Arabic Greetings in the Middle East

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Greetings are an important part of Arabic culture and a way of showing respect. How to greet someone in Arabic varies on the occasion, the age and status of the person as well on the time of the day. Below are the most common Arabic greetings you should know.

Common Greetings in Daily Life

Hello in Arabic

Meeting up with friends or coworkers of the same age? One of the easiest and most used ways to say hello in Arabic is ahlan (أهلا). This is mostly followed by ya (يا) and the first name of the person you’re talking to. For example: ahlan ya Mahmoud (أهلا يا محمود), meaning hello Mahmoud. If you don’t know the name of the person, ahlan wa sahlan (أهلا و سهلا) or marhaba (مرحبا) are suitable greetings too. Please note that ahlan is a rather casual way of saying hello in Arabic. If you want to go for something more formal, carry on reading.

By the way: the Arabic culture implies that the person entering a room is the one greeting first. Therefore, you’d be expected to greet people first when entering a room, shop or place.

Good Morning in Arabic

In the mornings (anytime before 12 am), sabah al khair (صباح الخير) (good morning) is an Arabic greeting that will be suitable for family, friends, colleagues and random encounters alike. One particularity of the Arabic language is the response to the greetings being slightly different from the original greeting. When saying sabah al khair, people would typically reply with sabah an nour.

Good Evening in Arabic

Anytime after 12 pm, in afternoon hours as well as throughout the evening, masaa al khair (مساء الخير) (good day/evening) is a popular form of greeting. It can be used in the same situations as good morning greetings – the only difference being the time of the day. Following the same pattern as above, the response to masaa al khair would be masaa an noor.

Good Night in Arabic

While in English good night can be used as a form of greeting (to say hello or goodbye), this isn’t the case in Arabic. Good night (ليلة سعيدة) (layla saida) is more commonly used when someone goes to bed. It literally translated to happy night.

Formal and Religious Greetings

Many Arabic greetings have their origins in Islam, though many of them have nowadays become an integral part of the language and the culture. The most common greeting is as salamu alaikum (السلام عليكم), literally translated to peace upon you. Though most young people wouldn’t use this form of greeting when meeting friends of their age, as salam aleikum is a great way of showing respect to people. The greeting can be used in any context, time of the day and age group. Use it when entering a shop, meeting an elderly person, entering into a room with one or multiple people. The response you’ll be getting is similar to the original greeting: wa alaikum as salam (و عليكم السلام) (peace be upon you too)

Want it even more complex? The full version of this beautiful Arabic greeting is: as salamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.

Good Bye in Arabic

Easy or complex? Choose yourself! If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the long Arabic greetings, opt for salam (سلام) to say bye. Another way of saying goodbye in Arabic is ma’a salama (مع السلامة). The first literally translated to peace, while the second way translates to with peace. Both ways can be used in any situation, age group and time of the day.

If you’d like to add some more personality to your goodbye, you can wish someone a good day by saying youm saeed (يوم سعيد). This expression goes for both genders.

Arabic Greetings at a Glance

Below is a summary of the most common Arabic greetings and their English equivalent. The Latin script can help you with the correct pronunciation of you can’t read Arabic. Learning the Arabic alphabet will greatly help you with the correct pronunciation of Arabic words.

English EquivalentArabic Greeting (Latin Script)Arabic Greeting (Arabic Script)
HelloAhlan wa sahlanأهلا و سهلا
Peace be upon you (religious greeting)As salamu aleikumالسلام عليكم
Peace be upon you too (answer)Wa aleikum as salamو عليكم السلام
Good morningSabah al khairصباح الخير
Good morning (answer)Sabah an nourصباح النور
Good eveningMasaa al khairمساء الخير
Good evening (answer)Masaa an noorمساء النور
Good nightLayla saidaليلة سعيدة
Good byeMa’a salamaمع السلامة
Have a good dayYoum saeedيوم سعيد

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