Egyptian Arabic

Egyptian Arabic
Egyptian Arabic
اللغة المصرية العامية
Pronunciation [elˈloɣæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejjɑ l.ʕæmˈmejjæ]
Spoken in Egypt and a few other countries
Native speakers 54,000,000[1][2] (native speakers only)
Language family
Writing system Arabic alphabet, Latin alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 arz

Egyptian Arabic (اللغة المصرية الحديثة‎,[3] IPA: [elˈloɣæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejjɑ l.ħæˈdiːsæ][note A] "The Modern Egyptian Language"; abbreviated: مصرى[4] [ˈmɑsˤɾi]‎ "Egyptian") is the language spoken by contemporary Egyptians. It is more commonly known locally as the Egyptian colloquial language (اللغة المصرية العامية [elˈloɣæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejjɑ l.ʕæmˈmejjæ][note B]) or Egyptian dialect (اللهجة المصرية [elˈlæhɡæ l.mɑsˤˈɾejjɑ][note C]).

Egyptian Arabic is a variety of the Arabic languages of the Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family. It originated in the Nile Delta in Lower Egypt around the capital Cairo. Descended from the spoken Arabic brought to Egypt during the seventh-century AD Muslim conquest, its development was influenced by the indigenous Coptic of pre-Islamic Egypt,[5][6][7] and later by other languages such as Turkish/Ottoman Turkish, Italian, French and English. The 80 million Egyptians speak a continuum of dialects, among which Cairene is the most prominent. It is also understood across most of the Arab World due to the predominance of Egyptian media, making it the most widely spoken and one of the most widely studied varieties of Arabic.[citation needed]

The terms Egyptian Arabic and Masri are usually used synonymously with "Cairene Arabic", the dialect of the Egyptian capital. The country's native name, Maṣr, is used locally to refer to the capital Cairo itself. Similar to the role played by Parisian French, Masri is by far the most dominant in all areas of national life. While it is essentially a spoken language, it is encountered in written form in novels, plays, poems (vernacular literature) as well as in comics, advertising, some newspapers and transcriptions of popular songs. In most other written media and in TV news reporting, a standard register of Classical Arabic is used. The Egyptian vernacular is normally written in the Arabic alphabet for local consumption, although it is commonly transcribed into Latin letters or in the International Phonetic Alphabet in linguistics text and textbooks aimed at teaching non-native learners. Also, it is written in ASCII Latin alphabet mainly online & SMSs.


Geographic distribution

Egyptian Arabic is spoken natively by more than 52 million Egyptians[8] and as a second language by most of the remaining 24 million Egyptians[9] in several regional dialects, as well as by immigrant Egyptian communities in the Middle east, Europe, North America, Australia and South East Asia. Among the spoken varieties of Arabic, standard Egyptian Arabic (based on the dialect of the Egyptian capital) is the only one to have become a lingua franca in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world for two main reasons[10][11]: the proliferation and popularity of Egyptian films and other media in the region since the early 20th century; and the great number of Egyptian teachers and professors who were instrumental in setting up the education systems of various countries in the Arabian Peninsula and who also taught there and in other countries such as Algeria and Libya. Also many Lebanese artists choose to sing in Egyptian as well as Lebanese.


The Egyptians slowly adopted the Arabic language as a written language following the Arab-Muslim conquest of Egypt in the 7th century AD. Up till then, they were speaking Egyptian in its Coptic form. For more than three centuries, there existed a period of Coptic-Arabic bilingualism in Lower Egypt. This trend would last for many more centuries in the south. Arabic may have been already familiar to Egyptians through pre-Islamic trade with Bedouin Arab tribes in the Sinai and the easternmost part of the Nile Delta. Egyptian Arabic seems to have begun taking shape in Fustat, the first Islamic capital of Egypt, and now part of modern-day Cairo.

One of the earliest linguistic sketches of Egyptian Arabic is a 16th century document entitled Daf` al-'iṣr `an kalām 'ahl Miṣr (دفع الإصر عن كلام أهل مصر, 'The Removal of the Burden from the Language of the People of Egypt') by Yūsuf al-Maġribi (يوسف المغربي). It contains key information on early Egyptian Arabic and the language situation in medieval Egypt. The main purpose of the document was to show that while the Egyptians' vernacular contained many critical "errors" vis-à-vis Classical Arabic, according to Maġribi, it was also related to Arabic in other respects. With the ongoing Islamization and Arabization of the country, Egyptian Arabic slowly supplanted spoken Egyptian. Local chroniclers mention the continued use of Coptic Egyptian as a spoken language until the 17th century AD by peasant women in Upper Egypt. Coptic is still the liturgical language of the Egyptian Coptic Church.

Official status

Egyptian Arabic has no official status, and to date it is not officially recognized. Standard Arabic, a modernized form of Classical Arabic (Koranic Arabic), is the official language of Egypt (see diglossia). Interest in the local vernacular began in the 1800s as the Egyptian national movement for independence was taking shape. Questions about the reform and modernization of Arabic came to the fore, and for many decades to follow they were hotly debated in Egyptian intellectual circles. Proposals ranged from developing neologisms to replace archaic terminology in Standard Arabic; to the simplification of syntactical and morphological rules and the introduction of colloquialisms; to complete 'Egyptianization' (tamṣīr) by abandoning the so-called Standard Arabic in favor of Masri or Egyptian Arabic.[12]

Proponents of language reform in Egypt included Qasim Amin, who also wrote the first Egyptian feminist treatise, former president of the Egyptian University, Ahmed Lutfi el-Sayed, and noted intellectual Salama Moussa. They adopted a modernist, secular approach and disagreed with the assumption that Arabic was an immutable language because of its association with the Qur'an. For a while, Egyptian Arabic enjoyed a period of rich literary output until the movement was halted with the continuing rise of Islamism and Arab nationalism in Egypt and the Middle East, particularly with Gamal Abdel Nasser's assumption of power in 1954. The first modern Egyptian novel to be written in the vernacular was Muhammad Husayn Haykal's Zaynab in 1913. Other notable novelists such as Ihsan Abdel Quddous and Yusuf Idris, and poets such as Salah Jaheen, Abnudi and Fagoumi, helped solidify vernacular literature as a distinct literary genre.[12]

Nasser undertook an Arabization campaign in Egypt's education system and government administration, which stoutly relegated Egyptian Arabic to secondary status. In the last fifty years, educated Egyptian as a result became heavily influenced by the official language - Standard Arabic. Following Nasser's death, interest in the Egyptian dialect was rekindled by vernacular authors.

As the status of Egyptian Arabic vis-à-vis Classical Arabic can have such political and religious implications in Egypt, the question of whether Egyptian Arabic should be considered a "dialect" or "language" can be a source of debate. In sociolinguistics, Egyptian Arabic can be seen as one of many distinct varieties which, despite arguably being languages on abstand grounds, are united by a common dachsprache in Literary Arabic (MSA).

Spoken varieties in Egypt

Sa'idi Arabic (Upper Egyptian), it is a separate variety in and ISO 639-3 as well as in other sources.[13] It carries little prestige nationally though it continues to be widely spoken (19,000,000 speakers)[14] including in the north by rural migrants who have adapted partially to Egyptian Arabic. For example, the Sa'idi genitive exponent is usually replaced with Egyptian bitāʿ, but the realization of /ʔ/ as [ɡ] is retained.[citation needed] Second and third-generation migrants are monolingual in the Cairene variety, but maintain cultural and familial ties to the south.[citation needed]

The traditional division between Lower and Upper Egypt and their respective differences go back to ancient times. Egyptians today commonly refer to the people of the north as baḥarwa ([bɑˈħɑɾˤwɑ]) and to those of the south as ṣaʻayda ([sˤɑˈʕɑjdɑ]). The differences throughout Egypt, however, are more wide ranging and do not neatly correspond to this simple division. There is a linguistic shift from the eastern to the western parts of the delta, and the varieties spoken from Gizah to el Minya are further grouped into a Middle Egypt cluster. Despite these differences, there are features distinguishing all the Egyptian Arabic varieties of the Nile Valley from any other Arabic variety. Such features include reduction of long vowels in open and unstressed syllables, the postposition of demonstratives and interrogatives, the modal meaning of the imperfect, and the integration of the participle.[15]

The Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic variety[16] of the western desert is different from all other Arabic varieties in Egypt as linguistically it forms part of the Maghrebi group of varieties.[17] The same was formerly true of the Egyptian form of Judaeo-Arabic.[citation needed] Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic is also distinct from Egyptian Arabic.[18]



Vowel phonemes

The Egyptian Arabic vocalic system has changed from the Classical system. The system of vowels is as follows:

Native vowels
Front Back
long short final long short final
Close i o~ʊ~u
Near-close e~ɪ o~ʊ
Near-open æː æ
Open ɑː ɑ
  • 1. Short vowels:
  • /a/ (/æ/, /ɑ/): [æ], [ɑ]
  • /i/: [e]~[ɪ]; [i] at the end of a word
  • /u/: [o]~[ʊ]; [o]~[ʊ]~[u] at the end of a word
  • /I/ (epenthetic, possibly non-phonemic): [e]
  • 2. Long vowels:

For some speakers, the higher vowels tend to be more centralized in emphatic environment:

The Classical Arabic phonemes /a/ and /aː/ are in the process of splitting into two phonemes each, resulting in the four Egyptian Arabic phonemes /æ æː ɑ ɑː/. The front and back variants alternate in verbal and nominal paradigms in ways that are largely predictable, but the back variants /ɑ ɑː/ occur unpredictably in some lexical stems, especially those of European-language origin. This is discussed more below.

[] and [] are derived from the Classical Arabic diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/, respectively, when occurring in closed syllables (i.e. not followed by a vowel). Note that the diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ also occur in the same environment, due to later deletion of unstressed vowels and resulting contraction, e.g. /mudawla/ [moˈdæwlæ] "consultation" < Classical */mudaːwala/.[19] Minimal pairs such as /ʃajla/ [ˈʃæjlæ] "carrying (fem. sg.)" and /ʃeːla/ [ˈʃeːlæ] "burden" also occur. Both of these words are derived from */ʃaːjila/; /ʃeːla/ is the phonologically regular outcome, while /ʃajla/ is an analogical reformation based on the corresponding participial form /CaCCa/ of other verbs of the same class.

Egyptian Arabic maintains in all positions the early post-Classical distinctions between short /i/ and /u/. Contrast, for example, Levantine Arabic Dialects, which merge /i/ and /u/ into /ə/ in most positions, and Moroccan Arabic, which merges /i/ and /a/ into /ǝ/ in all positions. In particular, note the different shapes and vowel distinctions between /kitaːb/ [keˈtæːb] "book", /gumaːl/ [ɡoˈmæːl] "beautiful (pl.)" vs. /gimaːl/ [ɡeˈmæːl] "camels", /ixtaːrˤ/ [exˈtɑːɾˤ] "he chose"; in most other Levantine dialects, all the short vowels in these words are elided, leading to the identical shapes /ktaːb/, /ʒmaːl/, /xtaːr/.

The epenthetic vowel /I/ is automatically inserted after the second of three or more consonants in a cluster, to break up such clusters, because they are completely disallowed in Egyptian Arabic. The pronunciation of /I/ is [e], as for /i/, but it remains [e] even when /i/ surfaces as [i], leading to minimal pairs:

  • /bint-I-gamiːla/ [ˈbent-e-gæˈmiːlæ] "a beautiful girl"
  • /bint-i gamiːla/ [ˈbent-i gæˈmiːlæ] "my girl is beautiful"

An alternative analysis is that the epenthetic vowel is simply /i/ but is proclitic onto the following word; hence, it never occurs at the end of a word, and thus is always pronounced as [e]. Such an analysis is as follows:

  • /bint i-gamiːla/ [ˈbent e-gæˈmiːlæ] "a beautiful girl"
  • /bint-i gamiːla/ [ˈbent-i gæˈmiːlæ] "my girl is beautiful"

We prefer to denote the epenthetic vowel as /I/ for clarity, to clarify the fact that it is epenthetic rather than an inherent part of any of the underlying words.

Emphasis spreading

Many spoken Arabic varieties have developed two allophones of the Classical Arabic vowels /a/ and /aː/, with fronted allophones [æ æː] occurring in most circumstances, but backed allophones [ɑ ɑː] occurring in the vicinity of emphatic consonants. This process is known as emphasis spreading. The definition of both "vicinity" and "emphatic consonant" varies depending on the individual speech variety. In Egyptian Arabic, the occurrence of [ɑ ɑː] is no longer completely predictable, suggesting that these sounds have become phonemicized; but see below for more discussion.

In Egyptian Arabic, the consonants that trigger emphasis spreading include the pharyngealized consonants /tˤ dˤ sˤ zˤ/, the uvular stop /q/, and some instances of /r/ (see below). On the other hand, the pharyngeal consonants /ħ ʕ/ do not trigger emphasis spreading; in the standard Cairene dialect, the velar fricatives /x ɣ/ also do not, although this is different in many Sa'idi dialects in which they are uvular /χ ʁ/.

