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What can Arabic Proverbs tell us about Arab Culture? Posted by on Dec 26, 2018 in Arabic Language, Culture, Language

You can learn a lot about a culture when you know some of its proverbs مَثل/حِكمة or wise sayings. Here are some Arabic proverbs with their English translations. I have all the English translations at the bottom of the post, so you can first try to understand the meaning in Arabic or at least the gist of the saying before reading the translation. Some even have English equivalents!

Painting of Arabs by the sea

Image by ErgsArt on Flickr.com

As you read these proverbs, think about whether you agree with them or not, if they have an English equivalent, what they say about Arab culture, and in what contexts do you think they are used?

ابنُ الإبنِ الحبيبُ، ابنُ البنتِ ابنُ الغَريبِ • 

خُذ وأعطِ • 

أداب ُ المرءِ خيرٌ من ذهبهِ •

إذا أردتَ السلامَ فاستعد للحرب •

إذا بيتُكَ من الزجاجٍ فلا ترمي الناسَ بالحجارةِ •

أكلَ البيضةَ وقشرتها •

أن تصل متأخراً خيرٌ من أن لا تصلَ أبداً •

أنا وأخي على ابن عمي، أنا وابن عمي على الغريبِ •

البعيدُ عن العينِ بعيدٌ عن القلبِ •

بَيَّضَ وجههُ •

جرحُ الكلامِ أعمقُ من جرحِ السيوف •

الجارُ قبلَ الدار •

  • The son of the son is the beloved one, the son of the daughter is the stranger’s son
  • Give and take
  • A person’s ethics is better than his gold
  • If you want peace prepare yourself for war
  • People in glass houses should not throw stones
  • He ate the egg and its shell (refers to someone who is greedy)
  • Better late than never
  • Me and my brother against my cousin, me and my cousin against a stranger
  • Out of sight, out of mind
  • He whitened his face (Said about someone who does a good deed and brings honor)
  • The wound caused by words is deeper than the wound caused by swords
  • The neighbor comes before the home (Choose good neighbors if you want to be happy)
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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.


Comments:

  1. John Breckbuhl:

    Great stuff. I consider studying proverbs (and idioms) to be one of the 3 essential keys to understanding the mind-set of the native speaker, the other 2 being popular music and television programs.
    I am an American polyglot and I am passionate about Arabic as my 4th language and have been a faithful student of Arabic for nearly 7 years.
    يطيك العافۃ واﷲ معك

  2. saif eddine:

    Ahlan … it will also be relevant to post some ‘sha’eer’ and qawl al hikmah.

    Shukran

  3. Teyra:

    thank you Yasmine! hope you would clarify more on the cultural context/uses on these proverbs

  4. Shaq:

    Amazing post !
    More of this please.