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Media Arabic Booster 01/24 - feature image

Media Arabic Booster 01/24

This month (01/24) in Media Arabic Booster: articles expressing solidarity with Wael Dahdouh and a translation of “From the Renaissance Dam to Somaliland” in Al Modon

Last updated: 3 weeks ago

As a journalist, I read Arabic newspapers daily, especially the opinion section. Every month, I want to share with you on Arabic for Nerds what I find interesting from a linguistic perspective and which might be worth learning. I call it the Media Arabic Booster.

A close look at a headline

Headlines in Arabic media are generally easy to understand – but there are also some tricky words.

al-Quds: Responding to the tragedy of al-Jazeera journalist Wael al-Dahdouh

I switch daily between Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera news channels and appreciate their live coverage and 24-hour documentation of events (live channels – مُباشِرٌ). Even if many of their reports include emotions and personal influences and views, it's mostly live and unfiltered.

One face I have seen for years on TV is that of Wael Dahdouh (وائل الدحدوح), Al Jazeera's Gaza bureau chief. He has been working what feels like 24 hours a day since October 7. A good part of his family has been killed in Israeli attacks:

  • His wife, 7-year-old daughter, and 15-year-old son were killed in an Israeli airstrike on the Nuseirat refugee camp (مخيّم النصيرات) on October 28, 2023, along with 8 of his other relatives.
  • On December 15, 2023, while covering the airstrike on the Haifa school in Khan Yunis (خان يونس), al-Dahdouh and his colleague cameraman Samer Abu Daqqa (سامر أبو دقة) were hit by an Israeli missile, injuring Dahdouh and killing Abu Daqqa.
  • His son, journalist Hamza al-Dahdouh (حمزة الدحدوح), was killed in an Israeli attack on Khan Younis on January 7, 2024, and 2 of his nephews were killed the following day.

It is not surprising that such a tragedy and the amount of pain a person has to deal with is a touching, sad, and at the same time infuriating topic in the Arab world, as many people are familiar with the face of Wael Dahdouh. Several newspapers, especially the paper Al-Quds (جريدة القدس; mainly financed by Qataris) published several pages following the death of Al-Dahdouh's son. Obituaries were also printed on the front page.

Al-Quds newspaper, announcing the killing of the son of al-Jazeera journalist Wael el-Dahdouh.
Al-Quds newspaper, announcing the killing of the son of al-Jazeera journalist Wael el-Dahdouh.

Let us focus on the headline of an article published in Al-Quds on January 8, 2024, on page 9:

سِياسِيُّونَ وَنُشَطاءُ تُونِسِيُّونَ يَتَضامَنُونَ مَعَ الإِعْلامِيِّ وائِل الدَّحْدُوح..
وَنَقِيبُ الصَحافِيِّينَ السابِقِ: رَمْزٌ لِصُمُودِ أَهالِي غَزَّةَ

Headline Wael al-Dahdouh, al-Quds newspaper, 8 January, 2024
Headline Wael al-Dahdouh, al-Quds newspaper, 8 January, 2024

Let us first check the vocabulary. In this headline, we have many words that can be used as both an adjective and a noun!

سِياسيٌّpolitical; politician
نَشِيطٌ – نُشَطاءُactive; activist. For example: human rights activist (نُشَطاءُ حُقُوقِ الْإنْسانِ). There is also a rare plural form, which is نِشاط
تَضامَنَ – يَتَضامَنُ معto be solidary with; to stick together; to be in accord; to have mutual responsibility. It is a VI-verb (تَفاعَلَ), thus, we already have a hint that a mutual aspect is at play. The infinitive noun (مصدر) is تَضامُنٌ usually denotes solidarity. For example: to declare one's solidarity with (أَعْلَنَ التَّضامُنَ مَعَ).
إعْلامِيٌّinformative/media; media personality
نَقِيبٌunion leader (in this context since we talk about Tunisia where unions are strong); it can also mean captain (in the military) and, more generally, leader, chief, head.
صَحافِيٌّ or صُحُفِيٌّjournalist
سابِقٌformer, ex-; past; preceding
صُمُودٌperseverance; persistence; endurance
أَهْلٌ – أَهالٍpeople (in this context and usually when used in the plural); family. For example: the People of the Book = Christians and Jews (أَهْل الكِتابِ); the local people (أَهالي البَلَدةِ)
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 01/24 – © Gerald Drißner

Now, let's translate the entire headline:

سياسيون ونشطاء تونسيون يتضامنون مع الإعلامي وائل الدحدوح.. ونقيب الصحافيين السابق: رمز لصمود أهالي غزة

Tunisian politicians and activists show solidarity with the journalist Wael al-Dahdouh…
Former journalists' union president: A symbol of the steadfastness of Gaza residents

Note: If you are interested, you can read the entire article on the al-Quds website (link).