In general, when emphasis spreading is triggered, the back variants [ɑ ɑː] spread both forward and backward throughout the phonological word, including any morphological prefixes, suffixes and clitics. Note that this is different from many other Arabic varieties. For example, in Moroccan Arabic, emphasis spreading usually travels no farther than the first full vowel on either side of the triggering consonant, and in many varieties of Levantine Arabic, emphasis spreading is of indefinite extent but is blocked by the phonemes /j ʃ/. Nevertheless, emphasis spreading is not completely "reliable", and there is some free variation, especially in the pronunciation of prefixes and suffixes at some distance from the triggering consonant.

Some instances of /r/ trigger emphasis spreading, while others do not. Originally, an /r/ adjacent to /i/ was considered non-emphatic, while others were "emphatic" and triggered emphasis spreading. Currently, however, this is no more than a rough guideline, as many exceptions have since developed. This situation has led many linguists to postulate the existence of two phonemes /r rˤ/, which both surface as [r~ɾ] but where only /rˤ/ triggers emphasis spreading. This analysis is not completely ideal in that these two resulting "phonemes" /r rˤ/ alternate to a large extent (often unpredictably) in related forms derived from the same root.

Currently, to the extent that the emphatic or non-emphatic variant of /r/ can be predicted, it works as follows: If /r/ is adjacent to a vowel /i(ː)/, emphasis-spreading is inhibited; otherwise, it occurs. The /r/ is able to "see across" derivational but not inflectional morphemes. As an example, /tiɡaːrˤa/ [teˈɡɑːɾˤɑ] "commerce" and /tikbarˤ/ [ˈtekbɑɾˤ] "you (masc.) grow" both have emphasis spreading, since /r/ occurs adjacent to low /a(ː)/ but not adjacent to any non-low vowel. On the other hand, of the derived forms /tiɡaːri/ [teˈɡæːɾi] "commercial" and /tikbarˤi/ [tekˈbɑɾˤi] "you (fem.) grow", only the latter has emphasis spreading. In this case, the derivational suffix /-i/ "related to" creates a new lexical item in the language's vocabulary, and hence the stem is reevaluated for emphasis, with the non-low vowel /i/ triggering non-emphatic /r/; but the inflectional suffix /-i/ "feminine singular" does not create a new lexical item, and as a result the emphasis in the stem remains. (For these purposes, past and non-past forms of a verb are considered separate stems; hence alternations can occur like /istamarˤrˤ/ "he continued" vs. /jistamirr/ he continues".)

An emphasis-spreading /r/ is usually adjacent to a low vowel /a(ː)/ (which in turn is backed to /ɑ(ː)/), but that is not necessary, and /u(ː)/ also triggers emphasis-spreading: Examples maʃhuuṛ [mɑʃˈhuːr] "famous", maʃṛuuʕ [mɑʃˈruːʕ] "project", ṛufayyaʕ [roˈfɑjjɑʕ] "thin".

The alternation between /æ(ː)/ and /ɑ(ː)/ is almost completely predictable in verbal and nominal paradigms, as well as in the large majority of words derived from Classical Arabic. It is also irrelevant for the operation of the numerous phonological adjustment rules (e.g. vowel lengthening, shortening and elision) in Egyptian Arabic. As a result, linguistic descriptions tend to subsume both under an archiphoneme /a(ː)/. On the other hand, there are a number of lexical items in which "autonomous" /ɑ ɑː/ tend to occur irrespective of the presence of emphatic consonants. A few are in Arabic-derived words, e.g. /mɑjjɑ/ "water", but the majority are in words of foreign origin — especially those derived from European languages — where /ɑ ɑː/ echo the vowel quality of /a/ in those languages.

Different authors have proposed differing phonemic analyses of this situation:

  • Some go ahead and treat all occurrences of [æ(ː) ɑ(ː)] as separate phonemes, despite the additional complexity of the resulting morphological descriptions;
  • Some treat only "autonomous" occurrences of [ɑ(ː)] as phonemes /ɑ(ː)/, with all the rest subsumed under /a(ː)/;
  • Some have created new emphatic consonants (e.g. analyzing [ˈmɑjjɑ] as /mˤajja/, where underlying /mˤ/ surfaces as [m] but triggers the back allophone [ɑ]);
  • Some have ignored the distinction entirely.

The approach followed here is to ignore the distinction in phonemic descriptions, subsuming [æ(ː) ɑ(ː)] under the archiphoneme /a(ː)/, but where necessary to also include a phonetic explication (i.e. detailed pronunciation) that indicates the exact quality of all vowels. Generally, these phonetic explications are given for the examples in the section on phonology, and elsewhere whenever autonomous /ɑ(ː)/ occurs.


Egyptian Arabic consonant phonemes[20]
  Labial Alveolar Palato-
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyn-
plain emphatic plain emphatic 3
Nasal m ()4 n              
Stop voiceless (p)1   t     k (q)5   ʔ
voiced b ()4 d ()5   ɡ      
Fricative voiceless f   s ʃ   x   ħ h
voiced (v)1   z (ʒ)1 2   ɣ   ʕ  
Tap/trill     ɾ~r ɾˤ~          
Approximant     l     j w      
  • ^1 Not all Egyptians can pronounce [p, v, ʒ] which are mostly found in names or loanwords[21] (not from Literary Arabic).
    [ʒ] (which can be a reduction of /d͡ʒ/) of loanwords tends to be Egyptianized & merge with [ʃ]; example: 'garage' جراش is only pronounced /ɡarˤaːʃ/ [ɡɑɾˤɑːʃ] even by educated speakers.
  • ^2 Few rural speakers away from Cairo pronounce [ʒ] instead of [ɡ]. Pronouncing [ʒ] in Egyptianized words instead of [ɡ] is not considered prestigious.
  • ^3 Some people lack some or all emphatic consonants.
  • ^4 Watson argues that emphatic [bˤ, mˤ] are additional consonants in Egyptian Arabic with marginal status.
  • ^5 If /dˤ, q/ are pronounced, it would be only in Literary Arabic.
    /q/ may be Egyptianized to [ʔ] or if approximated to [k] in a word, the front vowel /æ/ is backed to [ɑ].
    In Literary Arabic words having /dˤ/, it's normally substituted with [d] with the front vowel /æ/ in these words is backed to [ɑ].
    Non-Egyptianized loanwords having interdental consonants (/θ/, /ð/) are always approximated to sibilants [s], [z].

Traditionally the interdental consonants /θ ð ðˤ/ corresponded to the /t d dˤ/. This is a feature common to some North African Arabic varieties, and is attested in pre-modern words:

  • /taʕlab/ (fox) from */θaʕlab/ ثعلب (and never /saʕlab/). Likewise: /talg/ (ice) from */θalɟ/ ثلج; /taman/ (price) from */θaman/ ثمن; /talaːta/ (three) from */θalaːθa/ ثلاثة; /nitaːja/ (female) from ??; /miħraːt/ (plough) from */miħraːθ/ محراث; /ʕatarˤ/ (tripped/found) from /*ʕaθar/ عثر.
  • /deːl/ (tail) from */ðajl/ ذيل and never /zajl/. Likewise /dakarˤ/ (male) from */ðakar/ ذكر; /kidib/ (lied) from */kaðib/ كذب; /diːb/ (wolf) from */ðiʔb/ ذئب
  • /dufr/ (nail) from */ðˤufr/ ظفر and never /zˤufr/. Likewise /dˤalma/ (darkness) from */ðˤulma/ ظلمة.

Unlike other North African varieties, Egyptian Arabic also shows another feature where interdentals /θ ð ðˤ/ correspond to sibilant consonants /s z zˤ/.[22] This has been specially the result of modernisation and the increase of literacy, and the classicisation practice in official media, as well as a tendency to imperfectly imitate the pronunciation of the Levant and Arabia as it is commonly perceived more suitable for Islamic religious[citation needed] preaching, and as a trait of Egyptian diaspora. But also due to historical influence[citation needed] by Levantine dialects which constitute the eastern influx of the continuum.

  • /sawrˤa/ (revolution) as opposed to /θawra/ ثورة
  • /ʔizaːʕa/ (broadcasting) as opposed to /ʔiðaːʕa/ إذاعة
  • /bazˤr/ (clitoris) as opposed to /baðˤr/ بظر

Classical Arabic reflex ǧīm ج */ɡʲ~ɟ/ is realized velar in most of Egypt in the same way as it is in some southern Arabic dialects since antiquity and still present in Yemen and Oman. So that ǧabal جبل (mountain) is pronounced, even in Literary Arabic as [ˈɡæbæl] rather than /d͡ʒabal/.

Other consonants are more marginal. In addition to appearing in native words, /rˤ/ also appears in loanwords from European languages, such as [bɑɾˤɑˈʃot] (parachute), and native words with guttural vowels, such as [ˈbɑʔɑɾˤi] (my cows)[23] vs [ˈbæʔæɾi] (from cows/cowlike). Labial emphatics /bˤ/ and /mˤ/ also come from loanwords; minimal pairs include /bˤaːbˤa/ (pope/pontiff/patriarch) vs /baːba/ (Paopi).[24] Classical Arabic /q/ became [ʔ] in Cairo and the eastern Delta (a feature shared with Lebanese and other forms of Levantine Arabic), but /q/ is retained natively in some dialects of the western Delta outside of Alexandria,[25] and has been reintroduced as a marginal phoneme from Standard Arabic in other dialects, particularly relating to certain words (e.g. words deriving from the root -Q-F, relating to culture) and in mildly careful speech to distinguish between words that would otherwise be identical (e.g. قانون: either [qɑˈnuːn], "law", or [ʔæˈnuːn], "kanun"; or قوى: either [ˈqɑwi], "powerful, strong, mighty" or [ˈʔæwi] "very",[22] although [ˈʔæwi] could be used for both meanings). /v/, /p/, and /ʒ/ also appear in loanwords, such as [ʒæˈkettæ, ˈʒæ(ː)ket] (jacket).


Voicing and devoicing

For some speakers, but not all speakers, there is a voicing and devoicing assimilation for the following consonants:

  • Voiced: /t/[d]; /s/[z]; //[]; /k/[ɡ]; /x/[ɣ]; /ʃ/[ʒ]; /f/[v]; //[d].
  • Devoiced: /d/[t]; /z/[s]; //[]; /ɡ/[k]; /ɣ/[x]; /ʒ/[ʃ]; /v/[f].
    • Examples on voicing assimilation: "confuse/ˈlɑxbɑtˤ/[ˈlɑɣbɑtˤ]; "outrun/ˈjesbæʔ/[ˈjezbæʔ]; "suspected/mæʃˈbuːh/[mæʒˈbuːh]; "utter"(noun)  /lɑfzˤ/[lɑvzˤ].
    • Examples of devoicing assimilation: "society/moɡˈtæmæʕ/[mokˈtæmæʕ]; "ask forgiveness [of god]"  /jesˈtɑɣfɑɾˤ/[jesˈtɑxfɑɾˤ].

However, for some words, such as "annoyed" [metˈdæːjeʔ] and "took" [xædt], they are more commonly pronounced with assimilation, [medˈdæːjeʔ] and [xæt(t)], respectively.

  • Pharyngeal consonants before /h/:
    • The sequence h/ is more commonly pronounced ħ]. In careful speech can be pronounced h].
      Example: "opened+it(feminine)"   /fæˈtæħhæ/[fæˈtæħħæ]
    • The sequence /ʕh/ is more commonly pronounced [ʕ̞ħ] (or sometimes [ħħ]). In careful speech can be pronounced [ʕh].
      Example: "hers"   /beˈtæʕhæ/[beˈtæʕ̞ħæ] or [beˈtæħħæ].
  • Sibilant consonants before /ʃ/:
    • The sequences /sʃ/ and /sˤʃ/ are more commonly pronounced [ss]. In careful speech can be pronounced [sʃ] and [sˤʃ], respectively.
      "didn't+kiss"   /mæˈbæsʃ/[mæˈbæs(s)]
    • The sequences /zʃ/ and /zˤʃ/ are more commonly pronounced [ss]. In careful speech can be pronounced [zʃ] and [zˤʃ], respectively.
      "didn't(+be)+corrupt" /mɑˈbɑzˤʃ/[mɑˈbɑs(s)].
    • The sequence /ʒʃ/ is more commonly pronounced [ʃʃ]. In careful speech can be pronounced [ʒʃ].
      "didn't+montage(verb)" /mæmænˈteʒʃ/[mæmænˈteʃ(ʃ)].


The position of stress is essentially automatic. The basic rule is that, preceding from right to left in a word, the stress goes on the first encountered syllable of any of these types:

  • (1a, 1b) a heavy syllable: i.e. a syllable closed with a long vowel (1a) (i.e. ...CV:...) or with two consonants (including a geminate) (1b) (i.e. ...CVCC...)
  • (2a, 2b) a non-final light syllable that directly follows a heavy syllable
  • (3) a non-final light syllable that directly follows two light syllables (i.e. ...CVCVC'VCV...)
  • (4) the first syllable of the word.

