50+ Most Useful Egyptian Arabic Phrases (From The Street)

Marwa Al Kaiem

Author

Marwa Al Kaiem

Even in Egyptian Arabic textbooks, there’s often a big difference between what you learn on paper and what’s actually spoken by your average Egyptian.

And I’m not just talking about Modern Standard or Quranic Arabic.

I’m talking about the language of the streets.

In this guide, I’ll introduce to you the 50+ most useful Egyptian Arabic phrases that people actually use on the streets of Egypt.

Getting these phrases under your belt will go a long way in making you sound more like a native, and less like a foreigner.

Summary table of Egyptian Arabic phrases

Encountering these Egyptian Arabic phrases is inevitable in any errand you run in Egypt.

I’ve placed them in a table for you so that you can check them easily and briefly whenever you feel the want to.

However, you’ll find some further and interesting details on some of these phrases with their accurate and native usage just beneath the table.

Please note that some of the use cases might shock you (don’t say I didn’t tell you 😊):

EnglishعربيTransliteration
Helloسلام عليكمsalaam ‘alei-kum
Goodbyeمع السلامةma’aa es-sa-la-ma
Yesآه Ah
NoلاLa'
ThanksشُكْرَاًShuk-ran
You're welcomeالعَفوAl afow
Be safeتِسلَمتِسلَميTes-lam (addressing a male) (addressing a female) Tes-lami
My dear (literally: My love)حبيبيHa-bibi
Hey, honeyيا عَسَلYa 3a-sal
How are you doing?عامل ايه؟
ازيك؟
3aa-mil eh? iz-zay-ak?
How are things? (Any updates?)ايه الأخبار؟eh El-akh-baar?
Fineكُوَيس
تَمَام
kway-yis ta-maam
Thank God!الحَمْدُ لِلهAl-hamdu-lillah
Sorry (for a sincere an apology)آسف
آسفة
Aa-sif (If you're a male) Aa-sfa (If you're a female)
Sorry (for a non-harmful incident)مَعلِشMa'lish
Pardon meلَو سَمَحْتlaw samaHt (addressing a male) law sa-ma-Hti (addressing a female)
Hey, driver!يا اسطىYas-Ta!
What’s this, please?ايه ده لَو سَمَحْت؟eh dah law sa-ma-Ht? (addressing a male) eh dah law sa-ma-Hti (addressing a female)
How much is this?بِكام دا؟Bi-kam da?
I want…أنا عَايزana 3ay-yiz…
Too much!كتير أويki-tir aw-wi!
I won't pay more than..مِش هَدفع أكْتَر مِنMish had-fa3 ak-tar min….
OKماشي
طيب
تمام
اوكي
Maa-shi Tay-yib tama-am Okey
Yes, of courseأيوَة، طَبعَاًaywa, tab-3an
No, neverلا، مُستَحيل
لا، خَالِص
La, mos-ta-Hil La, kha-lis
May I please?مُمْكِن؟Mom-ken?
May I take a photo?مُمْكِن آخُد صُورة؟Mom-ken a-khud Surah?
May I look, please?ممكن اشوف من فضلك؟Mom-ken ashuuf?
May I go in from here?ممكن أدخل من هِنا؟Mom-ken ad-khul min hina?
I just want to take a lookانا بس بَتفَرَّجana bas bat-far-rag
Thanks a lot (literally: a thousand thanks)أَلْف شُكْرalf shokr
Where is this?فِين دَه؟fen dah?
I go this way?كِدا؟kida?
straight aheadطَوَاليTa-wa-li
the shortest way? Is thisدا أقصَر طريق؟da Aksar tareek?
It’s done!!خَلاصKha-las!
no needمَلُوش لُزُومMa-losh lo-zoom
I don’t know.مِشْ عَارِف
مِشْ عَارفَة
mish 3aa-rif (in case the speaker is a male) mish 3aar-fa (in case the speaker is a female)
Here you go! (please accept to have or take or being invited to do something)اتْفَضّـل
اتْفَضَلي
Itfad-dal (in case you are adressing a male) Itfad-da-li (in case you are adressing a female)
I'm not available. Sorryآسِف مش فاضي
آسفة مش فاضية
Asif mish fady (in case the speaker is a male) Asfa mish fad-ya (in case the speaker is a female)
Now?دِلوَقتِيDel-wa'-ti?
It won't work outمِش هينفغMish hay-yen-fa3

How to initiate and end a conversation (“Hello” and “Goodbye”) in colloquial Egyptian Arabic

سلام عليكم (salaam ‘alei-kum)

Meaning: Peace be upon you (hello)

In Egypt, we understand that some tourists or foreigner might feel a bit insecure around strangers, from one side.

