Arabic Language Blog

Egyptian Arabic Proverbs and their equivalent in Libyan Arabic (1) Posted by on Mar 7, 2018 in Arabic Language, Culture, Pronunciation

From: Pixabay

In today’s and next week’s posts, we’re going to focus on four proverbs حكم – آقوال  in Egyptian Arabic  اللهجة المصرية, which are probably familiar معروفة – متداولة to many Arabic learners, and we’re going to learn about their equivalent مرادف  in Libyan Arabic, a somewhat less popular dialect.

What these three proverbs have in common is that they two aim to point out a negative behaviour تصرف (سلوك) سيء that people should avoid على الناس تجنّبه .

  • The first one we’re looking at is:

القِرْدْ فِي عِينْ أُمُّهْ غَزَالْ

(il-‘ird   fi   ʕein   umm-uh   ġazaal)

Translation: The monkey – in his mother’s eye – is very beautiful (as a gazelle).

The implied meaning المعنى المراد  from this proverb is pointing how people can be biased متحيّزين  in their positive opinion or judgement of people they personally care about or who are related to them, even if that opinion is not true (the fact here that a monkey, which is not typically known as beautiful, can still be perceived as beautiful by his own mother).

This same meaning can be conveyed differently in many other Arabic dialects, but since we’re interested in Libyan Arabic today, the equivalent is:

شُكّار العْرُوسَة أمْهَا وخَالِتْها

(šukkar   il-ʕroos-a   um-ha   w   xali-t-ha)

Translation: The appraiser of the bride are her mother and aunt.

As you can see, the Libyan Arabic equivalent conveys the same meaning, but the difference is using a different relationship: daughter and mom/aunt here, as opposed to mother and son in the Egyptian proverb. The particular use of ‘bride’ here rather than a ‘baby’ is to do with how keen a bride’s close family members (e.g. mom and aunts) are to learn that she looked perfect on her wedding day, even if she wasn’t really so!

*Applicability التطبيق – الاستخدام

You can use this proverb to make fun of somebody who has a bias تحيّز towards تجاه  his/her own people or somebody who is prejudiced مُتَعَصِّب  in favour of someone for no good reasons!


  • The second proverb we’re looking at is:

لَقّينِي وَلَا اتْغَدِّينِي

(la”een-i   wa-la   i-t-ġaddee-ni)
Translation: Be nice لطيف  to me/give me a warm welcome ترحيب , but don’t give me food/invite me to lunch.

This proverb gives a basic advice regarding treating people, that is one should always be nice to people and treat them friendly. It also means that being friendly to people is more important than helping them or giving them something material.

اُطْلِقْ عَبِسْتِكْ وشِدّ خُبِزْتِكْ

(utlig   ʕabs-t-ik   w   šid    xubz-t-ik)

Translation:  Don’t be grumpy (smile at me) and keep your bread.

The equivalent in Arabic is almost identical, but just instead of using the word ‘lunch’, the word ‘bread’ is used here to refer to food in general. Also, the bit where it says ‘don’t be grumpy’ is similar to what the Egyptian proverb refers to as ‘meet me’.

*Applicability التطبيق – الاستخدام

You can this proverb to say to someone, who is offering to help you but is being nasty to you at the same time, ‘Just be nice to me, I don’t want anything from you!’

See you next week for two more proverbs 🙂

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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.