Are you just starting on your Arabic language learning journey? Maybe you’re travelling to an Arabic speaking country and want to pick up some fun ways to connect with the locals. Either way, learning how to say hello in Arabic is a great way to accomplish both!
As in any other culture, it’s polite to greet people you know, even casually, the first time you see them. Arabs say “hello” in various ways, and each greeting has a corresponding response. Usually, hello in Arabic is expressed with a warm smile followed by questions about other’s health and well-being. Let’s get into all of the different and colorful greetings that Arabic has to offer.
Hello in Arabic at a Glance
You are welcome
May peace be upon you
How are you? (Saudi)
How are you? (Levantine)
How are you? (Egyptian)
How to Say Hello in Arabic
MarHaba مرحباMarHaba مرحبا corresponds to “hello” or “hi”. It’s a friendly, casual greeting, commonly used in most Arabic countries. It can be used in both a formal and informal context. The response to MarHaba varies according to the context, level of familiarity, and dialect. Some variants to MarHaba are “MarHabteen” مرحبتين (two hellos), “MaraHeb” مراحب (many hellos).
Ahlan wa sahlan أهلاً وسهلاً
Arabs love to give visitors a warm welcome to their home or work place, and may repeat Ahlan wa sahlan أهلاً وسهلاً over and over, meaning “you’re welcome”. If they are male, you can respond to him by saying “ahlan biik” أهلا بيك, and if they’re a female, you would respond with “ahlan biiki” أهلاً بيكي. If it’s multiple people, you would respond in the plural form: “ahlan biikum” أهلاً بيكم. Arabs repeat such phrases to break the ice and to make you feel at home.
As-salamu Alaikum السلام عليكمAs-salamu Alaikum السلام عليكم which means “may peace be upon you” is another common way of saying hello in Arabic. This is the standard Muslim greeting and it is used all around the world in various Muslim majority communities including Pakistan and Zanzibar.
Although this greeting is religious in context, you do not need to practice Islam to use it. It is usually the default greeting in many countries and is as commonly used as “hello” is in English speaking countries. It can also be a great way to narrow cultural gaps that exist and show respect for your host’s religion and culture.
As usual, in Arab culture, the response will be more elaborate than the greeting itself. The typical response is wa-Alaikum-Salaam وعليكم السلام which means “and upon you peace”. If you really want to impress Arabic speakers, you can try out the longer version of this response – “wa A’alaikum as-salam wa raHmat alaah wa barakatu” وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته. This means may peace, God’s mercy, and blessings be upon you, too.
- As-salamu Alaikum السلام عليكم – may peace be upon you
- Wa-Alaikum-Salaam وعليكم السلام – and upon you peace
- Wa A’alaikum as-salam wa raHmat alaah wa barakatu وعليكم السلام ورحمة الله وبركاته – may peace, God’s mercy, and blessings be upon you, too
Salam سلامSalam سلام is an informal greeting, and is kind of a way to say hi in Arabic. It is between friends and young people who are more flexible with the language and they greet each other in a friendly way, sometimes waving their hands. Here, the response will be more casual and warm, you will hear phrases like “ya hala” يا هلا (you’re welcome), “hala wa ghala” هلا وغلا (you’re welcome and precious to me) and “hala wallaah” هلا والله (you’re really welcome).
Hayak allaah حيَّاك الله
Hayak allaah حيَّاك الله is a formal way to say hello in Arabic that is used often in Gulf countries. It means may God give you a long life. Similar to as-salamu Alaikum this greeting has religious connotations but is used often in Gulf countries, so you should feel free to add that to your repertoire if you feel comfortable doing so.
“Hayak allaah” حيَّاك الله is used when addressing a male, “Hayaki allaah” when addressing a female, and “Hayakum allaah” to address a group.
Responses to this greeting are “allaah yiHeek الله يحييك which means may God give you a long life too. It is sometimes shortened to “Hayak” addressing a male, “Hayaki” addressing a female, and “Hayakum” addressing a group.
Arabic Greetings for Different Times of Day
Sabah al-kheir صباح الخيرSabah al-kheir صباح الخير is a common start of day greeting that means good morning. This can be used anytime before noon. It can be used both in a formal and informal setting. You can respond in several ways, depending on your mood. The most common reply is sabaH an-nur صباح النور meaning “morning full of light”. In Egypt, you can respond with sabaH il-full صباح الفل , which means “morning of jasmine” or sabaH il-ward صباح الورد “morning full of roses”.
In the Gulf countries, sometimes, you will hear “SabaHak bilkheer” صبحك بالخير “may God give you a morning full of goodness” to address a male, “SabaHik bilkheer” صبحِك بالخير to address a female, and “sabaHkum bilkheer” صبحكم بالخير to address a group.
Masaa’ al-kheir مساء الخيرMasaa’ al-kheir مساء الخير means good evening, but it is used both in the afternoon and in the evening. Similar to sabah al-kheir, it is used in both formal and informal situations. The response to this greeting mirrors the way you respond to sabah al-kheir. Its equivalent is Masaa’ an-nur” مساء النور – evening of light. You can use this response during the afternoon since there isn’t really a direct Arabic equivalent for good day.
As in the way you say good morning, in Gulf countries, you will also hear “masaak bilkheer” مساك بالخيرto address a male, “masaaki bilkheer” to address a female, and “masaakum bilkheer” to address a group.
Common Arabic Greeting – How are you?
While asking how are you isn’t exactly saying hello, it’s a common follow up question in the Arab-speaking world. It is polite to ask about one’s health or to ask how things are going. Various Arabic dialects have a different spins on how to ask this. Let’s take a quick look at a few.
Saudi – Kif haalak? كيف حالك؟Kif haalak? كيف حالك؟ means how is your health and is similar to the way we say “how are you?” in English. It is commonly used after marhaba or as-salamu Alaikum. When addressing a male, you’d use kif haalak. For a female, you’d use keef haalik.
To respond, you’d say “ana bikheer, shukran!” أنا بخير، شكراً, which means “I’m fine, Thanks!”. And in the same way you’d converse in English, it’s proper etiquette to also ask how they’re doing. So you’d ask them wa inta وأنت, if they’re male, and wa inti وأنتِ if they’re a female. This simply means “And you?”
Levantine – Kifak? كيفك؟Kifak? كيفك؟ is a more casual, shortened version from the Saudi dialect way of saying how are you? Kif haalak (to male) turns into kifak and kif haalik (to female) turns into kifik. To respond, can say mneeh منِيح which means I’m good or tamaam تَمَام which means I’m great.
Egyptian – Izayyak? ازيك؟Izayyak? ازيك؟ is a uniquely Egyptian way to ask someone how they are. If you say this in other Arabic-speaking countries, they will certainly be able to understand you and they will know immediately you’ve studied Arabic in Egypt. Use Izayyak when speaking to a male and use Izayyik when speaking to a female.
Some common responses to izayyak are kwayyis كوَيِّس which means I’m good and kullu tamaam كلّو تَمَام which means everything’s good.