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How Arabic Speakers Address their Family Members Posted by on Sep 25, 2019 in Arabic Language, Culture, Dialect, Family, Vocabulary

When it comes to learning family members in Arabic from Arabic textbooks, you usually find a family tree showing mother, father, sister, etc. But how do Arabs actually address their family members? In English, children often address their father as dad, daddy, papa, pap, etc. In Arabic, you may find children addressing their father as أبي but rarely. Most likely you will hear بابا or يابا. Let’s continue looking at how other family members are addressed. 👩‍👩‍👦‍👦

Here is a simple conversation between mother and son in Levantine Arabic. Notice how they address each other and their family members.

Image provided by Yasmine K.

Translation: 

Mom…                Yes, my son.

When is dad coming home?        Five o’clock.

When are we going to visit grandma and grandpa?

When uncle Bassam and aunt Sarah get here.

With my cousin too?           Yes my love.

Here is how each family member is addressed: 

mom  ماما                       dad بابا  or يابا

my son   يا إبني                my daughter يا بِنتي

grandma تَيتا or نانا         grandpa جِدو or سِيدو

paternal uncle عَمو         paternal aunt عَمتو

maternal aunt خالتو         maternal uncle خالو

Note: In Arabic speaking countries, children and young adults address elders who are not family as aunt and uncle to show respect. For example, the grocer at the little supermarket can be addressed as عمو.

Cousins: As you probably already know, in Arabic there are six different ways to say cousin depending if the cousin is son/daughter of maternal or paternal aunt/uncle.

ابن عَمي (son of my father’s brother)          ابن عَمتي (son of my father’s sister)

ابن خالي (son of my mother’s brother)       ابن خالتي (son of my mother’s sister)

بِنت عَمي (daughter of my father’s brother)          بِنت عَمتي (daughter of my father’s sister)

بِنت خالي (daughter of my mother’s brother)       بِنت خالتي (daughter of my mother’s sister)

Terms of endearment addressing family: These terms of endearment are used mostly between spouses and especially with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Sometimes nieces and nephews are addressed as son/daughter ابني/بنتي to show closeness.

يا حَبيبي/حَبيبتي  (my love)

يا عُيوني  (my eyes)

يا روحي  (my soul)

يا عمُري/ حَياتي  (my life)

يا قَلبي (my heart)

As an Arabic learner, you most likely won’t be addressing your family in Arabic, but it’s good to be familiar with how native Arabic speakers address their families so you can better comprehend their speech. 😊 👩‍👩‍👦‍👦

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About the Author: yasmine

MarHaba! I am half Jordanian of Circassian descent and half American. I have a Master's in Second Language Teaching and I teach Arabic as a foreign language here in the US, both MSA and Levantine Arabic. I hope to help you become more familiar and interested in the Arabic language and culture.


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