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Greetings are an important part of Arab culture and a way of showing respect. Whether you’re on vacation in the Middle East, on a business trip or simply want to surprise your Arab friend with some Arabic, greetings will always be handy to know.
Arabic greetings are a little more sophisticated when compared to some other languages. There are multiple possibilities to choose from, depending on the occasion, the age and status of the person as well as the time of the day. Below are the most common Arabic greetings you should know.
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) is a suitable greeting too. Please note that ahlan is a rather casual way of saying hello in Arabic, similar to hi or hey in English.
By the way, ahlan has two meanings. It can be used to say hello and can also mean welcome. Depending on the situation, the use of ahlan can be to greet or welcome someone.
If you want to go for something less casual, you can say marhaba (مرحبا). This Arabic greeting is easy to pronounce and polite to use for different situations. It can be said in any context and at any time of the day. You can say it to your colleague in the morning, during a business meeting in the afternoon as well as to a friend in the evening.
Sometimes, one hello isn’t enough. That’s when you’ll hear marahib. It’s simply the plural of marhaba and literally means “hellos”. It’s also commonly used as an answer to marhaba (to say hello back to someone).
Nawaret (نورت) is widely used among friends and family. The use of nawaret is a sweet and delightful way of saying hello. It literally means that the person who just walked in “lit the room” with their presence. The word resonates positivity and optimism.
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 when entering a room, shop or place a greeting would be expected.
Ya Hala (يا هلا) is a fun and more of an informal way of saying hello in Arabic. It can be used when welcoming someone into your home. Some Arabs may stress on the word ya by saying yaaaa hala, especially if it’s someone they know very well, haven’t seen in a while, or are just very happy to see them. That’s how Arabs love to show their emotions, they stress on a few syllables that make all the difference and resonate joy.
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.
- Sabah al khair (good morning)
- Sabah an nour (answer)
Good Evening in Arabic
Anytime after 12 pm, in afternoon hours as well as throughout the evening, masaa al khair (صباح 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.
- Masaa al khair (good evening)
- Masaa an nour (answer)
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 translates to happy night.
Formal Arabic 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 religious greeting is salam alaikum (سلام عليكم), literally translated to peace upon you. Though most young people wouldn’t use this form of greeting when meeting friends of their age, 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).
- Salam aleikum (peace be upon you)
- Wa aleikum as salam (answer)
Want it even more complex? The full version of this beautiful Arabic greeting is: salam alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh.
Easy or complex? Choose yourself! If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the long Arabic greetings, opt for salam (سلام). Salam can be used to greet someone as well as to say goodbye. It literally translates to peace and can be used in any situation, age group and time of the day.
Ya’ateek el Afiyeh
There is an Arabic greeting for almost every situation! Another more formal greeting in Arabic is ya’ateek el afiyeh (يعطيك العافية). It can be used when entering a shop, a restaurant, or talking to an employee. Ya’ateek el ‘afiyeh means “may you have good health”. Many Arabs use this phrase as a way to show appreciation for one’s work, too.
“Excuse me” or “Pardon me” is another way of starting a conversation. The same applies to Arabic. Law samaht (لو سمحت) is mainly used when addressing someone who’s name you don’t know e.g. in a shop/restaurant. It can also be said to people of respect, like a teacher. Same as in English, it’s a polite way to grab one’s attention.
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 if you can’t read Arabic. Learning the Arabic alphabet will greatly help you with the correct pronunciation of Arabic words.
|English Equivalent||Arabic Greeting (Latin Script)||Arabic Greeting (Arabic Script)|
|Hi / Welcome||Ahlan|
|Hello / Welcome||Ahlan wa sahlan||أهلا و سهلا|
|Hello (to friends/family)||Nawarat||نورت|
|Hello (to friends/family)||Ya hala||يا هلا|
|Good morning||Sabah al khair||صباح الخير|
|Good morning (answer)||Sabah an nour||صباح النور|
|Good evening||Masaa al khair||مساء الخير|
|Good evening (answer)||Masaa an noor||مساء النور|
|Good night||Layla saida||ليلة سعيدة|
|Peace be upon you (religious greeting)||Salam aleikum||السلام عليكم|
|Peace be upon you too (answer)||Wa aleikum as salam||و عليكم السلام|
|Hello or bye (lit. peace)||Salam||سلام|
|May god give you good health||Ya’ateek el afiyeh||يعطيك العافية|
|Excuse me (to grab someone’s attention)||Law samaht||لو سمحت|
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