Sound familiar? 8 foreign words that have become as Arabic as ahlan

As any proud Arab will tell you, the Arabic language has a long and illustrious history. It is the language of the Qur’an, as well as that used by poets and philosophers across centuries of Islamic civilization. However, it is also well-known that most Arabs do not speak standard Arabic in their everyday lives, adopting one of a wide-range of colloquial dialects instead. Arabs from Morocco to Oman and from Iraq to Tunisia might claim to speak the same language, but the reality is that the regional varieties are often barely comprehensible to each other.

A large part of this is due to the influence of other languages - English, French and even Turkish - which appears unexpectedly as you begin to pick up the local lingo. Let’s take a look at the quirky vocabularies of some of the Middle East’s dialects which have borrowed liberally from other languages.

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Meaning rice in colloquial Iraqi, the word “timmen” originated in WW1 when British troops were stationed in Basra. The army ordered in sacks of rice labeled “ten men” to feed their soldiers. This, the story goes, sounded a lot like “timmen” to Iraqi ears, and the word entered into their collective vocabulary.

Meaning rice in colloquial Iraqi, the word “timmen” originated in WW1 when British troops were stationed in Basra. The army ordered in sacks of rice labeled “ten men” to feed their soldiers. This, the story goes, sounded a lot like “timmen” to Iraqi ears, and the word entered into their collective vocabulary.

You can barely hold a conversation with an Egyptian without hearing it: “Afendem” was originally the affirmative answer used with a higher ranking officer in the military. Now it is used to mean “sir” or “sorry, I didn’t catch that." It goes back to when Egypt was a part of the Ottoman Empire, coming from “Efendim” in Turkish.

You can barely hold a conversation with an Egyptian without hearing it: “Afendem” was originally the affirmative answer used with a higher ranking officer in the military. Now it is used to mean “sir” or “sorry, I didn’t catch that." It goes back to when Egypt was a part of the Ottoman Empire, coming from “Efendim” in Turkish.

Need to sneeze? In the Middle East, you won’t get far asking for a tissue. The standard Arabic for paper hankies (“mindeel”) is left abandoned, while Arabs refer only to “Fine” or “Kleenex”, according to the prevailing brand in their country.

Need to sneeze? In the Middle East, you won’t get far asking for a tissue. The standard Arabic for paper hankies (“mindeel”) is left abandoned, while Arabs refer only to “Fine” or “Kleenex”, according to the prevailing brand in their country.

If you want to find your way around a car in Egyptian Arabic, you're going to need a French dictionary. The radiator is “radeeteer” ("radiateur"), the frame is “shaseh” ("chassis") and the gas pedal is “ekserateer” (from accélérateur). Less logically, the steering wheel is “dereksyoon” from the French for direction.

If you want to find your way around a car in Egyptian Arabic, you're going to need a French dictionary. The radiator is “radeeteer” ("radiateur"), the frame is “shaseh” ("chassis") and the gas pedal is “ekserateer” (from accélérateur). Less logically, the steering wheel is “dereksyoon” from the French for direction.

Less surprisingly, neighboring francophiles the Lebanese also label their cars in French - or at least a Lebanesified version! The chambre à l’air (tyre inner tube to you and me) has become “chemberiel”, the pot d'échappement (exhaust pipe, if you didn’t know) is “echkam” and the boite de vitesse (gear box) is the “fites”.

Less surprisingly, neighboring francophiles the Lebanese also label their cars in French - or at least a Lebanesified version! The chambre à l’air (tyre inner tube to you and me) has become “chemberiel”, the pot d'échappement (exhaust pipe, if you didn’t know) is “echkam” and the boite de vitesse (gear box) is the “fites”.

The Iraqis, meanwhile, draw on English to describe their vehicles. The steering wheel is simply the “steerin” and the dashboard becomes the “dashbol.” And in Jordan, a manual car window handle is a “manuwela”. Who knew cars would be such a source of imported words?

The Iraqis, meanwhile, draw on English to describe their vehicles. The steering wheel is simply the “steerin” and the dashboard becomes the “dashbol.” And in Jordan, a manual car window handle is a “manuwela”. Who knew cars would be such a source of imported words?