Examples, followed by the number of the rule that applies:

  • /katab/ [ˈkætæb] (4) "he wrote"
  • /katabt/ [kæˈtæbt] (1b) "I wrote"
  • /kaːtib/ [ˈkæːteb] (1a) "writing (v.)" or "writer"
  • /katba/ [ˈkætbæ] (1b) "female writer"
  • /kitaːb/ [keˈtæːb] (1a) "book"
  • /maktab/ [ˈmæktæb] (1b) "desk"
  • /maktaba/ [mækˈtæbæ] (2b) "library"
  • /tiktib/ [ˈtekteb] (1b) "you (masc.) write"
  • /tiktibi/ [tekˈtebi] (2b) "you (fem.) write"
  • /tiktibiː/ [tekteˈbiː] (1a) "you (fem.) write it"
  • /katabit/ [ˈkætæbet] (4) "she wrote"
  • /katabitu/ [kætæˈbetu] or [kætæˈbeto] (3) "she wrote it"

Because the stress is almost completely predictable, it is not indicated in phonemic transcriptions (but is given in the corresponding phonetic explication).

Vowel shortening, lengthening, deletion, insertion, elision, linking

Compared with most other Arabic varieties, Egyptian Arabic is particularly known for the complicated set of phonetic adjustments that occur to the surface pronunciation of words. Egyptian Arabic has a strong preference for syllables with a CVC or CVV shape (i.e. heavy syllables, rather than light or superheavy syllables), and these various phonetic adjustments all conspire to modify the surface pronunciation of connected speech towards the ideal of consisting entirely of heavy syllables. Examples:

  • Shortening of long vowels to avoid superheavy syllables (CVVC.CV → CVC.CV)
  • Lengthening of short vowels to avoid light stressed syllables (ˈCV.CV → ˈCVV.CV)
  • Elision of short vowels to avoid sequences of light syllables (CV.CV.CV → CVC.CV)
  • Insertion of short vowels to avoid three-consonant sequences, which would result in a superheavy syllable (CVCC.CV or CVC.CCV → CVC.CV.CV)
  • Movement of syllable boundaries across word boundaries to avoid vowel-initial syllables (CVC VC VC → CV.C-V.C-VC)
  • Insertion of a glottal stop when necessary to avoid vowel-initial syllables
/da illi ana ʕaːwiz-u//da-ll-ana ʕawz-u/ "that's what I want"
Operation Result
Original /da illi ana ʕaːwiz-u/
Elision of /i/
next to a vowel
/da-ll-ana ʕaːwiz-u/
Deletion of short
high vowel in VCVCV
/da-ll-ana ʕaːwz-u/
Shortening before
two consonants
/da-ll-ana ʕawz-u/

An example of these various processes together:

  • Sentence, analyzed morphologically: /da illi ana ʕa:wiz+u/
  • Literally:That – RELATIVE – I – wanting(masc.)+it
  • Meaning: "That is what I want."
  • Continuous pronunciation (phonemic): /da-ll-ana ʕawz-u/
  • Continuous pronunciation (phonetic): [ˈdæ-ll-ˈænæ ˈʕæwz-u]
  • Continuous, resyllabified pronunciation (phonetic): [ˈdæl.ˈlæ.næ.ˈʕæw.zu]
  • Normal-form pronunciation: [ˈdælˈlænæ ˈʕæwzu]

Note: When a hyphen joins two words in the non-resyllabified pronunciation, this indicates either that a clitic (usually a pronoun) has been joined to another word, or that resyllabification will occur across the hyphen.

In the following and similar analyses, the normal-form pronunciation is given as the phonetic equivalent of the given phonemic form, although the intermediate steps may be given if necessary for clarity.

Another example:

  • Sentence, analyzed morphologically: /ana ʕaːwiz aːkul/
  • Literally:I – wanting(masc.) –
  • Meaning: "I want to eat."
  • Continuous pronunciation (phonemic): /ana ʕawz-aːkul/
  • Normal-form pronunciation: [ænæ ˈʕæwˈzæːkol]

Another example:

  • Sentence, analyzed morphologically: /ana ʕaːwiz aːkul-u/
  • Literally:I – wanting(masc.) –
  • Meaning: "I want to eat it."
  • Continuous pronunciation (phonemic): /ana ʕawz-akl-u/
  • Normal-form pronunciation: [ænæ ˈʕæwˈzæklu]

Another example:

  • Sentence, analyzed morphologically: /humma ʕaːwiz+i:n jaːkul+u-ː/
  • Literally:They – wanting(pl.) –
  • Meaning: "They want to eat it."
  • Continuous pronunciation (phonemic): /humma ʕawziːn jakluː/
  • Normal-form pronunciation: [hommæ ʕæwˈziːn jækˈluː]
Vowel shortening

All long vowels are shortened when followed by two consonants (including geminated consonants), and also in unstressed syllables (but sometimes kept long in careful speech pronouncing loanwords, as in /qaːˈhira/ "Cairo" and a few other borrowings from Classical Arabic with similar shapes, e.g. /zˤaːˈhira/ "phenomenon").[26] Long vowel [iː, uː], when shortened collapse with [e, o] which are, as well, the shortened form of [eː, oː]; as a result, The following three words are only distinguished contextually:

  1. /ɡibna/ [ˈɡebnæ] "cheese"
  2. /ɡiːb+na/ (literally "brought+we") → /ɡibna/ [ˈɡebnæ] "we brought"
  3. /ɡeːb-na/ (literally "pocket+we") → /ɡeb-na/ [ˈɡebnæ] "our pocket"


  • /ʔaːl li/ (literally "he.said –") → /ʔal-li/ [ˈʔælli] "he said to me"
Vowel lengthening

Final short vowels are lengthened when the stress is brought forward onto them as a result of the addition of a suffix:

  • /katabu/ "they wrote" + /-ha/ "it (fem.)" → /kataˈbuː-ha/ [kætæˈbuːhæ] "they wrote it (fem.)"
Vowel deletion (syncope)

Unstressed /i/ and /u/ are deleted (i.e. syncope) when occurring in the context /VCVCV/, i.e. in an internal syllable with a single consonant on both sides. This also applies across word boundaries in cases of close syntactic connection, e.g.:

  • /fi/ "in" + /kitaːb/ "a book" → /fi-ktaːb/ [fekˈtæːb] "in a book"
Vowel insertion (epenthesis)

As mentioned above, three or more consonants are never allowed to appear together, including across a word boundary. When such a situation would occur, an epenthetic vowel /I/ (always pronounced [e]) is inserted between the second and third consonants:

  • /il/ "the" + /bint/ "girl" + /di/ "this"/il bint-I-di/ [el ˈbenteˈdi] "this girl"
Vowel elision, linking

Unlike in most Arabic dialects, Egyptian Arabic has many words that logically begin with a vowel (e.g. /ana/ "I"), in addition to words that logically begin with a glottal stop (e.g. /ʔawi/ "very", from Classical /qawij(j)/ "strong"). When pronounced in isolation, both types of words will be sounded with an initial glottal stop. However, when following another word, words beginning with a vowel will often follow smoothly after the previous word, while words beginning with a glottal stop will always have the glottal stop sounded, e.g.:

  • /il walad (ʔ)aħmarˤ/ (lit. "the – boy –") → [el ˈwælæˈdɑħmɑɾˤ] or [el ˈwælæd ˈʔɑħmɑɾˤ] "the boy is red"
  • /inta kibiːr ʔawi/ (lit. " – – very") → /inta-kbiːr ʔawi/ [entækˈbiːɾ ˈʔæwi] "you (masc. sg.) are very big"

The phonetic pronunciations indicated above also demonstrate the phenomenon of linking, a normal process in Egyptian Arabic where syllable boundaries are adjusted across word boundaries to ensure that every syllable begins with exactly one consonant.

Elision of vowels often occurs across word boundaries when a word ending with a vowel is followed by a word beginning with a vowel, especially when the two vowels are the same, or when one is /i/. More specifically, elision occurs in the following circumstances:

  1. When both vowels are the same, one will be elided.
  2. When final /i/ is followed by initial /a/, /i/ is elided.
  3. When any vowel is followed by initial /i/, /i/ is elided.

Examples of #1:

  • /inta aħmar//int-aħmar/ [enˈtɑħmɑɾˤ] "you (masc. sg.) are red"

Examples of #2:

  • /bi- aktib//b-aktib/ [ˈbækteb] "I write"
  • /naːwi aruːħ//naːw-aruːħ/ [ˈnæːw-ɑˈɾˤuːħ] "I intend to go"
  • /xalli-ni arawwaħ//xalliː-ni arawwaħ//xalliː-n-arawwaħ/ [xælˈliːn-ɑˈɾˤɑwwɑħ] "let me go home"

Examples of #3:

  • /da illi ana ʕa:wiz+u/ (lit. "That – RELATIVE – I – wanting(masc.)+it") → /da-ll-ana ʕawz-u/ [ˈdælˈlænæ ˈʕæwzu] "that's what I want"
  • /huwwa inta kibiːr/ (lit. "QUESTION.masc – –") → /huwwa-nta-kbiːr/ [howˈwæntækˈbiːɾ] "are you big (grown-up)?"
Multiple processes
/il bint kibiːra//il bint-I-kbiːra/ "the girl is big (grown up)"
Operation Result
Original /il bint kibiːra/
Epenthesis in
CCC sequence
/il bint-I-kibiːra/
Deletion of short
high vowel in VCVCV
/il bint-I-kbiːra/

Multiple processes often apply simultaneously. Example of insertion and deletion together:

  • /il bint kibiːra//il bint-I-kbiːra/ [el ˈbentekˈbiːɾæ] "the girl is big (i.e. grown up)"; compare /il walad kibiːr/ "the boy is big", where neither process applies.

Example of both syncope and long-vowel shortening:

  • /sˤaːħib+a/ (lit. "friend+fem.") → /sˤaħba/ [ˈsˤɑħbɑ]; compare with Classical Arabic /sˤaːħiba/.

The operation of the various processes can often produce ambiguity:

  • /ana ʕaːwiz aːkul//ana ʕawz-aːkul/ "I (masc.) want to eat"
  • /ana ʕaːwiz+a aːkul//ana ʕawza aːkul//ana ʕawz-aːkul/ "I (fem.) want to eat"

Hence, /ana ʕawz-aːkul/ [ænæ ˈʕawˈzæːkol] is ambiguously masculine or feminine.



In contrast to CA and MSA, nouns are not inflected for case and lack nunation (with the exception of certain fixed phrases in the accusative case, such as شكراً [ˈʃokɾˤɑn], "thank you"). As all nouns take their pausal forms, singular words and broken plurals simply lose their case endings. In sound plurals and dual forms, where, in MSA, difference in case is present even in pausal forms, the genitive/accusative form is the one preserved. Fixed expressions in the construct state beginning in abu, often geographic names, retain their -u in all cases.[27]


