A Dictionary of Idiomatic Expressions in Written Arabic: For the Reader of Classical and Modern Texts 9774166418, 9789774166419

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A Dictionary of

Idiomatic Expressions in Written Arabic FOR THE READER OF CLASSICAL AND MODERN TEXTS

Mahmoud Sarni Moussa

The American University in Cairo Press Cairo

New York


r C

First published in 2014 by The American Umversity in Cairo Press

113 Sharia Kasr el Aini, Cairo, Egypt

420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018

www.aucpress.com Copyright 0 2014 by Mahmoud Sarni Moussa

All rights reserved . No part of 1his publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any fonn or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Exclusive distribution outside Egypt and North America by 1.8.Tauris & Co lid., 6 Salem Road, London, W2 4BU

Dar el Kutub No. 14523/ 1J

ISBN 978 977 416 641 9

Dar el Kutub Cataloging-in-Publication Datd

Moussa, Mahmoud Sarni

A Dictiona,y of Idiomatic Upressions in Written Arabid Mahmoud Sami Moussa -Cairo: The American Universtty in Cairo Press, 2014 p. cm. ISBN: 978 977 416 641 9 1. Arabic language,-ldioms 492 . 73 tJ



Designed by Cherif Abdullah Printed in Egypt




:J.,.11 .,JJ J..jl 1:,. c l_,;.J .),...I ,j.! _,s..:.i.,-..._,;1

I am very indebted to a number of people who showed me great suppo rt in bringing

this dictionary into existence. Our professor the late Dr. El-Said Badawi who inspired me to compile it. Dr. Zeinab Taha, who encouraged me to pubHsh it. My colleagues Dr. Maha Saleh, Nora Thabet, Rabab Kasim, and my children Nader and Nouran who

participa ted in typing the contents of this project.

Special thanks also to Mr. Neil Hewison, Ms. Nadine EI-Hadi, and all the members of the AUC Press who took the pains to proofread and publish this work.

_...:;l;~) ..,....,J ~ I 1:,. J-.,.,Jl.,-.,1 11 :ill,"+'J.)o ~..,:,i1..,_,.,,,,._i1 ;#I ....1_,;.J ~ j J I J-JI l:i+,~I ..,Jo ~.,:JI .J,, .,..,j,J#I, "1f>SJ .'-,,.,,JI ;,,i,u c"""!,..UY'-UJ u,i; l;,'J~ \+- •Jfo,11.:.:,_,.)IJ _,_,,._,II ._.l! .•~ .:.,- ..U:,.,i L.., _;_,,,.~JI ..,Jo ~ I 1:,. ;_.i..s 1_,....I.,; ,Yy. JS .,:,IJ,;, J'W ~ I U.J-'Y' J,; :.;..';1,....-IJ .)o,ii .= I .:, _,ill .:,. "'-',JWJI J;l,I _,l ;.rlil.,?'_,.JI J..i,ll j#o.l •

To make it easier for the reader, entries have been cross-refere nced so that the meaning can be found through more than one word in a given expression. The entri es are organized as fo llows: • Whe n the expression includes a verb, this verb takes priority a nd if there is more than one verb in the sentence, the fi rst verb takes prio rity. • Personal names, cities, countries, animals, time refere nces, and parts of the body also take priority.

··IJ;!..,..:J1(J:l,IL.~·· _ .. ,~ll r-.1.Y"-"'" :..!lli~ .c,1.1... ~

• A literal translation o f the expressio n is sometimes give n first, and the meaning follows. This way, th e reader will not be required to consult the dictionary for individ ual lexical items.

.,i "The wa ll s have cars" '\jljl ~

• So me words a rc vocalized to avoid ambiguity. • W henever the English has the sam e or a ver y similar idiomatic expression as the Arab ic- such as 'th e walls have ears' .:,1.:il ..:.,~ , or 'no smoke without fire ' ,?.-! j.:a..:. 'J ) -•- the translation is given without furth e r comment.

I • 'fe1J wlil ~ 1J l>l-•ll J f'.k':{I . t-1 • .~ ) ... '\ i JJ 0-- .J-4'" •

t;}ill ~.Jl..ll , :,. _,l,_,....Wl "-'lyl _,l r l.lil-~ I _,"-l ,I j.w...JI _,.< ,....U (J) u.J" ~ J

.~ 1~e-,:-., ..;.:i!I J4,.J1..)J.i.i ~

._4~ ..,i....,l.l..w..ol ~

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JJl ~ ~

Ji....l:f ~ " :.»-t


· ::C... ~..,._11., ~# )' 1..,i ~ 1 0# l.>.l~ ~ ! ~ ..ti • Jili.ll .:,l.)£~ 4.bil o::.. ..,.t., ··No smoke w i1hou1 firc""fa ~ ~ ' i " 1 .J\ ~



,! d _;ill w--4~' ..:.1;4-,.ll ,::.w ~.u...1. ~ ! ..r'.JJ • J~

~ yJ\ ;_j~V.:.yul19.1Ai..!lli ..,iJ .••~ ;~

I 1.!,I,

cl P,,! _,.i: ~

l ~ _ ) ~l

l .,J-ll......J\.i ~ l JiJ :J1_,,1

(J) Jl!.>i -HI

The cock, for its high fea thers.