An Egyptian dialect word, “aywa”, meaning yes, has spread throughout the Arab world through the popularity of Egyptian cinema to become ubiquitous across the Levant. In fact, it has been suggested that “aywa” is in fact Turkish in origin, coming from the word “evet” (yes) - although some argue it was the other way around!

An Egyptian dialect word, “aywa”, meaning yes, has spread throughout the Arab world through the popularity of Egyptian cinema to become ubiquitous across the Levant. In fact, it has been suggested that “aywa” is in fact Turkish in origin, coming from the word “evet” (yes) - although some argue it was the other way around!

Again going back to the influence of those pesky Brits, the colonial power in Iraq until 1932, “in order to” in Iraqi is “‘ala mood”. This originates, of course, in wanting to do something to cheer up someone’s mood. So instead of “I came to the party for your sake” they say “I came to the party ‘on your mood’” How lovely!

Again going back to the influence of those pesky Brits, the colonial power in Iraq until 1932, “in order to” in Iraqi is “‘ala mood”. This originates, of course, in wanting to do something to cheer up someone’s mood. So instead of “I came to the party for your sake” they say “I came to the party ‘on your mood’” How lovely!

Meaning rice in colloquial Iraqi, the word “timmen” originated in WW1 when British troops were stationed in Basra. The army ordered in sacks of rice labeled “ten men” to feed their soldiers. This, the story goes, sounded a lot like “timmen” to Iraqi ears, and the word entered into their collective vocabulary.
You can barely hold a conversation with an Egyptian without hearing it: “Afendem” was originally the affirmative answer used with a higher ranking officer in the military. Now it is used to mean “sir” or “sorry, I didn’t catch that." It goes back to when Egypt was a part of the Ottoman Empire, coming from “Efendim” in Turkish.
Need to sneeze? In the Middle East, you won’t get far asking for a tissue. The standard Arabic for paper hankies (“mindeel”) is left abandoned, while Arabs refer only to “Fine” or “Kleenex”, according to the prevailing brand in their country.
If you want to find your way around a car in Egyptian Arabic, you're going to need a French dictionary. The radiator is “radeeteer” ("radiateur"), the frame is “shaseh” ("chassis") and the gas pedal is “ekserateer” (from accélérateur). Less logically, the steering wheel is “dereksyoon” from the French for direction.
Less surprisingly, neighboring francophiles the Lebanese also label their cars in French - or at least a Lebanesified version! The chambre à l’air (tyre inner tube to you and me) has become “chemberiel”, the pot d'échappement (exhaust pipe, if you didn’t know) is “echkam” and the boite de vitesse (gear box) is the “fites”.
The Iraqis, meanwhile, draw on English to describe their vehicles. The steering wheel is simply the “steerin” and the dashboard becomes the “dashbol.” And in Jordan, a manual car window handle is a “manuwela”. Who knew cars would be such a source of imported words?
An Egyptian dialect word, “aywa”, meaning yes, has spread throughout the Arab world through the popularity of Egyptian cinema to become ubiquitous across the Levant. In fact, it has been suggested that “aywa” is in fact Turkish in origin, coming from the word “evet” (yes) - although some argue it was the other way around!
Again going back to the influence of those pesky Brits, the colonial power in Iraq until 1932, “in order to” in Iraqi is “‘ala mood”. This originates, of course, in wanting to do something to cheer up someone’s mood. So instead of “I came to the party for your sake” they say “I came to the party ‘on your mood’” How lovely!
Meaning rice in colloquial Iraqi, the word “timmen” originated in WW1 when British troops were stationed in Basra. The army ordered in sacks of rice labeled “ten men” to feed their soldiers. This, the story goes, sounded a lot like “timmen” to Iraqi ears, and the word entered into their collective vocabulary.
Meaning rice in colloquial Iraqi, the word “timmen” originated in WW1 when British troops were stationed in Basra. The army ordered in sacks of rice labeled “ten men” to feed their soldiers. This, the story goes, sounded a lot like “timmen” to Iraqi ears, and the word entered into their collective vocabulary.
