Sometimes when I need to do something else for a little while, I watch Egyptian television, Egyptian discussions, movies, or even TV series (مُسَلْسَلات).
However, instead of getting some creative distraction, my brain usually gets overloaded because I encounter dozens of expressions that I unwillingly pay attention to resulting in getting lost in translation.
For this reason, I started to collect expressions in Egyptian Arabic.
What are filler expressions?
These little words don’t really change the meaning of the sentence if you simply disregard them – which is what I would recommend for beginners. Linguists call these words and expressions an expletive – fillers. For German speakers: “Füllwörter”.
There is no point in translating these expressions literally, especially if your background is Classical or Modern Standard Arabic. In most cases, a filler has a syntactic role only but contributes nothing to meaning. They can also simply “fill” space or time, e.g. in English: “so, also, then, hmm, ähm, okay, …“
Let’s look at an example in English:
Arabic is, I mean, like, totally easy to learn, you know?
Now delete I mean + like + totally + you know from the example above and you will get a sentence that still makes perfectly sense: Arabic is easy to learn.
Please note that although they don’t really transport important information, they do have a function for native speakers. But it takes a long time to get a feeling for these words, to know how and in which situations you could use them.
Three words that are often parts of expressions in Egyptian Arabic
- ya3ni/ya’ni (يَعْنِي), literally: he/it means
- bass (بَسّ), literally: just, only, but
- ba2a/baqa (بَقْى), literally: to become; or as an adverb: already. It can also convey the meaning of: “…why don’t you…”
Let’s dig deeper…
If you hear the following expressions, try to disregard them. The literal translation won’t help you. Usually they don’t convey any additional information. For this reason, I do not give a translation. If you progress you will get a feeling when and how to use them.
Fillers with “ya3ni” (يَعْنِي)
|ya3ni Tab3an||يَعْنِي طَبْعًا|
|ya3ni barDo||يَعْنِي بَرْضُه|
|wallaahi, kamaan da ya3ni||وَاللّهِ… كَمان دَه يَعْنِي|
|wakamaan da ba2a ya3ni||وَكَمان ده بَقْى يَعْني|
|wana ya3ni-l7a2ii2a||وَأَنا يَعْني الحَقِيقة|
Fillers with “bass” (بَسّ)
|bassi kamaan||بَسِّ كَمان|
|la2! bassi biy2ullak||لا! بَسِّ بِيْقُول لَك|
|bassi Tab3an||بَسِّ طَبْعًا|
But watch out: The word بَسّ is not always just a filler.
|bass! (it can mean: enough!)||بَسّ!|
|bass! (it can also mean: don’t! in the meaning of: stop that!)||بَسّ!|
|wabass! (meaning: just)||وَبَسّ!|
|2ultilak bass… (meaning: I was just saying…)||قُلْت لَك بَسّ…|
Fillers with “ba2a” (بَقْى)
|waba3deen ba2a||وَبَعْدِين بَقى|
|la da yib2a kamaan||لا ده يِبْقَى كَمان|
|bassi ba2a! (meaning: enough! stop!)||بَسِّ بّقى!|
|ghour ba2a! (meaning: go to hell!)||غُور بَقى|
Other filler expressions
|da, ma huwwa||دَه… ما هُو|
|mainta 3aarif Tab3an||ما انِنْتَ عارِف طَبْعًا|
|wa dah, 3ala fikra…||وَدَه… عَلَى فِكْرة|
|Sa7i7 el-kalaam da||صَحِيح الكَلام دَه|
|Tabb ma dilwa2ti||طَبّ ما دِلْوَقْتِي|
|dilwa2ti Tab3an||دِلْوَقْتِي طَبْعًا|
|wallaahi! kamaan da ya3ni||وَللَّهِ! كَمان ده يَعْنِي|
NOTE If you know more (also from other Arabic dialects), please feel free to let me know – and I will add them.
Wanna continue reading? Here is more about Egyptian Arabic:
- 20 questions for: Nesrin Amin (#22)
- An interview with Mai Ahmed: What is it like to be a vegetarian in Egypt?
- A list of Arabic proverbs and sayings
- Tricky things about the adjective in Egyptian Arabic
- Arabic swear words and curses – a list
photo credit: Image by Soupy Squirrel from Pixabay