(J) - . _,,i .,-';JI

The camel (for its forbearance) .

-t"yJI J.,.)1 ..,. J;i,.)1_, . ..!!;.,JI lJ _,. J;.:Ji_, :....'; I

(J) ~i -HI


p.-,JI l;I .A .:,IS •rt.:. U! »-'- '-"I . ,J--,, .__,Jc. ..Jil .,J..., ,.,__ J_,...)1,\Aj

(J) J..lJ°il -HI

•..-LJ .__,Jc. ..Jil .,J..., _,.,_,. ._,,..i1 ;,,.s The Proph et Muhammad.


The Prophet Adam.


._,le. u-"'';1 11,__,...., , .,,.J -,,JS.JI ;,,.s ..i'-..a:JI


~; (J) t4,.:, Ji\


(J) ,1,;.,,1



The donkey.

The world .



(J) wi,L.,.Jil

A generous, hospitable person.

The Prophet Abraham.

. j,,.,WI

. . .


,JJ;..!1¥> Meat.

S.o. fooli sh.

The hammerhead shark .




. _,...;JI

\ ;..,,,_)..-:,1, 'i..:,1.,i

A type o f butterfl y with four wings.

The tiger.


.;._,si.:.,,1 . .;.y.11...i....:,.,u


(J) C,:.li) .Jil

(J) .:,1..;1...,,1 The cock.

.~'1 1

·r_,;ll Sleepiness.

~ I

(J) ;.~J.>il

(J)....,1.J .Jil


A type of lizard.


(J) uJj .Ji\



.y1.Jill ¥> The pi g.

The ra ven.


(J) .,o.>ll Ji\




Abu Dhabi. capital of the United Arab Emirates.

(J) -,...fa .>ii


(J) _,oil, Ji\ A handh·rchicf.

The monkey.

The shade.

(J) ui,,..,~1 .Ji\

,,-)LIi The hoopoe.

(J)~.,,i The marabou.

The dog.

(J) e,;,.)ll .>ii

. ~l )U,

. ~I

(J) (ui,,..,~1) ._.,...JI .Ji\ •!"'fll

·rl...ill .f,~


. ) ...,JI

The ca mel.

(J) JU)I .Jil The male ostri ch.

(J) Y.t..i.Jil The do nkey.


•A l

Old age.






(J) .11~ Ji\ The sun.

(J) .!!,-!JI.Ji\ The hedgehog.

The robin (red breast) .

The wo lf.

u..:. Ji\

.~ 1 _,,._.,.Jyll.

. ..,,.:.:,11


Th e monkey.

The horse.





r -"L

The raven.

,J,$] ,,.,} JI


The eagle.

The lion.



':"j (J)i~l ..1i\ -~Jj A woman ·s husband.



The elephant.

The dog.

The li on.

iJL...i -HI

(J) ~i;..1/i

.»J', J;il', .;,i-JI The swa llow, 1he elephant the ox.

.,;c-:,Jl )L6 The male hyena.

(J) ..;_;.-Hi .J)l,JIJ~~I The cloud. the crescen t.


(J) .r. _,. -,,.]


(J) -,,+i .,,1 _,,~ _ .,_.I

The cock.


S.o. who keeps reminding you of a tin y fa vor they did .


(J) ...i;~-.;;i4J._,i,t,. -.:.1;,lJ"'),,; Among his people or group.

J/'il '½"' 4.i,, ~

.:...,..., .:.;~ _,IJ ..;u1 yb.l c,I -~~cJiJ"-,.Wl -,.1.bl


"il;ll,.,....~1c,1c.,.1 t.. JS .ill.I ,t '-'I _,:.JI .cit, Nol liable 10 any abuse. a praise for kmgs.

To des troy everything com pletely.



._p.,,~ wt.. l.;1· Ii) "4,.-., ..iJI _f,.:." .ill J..,i, u.J ; -

..,;i.JI _;,i, ,..Y-SJ~ ,)_;JI~ Careless ta lk ca n cost you your li fe.


..illl.!fo! For you r sake.

Jl."I'!., Ji.ta.II c)

. j,jc- _,ii,) l,u... 9! ""'' Lit. : May God co mpensate you for · • him . Sa id in response to ''M ay God endow you with his acceptance for yo ur hards hip '' (when extend ing cond olences).

.J,i:,-ll .)J .:,'JI


Now and in 1hc future.

~ci (.l.i.J)

.iii .ii.I


,ti jiJ

wli_,J;.... _,J] "by,

-~L.~~.,JJiyi.\'I A good deed 10 any of God 's creatu res, even if it is just a drink of wa ter, wi ll be rewarded.



Jll°l'I ~I•

;rf-11 ._,; F

.,,.iJ1 0 lS.J1 •.:,;.,,ot.:..ll

A museum .


_,ill'il ~ll

e:-"'>' .:.14 To com mit onese lf to s. th .


.w~l _,1,- wJt.:. ,_,.:.,:....; L.J ?';1 ..:w.t.:. :JI'...

t.>'1'..,; .,.,

In the throes of death .

The last abode. the grave.