Most common broken plural patterns
Singular Plural Notes Examples
CVCCVC(a) CaCaaCiC any four-character root with short second vowel maktab, makaatib "desk, office"; markib, maraakib "boat"; maṭbax, maṭaabix "kitchen"; masʔala, masaaʔil "matter"; maṭṛaḥ, maṭaaṛiḥ "place"; masṛaḥ, masaaṛiḥ "theater"; tazkaṛa, tazaakir "ticket"; ʔiswira, ʔasaawir "bracelet"; muʃkila, maʃaakil "problem"; muulid, mawaalid "(holy) birthday"
CVCCVVC(a) any four-character root with long second vowel CaCaCiiC fustaan, fasatiin "dress"; guṛnaal, gaṛaniil "newspaper"; muftaaḥ, mafatiiḥ "key"; fingaan, fanagiin "cup"; sikkiina, sakakiin "knife"; tamriin, tamariin "exercise"; siggaada, sagagiid "carpet"; magmuuʕ, magamiiʕ "total"; maṣruuf, maṣaṛiif "expense"; maskiin, masakiin "poor, pitiable"
CaC(i)C, CiCC, CeeC (< *CayC) very common for three-character roots CuCuuC dars, duruus "lesson"; daxl, duxuul "income"; daʔn, duʔuun "chin"; ḍeef, ḍuyuuf "guest"; ḍirṣ, ḍuruuṣ "molar tooth"; fann, funuun "art"; farʔ, furuuʔ "difference"; faṣl, fuṣuul "class, chapter"; geeb, guyuub "pocket"; geeʃ, guyuuʃ "army"; gild, guluud "leather"; ḥall, ḥuluul "solution"; ḥarb, ḥuruub "war"; ḥaʔʔ, ḥuʔuuʔ "right"; malik, muluuk "king"
CaC(a)C, CiCC, CuCC, CooC (< *CawC) very common for three-character roots ʔaCCaaC durg, ʔadṛaag "drawer"; duʃʃ, ʔadʃaaʃ "shower"; film, ʔaflaam "film"; miʃṭ, ʔamʃaaṭ "comb"; mitr, ʔamtaaṛ "meter"; gism, ʔagsaam; guzʔ, ʔagzaaʔ "part"; muxx, ʔamxaax "brain"; nahṛ, ʔanhaaṛ "river"; door, ʔadwaaṛ "(one's) turn, floor (of building)"; nooʕ, ʔanwaaʕ "kind, sort"; yoom, ʔayyaam "day"; nuṣṣ, ʔanṣaaṣ "half"; qism, ʔaqṣaam "division"; waʔt, ʔawʔaat "time"; faṛaḥ, ʔafṛaaḥ "joy, wedding"; gaṛas, ʔagṛaas "bell"; maṭaṛ, ʔamṭaaṛ "rain"; taman, ʔatmaan "price"; walad, ʔawlaad "boy"
CaaC, CuuC ʔaCwaaC variant of previous ḥaal, ʔaḥwaal "state, condition"; nuur, ʔanwaaṛ "light"
CaCCa, CooCa (< *CawCa) CiCaC, CuCaC CaCCa < Classical CaCCa (not CaaCiCa) gazma, gizam "shoe"; dawla, duwal "state, country"; ḥalla, ḥilal "pot"; ʃooka, ʃuwak "fork"; taxta, tuxat "blackboard"
CiCCa CiCaC ḥiṣṣa, ḥiṣaṣ "allotment"; ḥiṭṭa, ḥiṭaṭ "piece"; minḥa, minaḥ "scholarship"; nimra, nimar "number"; qiṣṣa, qiṣaṣ "story"
CuCCa CuCaC fuṛma, fuṛam "shape, form"; fuṛṣa, fuṛaṣ "chance"; fusḥa, fusaḥ "excursion"; fuuṭa, fuwaṭ "napkin"; nukta, nukat "joke"; ʔuṭṭa, ʔuṭaṭ "cat"; mudda, mudad "period (of time)"
CVCVVC(a) CaCaayiC three-character roots with long second vowel sigaaṛa, sagaayir "cigarette"; gariida, gaṛaayid "newspaper"; gimiil, gamaayil "favor"; ḥabiib, ḥabaayib "lover"; ḥariiʔa, ḥaraayiʔ "destructive fire"; ḥaʔiiʔa, ḥaʔaayiʔ "fact, truth"; natiiga, nataayig "result"; xaṛiiṭa, xaṛaayiṭ "map"; zibuun, zabaayin "customer"
CaaCiC, CaCCa CawaaCiC CaCCa < Classical CaaCiCa (not CaCCa) ḥaamil, ḥawaamil "pregnant"; haanim, hawaanim "lady"; gaamiʕ, gawaamiʕ "mosque"; maaniʕ, mawaaniʕ "obstacle"; fakha, fawaakih "fruit"; ḥadsa, ḥawaadis "accident"; fayda, fawaayid "benefit"; ʃaariʕ, ʃawaariʕ "street"; xaatim, xawaatim "ring"
CaaCiC CuCCaaC mostly occupational nouns kaatib, kuttaab "writer"; saakin, sukkaan "inhabitant"; saayiḥ, suwwaaḥ "tourist"; ṭaalib, ṭullaab "student"
CaCiiC CuCaCa adjectives and occupational nouns faʔiir, fuʔaṛa "poor"; nabiih, nubaha "intelligent"; naʃiiṭ, nuʃaṭa "active"; raʔiis, ruʔasa "president"; safiir, sufaṛa "ambassador"; waziir, wuzaṛa "minister"; xabiir, xubaṛa "expert"
CaCiiC/CiCiiC CuCaaC adjectives gamiil, gumaal "beautiful"; naʃiiṭ, nuʃaaṭ "active"; niḍiif, nuḍaaf "clean"; tixiin, tuxaan "fat"
Secondary broken plural patterns
Singular Plural Notes Examples
CVCCVVC CaCaCCa occupational nouns tilmiiz, talamza "student"; ʔustaaz, ʔasatza "teacher"; simsaaṛ, samasṛa "broker"; duktoor, dakatra "doctor"
CaCVVC CawaaCiiC qamuus, qawamiis "dictionary"; maʕaad, mawaʕiid "appointment"; ṭabuuṛ, ṭawabiiṛ "line, queue"
CaCaC CiCaaC gamal, gimaal "camel"; gabal, gibaal "mountain, hill"
CaCC ʔaCCuC ʃahṛ, ʔaʃhur "month"
CiCaaC, CaCiiC(a) CuCuC kitaab, kutub "book"; madiina, mudun "city"
CaCC(a) CaCaaCi maʕna, maʕaani "meaning"; makwa, makaawi "iron"; ʔahwa, ʔahaawi "coffee"; ʔaṛḍ, ʔaṛaaḍi "ground, land"
CaaCa, CaaCi, CaCya CawaaCi ḥaaṛa, ḥawaaṛi "alley"; naadi, nawaadi "club"; naḥya, nawaaḥi "side"
CaCaC, CiCaaC ʔaCCiCa/ʔiCCiCa ḥizaam, ʔaḥzima "belt"; masal, ʔamsila "example"; sabat, ʔisbita "basket"
CiCiyya CaCaaya hidiyya, hadaaya "gift"
CaaC CiCaaC faaṛ, firaan "mouse"; gaaṛ, giraan "neighbor"; xaal, xilaan "maternal uncle"

Color/defect nouns

Examples of "color and defect" nouns
Meaning (template) green blue black white deaf blind one-eyed
Masculine ʔaCCaC ʔaxḍaṛ ʔazraʔ ʔiswid ʔabyaḍ ʔaṭṛaʃ ʔaʕma ʔaʕwaṛ
Feminine CaCCa xaḍṛa zarʔa sooda beeḍa ṭaṛʃa ʕamya ʕooṛa
Plural CuCC xuḍr zurʔ suud biiḍ ṭurʃ ʕumy ʕuur

A common set of nouns referring to colors, as well as a number of nouns referring to physical defects of various sorts, take a special inflectional pattern, as shown in the table. Note that only a small number of common color inflect this way: ʔaḥmaṛ "red"; ʔazraʔ "blue"; ʔaxḍaṛ "green"; ʔaṣfaṛ "yellow"; ʔabyaḍ "white"; ʔiswid "black"; ʔasmaṛ "brown-skinned, brunette"; ʔaʃʔaṛ "blond(e)". The remaining colors are invariable, and mostly so-called nisba adjectives derived from colored objects: beeʒ "beige"; banba "pink"; bunni "brown" (< bunn "coffee powder"); ṛamaadi "gray" (< ṛamaad "ashes"); banafsigi "purple" (< banafsig "violet"); burtuʔaani "orange" (< burtuʔaan "oranges"); zibiibi "maroon" (< zibiib "raisins"); etc.


Forms of the independent and clitic pronouns
Meaning Subject Direct object/Possessive Indirect object
After vowel After 1 cons. After 2 cons. After vowel After 1 cons. After 2 cons.
Normal + ʃ + l- Normal + ʃ + l- Normal + ʃ + l- Normal + ʃ Normal + ʃ Normal + ʃ
"my" (nominal) - ́ya -i
"I/me" (verbal) ána - ́ni -íni - ́li -íli
"you(r) (masc.)" ínta - ́k -ak - ́lak -ílak
"you(r) (fem.)" ínti - ́ki -ik -ki -ik -iki - ́lik -lkí -lik -likí -ílik -ilkí
"he/him/his" huwwa - ́ -hu -u -hu -u -uhu - ́lu -ílu
"she/her" hiyya - ́ha -áha - ́lha -láha -ílha
"we/us/our" íḥna - ́na -ína - ́lna -lína -ílna
"you(r) (pl.)" íntu - ́ku -úku - ́lku -lúku -ílku
"they/them/their" humma - ́hum -úhum - ́lhum -lúhum -ílhum
Examples of possessive constructs
Base Word béet
Construct Base béet- biyúut- bánk- sikkíin(i)t- maṛáa- ʔabúu- ʔidée-
"my ..." béet-i biyúut-i bánk-i sikkínt-i maṛáa-ya ʔabúu-ya ʔidáy-ya
"your (masc.) ..." béet-ak biyúut-ak bánk-ak sikkínt-ak maṛáa-k ʔabúu-k ʔidée-k
"your (fem.) ..." béet-ik biyúut-ik bánk-ik sikkínt-ik maṛáa-ki ʔabúu-ki ʔidée-ki
"his ..." béet-u biyúut-u bánk-u sikkínt-u maṛáa-(h) ʔabúu-(h) ʔidée-(h)
"her ..." bét-ha biyút-ha bank-áha sikkinít-ha maṛáa-ha ʔabúu-ha ʔidée-ha
"our ..." bét-na biyút-na bank-ína sikkinít-na maṛáa-na ʔabúu-na ʔidée-na
"your (pl.) ..." bét-ku biyút-ku bank-úku sikkinít-ku maṛáa-ku ʔabúu-ku idée-ku
"their ..." bét-hum biyút-hum bank-úhum sikkinít-hum maṛáa-hum ʔabúu-hum ʔidée-hum
Suffixed prepositions
Base Word fi
"by, in, with"
"in the
possession of,
to have"
"... me" fíy-ya bíy-ya líy-ya wayyáa-ya ʕaláy-ya ʕánd-i mínn-i
"... you (masc.)" fíi-k bíi-k líi-k, l-ak wayyáa-k ʕalée-k ʕánd-ak mínn-ak
"... you (fem.)" fíi-ki bíi-ki líi-ki, li-ki wayyáa-ki ʕalée-ki ʕánd-ik mínn-ik
"... him" fíi-(h) bíi-(h) líi-(h), l-u(h) wayyáa-(h) ʕalée-(h) ʕánd-u mínn-u
"... her" fíi-ha bíi-ha líi-ha, la-ha wayyáa-ha ʕalée-ha ʕand-áha minn-áha, mín-ha
"... us" fíi-na bíi-na líi-na, li-na wayyáa-na ʕalée-na ʕand-ína minn-ína
"... you (pl.)" fíi-ku bíi-ku líi-ku, li-ku wayyáa-ku ʕalée-ku ʕand-úku minn-úku, mín-ku
"... them" fíi-hum bíi-hum líi-hum, li-hum wayyáa-hum ʕalée-hum ʕand-úhum minn-úhum, mín-hum

Egyptian Arabic object pronouns are clitics, in that they attach to the end of a noun, verb or preposition, with the result forming a single phonological word rather than separate words. Clitics can be attached to the following types of words:

  • A clitic pronoun attached to a noun indicates possession: béet "house", béet-i "my house"; sikkíina "knife", sikkínt-i "my knife"; máṛa "wife", maṛáa-ya "my wife"; ʔább "father", ʔabúu-ya "my father". Note that the form of a pronoun may vary depending on the phonological form of the word being attached to (ending with a vowel or with one or two consonants), and the noun being attached to may also have a separate "construct" form before possessive clitic suffixes.
  • A clitic pronoun attached to a preposition indicates the object of the preposition: fill in examples
  • A clitic pronoun attached to a verb indicates the object of the verb: ʃúft "I saw", ʃúft-u "I saw him", ʃuft-áha "I saw her".

With verbs, indirect object clitic pronouns can be formed using the preposition li- plus a clitic. Both direct and indirect object clitic pronouns can be attached to a single verb: agíib "I bring", agíb-hu "I bring it", agib-húu-lik "I bring it to you", m-agib-hu-lkíi-ʃ "I do not bring it to you".


Verbs in Arabic are based on a stem made up of three or four consonants. The set of consonants communicates the basic meaning of a verb. Changes to the vowels in between the consonants, along with prefixes and/or suffixes, specify grammatical functions such as tense, person and number, in addition to changes in the meaning of the verb that embody grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive.

Each particular lexical verb is specified by two stems, one used for the past tense and one used for non-past tenses along with as subjunctive and imperative moods. To the former stem, suffixes are added to mark the verb for person, number and gender, while to the latter stem, a combination of prefixes and suffixes are added. (Very approximately, the prefixes specify the person and the suffixes indicate number and gender.) The third person masculine singular past tense form serves as the "dictionary form" used to identify a verb, similar to the infinitive in English. (Arabic has no infinitive.) For example, the verb meaning "write" is often specified as kátab, which actually means "he wrote". In the paradigms below, a verb will be specified as kátab/yíktib (where kátab means "he wrote" and yíktib means "he writes"), indicating the past stem (katab-) and non-past stem (-ktib-, obtained by removing the prefix yi-).

The verb classes in Arabic are formed along two axes. One axis (described as "form I", "form II", etc.) is used to specify grammatical concepts such as causative, intensive, passive or reflexive, and involves varying the stem form. For example, from the root K-T-B "write" is derived form I kátab/yíktib "write", form II káttib/yikáttib "cause to write", form III ká:tib/yiká:tib "correspond", etc. The other axis is determined by the particular consonants making up the root. For example, defective verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant, which is often reflected in paradigms with an extra final vowel in the stem (e.g. ráma/yírmi "throw" from R-M-Y); meanwhile, hollow verbs have a W or Y as the middle root consonant, and the stems of such verbs appear to have only two consonants (e.g. gá:b/yigí:b "bring" from G-Y-B).

