This is the second part of an introduction to Egyptian Arabic. See Part I here.
A substantial part of learning an Arabic dialect is to learn a number of key words that are specific to that dialect. In this article I’ll show you some of the most important Egyptian phrases and expressions that you’ll come across daily in Egypt.
The most frequent word you’ll hear is aywa, which is the Egyptian Arabic equivalent of the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) نعم (na3am), or “yes”.
Another extremely common word is 3aysh (pronounce the “3” like our “a”, but more hihg-pitched and from the back of the throat), or “bread”. The MSA word for “bread” is خبز (khubz).
The word baasha is a common way to address a man. The female counterpart is Haanim. Both words are relics of Turkish rule in Egypt. If the name of the interlocutor is known then “baasha” or “Hanim” can be added to the end of the name. For example, “muHammad baasha”, or “faaTima Haanim”.
The word “raagil” is a twist of the standard Arabic رجل (radjul), or “man”. It’s a pretty versatile word and can be used in conjunction with “ya”- “ya raagil!” – which might translate best as “dude!”
In the first part of this introduction you learned that “how” is izzay in Egyptian Arabic. “How are you?”, then, is “izzayak?” when addressing a man, “izzayik?” when addressing a woman, and “izzaykum?” when addressing two or more persons.
Expression of Time
The MSA for “now” is اللآن (al-aan); in Egyptian Arabic (EA) it becomes dil wa’ti.
The word “today” is in-nahaar da rather than the MSA اليوم (al-yawm).
Likewise, “yesterday” is embaariH rather than the MSA البارحة (al-baariHa)
In MSA “very” is جداً (djiddan), but in EA it’s ‘awwi. For example, “ana mashghool ‘awwi” means “I’m very busy”.
The opposite of ‘awwi is shweya, or “a little”. E.g. “itkallam 3arabi shwaya” – I speak a little bit of Arabic.
bas means “but” or “enough” whereas buSS! means look!
istanna! is used for “wait!” instead of the MSA انتظر (intaZir!)
The word ba’a is often used in Egyptian Arabic, but it’s hard to explain its function. Generally speaking it only occurs at the end of a question and is used to make the question more attenuated and less blunt. For example, in English you could ask “What are you doing?” or “What are you doing anyways?”. In Egyptian Arabic the second question is a case where you’d use “ba’a”: “3aamil eeh ba’a?”
Another area where you can observe a slight difference in usage between Egyptian and other Arabic dialects is that Egyptians tend to use “mafrooD” to express necessity instead of “laazim”. Other countries have their own favoured alternative (e.g. in Yemen it’s Daroori).
Together with the characteristics I explained in Part I of this introduction, these expressions should help you to speak and understand Egyptian Arabic.