Shami and Egyptian are not so far apart. In fact, thanks to Team Maha and my own adventures in Egypt, I’ve discovered to my disappointment that many of the expressions I thought were quintessential Syrianisms were in fact perfectly normal Egyptianisms as well. Since going back through all the posts ever and editing them to include a section about their Syrian relevance would be a lot of effort, this post is intended to be a super quick one-stop shop for all of the expressions that have turned up on here which have direct Shami equivalents.

Enlarge your brain

In the Levant (or Syria, at least), كبر عقلك, kabbir 3a2lak.

دماغ is not generally used for ‘brain’ in the Levant – مخ mukhkh, mekhkh and its plural مخاخ mkhaakh are used instead with basically interchangeable meaning. But the equivalent of this particular expression doesn’t use دماغ but rather عقل, which you may recognise as a Fusha word. You could write a whole, probably quite interesting post about the different bits of the mind in Arabic, but generally your عقل is your rational bits – I guess it’s something like your superego. So كبر عقلك means something like ‘control yourself!’, ‘enlarge your superego!’ ‘CONTROL THAT ID!!!’

Father of moustache

This usage of أبو, and of ام imm for women, is also found in Levantine, though such prodigious moustachioes would be referred to as shwaareb شوارب in Syrian, not شنب. أبو and ام in many cases can translate English ‘the one with’ or be used as a colloquial equivalent for MSA ذو and ذات, with abu and imm being used even for inanimate objects depending on their grammatical gender:

الكولا ام الميت ليرة ilkoola imm ilmiit leera – the 100-lira cola (as opposed to the one for 200 liras)

ابو النضارات abu nnaDDaaraat – the guy with the glasses

ام الازرار imm lizraar – the one with the buttons

A lovely example of how unintuitively (or intuitively?) they can be used is the expression ناس ام وجهين naas imm wishheen ‘two-faced people’. Why is it ام? Because ناس often takes feminine singular agreement.

It would be missing a great opportunity to not to mention Mashrou’ Leila’s song Imm ij-Jaakeet here.

أبو plus various root-and-pattern based deformations of names are also used as nicknames by young men: أبو اللول abu lluul and أبو صطيف abu STeef are nicknames for men called Waa2il and MuSTafa respectively.


My etymological explorations around this word have found some interesting results. The word فشخ (fashakh, yifshakh, fashkha) also exists in Syrian and Lebanese, at least, but as far as I’m aware it has no swear-y or NSFW connotations whatsoever – it means ‘step’. In fact, in Hans Wehr it says it means ‘take a large step’, ‘open wide [one’s mouth]’, or ‘spread apart one’s legs’. It’s probably not that difficult to work out from here how it ended up becoming a catch-all profanity, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used in this sense in Levantine. فشخة فشخة, which I suppose would be somewhat offensive in Egyptian, means ‘step by step’.

Any speech

أي كلام is also used in Syrian: هاد مو باسبور أي كلام ‘this isn’t just any old passport’. A synonym – whilst slightly less silly – still doesn’t make an enormous amount of sense to an English speaker: كيف ما كان or كيف من كان kiif maa/man kaan, ‘however’. The slightly more standard maa can be replaced by من in many Syrian dialects when saying ‘however’, ‘whatever’ etc. Note that it doesn’t conjugate:

هو مترجم كيف من كان – huwwe mtarjim kiif man kaan – he’s a mediocre translator

هي سيارة كيف من كان – hiyye siyyaara kiif man kaan – it’s a pretty rubbish car

Another similar expression is هات ايدك والحقني haat iidak wil7aq-ni ‘give-me-your-hand-and-catch-me-up’:

ترجمة هات ايدك والحقني – a bad translation

I will not know you again

The most similar expression to this is:

ما لح اتعرف عليك maa la7 it3arraf 3aleek

Another more idiomatic equivalent is:

انت من طريق وانا من طريق inte min Tarii2 wana min Tarii2  – you go your way, I’ll go mine’

A related expression with a similar meaning is لك ما عرفتك! Lak maa 3rift-ak! ‘I don’t know you!’ This might more idiomatically be translated as ‘who are you and what have you done with…’ in response to an unexpected behaviour from your friend, but seems to be used more aggressively.