From another side, we are a very funny and talkative people but we do not really talk until we are encouraged to.

As a result, probably, you will be the one initiating a conversation in Egypt. The words سلام عليكم (salaam ‘alei-kum) or Hello are just perfect to start any conversation with whoever you would like to.

It is formal, non-formal, standard, and colloquial, all in one.

However, here is a thing you might have not heard of before: As native Egyptians, we tend to eat few letters while talking.

Hence, the word سلام عليكم (salaam ‘alei-kum) or Hello is simply pronounced as (samo-aliko). You’d rarely hear the full form of it.

Mainly, since it has a religious background (it literally means: peace be upon you), you might hear it fully only from religious people. Yet, you may use it even if you do not belong to the same religion.

Egyptians are completely ok with it, and will reply the “peace” to you happily.

Also see our guide on how to say hello in Arabic.

مع السلامة (ma’aa es-sa-la-ma)

Meaning: With peace (goodbye)

In return, when you would like to end a conversation for any reason, you have many ways to do that.

One of these ways is مع السلامة (ma’aa es-sa-la-ma) or Goodbye. This phrase literally means: with peace. It is used with a wave of hand just like that of bye-bye.

It could be also shortened into سَلام (salam) and give the same meaning.

“Thank you” as you have not known before

Thanking someone and responding to it

To say شُكْرَاً (Shuk-ran) or “thanks” is the simple and most direct way to express gratitude in Egyptian Arabic.

But there are also other usages to the word شُكْرَا in Egypt: it simply means “No”.

If someone is offering you to buy something which you do not desire to, you can simply say شُكْرَا, and they will understand that you do not want to.

In addition, when it comes to declining, it is very polite.

To respond to thanking, you may say العَفو (Al afow) or you’re welcome.

The word العَفو literally means (forgive me, no need to thank me as it is my duty). Hence, you might hear it from humble and well-mannered people more often.

Another reply to thank you is تِسلَم (Tes-lam) or Be safe. We use it in a friendly or a lovely way to people we know and people we do not know alike.

We use تِسلَم for males and تِسلَمِي (Tes-lami) for females.

Also check out our detailed guide on how to say thank you in Arabic.

How to get away with forgetting names in Egyptian Arabic

Back in time, almost only two or three years ago, the word يا اسطى (Yas- ta) or “Hey, driver!” was used to address taxi drivers only (so far so normal, right?) However, now it is used amongst modern generations to address each other.

That means that if you forgot your guide’s name, a shopkeeper’s name, or the name of a man you’ve just met, you can simply call any of them يا اسطى.

Just make sure they are young and men (We don’t address ladies like that).

And the same goes for the word حبيبي (Ha-bibi) or my love, and the word يا عَسَل )Ya 3a-sal) or Hey, honey.

Yet, they both can be used for both males and females, and for all ages. It is also important to know that we use them in a romantic context, or a non-romantic context.

But the most funny part is that: we use them in brawls, as well (If you’re worried about how to tell the difference, don’t; The intonation will let you know crystal clear that it is a brawl).

Get the attention you need with these Egyptian Arabic phrases

مَعلِش (Ma’lish)

Meaning: Sorry

In case you made a mistake —a simple one- like pumping into someone in the street or in a shop, you may say مَعلِش (Ma’lish) or Sorry.

However, you may also use مَعلِش in consolation.

It is a word that is rooted back to the Turkish rule of Egypt: the full form of it is: ما عليه شيء (ma 3alih shi) which means: he is not in charge of anything.

But since we talk a bit fast, we have compressed it into مَعلِش.

That’s why it has both strong and slight usages, alike.

In addition, we use it as a starter.

It might look a bit ok if you interrupted two people or more speaking only if you started your speech with مَعلِش.

It is also acceptable if you ask for any information, permission, or request from anyone starting your speech with مَعلِش. It gives the hint that you are a very considerate person.

And in all cases, you will grab all the attention you need to get your work done by using this one word.

