Lebanese Slang

Take a moment and ponder on the phrase: “shi tik-tik shi ti3a.” I’m sure – or at least I hope – the expression makes sense to all Lebanese out there. Ask anyone else and they’d stare at you as if you spoke Gibberish, which that sentence may as well be.

The Lebanese dialect, which – in my very biased opinion – is the most beautiful Arabic dialect out there, is filled with these slang expressions that only make sense to us.

The thing about those slang expressions is that you never give them a second thought until you see them listed and explained for those who don’t speak your dialect. Other expressions include:

  • De2 el may, may
  • Jeet w Allah jeibak
  • Ghechech w mecheh
  • Metel neswein el feren
  • Those aren’t the best ones. Check out the interesting and hilarious full Iist here.

    7 thoughts on “Lebanese Slang

    1. i love these. and there are many more, especially the derogatory ones:

      1. yo2bor 3ayounak 2aber
      2. t3aoun yekhdak
      3. billi testrak sater
      4. yo2sof 3amrak

      Sorry sorry! I know these are very hurtful if taken literally, but usually they are uttered in disdain/mockery, a la Libanaise. And I simply couldn’t resist sharing :)

      Reply
    2. Hi Elie,

      Linguistics is one of my main interests. I don’t think I will ever learn Arabic, as I’m too busy improving my English and German :). Most Arabic speaking people over here are Moroccans. A Moroccan guy I know says he barely understands colloquial Palestinian Arabic, I assume he’d say the same about Lebanese. Like many Moroccans, his first language is Tamazight though. To which extent do you understand the variations of Arabic? Because I don’t know any Arabic I find it hard to hear all the differences but when I hear a Saudi speaking I find it very different from the Arabic I’ve heard the most (Palestinian), I find Saudis to sound much “harsher”.

      Some people tried to find similarities between Maltese and the Lebanese dialect, but I don’t think it was a very thorough nor scientific undertaking. Maltese is probably related to the Arabic once spoken on Sicily. If not for Maltese, I’d be interested to see how much a Lebanese like yourself would understand the “Greek Arabic” spoken by the Maronites on Cyprus. I also know of a Maronite village in Israel where they now teach their children Aramaic. I hope that move is from a genuine interest in their heritage and not overly politicized (i.e. separating themselves from the Palestinian community). It be interesting to see the effect on the children, because if I understand the educational system correctly they’ll now have to learn Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic and perhaps English at a very young age.

      That said, Hebrew shares a lot of words with Palestinian if you look into it. Especially geographical & domestic terminology and words for animals. I bet your slang will get you a really long way should you ever get lost on the wrong side of the border ;)

      Reply
      • We don’t understand Moroccan either. At least I don’t. And yeah, I have a hard time with the other accents, even the ones which are more “popular” such as Egyptian. You hear the words but don’t get what they’re trying to say and sometimes even the words are gibberish. The Lebanese dialect (or Levantine dialect) is drastically different. It’s “softer” and smoother, I think. Obviously, I prefer it :P

        Aramaic, based on what I gathered, is also entrenched in the Lebanese dialect. As are Syriac and a little bit of Turkish. I’m not entirely sure how much we’d understand aramaic but part of Maronite liturgy is carried out in that language and there are some parts of the country where people speak aramaic fluently. Some parts in Syria only speak it – I’ve been to one of those places called Maaloula. I haven’t heard any of those Greek Arabic speakers but if I do, I’ll make sure to let you know.

        I do not recognize hebrew when I hear it. When I was in Paris, people next to us started talking in something I assumed was eastern European. My friend from the South recognized it so we switched to Lebanese just because :p but I don’t know what’s the extent of those similarities you speak of given that the languages have two entirely different alphabets.

        Reply
        • Yeah totally agree with you on the sounds. That is precisely what I meant. Palestinian Arabic sounds a lot better to my ears than Saudi dialects. I have only heard Lebanese on the internet, though.

          There’s some info on Cypriot Maronite Arabic on wikipedia. The language is on the decline. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cypriot_Maronite_Arabic

          The alphabets are different but if you look at the roots of the words there are many similarities. I’ve been to Druze villages where most people speak Hebrew and Arabic fluently, so you get to hear both. Also, I recognized Hebrew when I heard Palestinians count 1-10. There are similarities in the personal pronoun “I”: either “ani” (Hebrew) or “ana”. And like I said words for animals, domestic use (beit/bait for house), geography (Palestinians & Jews say kfar or kafr for village I believe). My dad has been to Aleppo and Damascus and as he walked on the street he recognized Hebrew-like words in Arabic. Yeah we seem to like visiting Levantine countries.

          I walked in Jerusalem to map-out all the religious groups I could find. I also found a Syriac Orthodox community center, and there I saw Syriac script for the first time. I think I saw almost 10 alphabets that day lol. If you ever manage to get there they have a Maronite guesthouse Foyer Mar Maroun. Also found several alphabets there. But I think most people in the guesthouse spoke Portuguese… http://www.maronitejerusalem.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=frontpage&Itemid=3

          Anyway Austrian Hopsice is still the best, Palestinian beer + true Germanic apple pie is a great combination. The place is run by Palestinians and Germans. http://www.austrianhospice.com/

          But as you would say, I digress.

          Reply
    3. Well actualy most Moroccans have no problem understanding Palestinian Arabic, since it’s very close to Lebanese and Syrian, which are quite popular on television because of the Lebanese cable channels, talk shows and drama series. From my experience the only Lebaneses who can understand Moroccan very well (and even speak it at some extent) are the Lebaneses who live in France, Belgium and in Canada (specially Quebec) because they are used to the Moroccan dialect (with the strong Moroccan community over there). For any Arabic-speaker, the only way to understand an Arab from a different region is to be exposed to their culture and language (the same way most Arabs were towards Egyptian Arabic because of the movie industry and music industry). I was born and raised in France and I’m from a Berber and Arabic background and I have no problem understanding and communicating with all the Arab nationalities.

      Moroccan actually is closer to Saudi dialect than Egyptian, even though Egypt is a north African country.

      For instance, in Moroccan “I want” we say “Ana Baghi” or “Ana Bghit”, in Saudi Arabia “Ana Abgha” (in Egypt : “Ana Aiz” and in Lebanon/Palestine “Ana Baddi”).

      Reply

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