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Arab culture & Islam

Some great Popular Egyptian Sayings

One of my favorite things to discover about different cultures is the popular sayings. These expressions reveal much about the way the people think about common aspects of life, and are often very colorful, including allegorical references to elements and perspectives specific to each culture. Egyptian popular sayings are often similar to those one will hear throughout the Arab world, but they have their own flavor.  These are a few of my favorite very common Egyptian expressions (with the regional colloquial transliteration):


1)”tammakhada al gamala wa walada fa’aran”

 Literal translation: “The camel went through labor only to give birth to a mouse”

 meaning: something big was expected but dissappointing results


2)”Zay kalb el-khashashni, a3war we kayyeef”

 Literal translation: “Like the dog of the tobacco salesman, one-eyed, and a smoking addict”

 meaning: a weak personality influenced by bad associations


3)”No’ollohom Tor, ye’oolo iHlibooh”

 Literal translation: “We tell them it is a bull, they say milk it”

 meaning: they are asking for the impossible


4)”khonfesa shafet weladha 3al Hait ‘alet da 3okD mesalsel”

 Literal translation: “A beetle saw her children on the wall, she said they look like a necklace of pearls”

 meaning: everyone’s own creation looks beautiful in their own eyes


5)”a wakhda el erd 3ala kotr maaloh, yerooH el maal we yefDal el erd 3ala Haloh”

 Literal translation: “If you “marry” a monkey for his wealth, the money goes and the monkey remains  “.. 

 meaning: if you marry a person you dislike  for their wealth, you might lose the money but you will still get the person


6)”Labbes ‘el bousa tebka 3arousa”

 Literal translation: “Dress-up a stick and you get a doll.”

 meaning: artifice and packaging can make anything look good


7)”Kalil el-bakht yelaki el-3adm fi el-fatta”

 Literal translation: “The unlucky finds bones in his/her “fatta” (local dish)

 meaning: An unlucky person will have something bad happen all the time


 8)”temoot el raqqasa we westaha beyel3ab”

 Literal translation: “The {belly} dancer dies, and her waist is still moving”

 meaning: Old habits don’t die


9)”ya me’amen el regaal ya me’amen el mayya fel ghorbal”

 Literal translation: “Trusting men is like trusting the water in a sieve”

 meaning: men can’t be trusted


10)”ya dakhel bein el-baSala we ‘eshret-ha may noubak ‘ella Sannet-ha”

 Literal translation: “Hey you getting in between the onion and its peel, you will only get its bad smell.”

 meaning: Mind your own business


11)”seketna luh daKHal be Humaru”

 Literal translation: “We let him in, he brought his donkey along”

 meaning: he took more than we gave; abused generosity, hospitality


12)”‘a3ma we beygur mekasaH”

 Literal translation:” A blind pulling a cripple.”

 meaning: the blind leading the blind


13)”‘ussi reish Teirek la yeloof be GHeirek”

Literal translation:” Cut your bird’s feather, so that it doesn’t leave you for

 someone else.” 

 meaning: Keep a tight leash on your spouse!


14)”KHudoohum bel-soT la yeGHlebookum”

 Literal translation: “Raise your voice otherwise their arguments will beat you!”

 meaning: When ideas fail, words (and loud voice) will convince.


15)”haza al-shebl men zaka al-asad” 

 Literal translation: “This is the baby from that lion”

 meaning: the child inherits his parents’ strength, talents, qualities (same as english “a chip off

  the old block”)


16) “bab el-naggar mekhala3″

 Literal translation: “The carpenter’s door is loose”

 meaning: people neglect what they are good at doing for others in their own life


17) “El bab elli yigi menno el reeH, seddo westareeH”

 Literal translation: “Block the door where the wind comes from, and relax

 meaning: Don’t freak out about your problems; face them rationally– fix what you can and wait it out


18) “Elli yetlesse3 men el shorba yenfokh felzabadi”

 Literal translation: “The one who burns his/her tounge when eating soup, will blow

  in the yogurt. “

 meaning: once burned, twice shy


19) “El Ghazzala el shatra teghzel be regl humar”

 Translation: “The skilful spinster spins with the leg of a donkey”

 meaning: A skilful worker can  do good work even with inadequate tools


20) “zayy umm il3aruusa, fadya wmashbuuka”

 Literal translation: “Like the bride’s mother, has nothing to do yet acts busy”

 Meaning: someone does nothing yet acts busy, just like a

  bride’s mother on her daughter’s wedding day -


21)”el Darb fil-mayyit Haraam”

 Literal translation:  “Beating a dead person is a sin”

 Meaning: Don’t attack someone when they are down, or, Don’t beat a dead horse


22) “illei faat maat”

 Literal translation:  “What is past is dead”

 Meaning: bury the past


23)”el 3abd fil-tafkir wel rab fil-tadbir”

 Literal translation: “Man thinks, God takes care of things”

 Meaning: “Man proposes, God disposes”


24) “el-’arayeb 3a’areb”

 Literal translation: “relatives are spiders.”

 meaning: you are in your relatives’ web and their bite is venemous 


25)”elli yetgawwez ummi, ‘a’ool luh ya 3ammi”

 Literal translation: “whoever marries my mother, I’ll call him uncle”

 meaning: you should make peace with people whom you’re forced to 

 deal with 


26) “etlamm el-mat3oos 3ala KHayeb el-raga”

 Literal translation: “the miserable got together with the hopeless.”

 meaning: losers joining efforts (a team unlikely to succeed)


27) “el-Gillah asbah karamellah?”

 Literal translation: “. Did the sheep manure turn to caramel?

 meaning : Don’t expect a bad person to suddenly turn good. 


28) “geh yekaHalha 3amaha”

 Literal translation: “In trying to put make-up on his eye, he blinded it.”

 meaning: Instead of fixing it, he destroyed it!


29)”Ma shatamak ela man balaghak”

Literal translation: “The one who insulted you is the one who told you about the


 meaning: Do not listen to people telling you about someone else insulting you.


 30)”el-3a’l zeena”

 Literal translation: Being smart makes a person look good.

 meaning: intelligence is attractive


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