Strong verbs

Strong verbs are those that have no "weakness" (e.g. W or Y) in the root consonants. Each verb has a given vowel pattern for Past (a or i) and Present (a or i or u). Combinations of each exist.

Regular verbs, form I

Form I verbs have a given vowel pattern for past (a or i) and present (a, i or u). Combinations of each exist:

Vowel patterns Example
Past Present
a a ḍárab - yíḍrab to beat
a i kátab - yíktib to write
a u ṭálab - yíṭlub~yúṭlub to order, to demand
i a fíhim - yífham to understand
i i misik - yímsik to hold, to touch
i u sikit - yískut~yúskut to be silent, to shut up
Regular verb, form I, fáʕal/yífʕil

Example: kátab/yíktib "write"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st katáb-t katáb-na á-ktib ní-ktib bá-ktib bi-ní-ktib ḥá-ktib ḥá-ní-ktib
2nd masculine katáb-t katáb-tu tí-ktib ti-ktíb-u bi-tí-ktib bi-ti-ktíb-u ḥa-tí-ktib ḥa-ti-ktíb-u í-ktib i-ktíb-u
feminine katáb-ti ti-ktíb-i bi-ti-ktíb-i ḥa-ti-ktíb-i i-ktíb-i
3rd masculine kátab kátab-u yí-ktib yi-ktíb-u bi-yí-ktib bi-yi-ktíb-u ḥa-yí-ktib ḥa-yi-ktíb-u
feminine kátab-it tí-ktib bi-tí-ktib ḥa-tí-ktib

Note that, in general, the present indicative is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of bi- (bi-a- is elided to ba-). Similarly, the future is formed from the subjunctive by the addition of ḥa- (ḥa-a- is elided to ḥa-). The i in bi- or in the following prefix will be deleted according to the regular rules of vowel syncope:

  • híyya b-tíktib "she writes" (híyya + bi- + tíktib)
  • híyya bi-t-ʃú:f "she sees" (híyya + bi- + tiʃú:f)
  • an-áktib "I write (subjunctive)" (ána + áktib)

Example: kátab/yíktib "write": non-finite forms

Number/Gender Active Participle Passive Participle Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. ká:tib maktú:b kitá:ba
Fem. Sg. kátb-a maktú:b-a
Pl. katb-í:n maktub-í:n
Regular verb, form I, fíʕil/yífʕal

Example: fíhim/yífham "understand"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st fihím-t fihím-na á-fham ní-fham bá-fham bi-ní-fham ḥá-fham ḥá-ní-fham
2nd masculine fihím-t fihím-tu tí-fham ti-fhám-u bi-tí-fham bi-ti-fhám-u ḥa-tí-fham ḥa-ti-fhám-u í-fham i-fhám-u
feminine fihím-ti ti-fhám-i bi-ti-fhám-i ḥa-ti-fhám-i i-fhám-i
3rd masculine fíhim fíhm-u yí-fham yi-fhám-u bi-yí-fham bi-yi-fhám-u ḥa-yí-fham ḥa-yi-fhám-u
feminine fíhm-it tí-fham bi-tí-fham ḥa-tí-fham

Boldfaced forms fíhm-it and fíhm-u differ from the corresponding forms of katab (kátab-it and kátab-u due to vowel syncope). Note also the syncope in ána fhím-t "I understood".

Regular verb, form II, fáʕʕil/yifáʕʕil

Example: dárris/yidárris "teach"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st darrís-t darrís-na a-dárris ni-dárris ba-dárris bi-n-dárris ḥa-dárris ḥa-n-dárris
2nd masculine darrís-t darrís-tu ti-dárris ti-darrís-u bi-t-dárris bi-t-darrís-u ḥa-t-dárris ḥa-t-darrís-u dárris darrís-u
feminine darrís-ti ti-darrís-i bi-t-darrís-i ḥa-t-darrís-i darrís-i
3rd masculine dárris darrís-u yi-dárris yi-darrís-u bi-y-dárris bi-y-darrís-u ḥa-y-dárris ḥa-y-darrís-u
feminine darrís-it ti-dárris bi-t-dárris ḥa-t-dárris

Boldfaced forms indicate the primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab:

  • The prefixes ti-, yi-, ni- have elision of i following bi- or ḥa- (all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant behave this way).
  • The imperative prefix i- is missing (again, all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant behave this way).
  • Due to the regular operation of the stress rules, the stress in the past tense forms darrís-it and darrís-u differs from kátab-it and kátab-u.
Regular verb, form III, fá:ʕil/yifá:ʕil

Example: sá:fir/yisá:fir "travel"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st safír-t safír-na a-sá:fir ni-sá:fir ba-sá:fir bi-n-sá:fir ḥa-sá:fir ḥa-n-sá:fir
2nd masculine safír-t safír-tu ti-sá:fir ti-sáfr-u bi-t-sá:fir bi-t-sáfr-u ḥa-t-sá:fir ḥa-t-sáfr-u sá:fir sáfr-u
feminine safír-ti ti-sáfr-i bi-t-sáfr-i ḥa-t-sáfr-i sáfr-i
3rd masculine sá:fir sáfr-u yi-sá:fir yi-sáfr-u bi-y-sá:fir bi-y-sáfr-u ḥa-y-sá:fir ḥa-y-sáfr-u
feminine sáfr-it ti-sá:fir bi-t-sá:fir ḥa-t-sá:fir

The primary differences from the corresponding forms of darris (shown in boldface) are:

  • The long vowel a: becomes a when unstressed.
  • The i in the stem sa:fir is elided when a suffix beginning with a vowel follows.

Defective verbs

Defective verbs have a W or Y as the last root consonant.

Defective verb, form I, fáʕa/yífʕi

Example: ráma/yírmi "throw"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ramé:-t ramé:-na á-rmi ní-rmi bá-rmi bi-ní-rmi ḥá-rmi ḥa-ní-rmi
2nd masculine ramé:-t ramé:-tu tí-rmi tí-rm-u bi-tí-rmi bi-tí-rm-u ḥa-tí-rmi ḥa-tí-rm-u í-rmi í-rm-u
feminine ramé:-ti tí-rm-i bi-tí-rm-i ḥa-tí-rm-i í-rm-i
3rd masculine ráma rám-u yí-rmi yí-rm-u bi-yí-rmi bi-yí-rm-u ḥa-yí-rmi ḥa-yí-rm-u
feminine rám-it tí-rmi bi-tí-rmi ḥa-tí-rmi

The primary differences from the corresponding forms of katab (shown in boldface) are:

  • In the past, there are three stems: ráma with no suffix, ramé:- with a consonant-initial suffix, rám- with a vowel initial suffix.
  • In the non-past, the stem rmi becomes rm- before a (vowel initial) suffix, and the stress remains on the prefix, since the stem vowel has been elided.
  • Note also the accidental homonymy between masculine tí-rmi, í-rmi and feminine tí-rm-i, í-rm-i.
Defective verb, form I, fíʕi/yífʕa

Example: nísi/yínsa "forget"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st nisí:-t nisí:-na á-nsa ní-nsa bá-nsa bi-ní-nsa ḥá-nsa ḥa-ní-nsa
2nd masculine nisí:-t nisí:-tu tí-nsa tí-ns-u bi-tí-nsa bi-tí-ns-u ḥa-tí-nsa ḥa-tí-ns-u í-nsa í-ns-u
feminine nisí:-ti tí-ns-i bi-tí-ns-i ḥa-tí-ns-i í-ns-i
3rd masculine nísi nísy-u yí-nsa yí-ns-u bi-yí-nsa bi-yí-ns-u ḥa-yí-nsa ḥa-yí-ns-u
feminine nísy-it tí-nsa bi-tí-nsa ḥa-tí-nsa

This verb type is quite similar to the defective verb type ráma/yírmi. The primary differences are:

  • The occurrence of i and a in the stems are reversed: i in the past, a in the non-past.
  • In the past, instead of the stems ramé:- and rám-, the verb has nisí:- (with a consonant-initial suffix) and nísy- (with a vowel initial suffix). Note in particular the |y| in nísyit and nísyu as opposed to rámit and rámu.
  • Elision of i in nisí:- can occur, e.g. ána nsí:t "I forgot".
  • In the non-past, because the stem has a instead of i, there is no homonymy between masculine tí-nsa, í-nsa and feminine tí-ns-i, í-ns-i.

Note that some other verbs have different stem variations, e.g. míʃi/yímʃi "walk" (with i in both stems) and báʔa/yíbʔa "become, remain" (with a in both stems). The verb láʔa/yilá:ʔi "find" is unusual in having a mixture of a form I past and form III present (note also the variations líʔi/yílʔa and láʔa/yílʔa).

Verbs other than form I have consistent stem vowels. All such verbs have a in the past (hence form stems with -é:-, not -í:-). Forms V, VI, X and IIq have a in the present (indicated by boldface below); others have i; forms VII, VIIt, and VIII have i in both vowels of the stem (indicated by italics below); form IX verbs, including "defective" verbs, behave as regular doubled verbs:

  • Form II: wádda/yiwáddi "take away"; ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen"
  • Form III: ná:da/yiná:di "call"; dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure"
  • Form IV (rare, classicized): ʔárḍa/yírḍi "please, satisfy"
  • Form V: itʔáwwa/yitʔáwwa "become strong"
  • Form VI: itdá:wa/yitdá:wa "be treated, be cured"
  • Form VII (rare in the Cairene dialect): inḥáka/yinḥíki "be told"
  • Form VIIt: itnása/yitnísi "be forgotten"
  • Form VIII: iʃtára/yiʃtíri "buy"
  • Form IX (very rare): iḥláww/yiḥláww "be/become sweet"
  • Form X: istákfa/yistákfa "have enough"
  • Form Iq: need example
  • Form IIq: need example

Hollow verbs

Hollow have a W or Y as the middle root consonant. Note that for some forms (e.g. form II and form III), hollow verbs are conjugated as strong verbs (e.g. form II ʕáyyin/yiʕáyyin "appoint" from ʕ-Y-N, form III gá:wib/yigá:wib "answer" from G-W-B).

Hollow verb, form I, fá:l/yifí:l

Example: gá:b/yigí:b "bring"

Tense/mood Past Present subjunctive Present indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st gíb-t gíb-na a-gí:b ni-gí:b ba-gí:b bi-n-gí:b ḥa-gí:b ḥa-n-gí:b
2nd masculine gíb-t gíb-tu ti-gí:b ti-gí:b-u bi-t-gí:b bi-t-gí:b-u ḥa-t-gí:b ḥa-t-gí:b-u gí:b gí:b-u
feminine gíb-ti ti-gí:b-i bi-t-gí:b-i ḥa-t-gí:b-i gí:b-i
3rd masculine gá:b gá:b-u yi-gí:b yi-gí:b-u bi-y-gí:b bi-y-gí:b-u ḥa-y-gí:b ḥa-y-gí:b-u
feminine gá:b-it ti-gí:b bi-t-gí:b ḥa-t-gí:b

This verb works much like dárris/yidárris "teach". Like all verbs whose stem begins with a single consonant, the prefixes differ in the following way from those of regular and defective form I verbs:

  • The prefixes ti-, yi-, ni- have elision of i following bi- or ḥa-.
  • The imperative prefix i- is missing.

In addition, the past tense has two stems: gíb- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and gá:b- elsewhere (third person).

Hollow verb, form I, fá:l/yifú:l

Example: ʃá:f/yiʃú:f "see"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ʃúf-t ʃúf-na a-ʃú:f ni-ʃú:f ba-ʃú:f bi-n-ʃú:f ḥa-ʃú:f ḥa-n-ʃú:f
2nd masculine ʃúf-t ʃúf-tu ti-ʃú:f ti-ʃú:f-u bi-t-ʃú:f bi-t-ʃú:f-u ḥa-t-ʃú:f ḥa-t-ʃú:f-u ʃú:f ʃú:f-u
feminine ʃúf-ti ti-ʃú:f-i bi-t-ʃú:f-i ḥa-t-ʃú:f-i ʃú:f-i
3rd masculine ʃá:f ʃá:f-u yi-ʃú:f yi-ʃú:f-u bi-y-ʃú:f bi-y-ʃú:f-u ḥa-y-ʃú:f ḥa-y-ʃú:f-u
feminine ʃá:f-it ti-ʃú:f bi-t-ʃú:f ḥa-t-ʃú:f

This verb class is identical to verbs such as gá:b/yigí:b except in having stem vowel u in place of i.

Doubled verbs

Doubled verbs have the same consonant as middle and last root consonant, e.g. ḥább/yiḥíbb "love" from Ḥ-B-B.