You can barely hold a conversation with an Egyptian without hearing it: “Afendem” was originally the affirmative answer used with a higher ranking officer in the military. Now it is used to mean “sir” or “sorry, I didn’t catch that." It goes back to when Egypt was a part of the Ottoman Empire, coming from “Efendim” in Turkish.
You can barely hold a conversation with an Egyptian without hearing it: “Afendem” was originally the affirmative answer used with a higher ranking officer in the military. Now it is used to mean “sir” or “sorry, I didn’t catch that." It goes back to when Egypt was a part of the Ottoman Empire, coming from “Efendim” in Turkish.
Need to sneeze? In the Middle East, you won’t get far asking for a tissue. The standard Arabic for paper hankies (“mindeel”) is left abandoned, while Arabs refer only to “Fine” or “Kleenex”, according to the prevailing brand in their country.
Need to sneeze? In the Middle East, you won’t get far asking for a tissue. The standard Arabic for paper hankies (“mindeel”) is left abandoned, while Arabs refer only to “Fine” or “Kleenex”, according to the prevailing brand in their country.
If you want to find your way around a car in Egyptian Arabic, you're going to need a French dictionary. The radiator is “radeeteer” ("radiateur"), the frame is “shaseh” ("chassis") and the gas pedal is “ekserateer” (from accélérateur). Less logically, the steering wheel is “dereksyoon” from the French for direction.
If you want to find your way around a car in Egyptian Arabic, you're going to need a French dictionary. The radiator is “radeeteer” ("radiateur"), the frame is “shaseh” ("chassis") and the gas pedal is “ekserateer” (from accélérateur). Less logically, the steering wheel is “dereksyoon” from the French for direction.
Less surprisingly, neighboring francophiles the Lebanese also label their cars in French - or at least a Lebanesified version! The chambre à l’air (tyre inner tube to you and me) has become “chemberiel”, the pot d'échappement (exhaust pipe, if you didn’t know) is “echkam” and the boite de vitesse (gear box) is the “fites”.
Less surprisingly, neighboring francophiles the Lebanese also label their cars in French - or at least a Lebanesified version! The chambre à l’air (tyre inner tube to you and me) has become “chemberiel”, the pot d'échappement (exhaust pipe, if you didn’t know) is “echkam” and the boite de vitesse (gear box) is the “fites”.
The Iraqis, meanwhile, draw on English to describe their vehicles. The steering wheel is simply the “steerin” and the dashboard becomes the “dashbol.” And in Jordan, a manual car window handle is a “manuwela”. Who knew cars would be such a source of imported words?
The Iraqis, meanwhile, draw on English to describe their vehicles. The steering wheel is simply the “steerin” and the dashboard becomes the “dashbol.” And in Jordan, a manual car window handle is a “manuwela”. Who knew cars would be such a source of imported words?
An Egyptian dialect word, “aywa”, meaning yes, has spread throughout the Arab world through the popularity of Egyptian cinema to become ubiquitous across the Levant. In fact, it has been suggested that “aywa” is in fact Turkish in origin, coming from the word “evet” (yes) - although some argue it was the other way around!
An Egyptian dialect word, “aywa”, meaning yes, has spread throughout the Arab world through the popularity of Egyptian cinema to become ubiquitous across the Levant. In fact, it has been suggested that “aywa” is in fact Turkish in origin, coming from the word “evet” (yes) - although some argue it was the other way around!
Again going back to the influence of those pesky Brits, the colonial power in Iraq until 1932, “in order to” in Iraqi is “‘ala mood”. This originates, of course, in wanting to do something to cheer up someone’s mood. So instead of “I came to the party for your sake” they say “I came to the party ‘on your mood’” How lovely!
Again going back to the influence of those pesky Brits, the colonial power in Iraq until 1932, “in order to” in Iraqi is “‘ala mood”. This originates, of course, in wanting to do something to cheer up someone’s mood. So instead of “I came to the party for your sake” they say “I came to the party ‘on your mood’” How lovely!