How To Say Hello & Greet People In Arabic (Beginner's Guide)

Ebtesam Mokhtar

Author

Ebtesam Mokhtar

How many ways are there to say hello in your language?

In Arabic, there are plenty of ways to greet people! Since the language has so many different dialects, there are naturally many ways to say hello in Arabic.

For each expression, you have numerous variations to suit your preferred tone.

In this guide, I’ll explain the most common greetings in Arabic, as well as some culture-specific variations.

You’ll learn how to use Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and the different dialects to say hello in Arabic.

Hello in Arabic: Modern Standard Arabic & Colloquial Varieties

There are several ways to say hello in MSA, which is the formal Arabic.

They may also fit in casual contexts. You only have to make some tweaks before you are good to go.

First: Peace be upon you and God’s mercy and blessings (Formal)

This one is obviously of an Islamic origin, but it’s widely accepted across the Arab World as an equivalent to ‘hello’.

Even Christians would probably reply to that, though it might not be your best bet if you already know whom you are talking to.

In Arabic, it’s: السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

You pronounce it: Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh. Pretty long, no? That’s why people shorten it for everyday life purposes. I’ll explain how in a bit, but let’s learn the response to the formal, full version first.

How to respond to ‘peace be upon you’ in MSA

If someone says (or writes you): Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh, then the full-length response should be: ‘Wa Alaikum Assalam Wa Rahmatu Allah Wa Barakatuh’.

You probably already noticed they are almost the same words.

This means ‘and peace be upon you and God’s mercy and blessings’.

Peace be upon you and God’s mercy and blessings (Casual)

You can use the full version at the beginning of an email or speech, but you have to make some changes if you are going to use it for causal communication.

Usually, you will hear the short version: سلام عليكو (Salamu Aleeku) instead. This is equal to the part: ‘peace be upon you’, and you will hear it all the time in different Arab streets. Notice that you change ‘Assalmu’ to ‘Salamu’ and ‘Alaikum’ to ‘Aleeku’.

So, next time you enter a shop in Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Lebanon, Kuwait or any other Arab country, you can safely greet the salesman: ‘Salamu Aleeku’.

He will then answer: وعليكم السلام (Wa Alaikum Assalam)[.]

It means ‘and peace be upon you’. Another response you may hear, particularly in Egypt, is سلام ورحمة الله وبركاته (Salam Wa Rahmatu Allah Wa Barakatuh), which is a little more generous as it means: ‘peace and God’s mercy and blessings (to you, too)‘.

Extra casual ways to use ‘peace’ as your ‘hello’ in Arabic

But these aren’t all the ways you can say ‘peace’ in Arabic. Here is more.

EnglishArabicTransliterationWhere to use it
May you be safeعسلامةA'sslamaTunisia
PeaceالسلامAssalamMorocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia
Peace, how are you?السلام، لا باس؟Assalam, La Bas?Morocco
PeaceسلامSalamSyria

See how ‘peace’ is rooted in the Arabic culture?

There’s an interesting fact about the word ‘salam’ though. You may hear it in Syria as their ‘hello’, but it is Egypt’s ‘goodbye’. When you are ending a call with an Egyptian person, that’s what you could say.

Second: Marhaban (Formal)

This is your one-word hello in Arabic (first thing you’ll learn in most Arabic textbooks or apps).

It’s short, formal and can be converted into an informal variation that is used in some countries for everyday situations. Marhaban مرحبًا literally means ‘hello’, but it can also be used as ‘welcome’. If you want to customize it for the person, then you add ‘bek’ بك (to you) for masculine or ‘bekky’ بكِ for feminine.

If you’re talking to a masculine or mixed group, then it becomes ‘bekum’ بِكُمْ, and if it’s a female group, it should be ‘bekunn’ بِكُنَّ.

Marhaban (Casual)

When using Marhaban مرحبًا for informal purposes, people remove the diacritic from the word. Instead of pronouncing it ‘Marahaban’ with the ‘n’ sound, you say ‘Marahaba’. Then you get the version of hello in Arabic that is widely used in Levantine and Gulf countries.

Now that you have your informal ‘Marhaba’, here are some ways to spice it up.

EnglishArabicTransliterationWhere to use it
Hellos (yes, plural!)مراحبMarahebThe Levant
Two hellos (dual)مرحبتينMarhabteenThe Levant, some Maghribi Arabic countries
Oh helloيا مرحباYa MarhabaGulf countries
Hello to you (masculine singular)مرحبا بكMarhaba bakGulf countries

Curious to listen to how ‘Marhaba Bak’ is pronounced in real life? Here is a song by Talal Maddah, a late Saudi musician that is also popular across the Arab World. The song title is ‘Marhaba Bak Ya Hala’. You already know ‘Marbaha Bak’. Read on to learn about ‘Ya Hala’.

Third: Ahlan (Formal)

Another simple way to say hello is ‘Ahlan’ أهلًا, which is equal to ‘hello’ or ‘welcome’.

The word’s origin is the phrase: حللت أهلاً ووطئت سهلًا (Halalta Ahlan Wa Wate’ta Sahlan), meaning ‘may you arrive as part of the family and tread an easy path as you enter’.

You can use it for both formal and informal contexts, and it is an acceptable way of greetings in Arabic in most countries.

Ahlan (Casual)

Just like ‘Marhaba’, ‘Ahlan’ can be informal, even without altering anything.

You’ll be surprised that the two words can join each other in the same sentence.