Doubled verb, form I, fáʕʕ/yifíʕʕ

Example: ḥább/yiḥíbb "love"

Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Present Indicative Future Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st ḥabbé:-t ḥabbé:-na a-ḥíbb ni-ḥíbb ba-ḥíbb bi-n-ḥíbb ḥa-ḥíbb ḥa-n-ḥíbb
2nd masculine ḥabbé:-t ḥabbé:-tu ti-ḥíbb ti-ḥíbb-u bi-t-ḥíbb bi-t-ḥíbb-u ḥa-t-ḥíbb ḥa-t-ḥíbb-u ḥíbb ḥíbb-u
feminine ḥabbé:-ti ti-ḥíbb-i bi-t-ḥíbb-i ḥa-t-ḥíbb-i ḥíbb-i
3rd masculine ḥább ḥább-u yi-ḥíbb yi-ḥíbb-u bi-y-ḥíbb bi-y-ḥíbb-u ḥa-y-ḥíbb ḥa-y-ḥíbb-u
feminine ḥább-it ti-ḥíbb bi-t-ḥíbb ḥa-t-ḥíbb

This verb works much like gá:b/yigí:b "bring". Like that class, it has two stems in the past, which are ḥabbé:- before consonant-initial suffixes (first and second person) and ḥább- elsewhere (third person). Note that é:- was borrowed from the defective verbs; the Classical Arabic equivalent form would be *ḥabáb-, e.g. *ḥabáb-t.

Other verbs have u or a in the present stem: baṣṣ/yibúṣṣ "to look", ṣaḥḥ/yiṣáḥḥ "be right, be proper".

As for the other forms:

  • Form II, V doubled verbs are strong: ḥáddid/yiḥáddid "limit, fix (appointment)"
  • Form III, IV, VI, VIII doubled verbs seem non-existent
  • Form VII and VIIt doubled verbs (same stem vowel a in both stems): inbáll/yinbáll "be wetted", itʕádd/yitʕádd
  • Form VIII doubled verbs (same stem vowel a in both stems): ihtámm/yihtámm "be interested (in)"
  • Form IX verbs (automatically behave as "doubled" verbs, same stem vowel a in both stems): iḥmárr/yiḥmárr "be red, blush", iḥláww/yiḥláww "be sweet"
  • Form X verbs (stem vowel either a or i in non-past): istaḥáʔʔ/yistaḥáʔʔ "deserve" vs. istaʕádd/yistaʕídd "be ready", istamárr/yistamírr "continue".

Assimilated verbs

Assimilated verbs have W or Y as the first root consonant. Most of these verbs have been regularized in Egyptian Arabic, e.g. wázan/yíwzin "to weigh" or wíṣíl/yíwṣal "to arrive". Only a couple of irregular verbs remain, e.g. wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (see below).

Doubly weak verbs

"Doubly weak" verbs have more than one "weakness", typically a W or Y as both the second and third consonants. This term is in fact a misnomer, as such verbs actually behave as normal defective verbs (e.g. káwa/yíkwi "iron (clothes)" from K-W-Y, ʔáwwa/yiʔáwwi "strengthen" from ʔ-W-Y, dá:wa/yidá:wi "treat, cure" from D-W-Y).

Irregular verbs

The irregular verbs are as follows:

  • ídda/yíddi "give" (endings like a normal defective verb)
  • wíʔif/yúʔaf "stop" and wíʔiʕ/yúʔaʕ "fall" (áʔaf, báʔaf, ḥáʔaf "I (will) stop"; úʔaf "stop!")
  • kal/yá:kul "eat" and xad/yá:xud "take" (kalt, kal, kálit, kálu "I/he/she/they ate", also regular ákal, etc. "he/etc. ate"; á:kul, bá:kul, ḥá:kul "I (will) eat", yáklu "they eat"; kúl, kúli, kúlu "eat!"; wá:kil "eating"; mittá:kil "eaten")
  • gé/yí:gi "come". This verb is extremely irregular (with particularly unusual forms in boldface):
Tense/Mood Past Present Subjunctive Imperative
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st gé:-t or gí:-t gé:-na or gí:-na á:-gi ní:-gi
2nd masculine gé:-t or gí:-t gé:-tu or gí:-tu tí:-gi tí:-g-u taʕá:l taʕá:l-u
feminine gé:-ti or gí:-ti tí:-g-i taʕá:l-i
3rd masculine or (also ʔíga)
  gá:-ni (or -li)
"he came to me"
but not *gé:-ni
  but gú:-ni (or -li)
"they came to me" and magú:-ʃ "they didn't come"
yí:-gi yí:-g-u
feminine gat (also ʔígat) tí:-gi

Example: gé/yí:gi "come": non-finite forms

Number/Gender Active Participle Verbal Noun
Masc. Sg. gayy migíyy
Fem. Sg. gáyy-a
Pl. gayy-í:n

Table of verb forms

In this section all verb classes and their corresponding stems are listed, excluding the small number of irregular verbs described above. Verb roots are indicated schematically using capital letters to stand for consonants in the root:

  • F = first consonant of root
  • M = middle consonant of three-consonant root
  • S = second consonant of four-consonant root
  • T = third consonant of four-consonant root
  • L = last consonant of root

Hence, the root F-M-L stands for all three-consonant roots, and F-S-T-L stands for all four-consonant roots. (Traditional Arabic grammar uses F-ʕ-L and F-ʕ-L-L, respectively, but the system used here appears in a number of grammars of spoken Arabic dialects and is probably less confusing for English speakers, since the forms are easier to pronounce than those involving ʕ.)

The following table lists the prefixes and suffixes to be added to mark tense, person, number and gender, and the stem form to which they are added. The forms involving a vowel-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAv or NPv, are highlighted in silver. The forms involving a consonant-initial suffix, and corresponding stem PAc, are highlighted in gold. The forms involving a no suffix, and corresponding stem PA0 or NP0, are unhighlighted.

Tense/Mood Past Non-Past
Person Singular Plural Singular Plural
1st PAc-t PAc-na a-NP0 ni-NP0
2nd masculine PAc-t PAc-tu ti-NP0 ti-NPv-u
feminine PAc-ti ti-NPv-i
3rd masculine PA0 PAv-u yi-NP0 yi-NPv-u
feminine PAv-it ti-NP0

The following table lists the verb classes along with the form of the past and non-past stems, active and passive participles, and verbal noun, in addition to an example verb for each class.


  • Italicized forms are those that follow automatically from the regular rules of vowel shortening and deletion.
  • Multisyllabic forms without a stress mark have variable stress, depending on the nature of the suffix added, following the regular rules of stress assignment.
  • Many participles and verbal nouns have acquired an extended sense. In fact, participles and verbal nouns are the major sources for lexical items based on verbs, especially derived (i.e. non-Form-I) verbs.
  • Some verb classes do not have a regular verbal noun form; rather, the verbal noun varies from verb to verb. Even in verb classes that do have a regular verbal noun form, there are exceptions. In addition, some verbs share a verbal noun with a related verb from another class (in particular, many passive verbs use the corresponding active verb's verbal noun, which can be interpreted in either an active or passive sense). Some verbs appear to lack a verbal noun entirely. (In such a case, a paraphrase would be used involving a clause beginning with inn.)
  • Outside of Form I, passive participles as such are usually non-existent; instead, the active participle of the corresponding passive verb class (e.g. Forms V, VI, VIIt/VIIn for Forms II, III, I respectively) is used. The exception is certain verbs in Forms VIII and X that contain a "classicized" passive participle that is formed in imitation of the corresponding participle in Classical Arabic, e.g. mistáʕmil "using", mustáʕmal "used".
  • Not all forms have a separate verb class for hollow or doubled roots. When no such class is listed below, roots of that shape appear as strong verbs in the corresponding form, e.g. Form II strong verb ḍáyyaʕ/yiḍáyyaʕ "waste, lose" related to Form I hollow verb ḍá:ʕ/yiḍí:ʕ "be lost", both from root Ḍ-Y-ʕ.
Form Root Type Stem Participle Verbal Noun Example
Past Non-Past Active Passive
Person of Suffix 1st/2nd 3rd
Suffix Type Cons-Initial None Vowel-Initial None Vowel-Initial
Suffix Name PAc PA0 PAv NP0 NPv
I Strong FaMaL FMaL Fá:MiL maFMú:L (varies, e.g.
fátaḥ/yíftaḥ "open"
FMiL kátab/yíktib "write"
FMuL dáxal/yúdxul "enter"
FiMiL FiML FMaL fíhim/yífham "understand"
FMiL mísik/yímsik "hold, catch"
FMuL síkin/yúskun "reside"
I Defective FaMé: FáMa FaM FMa FM Fá:Mi máFMi (varies, e.g.
FaMy, máFMa)
báʔa/yíbʔa "remain"
FMi FM ráma/yírmi "throw"
FiMí: FíMi FíMy FMa FM nísi/yínsa "forget"
FMi FM míʃi/yímʃi "walk"
I Hollow FíL Fá:L Fí:L Fá:yiL (mitFá:L, properly
Form VIIt)
(varies, e.g.
Fe:L, Fo:L)
ga:b/yigí:b "bring"
FúL Fú:L ʃa:f/yiʃú:f "see"
FíL Fá:L na:m/yiná:m "sleep"
FúL xa:f/yixá:f "fear"
I Doubled FaMMé: FáMM FíMM Fá:MiM maFMú:M (varies, e.g.
ḥabb/yiḥíbb "love"
FúMM ḥaṭṭ/yiḥúṭṭ "put"
II Strong FaMMaL miFáMMaL taFMí:L ɣáyyaṛ/yiɣáyyaṛ "change"
FaMMiL miFáMMiL dárris/yidárris "teach"
II Defective FaMMé: FáMMa FáMM FáMMi FáMM miFáMMi taFMíya wárra/yiwárri "show"
III Strong FaMíL Fá:MiL FáML Fá:MiL FáML miFá:MiL miFáMLa zá:kir/yizá:kir "study"
III Defective FaMé: Fá:Ma Fá:M Fá:Mi Fá:M miFá:Mi miFáMya ná:da/yiná:di "call"
IV Strong ʔáFMaL FMiL míFMiL iFMá:L ʔáḍṛab/yíḍrib "go on strike"
IV Defective ʔaFMé: ʔáFMa ʔáFM FMi FM míFMi (uncommon) ʔáṛḍa/yíṛḍi "please"
IV Hollow ʔaFáL ʔaFá:L Fí:L miFí:L ʔiFá:La ʔafá:d/yifí:d "inform"
IV Doubled ʔaFaMMé: ʔaFáMM FíMM miFíMM iFMá:M  ???
V Strong itFaMMaL tFaMMaL mitFáMMaL taFáMMuL (or Form II) itmáṛṛan/yitmáṛṛan "practice"
itFaMMiL tFaMMiL mitFáMMiL itkállim/yitkállim "speak"
V Defective itFaMMé: itFáMMa itFáMM tFáMMa tFáMM mitFáMMi (use Form II) itʔáwwa/yitʔáwwa "become strong"
VI Strong itFaMíL itFá:MiL itFáML tFá:MiL tFáML mitFá:MiL taFá:MuL (or Form III) itʕá:win/yitʕá:win "cooperate"
VI Defective itFaMé: itFá:Ma itFá:M tFá:Ma tFá:M mitFá:Mi (use Form III) iddá:wa/yiddá:wa "be treated, be cured"
VIIn Strong inFáMaL nFíMiL nFíML minFíMiL inFiMá:L (or Form I) inbáṣaṭ/yinbíṣiṭ "enjoy oneself"
VIIn Defective inFaMé: inFáMa inFáM nFíMi nFíM minFíMi (use Form I) inḥáka/yinḥíki "be told"
VIIn Hollow inFáL inFá:L nFá:L minFá:L inFiyá:L (or Form I) inbá:ʕ/yinbá:ʕ "be sold"
VIIn Doubled inFaMMé: inFáMM nFáMM minFáMM inFiMá:M (or Form I) inbáll/yinbáll "be wetted"
VIIt Strong itFáMaL tFíMiL tFíML mitFíMiL itFiMá:L (or Form I) itwágad/yitwígid "be found"
VIIt Defective itFaMé: itFáMa itFáM tFíMi tFíM mitFíMi (use Form I) itnása/yitnísi "be forgotten"
VIIt Hollow itFáL itFá:L tFá:L mitFá:L itFiyá:L (or Form I) itbá:ʕ/yitbá:ʕ "be sold"
VIIt Doubled itFaMMé: itFáMM tFáMM mitFáMM itFiMá:M (or Form I) itʕádd/yitʕádd "be counted"
VIII Strong iFtáMaL FtíMiL FtíML miFtíMiL, muFtáMiL (classicized) muFtáMaL (classicized) iFtiMá:L (or Form I) istálam/yistílim "receive"
VIII Defective iFtaMé: iFtáMa iFtáM FtíMi FtíM miFtíMi, muFtáMi (classicized) (use Form I) iʃtára/yiʃtíri "buy"
VIII Hollow iFtáL iFtá:L Ftá:L miFtá:L, muFtá:L (classicized) iFtiyá:L (or Form I) ixtá:ṛ/yixtá:ṛ "choose"
VIII Doubled iFtaMMé: iFtáMM FtáMM miFtáMM, muFtáMM (classicized) iFtiMá:M (or Form I) ihtámm/yihtámm "be interested (in)"
IX Strong iFMaLLé: iFMáLL FMáLL miFMíLL iFMiLá:L iḥmáṛṛ/yiḥmáṛṛ "be red, blush"
X Strong istáFMaL stáFMaL mistáFMaL, mustáFMaL (classicized) istiFMá:L istáɣṛab/yistáɣṛab "be surprised"
istáFMiL stáFMiL mistáFMiL, mustáFMiL (classicized) mustáFMaL (classicized) istáʕmil/yistáʕmil "use"
X Defective istaFMé: istáFMa istáFM stáFMa stáFM mistáFMi, mustáFMi (classicized) (uncommon) istákfa/yistákfa "be enough"
X Hollow istaFáL istaFá:L staFí:L mistaFí:L, mistaFí:L (classicized) istiFá:L a istaʔá:l/yistaʔí:l "resign"
X Doubled istaFaMMé: istaFáMM staFáMM mistaFáMM, mustaFáMM (classicized) istiFMá:M istaḥáʔʔ/yistaḥáʔʔ "deserve"
staFíMM mistaFíMM, mustaFíMM (classicized) istamáṛṛ/yistamírr "continue"
Iq Strong FaSTaL miFáSTaL FaSTáLa láxbaṭ/yiláxbaṭ "confuse"
FaSTiL miFáSTiL xárbiʃ/yixárbiʃ "scratch"
Iq Defective FaSTé: FáSTa FáST FáSTi FáST miFáSTi (uncommon)  ???
IIq Strong itFaSTaL tFaSTaL mitFáSTaL itFaSTáLa itláxbaṭ/yitláxbaṭ "be confused"
itFaSTiL tFaSTiL mitFáSTiL itʃáʕlil/yitʃáʕlil "flare up"
IIq Defective itFaSTé: itFáSTa itFáST tFáSTa tFáST mitFáSTi (uncommon)  ???