Give a mouth

Ba22 ybe22 is a folksy way of saying ‘spit out’ in Syrian. Although you might hear it in dramas from very Old-City-Damascus men – especially be22 meaning ‘spit it out!’ in the metaphorical sense of ‘say what it is you’re not saying!’ – I am informed that it’s a bit dated and not used much by young people. The equivalent of ‘give me a bite’ is the sensible هات شواي or the more… unusual هات شئفة haat shi2fe ‘give me a rag’ (شئفة is used for small pieces of anything).

A cold came to me:

Syrian Arabic does not generally use برد in the sense of ‘getting a cold’ (although people might understand it), and neither does it use ‘came to me’. Instead, it tends to use ‘I have’ (معي or عندي) with illnesses:

عندي كريب – ‭‭3indi griib – I have the flu

معي سكري – I have diabetes

For ‘catch’, you can use the catch-all change-of-state verb that Syrian loves so much: صار (there will probably be another post on صار at some point):

صار معي كريب – I caught flu

صار معي سكري – I developed diabetes

For colds specifically, there is a different word, رشح rash[i]7, which comes with its own verb rashha7 and active participle mrashhi7:

انا مرشحة – ana mrashh7a – I have a cold

رشحت – rashha7[i]t – I’ve caught a cold, I’ve got a cold

You can say أخدت برد akhad[i]t bard but it means something like ‘be out in the cold’ – I actually think that ‘catch cold’, in English, originally has this meaning – so it makes perfect sense to say:

اخد برد وقام رشح – akhad bar[i]d w2aam rassha7 – he was out in the cold and got a cold

This is a thing and this is a thing:

Eitherهاي شي وهاي شي or هاد شي وهاد شي (depending on the gender of the thing in question), or sometimes هاي شغلة وهاي شغلة i.e. a literal translation between the dialects.

He is sitting walking:

قعد is not as much-beloved by Syrians as it apparently is by Egyptians. It exists in the meaning ‘stay’ (with someone or at someone’s house, for example), and in the meaning ‘sit down’; قاعد means ‘sitting down’ or ‘sitting’. Its conjugation is 2e3ed yi23od, and if you want to sound Syrian or Lebanese, you should get used to dropping that hideous hamza-3ayn combination in the imperative and shouting insistently 3ood ya zalame 3ood 3ood whenever anyone tries to get up and leave. Another usage which makes sense but might not immediately seem obvious to English speakers is the use of قعدة in the sense of ‘atmosphere’ (in a café):

نروح على <<علاء الدين>> القعدة أحلى هنيك – nruu7 3ala 3alaa2uddiin il2a3de a7la hniik – let’s go to Aladdin [café], it has a nicer atmosphere (a nicer sitting)

قاعد يمشي and its related forms I have heard in real life, but only from Jordanians, Egyptians and Bedouins, as well as people from the Arabian peninsula. قاعد in this continuous sense is not used in urban Syrian, which has عم 3am as a convenient continuous particle. قعد is also not used in the sense of ‘last’ for batteries or lightbulbs, for which بقي (bi2i yib2a) or ضل (Dall yDoll) – both meaning ‘stay’, are used instead:

البطريا ما لح تضل خمس دقايق حتى – ilbaTariyya maa la7 itDoll kham@s da2aayi2 7atta – the battery won’t even last five minutes

You broke the world

خربت الدنيا kharrabt iddinye. Also used in a similar sense is قومت الدنيا, pronounced 2awwamt iddinye. قوم here is from 2iyaame, قيامة, which you might recognise as the word used in يوم القيامة ‘resurrection day’, one of the names of Judgement Day in Arabic. 2iyaame means ‘chaos, bedlam’, and the verb 2awwam derived from it hence means ‘ruin, mess up’.

What is behind you tomorrow?

Used in pretty much exactly the same way in Levantine: شو وراك بكرا shu waraak bukra, وراك شي؟ waraak shi?