Here’s how:

EnglishArabicTransliterationWhere to use it
Family and easyأهلًا وسهلًاAhlan Wa SahlanMSA, Egypt, The Levant
Family and easyأهلا وسهلاAhla WsahlaGulf countries, The Levant
Hello and welcomeأهلًا ومرحبًاAhlan Wa MarhabanMSA, some Gulf countries
Hello, welcomeهلا مرحبHala MarhebThe Levant
Hello and welcomeهلا ورحبHala WrhebThe Levant
Two hellos and two welcomes (dual)أهلين ومرحبتينAhleen WmarhabteenThe Levant
Family and easy (dual)أهلين وسهلينAhleen WsahleenThe Levant
Howdyهلا/يا هلاHala/Ya halaGulf countries
Hurray, dearهلا وغلاHala WghalaGulf countries
Hurray, I swearهلا واللهHala WallahGulf countries

How to respond to Ahlan: The Levantine and Khaleeji variation

So, someone just said ‘hello’ to you in Syria or Saudi Arabia using one of the previous phrases.

You could respond: (bellemhalley) بالمهلي, which is almost equal to ‘hello/welcome to the one who welcomed us’.

Fourth: Good morning/evening (Formal)

When in doubt, use ‘good morning’ as an alternative to say hello in Arabic.

It is simple and easy and does the job. As with the previous greetings in Arabic, it can be altered to suit casual encounters.

But first, let’s see the formal variations of it.

EnglishArabicTransliteration
Good morningصباح الخيرSabahu AlKhayr
Good eveningمساء الخيرMasa'au AlKhayr

Notice that there’s no greeting in Arabic for ‘afternoon’ in particular.

Instead, people use ‘Sabahu AlKhair’ for anything AM, and shift to “Masa’au AlKhayr’ starting from 12 PM. Another commonly used word that comes with morning and evening is ‘light’, as in ‘sun light’.

It can be used as a standalone greeting, but it is usually used as the response to ‘good morning/evening’.

EnglishArabicTransliteration
Light morningصباح النورSabahu AlNoor
Light eveningمساء النورMasa'au AlNoor

Good morning/evening (Casual)

Then how do we use those in an informal conversation?

Say you’re having a call with a customer service agent, here’s how you need to pronounce good morning/evening in each region.

EnglishArabicTransliterationWhere to use it
Good morningصباح الخير / النورSabah ElKheer/EnnoorEgypt
Good eveningمساء الخير / النورMasa'a ElKheer/EnnoorEgypt
Good eveningصباح / مسا الخيرSabah/Masa ElkhayrThe Levant
Light eveningصباح / مسا النورSabah/Masa EnnoorThe Levant

Some more wordings used to say good morning in Arabic-speaking countries are:

EnglishArabicTransliterationWhere to use it
Jasmine morning/eveningصباح / مساء الفلSabah/Masa'a ElfollEgypt
MorningصباحوSabahuThe Levant
May this morning be blessedيسعدلي هالصباحYese'dly HassabahThe Levant
100 eveningsميت مساMeet MasaThe Levant
May Allah give you a good one (morning/evening), familyالله بالخير يالربعAllah Belkheer Yalraba'aKuwait

2. Hello in Arabic: Other Casual Ways

I did mention that the Arabic language is creative, so be ready that the list goes on! Here are some more ideas on how to say hello in Arabic in casual contexts.

You can use this last variation as a way to say thank you in Arabic as well.

Say a waiter has just served your meal in a Syrian restaurant, then you can say: ‘Ya’teek ElA’afeye’ to show appreciation.

EnglishArabicTransliterationWhere to use it
May Allah greet youحياك اللهHayyak AllahGulf countries, especially Kuwait
Healths (plural)عوافيA'wafeyThe Levant
May you have a good healthع العافيةA'la'afeyeThe Levant
May God give you good healthيعطيك العافيةYa'teek ElA'afeyeThe Levant, may also be heard in Gulf countries

Hello in Arabic: Foreign Origin (Loan Words)

‘Hi, Keefak, ça va?’ is a phrase you may hear in Lebanon.

It is a common way to say ‘hello’ and start a conversation at the same time. The phrase combines ‘hi’, ‘Kefak’, (‘how are you?’ in Lebanese Arabic), and ‘ça va’ (‘are you okay?’ in French). It shows how the Lebanese are trilingual.

Same with many other Arab countries, more and more people, especially the young, have been using foreign words to greet each other.

The below table gives you a tour to explore some of the foreign options to say hello in Arabic-speaking countries.

EnglishArabicWhere to use it
HelloهاللوEgypt, online chats
HiهايEgypt, online contexts
Bonjour (Good day)بونچورLebanon, Maghribi dialects countries
Bonsoir (Good evening)بونسوارLebanon, Maghribi dialects countries

4. Hello in Arabic: The ‘What’s Up’ Ways

As with the English language, ‘how are you?’ can be an alternative way of greetings in Arabic.

Here are some examples:

EnglishArabicTransliterationWhere to use it
How are you?إزيك؟ / عامل إيه؟Ezzayak? A'amel Eh?Egypt
How are you?كيفك؟Keefak?The Levant, especially Lebanon
Are you okay?شلونك؟ / شخبارك؟Shlunak? / Shakhbarak?Gulf countries
How are you?لا باس؟ سا ڤا؟La Bas? Ça Va?Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria

I’ll leave you with a funny song whose title combines ‘Ahlan’ (hello in MSA) with ‘Ezzayek?’ (the Egyptian ‘how are you?’).

Fun fact: the singer is Kuwaiti but she is singing in Egyptian Arabic (and she’s good at it). The video clip is interesting as well, featuring President George W. Bush, among other politicians, in a sarcastic way.

Seriously though, the song is a good resource for how to use a certain Egyptian proverb as well as other Arabic culture side stories.

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