One characteristic of Egyptian syntax which it shares with other North African varieties as well as some southern Levantine dialect areas is in the two-part negative verbal circumfix /ma-...-ʃ(i)/

  • Past: /ˈkatab/ "he wrote" /ma-katab-ʃ(i)/ "he didn't write" ماكتبشِ
  • Present: /ˈjik-tib/ "he writes" /ma-bjik-tib-ʃ(i)/ "he doesn't write" مابيكتبشِ

/ma-/ comes from the Classical Arabic negator /maː/. /-ʃ(i)/ is a development of Classical /ʃajʔ/ "thing". The development of a circumfix is similar to the French circumfix ne ... pas, where ne comes from Latin non "not" and pas comes from Latin passus "step". (Originally, pas would have been used specifically with motion verbs, as in "I didn't walk a step", and then was generalized to other verbs.)

The structure can end in a consonant /ʃ/ or in a vowel /i/, varying according to the individual or region. The fuller ending /ʃi/ is considered rural, and nowadays Cairene speakers usually use the shorter /ʃ/. However, /ʃi/ was more common in the past, as attested in old films.

The negative circumfix often surrounds the entire verbal composite including direct and indirect object pronouns:

  • /ma-katab-hum-ˈliː-ʃ/ "he didn't write them to me"

However, verbs in the future tense typically instead use the prefix /miʃ/:

  • /miʃ-ħa-ˈjiktib/ (or /ma-ħa-jikˈtibʃ/ "he won't write"

Interrogative sentences can be formed by adding the negation clitic "(miʃ)" before the verb:

  • Past: /ˈkatab/ "he wrote"; /miʃ-ˈkatab/ "didn't he write?"
  • Present: /ˈjiktib/ "he writes"; /miʃ-bi-ˈjiktib/ "doesn't he write?"
  • Future: /ħa-ˈjiktib/ "he will write"; /miʃ-ħa-ˈjiktib/ "won't he write?"

Addition of the circumfix can cause complex changes to the verbal cluster, due to the application of the rules of vowel syncope, shortening, lengthening, insertion and elision described above:

  • The addition of /ma-/ may trigger elision or syncope:
    • A vowel following /ma-/ is elided: (ixtáːr) "he chose" -> (maxtárʃ).
    • A short vowel /i/ or /u/ in the first syllable may be deleted by syncope: (kíbir) "he grew" -> (makbírʃ).
  • The addition of /-ʃ/ may result in vowel shortening or epenthesis:
    • A final long vowel preceding a single consonant shortens: (ixtáːr) "he chose" -> (maxtárʃ).
    • An unstressed epenthetic /i/ is inserted when the verbal complex ends in two consonants: /kunt/ "I was" -> (makúntiʃ).
  • In addition, the addition of /-ʃ/ triggers a stress shift, which may in turn result in vowel shortening or lengthening:
    • The stress shifts to the syllable preceding /ʃ/: (kátab) "he wrote" -> (makatábʃ).
    • A long vowel in the previously stressed syllable shortens: (ʃáːfit) "she saw" -> (maʃafítʃ); (ʃá:fu) "they saw" or "he saw it" -> (maʃafú:ʃ).
    • A final short vowel directly preceding /ʃ/ lengthens: (ʃáːfu) "they saw" or "he saw it" -> (maʃafú:ʃ).

In addition, certain other morphological changes occur:

  • (ʃafúː) "they saw him" -> (maʃafuhúːʃ) (to avoid a clash with (maʃafúːʃ) "they didn't see/he didn't see him").
  • (ʃáːfik) "He saw you (fem. sg.)" -> (maʃafkíːʃ).
  • (ʃúftik) "I saw you (fem. sg.)" -> (maʃuftikíːʃ).


In contrast with Classical Arabic, but much like the other varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic prefers subject–verb–object (SVO) word order; CA and to a lesser extent MSA prefer verb–subject–object (VSO). For example, in MSA "Adel read the book" would be قرأَ عادل الكتاب Qaraʾa ʿĀdil ul-kitāb IPA: [ˈqɑrˤɑʔɑ ˈʕæːdel ol keˈtæːb] whereas EA would say عادل قرا الكتاب ʕādil ʔara l-kitāb IPA: [ˈʕæːdel ˈʔɑɾˤɑ lkeˈtæːb].

Also in common with other Arabic varieties is the loss of unique agreement in the dual form: while the dual remains productive to some degree in nouns, dual nouns are analyzed as plural for the purpose of agreement with verbs, demonstratives, and adjectives. Thus "These two Syrian professors are walking to the university" in MSA (in an SVO sentence for ease of comparison) would be "هذان الأستاذان السوريان يمشيان إلى الجامعة" Haḏān al-ʾustāḏān as-Sūriyyān yamšiyān ʾilā l-ǧāmiʿah IPA: [hæːˈzæːn æl ʔostæːˈzæːn as suːrejˈjæːn jæmʃeˈjæːn ˈʔelæ lɡæːˈmeʕæ], which becomes in EA "الأستاذين السوريين دول بيمشو للجامعة" il-ʔustazēn il-Suriyyīn dōl biyimʃu lil-gamʕa, IPA: [el ʔostæˈzeːn el soɾejˈjiːn ˈdoːl beˈjemʃo lelˈɡæmʕæ].

Unlike most other forms of Arabic, however, Egyptian prefers final placement of question words in interrogative sentences. This is a feature characteristic of the Coptic substratum of Egyptian Arabic.

Coptic substratum

Egyptian Arabic appears to have retained a significant Coptic substratum in its lexicon, phonology, and syntax. Coptic was the latest stage of the indigenous Egyptian language spoken until the mid-17th century when it was finally completely supplanted by Egyptian Arabic. Some features that Egyptian Arabic shares with the original ancient Egyptian language include certain prefix and suffix verbal conjugations, certain emphatic and glottalized consonants, as well as a large number of biliteral and triliteral lexical correspondences.

Two syntactic features that are particular[citation needed] to Egyptian Arabic inherited from Coptic[28] are:

  • postposed demonstratives "this" and "that" are placed after the noun.
Examples: /ir-rˤaːɡil da/ "this man" (lit. "the man this"; in Literary Arabic /haːðaː r-raɡul/) and /il-bint I-di/ "this girl" (lit. "the girl this"; in Literary Arabic /haːðihi l-bint/).
  • Wh words (i.e. "who", "when", "why" remain in their "logical" positions in a sentence rather than being preposed, or moved to the front of the sentence, as in Literary Arabic or English).
  • /rˤaːħ masˤrI ʔimta/ (راح مصر إمتا؟) "When (/ʔimta/) did he go to Egypt/Cairo?" (lit. "He went to Egypt/Cairo when?")
  • /rˤaːħ masˤrI leːh/ (راح مصر ليه؟) "Why (/leːh/) did he go to Egypt/Cairo? (lit. "He went to Egypt/Cairo why?")
  • /miːn rˤaːħ masˤr/ or /miːn illi rˤaːħ masˤr/ (مين [اللى] راح مصر؟) "Who (/miːn/) went to Egypt/Cairo? (literally - same order)
The same sentences in Literary Arabic (with all the question words (wh-words) in the beginning of the sentence) would be:
  • متى ذهب إلى مصر؟  /mataː ðahaba ʔilaː misˤr/
  • لِمَ ذهب إلى مصر؟  /lima ðahaba ʔilaː misˤr/
  • من ذهب إلى مصر؟  /man ðahaba ʔilaː misˤr/

Also since Coptic, like other North African languages, lacked interdental consonants it could possibly have influenced the manifestation of their occurrences in Classical Arabic /θ/ /ð/ /ðˤ/ as their dental counterparts /t/ /d/ and the emphatic dental // respectively. (see consonants)

Sociolinguistic features

Egyptian Arabic is used in most social situations, with Modern Standard and Classical Arabic generally only being used in writing and in highly religious and/or formal situations. However, within Egyptian Arabic, there is a wide range of variation. El-Said Badawi identifies three distinct levels of Egyptian Arabic based on chiefly on the quantity of non-Arabic lexical items in the vocabulary: `Āmmiyyat al-Musaqqafīn (Cultured Colloquial or Formal Spoken Arabic), `Āmmiyyat al-Mutanawwirīn (Enlightened Colloquial), and `Āmmiyyat al-'Ummiyīn (Illiterate Colloquial). Cultured Colloquial/Formal Spoken Arabic is characteristic of the educated classes and is the language of discussion of high-level subjects, but it is nevertheless Egyptian Arabic; it is characterized by use of technical terms imported from foreign languages and MSA, as well as closer attention to the pronunciation of certain letters (particularly qāf). It is relatively standardized and, being closer to the standard, is understood fairly well across the Arab world. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Illiterate Colloquial, common to rural areas and to working-class neighborhoods in the cities, has an almost exclusively Arabic vocabulary; loanwords are generally either very old borrowings (e.g. جمبرى gambari, [ɡæmˈbæɾi] "shrimp," from Italian gambari, "shrimp" (pl.)) or refer to technological items that find no or poor equivalents in Arabic (e.g. تلفزيون til(i)vizyōn/til(i)fezyōn [tel(e)vezˈjoːn, tel(e)fezˈjoːn], television). Enlightened Colloquial (`Āmmiyyat al-Mutanawwirīn) is the language of those who have had some schooling and are relatively affluent; loanwords tend to refer to pop-cultural items, consumer products, and fashions. It is also understood widely in the Arab world, as it is the lingua franca of Egyptian film and television.

In contrast to MSA and most other varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic has a form of the T-V distinction. In the singular, انت inta/inti is acceptable in most situations, but when addressing clear social superiors (e.g. persons older than oneself, superiors at work, certain government officials), the form حضرتك ḥaḍritak/ḥaḍritik, meaning "Your Grace" is preferred (c.f. Spanish usted).

This use of ḥaḍritak/ḥaḍritik is linked to the system of honorifics in daily Egyptian speech. The honorific taken by a given person is determined by their relationship to the speaker and their occupation.