Sky News Arabia: the snowball method

I grew up in the mountains of Austria, where winters were long, with lots of snow from November to May. Sometimes we got half a meter overnight. We had snowball fights every day.

In German, there is the beautiful word Dachlawinengefahr (= danger of a mass of snow sliding off the roof). I still remember well how I once tried to translate this word into Arabic in such a way that people who may never have seen snow before can understand what it means and how dangerous a Dachlawine can actually be. In Arabic, you need a sentence for this.

Arabic has countless words related to the desert. But when something is related to snow, the language, which is otherwise often praised for its richness, becomes speechless. Words associated with snow quickly seem artificially constructed. Anyway, how often do you hear the word “snowball” in everyday Arabic life?

This is why I was surprised to see the word snowball in the business section of Sky News Arabia (full text here) sometime in January. Note that the text was also printed in the newspaper al-Quds (see facsimile).

الدُّيُونُ.. ما هِيَ خُطَّةُ كُرَةِ الثَّلْجِ الَّتِي يُنْصَحُ بِالْاِعْتِمادِ عَلَيْها؟

What does this mean?

Sky News Arabia/al-Quds: snow ball method of paying debts
Sky News Arabia/al-Quds: snow ball method of paying debts

Let's first translate all the important words:

دَيْنٌ – دُيُونٌdebt. For example: national debt (دَيْنُ الدَّوْلةِ). Notice the pronunciaton “dain”. The word for religion looks the same, but is pronounced with “i” – “deen”: دِينٌ (plural: أَدْيان)
خُطّةٌ – خُطَطٌplan. In politics you often hear the phrase five-year plan. In Arabic, this can be difficult to understand because in Arabic, this is often expressed without mentioning the word year: خُطَّةٌ خَمْسِيَّةٌ
كُرةٌ – كُرىًball, globe. The word is generally used for ball/round things. For example: soccer/football (كُرَةُ الْقَدَمِ); tennis (كُرَةُ الْمِضْرَبِ or justتِنِس). Note that مِضْرَب means bat; racket.
ثَلْجٌ – ثُلُوجٌsnow. Arabic does not really have words for different kinds of snow like German or English. By putting together ball and snow, we get the word for snowball: كُرةُ ثَلْجٍ. When we talk about the weather, we use the construction “it is… snowing”. How do we say that in Arabic? We need a different construction. We do need a noun as a subject. So, it is snowing can be expressed by تُثْلِجُ السَّماءُ. It is like in Egyptian Arabic – it's raining is el-dunya betishti (الدنيا بتشتي).
نَصَحَ – يَنْصَحُ لِ بِto advise/counsel someone (لِ) to do something (بِ).
اعْتَمَدَ – يَعْتَمِدُ عَلَىto rely on; to trust in. The infinitive noun (مصدر) of this VIII-verb is اِعْتِمادٌ
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 01/24 – © Gerald Drißner

Now that we have all the ingredients, let us translate the headline:

Debts… What is the snowball plan that is recommended to rely on?

الدُّيُونُ.. ما هِيَ خُطَّةُ كُرَةِ الثَّلْجِ الَّتِي يُنْصَحُ بِالْاِعْتِمادِ عَلَيْها؟

To be honest, I had never heard about the “snowball plan” in relation to debts. So I had to google it.

The “debt snowball” method is a way to pay off what you owe by focusing on small debts first. This strategy was made popular by Dave Ramsey, a US-American radio personality.

You list all your debts from smallest to largest and pay them off in that order, regardless of the interest rate. The thinking is that as you clear each little debt, you'll feel good about your progress. This good feeling keeps you going, much like how a small snowball gets bigger as it rolls down a hill and picks up more snow.

So if the term snowball is now used as a metaphor in Arabic, what about the snowball effect?

I browsed through a few translations and actually came across a literal translation: تَأْثِيرُ كُرَةِ الثَلْجِ

But perhaps a clearer and somewhat more general translation would be better because I also found this: أَثَرٌ تَراكُمِيٍّ. The word تَراكُمِيٌّ means cumulative; accumulated.