He screwed me over

ضحّك علي Da77ak 3aleyyi. Or تضحك علي tDa77ak 3aleyyi. The same, pretty much. Form I, form II and form V can be used; Da77ak is used in Syrian for both the standard ‘make laugh’ (هالشي بيضحك ‘this thing is really funny’) and also in the sense of form I, for some reason.

Towards the metaphorical end, there’s also the somewhat rude خري علي khiri 3aleyyi ‘he shat on me’ and the very Syrian (???) كتالي مي باردة kattaa-li moyy baarde ‘he poured cold water on me’.

There are also a few other synonyms: the generic غشني ghassh-ni ‘he cheated me’ (ghassh ygheshh) and the Syrian خورفني khooraf-ni and خاوزني khaawaz-ni. The former – which I thought was from خرافة, ‘fantasy’ – is apparently actually derived from the word for sheep, خروف kharuuf, and literally means ‘slaughter’.

He is a seer of himself

The same expression exists in Levantine, but the reflexive pronoun is normally حال, not نفس. So we say شايف حاله shaayif 7aalo. ‘Arrogance’ is شوفة حال shoofet 7aal ‘sight of oneself’ – بالعاصمة في شوفة حال bil3aaSime fii shoofet 7aal ‘in the capital there’s a lot of arrogance’.

He hits hash

Yep, also used in Levantine.

I don’t know how to sleep

Also used in Levantine, though in Levantine it’s more common to use a continuous verb – ما عم بعرف نام, ما عم بعرف احكي, ما عم بعرف افتح الباب. Other Levantine expressions for ‘I couldn’t sleep’ include the Damascene ما احسنت نام maa a7sant naam ‘I was not good at sleeping’ (a7san byi7sin is used for ‘be able to’) and the pleasantly folksy ما عم بيجيني نوم maa 3am bijiini noom ‘sleep isn’t coming to me’.

You do not have an invitation

This seems to be an equivalent to مالي علاقة بـ maali 3alaa2a b- in Syrian, ‘I have no connection with’ = ‘I have nothing to do with’. If you want to pointedly tell someone to keep their nose out, there’s always شو دخلك بالموضوع؟ shu dakhalak bilmawDuu3? – what’s your entry (??) in the issue? Or شو خصك؟ shu khaSSak? – what’s it to do with you?

She is lacking

مو ناقصني muu naa2i9ni. You can be lacking specific things, too: مو ناقصني مصايب muu naa2i9ni m9aayib! I don’t need any more problems!

We were in your biography

كننا بسيرتك kinna b-siirtak – we were talking about you

لا تجيب سيرتو laa tjiib siirto – don’t bring it/him up!

ما تفتح معي السيرة بنوب maa tifta7 ma3i ssiire bnoob – don’t even mention that to me

على سيرة – on the subject of…

I die in you

Also used in Levantine.

Drink a cigarette

You drink cigarettes in Levantine, as well as shisha (known as various variations on the word أركيلة argiile in the Levant) and, in some dialects, medicine: شربت دوا؟ shrib[i]t dawa? For shisha the Syrian equivalent to the Egyptian verb shaayash ‘smoke shisha’ is أركل ‭2argal:

بتأركل شي؟ bit2argil shi? – do you smoke shisha?

The world is crowded:

الدنيا عجقة iddinye 3aja2a. دنيا is in fact a convenient stand-in for the meaningless ‘it’s’ in a lot of expressions in English – ‘it’s crowded’, ‘it’s night’, ‘it’s cold’, ‘it’s Ramadan’ (الدنيا رمضان). In Palestinian and Jordanian, ازمة- literally ‘crisis’ – is used for traffic and crowding.


    1. thanks! I should point out that I’ve updated this a few times and probably will a few times more (most recently because it turns out that أي كلام is used in Syrian too), so keep watching, u know

  1. Great post! I just wanted to note that I can’t remember hearing the word za7me in Jordan (and I took a LOT of taxis). They always used azme أزمة instead (which as you noted also means “crisis”). They use the same word to describe the minor inconvenience of traffic in Amman as well as the Syrian refugee crisis :/

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