لَو سَمَحْت (law samaHt - addressing a male) or لَو سَمَحتي (law sa-ma-Hti - addressing a female)

Meaning: Excuse me

This is also another variation for pardon me, or excuse me.

Yet, it is only used in case you’d like something done from the person you’re addressing whether that thing is simple or complicated.

For example, you may use it when you need a person to clear the road so you can pass, or when you need to file a lawsuit.

How to shop and bargain like a native Egyptian

It is important to know that bargaining is a lifestyle in Egypt.

Hence, it’s important to know how much you’re willing to pay, and bargain with the seller.

It will be also helpful if you google the items online to get a better idea about their actual price.

Why?

Because merchants are merchants in any part of the world (and Egypt is not an exception). Merchants look mainly for wins.

Hence, you should learn how to say “No” strictly yet appropriately at the same time.

Yes and No in Egyptian Arabic

To say yes or no in Egyptian Arabic is not actually a problem.

You can say آه (Ah) or yes. You can also say لا (la’) or no. These two words are amongst the shortest of the Egyptian Arabic.

But the only problem lies in the fact that in Egypt, you are asked at least twice (for anything).

Hence, although we understand that you are a human being and you might get angry or become aggressive especially in your لا.

We would not lie to you, we do not like it, not at all.

Hence, it is more polite and acceptable to say لا، شكراً (La’ shuk-ran) or No, thank you.

How much is this?

If you wish to learn how to bargain like a native Egyptian, here are the steps (my mom wrote them down for me):

How much is this?بِكام دا؟Bi-kam da?
Too much!كتير أويki-tir aw-wi!
I won't pay more than..مِش هَدفع أكْتَر مِنMish had-fa3 ak-tar min….
OKماشي
طيب
تمام
اوكي
Maa-shi
Tay-yib
tama-am
Okey

You should always know that the price given to you is much higher than the actual one (unless you’re dealing with a sincere religious person, in which case they’ll give you the correct price.)

اتفَضَّل (itfad-dal)

Meaning: Here you go!

When Egyptians tell you to accept something, have something or invite you to do something (mainly for free), they use the word:اتفَضَّل (itfad-dal), but that does not always mean اتفَضَّل.

Egyptians are known to be very generous, it is true.

However, there is something we call عُزُومِة مَرَاكبية (3o-zo-met ma-rak-biya) which is an old Egyptian proverb taken after a boatman story, when a boatman asks you for a ride, he does not mean it.

It is just his job, and he is only asking for the sake of asking and nothing more, so you should only say شُكراً (Shuk-ran) or thank you.

It might happen, that they ask you to a cup of tea, or take an item from a shop for free.

So you should know that it is only in 95% of the cases a metaphorical speech. Your response to it should be لا، شُكْراً (la’ shuk-ran) or no,thank you.

Egyptian Arabic phrases to help you avoid getting lost

In Egypt, we have a wise proverb that says:

“A stranger person is a blind person”.

Hence, don’t be so harsh on yourself if you forget the directions. Still, do all you can to avoid getting lost. And in this case, all you can do is “ask”.

Always have your addresses written with you and show them to people you think —at first glance- you can trust.

Then, show the written address to them by asking: فين ده؟ (fen dah?) or Where is this?

Then ensure that you got the right description by asking: كِدا (Kida?) or I go this way?

However, it is advisable that you ask more than one person on the shortest way to go.

The shortest way is أقصَر طريق؟ (Aksar tareek?). This is perhaps the most precious advice I can offer you now as —unfortunately- Egyptians do not have the term “I don’t know” in their dictionary. (If you ever find a person who says so instead of giving you some false directions, call the museum, we need to keep their species from extinction).

And we need you to avoid getting lost, so ask more than one person.

The most useful Egyptian Arabic phrase you should learn

The most useful Egyptian Arabic phrase you should always remember is مِش هينفع (mish hay-yen-fa3) or “it won’t work out”.

It is the most successful backing off statement that assures you a strategic escape from any situation even if you were the one who planned it out.

It gives the sense of “I wish I could but..”.

It is polite, and keeps your privacy safe; You don’t get forced to attend to any situations you find uncomfortable, and at the same time, you don’t lose people regardless of the times you cancel plans using this phrase (just make sure to say it with an influential tone to avoid further questions on why it won’t work out.)

These were a list of the most useful Egyptian Arabic phrases that are super helpful for your stay in Egypt.

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