Good to know Why did the authors put the vowel “u” (ضَمّة) on يُنْصَحُ in the headline?

This is often done to mark the voice (صِيغةُ الْمَبْنِيِّ لِلْمَجْهُولِ). Note that the passive voice of the verb نَصَحَ is نُصِحَ and يُنْصَحُ. Theoretically, we also get the vowel “u” at the beginning in verbs of form II (فَعَّلَ) and IV (أَفْعَلَ) in the present tense (المُضارِعُ), active voice (حالةُ الْمَبْنِيِّ لِلْمَعْلُومِ). But for the active voice, we do need a verbal subject (فاعل), which is missing here because the “plan” is not advising anyone.

Translation of an article

To really get to the core of Arabic newspapers and magazines, you have to know a bunch of words. Plus, the way they phrase things and put sentences together can sometimes be a real challenge. That's why I'm all about translating whole sentences, so you can gain more confidence and speed up your Arabic skills.

The words marked in yellow can be found further down in the vocabulary list.

Opinion piece in Al Modon: “From the Renaissance Dam to the Somaliland” – Egypt, Ethiopia and the role of Somaliland

Water rights to the Nile River are a critical concern for Egypt. With Ethiopia building a large dam, called the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Tālāqu ye-Ītyōppyā Hidāsē Gidib – ታላቁ የኢትዮጵያ ሕዳሴ ግድብ – in Arabic: سَدُّ النَّهْضَةِ الْإِثْيُوبِيِّ الْعَظِيمِ), the situation has become more complex and urgent for Egypt. This new dam has the potential to affect the flow of water that Egypt relies on.

The dam they are planning to build will be the biggest source of hydroelectric power in Africa and one of the biggest in the world. It will be able to produce 5.15 gigawatts of electricity. To help you understand how much power that is, consider the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station in Ukraine, which is the biggest in Europe. It can generate a bit more power at 5.7 gigawatts.

On February 20, 2022, the dam produced electricity for the first time (capacity 375 MW). Thus far, Egypt has not felt any negative impact. But what will happen when all turbines are installed and operational?

People have been talking about the possibility of war for some time. Experts used to think that Egypt's rulers could not launch an attack on places far away because Egypt didn't have planes that could refuel their fighter jets mid-flight. But is this still the case? The country of Sudan is immense, and it's located right next to Egypt, making it a difficult area to cross without stopping. But now, with the turmoil in Sudan and both major players in the region, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are trying to build new alliances.

The situation might get more complex as Shady Lewis writes in the Lebanese online newspaper Al Modon (المدن) on January 24, 2024. Founded in 2005, Al Modon is published in Arabic and covers local and international news. The paper describes itself as “independent and progressive”.

Shady Lewis Botros (شادي لويس) is an Egyptian journalist and writer. A Coptic Christian, he was born in Cairo in 1978 and has lived in for many years. He is known for his political activism in the Kefaya opposition movement against former Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak. Today, he writes for various Arabic newspapers such as Al-Modon, Mada Masr, and Al-Quds Al-Arabi, to name a few.

al mudun jan 2024
Media Arabic Booster 01/24 23

Let's focus on certain parts of the text and translate each sentence carefully.

من سد النهضة إلى أرض الصومال

From the Renaissance Dam to Somaliland

بعد أكثر من عقد من الجولات الدبلوماسية وتجدد للحرب الكلامية كل حين وآخر، وصل الخلاف حول سد النهضة بين القاهرة وأديس أبابا إلى طريق مسدود. قطعت أعمال إنشاءات جسم السد ومراحل ملء خزاناته، خطوات واسعة، من دون الوصول إلى اتفاق ملزم بين دول الحوض ينظم إدارة مياه النيل، بما يضمن حصص دول المصب.

After more than a decade of diplomatic rounds and the renewed war of words every now and then, the dispute over the El-Nahda Dam between Cairo and Addis Ababa has reached a dead end. The construction works (of the body of the dam) and filling of the dam's reservoirs have crossed many steps (have taken great strides, have made significant progress), without reaching a binding between the basin's countries to manage the water of the Nile in a way that secures the quotas of the downstream countries.

Somalia (الصومال) and Somaliland (جمهورية صوماليلاند or أرض الصومال) are two territories located in the Horn of Africa, yet they represent distinct political entities.