Examples of Egyptian honorifics
Honorific IPA Origin/meaning Usage and notes
siyadtak [seˈjættæk,
Standard Arabic siyādatuka, "Your Lordship" Persons with a far higher social standing than the speaker, particularly at work. Also applied to high government officials, including the President. Equivalent in practical terms to "Your Excellency" or "The Most Honourable."
sa`adtak [sæˈʕættæk,
Standard Arabic sa`ādatuka, "Your Happiness" Government officials and others with significantly higher social standing. Equivalent in governmental contexts "Your Excellency," or "Your Honor" when addressing a judge.
ma`alīk [mæʕæˈliːk] Standard Arabic ma`ālīka, "Your Highness" Government ministers. Equivalent in practical terms to "Your Excellency" or "The Right Honourable."
ḥagg/ḥagga [ˈħæɡ(ɡ)]/[ˈħæɡɡæ] Standard Arabic ḥāǧ Traditionally, any Muslim who has made the Hajj, or any Christian who has made pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Currently also used as a general term of respect for all elderly.
bāsha [ˈbæːʃæ] Ottoman Turkish pasha Informal address to a male of equal or lesser social status. Roughly equivalent to "man" or "dude" in informal English speech.
bēh [beː] Ottoman Turkish bey Informal address to a male of equal or lesser social status. Essentially equivalent to but less current than bāsha.
afandi [æˈfændi] Ottoman Turkish efendi (Archaic); address to a male of a less social standard than 'bēh and bāsha.
hānim [ˈhæːnem] Ottoman Turkish hanım/khanum, "Lady" Address to a woman of high social standing, or esteemed as such by the speaker. Somewhat archaic.
sitt [ˈset(t)] Standard Arabic sayyida(t) "mistress" and/or Ancient Egyptian set "woman" The usual word for "woman." When used as a term of address, it conveys a modicum of respect.
madām [mæˈdæːm] French madame Respectful term of address for an older or married woman.
'ānisa [ʔæˈnesæ] Standard Arabic 'ānisah, "young lady" Semi-formal address to an unmarried young woman.
'ustāz [ʔosˈtæːz] Standard Arabic ustādh, "professor", "gentleman" Besides actual university professors and schoolteachers, used for experts in certain fields. May also be used as a generic informal reference, as bēh or bāsha.
usṭa/asṭa [ˈostˤɑ]/[ˈɑstˤɑ] Standard Arabic ustādh, "professor", "gentleman" Drivers and also skilled laborers.
rayyis [ˈɾˤɑjjes] Standard Arabic ra`īs, "chief" Skilled laborers. The term predates the use of the same word to mean "president", and traditionally referred to the chief of a village.
bash muhandis [bæʃmoˈhændes] Ottoman Turkish baş mühendis, "chief engineer" Certain types of highly-skilled laborers (e.g. electricians).
mi`allim [meˈʕællem] Standard Arabic mu`allim, "teacher" Most working class men, particularly semi-skilled and unskilled laborers.
`amm [ˈʕæm(m)] Standard Arabic `amm, "paternal uncle" Older male servants or social subordinates with whom the speaker has a close relationship. It can also be used as a familiar term of address, much like basha. The use of the word in its original meaning is also current, for third-person reference. The second-person term of address to a paternal uncle is `ammo [ˈʕæmmo]; onkel [ˈʔonkel], from French oncle, may also be used, particularly for uncles unrelated by blood.
dāda [ˈdæːdæ] From Coptic language Older female servants or social subordinates with whom the speaker has a close relationship.
abē [ʔæˈbeː] French abbé Male relatives older than the speaker by about 10–15 years. Upper-class, and somewhat archaic.
abla [ˈʔɑblɑ] Female relatives older than the speaker by about 10–15 years.

Other honorifics also exist.

In usage, honorifics are used in the second and third person.

Regional variation

Egyptian Arabic varies regionally across its sprachraum, with certain characteristics being noted as typical of the speech of certain regions.


Alexandria's dialect is noted for certain shibboleths separating its speech from that of Cairo. The ones most frequently commented on in popular discourse are the use of the word falafel as opposed to ṭa`meyya for the fava-bean fritters common across the country, and the pronunciation of the word for the Egyptian pound as [ˈɡeni], rather than the Cairene [ɡeˈneː] (closer to the pronunciation of the origin of the term, the British guinea). The speech of the older Alexandrian families is also noted for use of the plural in the first person even when speaking in the singular.

Port Said

Port Said's dialect is noted for a "heavier," more guttural sound than other regions of the country.

Studying Egyptian Arabic

Egyptian Arabic has been a subject of study by scholars and laypersons in the past and the present for many reasons, including personal interest, egyptomania, business, news reporting, and diplomatic and political interactions. Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA) is now a field of study in both graduate and undergraduate levels in many higher education institutions and universities in the world. When added to academic instruction, Arabic language schools and university programs provide Egyptian Arabic courses in a classroom fashion, while others facilitate classes for online study.

Text example

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Egyptian/Masri (Arabic script; spelling isn't unified):

الاعلان العالمى لحقوق الانسان, البند الاولانى
البنى ادمين كلهم مولودين احرار و متساويين فى الكرامه و الحقوق. اتوهبلهم العقل و الضمير, و المفروض يعاملو بعضيهم بروح الاخويه.

Franco/Arabic Chat Alphabet (has no strict standard):

el e3lan el 3alami le 72u2 el ensan, el band el awalani
el bani2admin kollohom mawlodin a7rar we metsawyin fel karama wel 7o2u2. Etwahablohom el 3a2l wel damir, wel mafrud ye3amlo ba3dihom be ro7 el akhaweya.

IPA Phonemic transcription (for comparison with Literary Arabic):

/il ʔiʕˈlaːn il ʕaːˈlami li ħˈʔuːʔ il ʔinˈsaːn   il ˈband il ʔawwaˈlaːni/
/il bani ʔadˈmiːn kulˈluhum mawluˈdiːn ʔaħrˤaːrˤ wi mitsawˈjiːn fil kaˈrˤaːma wil ħiˈʔuːʔ   ʔitwahabˈluhum ilˈʕaʔle wi ddˤaˈmiːr wil mafˈruːdˤ jiˈʕamlu baʕˈdˤiːhum biˈroːħ il ʔaxaˈwijja/

IPA Phonemic transcription (for a general demonstration of Egyptian phonology):

/el ʔeʕˈlaːn el ʕaːˈlami le ħˈʔuːʔ el ʔenˈsaːn   el ˈband el ʔawwaˈlaːni/
/el bani ʔadˈmiːn kolˈlohom mawloˈdiːn ʔaħrˤaːrˤ we metsawˈjiːn fel kaˈrˤaːma wel ħoˈʔuːʔ   ʔetwahabˈlohom elˈʕaʔle we ddˤaˈmiːr wel mafˈruːdˤ jeˈʕamlu baʕˈdˤiːhom beˈroːħ el ʔaxaˈwejja/

IPA Phonetic transcription morphologically (in fast speech, long vowels are half-long or without distinctive length):

[el ʔeʕˈlæːn el ʕæˈlæmi le ħˈʔuːʔ el ʔenˈsæːn   el ˈbænd el ʔæwwæˈlæːni]
[el bæniʔædˈmiːn kolˈlohom mæwlʊˈdiːn ʔɑħɾˤɑːɾˤ we metsæwˈjiːn fel kɑˈɾˤɑːmɑ wel ħʊˈʔuːʔ   ʔetwæhæbˈlohom elˈʕæʔle we ddɑˈmiːɾ wel mɑfˈɾuːd jeˈʕæmlu bɑʕˈdiːhom beˈɾoːħ el ʔæxæˈwejjæ]


Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood.

Characteristic words and sentences in Egyptian Arabic

  • إزيك [ezˈzæjjæk] ("How are you [m.]")
  • إزيك [ezˈzæjjek] ("How are you [f.]")
  • إزيكو [ezzæjˈjoko] ("How are you [pl.]")
  • ايه ده [ˈʔeː ˈdæ] ("What's all this?", "What's the point", "What's this?" - expression of annoyance)
    • Ex.: إنتا بتقوللهم عليا كده ليه, ايه ده؟ [entæ betʔolˈlohom ʕæˈlæjjæ ˈkedæ ˈleː ˈʔeː dæ] ("Why are you telling them such things about me, what's all this?")
  • خلاص [xɑˈlɑːsˤ]: several meanings, though its main meaning is "enough", often adverbial
    • "Stop it!" Ex.: زهقت, خلاص [zeˈheʔte xɑˈlɑːsˤ] ("I'm annoyed, stop it!")
    • "It's over!", "finally, eventually" مامتى كانت عيانه و ماتت, خلاص Ex.: [ˈmɑmti kæːnet ʕajˈjæːnæ wˈmæːtet xɑˈlɑːsˤ]| ("My mother was ill and died finally." [or "...and it's over now"])
    • "Ok, then!" Ex.: خلاص, أشوفك بكرا [xɑˈlɑːsˤ ʔæˈʃuːfæk ˈbokɾˤɑ] ("I'll see you tomorrow then")
  • خالص [ˈxɑːlesˤ] ("at all")
    • ماعندناش حاجه نقولها خالص [mæʕændeˈnæːʃ ˈħæːɡæ nˈʔolhæ ˈxɑːlesˤ] ("We have nothing at all to say")
  • كفاية [keˈfæːjæ] ("It's enough!" or "That's enough")
  • يعنى [ˈjæʕni] ("that's to say" or "meaning" or "y'know")
    • As answer to إنتا عامل إيه؟ [entæ ˈʕæːmel ˈ(ʔ)eː] ("How do you do [m.]?") (as an answer: مش أد كده [meʃ ˈʔædde ˈkedæ] "I am so so" or نص نص [ˈnosˤse ˈnosˤ] "half half" = مش تمام [meʃ tæˈmæːm] "not perfect")
    • يعنى ايه؟ [jæʕni ˈʔeː] ("What does that mean?")
    • إمتا هتخلص يعنى؟ [ˈemtæ hɑtˈxɑllɑsˤ ˈjæʕni] ("When are you finishing exactly, then?)
  • بقى [ˈbæʔæ] (particle of enforcement → "just" in imperative clauses and "well,...then?" in questions)
    • هاته بقى [ˈhæːto ˈbæʔæ] ("Just give it to me!)" عمل ايه بقى؟ [ˈʕæmæl ˈ(ʔ)eː ˈbæʔæ] or  [ˈʕæmæl ˈ(ʔ)eː ˈbæʔæ] ("Well, what did he do then?")

See also


  1. ^ Ethnologue
  2. ^ Egyptian Arabic UCLA Language Materials Project
  3. ^ Present Culture in Egypt (Arabic) and (Egyptian Spoken Arabic) (PDF) by Bayoumi Andil.
  4. ^ Islam online on Mahmoud Timor[dead link]
  5. ^ Nishio, Tetsuo. "Word order and word order change of wh-questions in Egyptian Arabic: The Coptic substratum reconsidered". Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference of L'Association Internationale pour la Dialectologie Arabe. Cambridge: University of Cambridge. 1996, pp. 171-179
  6. ^ Bishai, Wilson B. "Coptic grammatical influence on Egyptian Arabic". Journal of the American Oriental Society. No.82, pp. 285-289.
  7. ^ Youssef (2003), below.
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Haeri (2003)
  11. ^ Jenkins, Siona. Egyptian Arabic Phrasebook. Lonely Planet Publications, 2001. p. 205
  12. ^ a b Gershoni, I., J. Jankowski. (1987). Egypt, Islam, and the Arabs. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  13. ^ David Dalby, 1999/2000, The Linguasphere Register, The Linguasphere Observatory
    William Bright, 1992, The International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Oxford.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Versteegh, p. 162
  16. ^
  17. ^ David Dalby, 1999/2000, The Linguasphere Register, The Linguasphere Observatory
  18. ^
  19. ^ Watson (2002:23)
  20. ^ Watson (2002:21)
  21. ^ Watson (2002:22)
  22. ^ a b Watson (2002:22)
  23. ^ Watson (2002:16)
  24. ^ Watson (2002:14)
  25. ^ Behnstedt and Woidich 1985
  26. ^ T.F. Mitchell, An Introduction to Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, p. 112.
  27. ^ See e.g. Behnstedt & Woidich (2005)
  28. ^ Nishio, 1996


  • Abdel-Massih, Ernest T.; A. Fathy Bahig (1978). Comprehensive Study of Egyptian Arabic: Conversation Texts, Folk Literature, Cultural Ethnological and Socio Linguistic Notes. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan. ISBN 0-932098-11-8. 
  • Peter, Behnstedt; Manfred Woidich (1985). Die ägyptisch-arabischen Dialekte, vols. I, II. Wiesbaden: L. Reichert. 
  • Gary, Judith Olmsted, & Saad Gamal-Eldin. 1982. Cairene Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Lingua Descriptive Studies 6. Amsterdam: North Holland.
  • Haeri, Niloofar (2003). Sacred Language, Ordinary People: Dilemmas of Culture and Politics in Egypt. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-312-23897-5. 
  • Harrell, Richard S. 1957. The Phonology of Colloquial Egyptian Arabic. American Council of Learned Societies Program in Oriental Languages Publications Series B, Aids, Number 9. New York: American Council of Learned Societies.
  • Hinds, Martin; El-Said Badawi (1987). A Dictionary of Egyptian Arabic. French & European Pubns. ISBN 0-8288-0434-6. 
  • Mitchell, T.F. 1956. An Introduction to Egyptian Colloquial Arabic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Mitchell, T.F. 1962. Colloquial Arabic: the Living Language of Egypt. London: The English universities Press.
  • Presse, Karl G.; Katrine Blanford, Elisabeth A. Moestrup, Iman El-Shoubary (2000). 5 Egyptian-Arabic One Act Plays: A First Reader (Bilingual edition ed.). Museum Tusculanum. ISBN 87-7289-612-4. 
  • Youssef, Ahmad Abdel-Hamid (2003). From Pharaoh's Lips: Ancient Egyptian Language in the Arabic of Today. American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 977-424-708-6. 
  • Tomiche, Nada. 1964. Le parler arabe du Caire. Paris: Mouton.
  • Versteegh, Kees (2001). The Arabic Language. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0748614362. 
  • Watson, Janet (2002), The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic, New York: Oxford University Press 

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