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Hello in Arabic — Nine Super Colloquial Ways

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Nine ways to say Hello in Arabic that are colloquial, fun, and not your super basic “Salaam ‘Aleikum”.

The sunrise over monuments in Lebanon Hello in Arabic

Let’s get one thing out of the way: salaam ‘aleikum (سلام عليكم), the more colloquial form of the formal greeting as-salaamu ‘aleikum (اَلسَّلَامُ عَلَيْكُمْ‎) is indeed an excellent greeting in Arabic. It got us really far.

It’s also useful in non-Arabic speaking places like Tanzania and Kenya, where there are large Muslim populations.

That’s why salaam ‘aleikuim is top of the list of common Egyptian Arabic expressions you should know.

But even though you can’t go wrong with the standard Muslim greeting, there are a few reasons why you might prefer a more casual way of saying hello in Arabic.

For example, it might be the third time you’ve seen someone in a day. You don’t want to overdo it with formality.

Or the person you’re speaking to might not be a Muslim. Or maybe you’re not and feel uncomfortable with Muslim greetings.

Or maybe you just want to be more casual. You don’t say “hello” all the time to people you know; you say “hi” or maybe even “hey” or “what’s up”.

In the same way, you might want to say hello in Arabic in one of the following more casual, common, colloquial ways.

Quick note on spelling in Arabic: Colloquial Arabic doesn’t have a standardised spelling system. To the extent possible I’ve used the way I’ve seen words written around the internet, or by my teachers. You might have seen something different. If that’s the case, I’d be curious to know — email us at [email protected]

Hello in Arabic — In a nutshell

Here are all the common ways of saying hello in Arabic colloquially. There’s more detail below.

To make these feminine (to address a woman): For all the greetings in this article, if you see the suffix -ak anywhere, you change it to -ik.

The suffix -ak means “your” when talking to a man. When talking to a woman, it changes to -ik.

It’s a subtle difference, but once you get used to it, you start to notice when people get it wrong!

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OK, on to all the ways of saying hello in Arabic.

Marhaba (مرحبه)

Marhaba, the colloquial short form of the more formal marhaban (مرحباً), is used all over the Arabic-speaking world.

Unsurprisingly, this just means “hello”! So this is the authoritative answer to how you say hello in Arabic.

But that’s not to say that it’s always the most colloquial thing. Some of the above are much more colloquial. It’s really a regional thing. I heard Palestinians/Israeli Arabs say this when I was younger, but younger guys said ahlan just as much.

If you’re among close friends and you want to address a group — or even just two people — you can use the plural form: maraahib (مراحب).

You might notice that marhaba is sometimes written in the formal way, مرحباً, has a tanwiin on the end of it — the double strokes over the aleph letter (اً). This is a case marker and is commonly pronounced an. But in everyday speech, it’s just pronounced a.

(See this good post on Desert Sky as an introduction to the case system in Arabic.)

Ahlan (أهلاً)

The greeting ahlan is probably the second universal way of saying hello in Arabic across the whole Arabic-speaking world.

This is the short form for the formal greeting ahlan wa sahlan (أهلاً وسهلاً). The origins of this phrase are quite beautiful: ahlan means family or kinfolk, and sahlan means “easily”, roughly.

Similar to marhaba, the word ahlan ends in a tanwiin. But the most common way of pronouncing it involves pronouncing the -an at the end.

Izzayak? (إزيك؟)

Literally this means “How are you?”. The word izzay (إزي) is the Egyptian colloquial way of saying “how”.

To address a woman in this way, you say izayyik.

This greeting is really common in Egypt, but would be understood by everyone because of the popularity of Egyptian television and slang (which is why we recommend beginning Arabic learners learn Egyptian Arabic). Even though it’s a question, it’s so common that it’s really just another way of saying hello in Arabic.

It’s really only a local expression in Egypt though — and maybe immediate surrounds.

Kifak? (كيفك؟)

This is very similar to izayyak above, but uses a more Levantine word for “how”, kif rather than izzay.

Because it’s so common though, you can use this expression in a lot of places and be understood.

Akhbaarak eh? (اخبارك ايه؟)

The phrase akhbaarak eh? is a colloquial way of saying “what’s up?” or “how’s it going?”

To address a woman this way, you say akhbaarik.

It literally means “What’s your news?”, with the plural form of the word “news”.

This phrase is more common in Egypt.

You’d generally use this with someone you’re familiar with. You could use it after a couple of introductory greetings.

Like in English, you’re not expected to give an answer about what news you have. You can just respond with “kwayyis” as usual.

Shu el-akhbaar? (شو الأخبار؟)

This phrase is similar to akhbaarak eh?, but is how it’s more commonly said in other countries in the Levant region, like Syria and Lebanon, and the Palestinian areas.

Because there’s no suffix on any word here, you don’t have to modify it when speaking to a man or woman!

I also heard this phrase used in Upper Egypt.

It also means “what’s news?” but uses the Levantine word shu for “what”, rather than the Egyptian eh.

Kif Haalak? (كيف حالك؟)

The phrase kif haalak is another example of a question that’s so common that it’s more “hello” than “how is your health”, which is literally what it means.

You change it to kif haalik when addressing a woman.

This expression is in the Levantine form, using the word kif for “how” (Egyptians prefer izzay). However, I never heard an Egyptian equivalent to this (like izzay Haalak, sounds unfamiliar to me).

Because it’s so common over the Levantine region of the Arab world, I would occasionally hear this form of hello in Arabic in Egypt, too.

3aamal eh? (عامل ايه؟)

This was one that really confused me when I first heard it because it sounds like it means “What are you doing?”

Really it just means “How’s it going?”. It’s used as a really casual greeting. You can walk by someone and just say “3aamal eh?” and they’ll nod and give you a standard answer (and not, like I first did, tell you what they’re doing!)

Shlonak (شلونك) or Eish lonak? (ايش لونك؟)

Finally, here’s one with which I have less exposure (I haven’t travelled in the region, just spoken to people from there or who learned Arabic there), but which is really common in some countries like the Gulf countries: Iraq, Kuwait, and nearby.

Literally it means “What’s your colour?”

The form of shlonak is already shortened, but it can also be abbreviated to just shlon? in everyday speech.

Like with other greetings in this guide, you change the ending -ak to -ik when addressing a woman.

Standard responses to any Arabic greeting

Even though most of these greetings are asking you how you are, or some other question (like what your colour is), you can give a standard response to any of them.

These are

  • “Fine”: kwayyis (كويس)
  • “Everything’s good”: kullu tamaam (كله تمام)
  • “Good”, bi khayr (بخير)

And you can end any of these with al-Hamdu li-llah (الحمد لله), “praise be to God”. It’s a polite expression and people say it even if they’re not Muslims, and even if they don’t believe in god, so… don’t worry.

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