  or metaphorical مجازي .

Below, you will find a list of English colloquial phrases and their equivalent in Standard Arabic and Spoken Arabic (Levantine/Syrian Arabic اللهجة السورية is mostly used), alongside the literal meaning المعنى الحرفي of the Arabic one (if it is translatable and if it’s different from the English one).


The other dialects mentioned are: Libyan Arabic الليبية, Egyptian Arabic المصرية & Saudi Arabic السعودية.

*For some phrases, there is one common phrase that is used in most Arabic dialects. Thus, here, I will add أغلب اللهجات  “most dialects” – before the Arabic phrase.


Let’s start with the first 8 colloquial phrases for today’s post

*Don’t forget to listen to the audio to learn how each is pronounced.

= = = = = = = = = = = 


I wasn’t born yesterday


الفصحى: لَا تَسْتَغْفِلْنِي


اللهجة السورية: شو شايفني ولد صغير قدّامك؟

Do you see me a kid, in front of you? :المعنى الحرفي

= = = = = = = = = = = 


To give the cold shoulder


الفصحى: يَتَجَاهَلْ

To ignore :المعنى الحرفي


أغلب اللهجات: يطنّش

= = = = = = = = = = =

To stand somebody up


الفصحى: يُخْلِفُ وَعْدَهُ

To break his promise :المعنى الحرفي


……. اللهجة السعودية: يسحب على

To pull on ….. :المعنى الحرفي

= = = = = = = = = = =

 Chill out


الفصحى: اهْدَأْ


اللهجة السورية: هدّى أعصابك

 Quiet your nerves: المعنى الحرفي

= = = = = = = = = = =


We are in the same boat


الفصحى: نحن في نفس المركب


اللهجة السورية: كلنا على هالطريق

 We are all on this path :المعنى الحرفي 

= = = = = = = = = = =


Drama queen


الفصحى: الشَّخْصْ النِّكَدِي

أغلب اللهجات: نِكَدِي / مْنَكِّدْ

= = = = = = = = = = =


Over the moon 


الفصحى: أنا سعيد جدًا


اللهجة السورية: مبسوط كتير

 Very pleased :المعنى الحرفي


اللهجة السورية: فرحتي مو عاطيها لحدا

 My joy, I’m not giving it to anyone :المعنى الحرفي


اللهجة المصريّة: الفرحة مش سايعاني

The joy can’t contain me :المعنى الحرفي


أغلب اللهجات: أنا طايرة من الفرحة

 I’m flying with joy :المعنى الحرفي 

= = = = = = = = = = =


It’s a piece of cake


الفصحى: سهل كشرب الماء

 Easy like drinking water :المعنى الحرفي


اللهجة السورية: متل شرب المي

اللهجة الليبيّة: زي شراب الميّة

Like drinking water :المعنى الحرفي 

= = = = = = = = = = =


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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.