Love in Arabic: which translation is correct?

Love is an important concept for Arabs, so it should come as no surprise that there are many different ways to express love in Arabic, all with slightly different meanings. The strong culture of poetry and songs revolving around love developed because in the Arab world marriages were generally arranged, rather than chosen freely. All too often, one’s love had to go unanswered, because of society, culture or religion. Poetry and songs provided an outlet for the passion of the lovers and – as a result – enriched the Arabic language with many nuanced words related to love.

حب (Hubb)
The most common and the most general term for love in Arabic is حب (Hubb). This word is used in a wide variety of situations, to refer to love between lovers, love for one’s parents, love for God, love for one’s country etc. Here are four different designs for this word:

Love in Arabic

Love in Arabic

 

The verb corresponding to this noun is أحبّ (aHabba) and is used in the following way:

I love you (addressing a woman): أحبّك (uHibbuki)

I love you (addressing a man): أحبّك (uHibbuka)

I love you (addressing a group of three or more individuals): أحبّكم (uHibbukum)

حبيبي (Habeebi)
The words حبيبي (Habeebi) (m.) and حبيبتي (Habeebati) (f.) are very common expressions that mean “beloved” or “darling” for a man or a woman respectively. Note that these words are also sometimes used to address a friend or relative and do not necessarily imply a romantic relationship.

محبة (maHabba)
Although محبة (maHabba) can be used to refer to romantic love, it more commonly means brotherly love or compassionate love, for instance in the following quote from Corinthians in the Bible:

“Faith, hope, love, but the greatest of these is love”:

الإيمان والرجاء والمحبة، هذه الثلاثة ولكن أعظمهن المحبة

عشق (‘ishq)
The word عشق (‘ishq) is another common word, but with a more restricted meaning of “passionate love” and is generally reserved to refer to love in a romantic relationship (as opposed to brotherly love).

شغف (shaghaf)
The term شغف (shaghaf) can best be thought of as “passion”, but it can also mean sensual desire (i.e. lust). Sometimes this term is used to refer to infatuation or the state of being madly in love. E.g. the adjectives شغوف (shaghoof) or مشغوف (mashghoof) translate as “to be madly in love”.

هوى (hawa)
This is yet another concept of love, often used in the sense of “longing” or “desire”. Fun fact: the root هوى can have the meaning of “to drop down, fall down, or to swoop down”. In other words, love that sweeps you from your feet.

ولع (wala3)
Similarly to shaghaf, ولع (wala3) means “passionate love” or “ardent desire” from the root meaning of “to catch fire”.

وله (walah)
This is the kind of love that drives you mad. The Hans Wehr dictionary suitably translates it as “amorous rapture”.

A few more words to express “love” in Arabic:

وجد (wajd) ecstasy of love
غرام (gharaam) ardent desire, infatuation
شوق (shawq) yearning, craving, desire, wild affection
صبابة (Sabaaba) ardent love, fervent longing
حنان (Hanaan) tender love
ود (wid) love, friendship

 

There are, of course, many more words that all express the concept of love in Arabic, but I believe that the terms presented here are the most common ones. If you know any other words that have an interesting nuance, please let me know in the comments.




Image credit for picture on top: Gregory Jordan

19 thoughts on “Love in Arabic: which translation is correct?

  1. How would I go about writing peace and love. I’ve seen many variations please help thanks a million

  2. hello, i’m looking for the translation of the word “passion” (in sense of passion for life,intense emotion, desire for something), but im afraid to pick a word that will have an offensive or vulgar meaning in Arabic…can you please help me?

  3. Please could you tell me in which four styles of arabic is word love written in above?

  4. Hi Emir, I assume you are referring to the four different styles “al-Hubb” is written in above? The only difference between them is in appearance, i.e. think Times New Roman vs. Arial etc.

  5. Yes I was refering to “al-Hubb”. I understand that difference is in appearance, I know that arabic script has many variations.
    In my question I wanted to know which are the names of that four different styles? Such as nash, tuluth or diwani…
    Thank you!

  6. Hi,
    For months now I’ve been looking for a website to translate a quote…
    ” Heart sees what’s invisible for your eyes”
    Please help me!

  7. Hi Max,
    this article is very interesting for me because I namend my children Iman and Amal for faith and hope according to the Corinthian verse you are quoting. I would like to give my third child the name “love” as according to that verse. What would be the name? I would appreciate your help very much. I also wrote an email to you on August 18th. Maybe you didn’t see it.
    Thank you very much. Best wishes
    Michaela

  8. @ Dori :
    Heart sees what’s invisible for your eyes
    القلب يري ما لاتراه العين

  9. Hello, I need your help. Can you translate this phrase for me, please:
    Family is where life begins and love never ends
    Thank you

  10. Pingback: 5 Ways to Say I Love You in Arabic - A Crafty Arab

  11. Dear Max,
    I did not find here a certain name of Allah, al-Wadud which is constantly translated as The Lover.
    Is this correct at all? What is your opinion, from a linguistic point of view?
    Thank you for any help,
    Andras (from Budapest)

  12. Im getting a tattoo of love (Hubb) I was wanting to add a heart at the end but did not want to change the meaning of the word. So should I get the heart?

  13. Arabic Genie, In doing a lot of research before gettinga tattoo, I found this meaning for wajd. It is exactly what I’m looking for. Can you tell me if it was used correctly at that time, for this word.
    In arabic this word (wajd) means a state of transparent sadness caused by the memory of a loved one who is not near; it is widely used in ancient Arabic poetry to describe the state of the lover’s heart as he or she remembers the long-gone love. It is a mixed emotion of sadness for the loss, and happiness for having loved that person.

  14. I want to know the translation for “loved” Like I am “loved” but not the whole sentence but just the word loved that gives the message that I am loved

  15. i am looking at setting up a busness that is connecting people with there loved ones that have died and becoming a medium i was looking for the meaning of love but i see there are alot of meanings for love as i want to go back to my roots of my soul i feel the name i give my busness is so important love and connection in people is a very big part of what i do lose is a very powerful thing i just want to make people feel complete so if you could help me with this it would be incredible thank you yours sincerly paulette

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