  • Somalia is an internationally recognized sovereign nation, with Mogadishu (مقديشو) as its capital. It has been grappling with periods of civil unrest and complex challenges to its federal authority over the past decades.
  • Conversely, Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991, establishing its capital in Hargeisa (هرجيسا). However, despite having its own government, army, and currency, Somaliland's sovereignty is not officially recognized by the international community. The territory operates largely as a de facto state, with its own institutions and a relatively stable political climate compared to Somalia.
Location of Somaliland
Location of Somaliland

جاء إعلان القاهرة الشهر الماضي عن انتهاء مسار المفاوضات، والاكتفاء بـ”المراقبة عن كثبلملء وتشغيل السد مع الاحتفاظ بـ”حق الدفاع عن أمنها المائي والقومي في حال تعرضه للضرر“، بمثابة بيان استسلام للأمر الواقع، وترحيل المواجهة إلى المستقبل.

Cairo gave a statement last month about the conclusion/end of the negotiations and that it will merely be “closely monitoring” the filling and operation of the dam while “preserving the right to defend its water and national security in the event it suffers any damages.” The statement demonstrated Cairo's surrendering to the fait accompli and a way to postpone the confrontation to the future.

فالأمطار الغزيرة خلال المواسم الماضية، سمحت بتتميم عمليات ملء السد من دون تأثير ملموس في حصة مصر المائية، لتبقى المشكلات مؤجلة حتى مواسم الجفاف المحتملة مستقبليًا، وتظل المعضلة الأكبر أن أثيوبيا بادرت إلى خرق الاتفاقات القائمة لإدارة نهر النيل وتوزيع حصصه، والإقدام على ذلك من طرف واحد، وهو ما يمهد الطريق لتكرار الأمر، سواء من جهة أديس أبابا أو غيرها من دول المنبع.

The heavy rains in the past seasons allowed for completing the filling of the dam without a tangible effect on Egypt's water share. Thus, the problems have been delayed until the potential dry seasons in the future. The main problem is that Ethiopia took the initiative to violate the (existing) agreements to manage the water of the Nile and the distribution of the quotas, and the recklessness of doing that unilaterally is it that paves the way for repeating the same thing/issue whether by Addis Ababa or other upstream countries.

الخسارة المصرية، أو ما يمكن اعتباره تعليقًا لا يصب في مصلحة القاهرة، لم تكن نتيجة بعيدة من الاستشراف مسبقًا. ففي ظل غياب حسن النوايا من الجهة الأثيوبية، لم تمتلك القاهرة أدوات للضغط أو للتفاوض أو الترغيب، بل وبداية انطلقت من أرضية ضعف، بحكم موقعها الجغرافي كبلد المصب. كان لجوء الحكومة المصرية لإشراك الولايات المتحدة في جهود الضغط الدبلوماسي على إثيوبيا – وهي الورقة المصرية الأكبر- بلا جدوى تذكر… أخيرًا، جاء اندلاع الحرب الأهلية في السودان، تحطيمًا لأي آمال في شراكة بين القاهرة والخرطوم في مواجهة أديس أبابا ….

The Egyptian loss or the situation that didn't serve Cairo's interests was not a hard-to-predict. In the absence of good intentions on the Ethiopian side, Cairo possessed no pressuring or negotiation tools or tools to arouse interest. Rather, it started from a weak ground, by virtue of its geographical location as a downstream country. The Egyptian government resorted to the loop of the USA in its efforts to exert diplomatic pressure on Ethiopia. This was the main Egyptian card, but it had a negligible result. Finally, the outbreak of civil war in Sudan came, destroying any hopes for a partnership between Cairo and Khartoum confronting Addis Ababa (…)

نهاية الأسبوع الماضي، عادت الحرب الكلامية بين مصر وإثيوبيا، بعد توقيع الأخيرة مذكرة تفاهم مع حكومة أرض الصومال غير المعترف بها دوليًا، تسمح لإثيوبيا، وهي الدولة الحبيسة بإقامة قاعدة بحرية عسكرية ومرفأ تجاري وحق استخدام واجهة بحرية بطول 20 كيلومترًا على الساحل الصومالي لمدة 50 عامًا. واستدعى الاتفاق المبدئي إدانة جماعية، شملت الولايات المتحدة والاتحاد الأوروبي والصين والجامعة العربية، إنما كان رد الفعل المصري الأعلى صوتًا والأكثر خشونة، إذ جاء مشفوعًا بتهديد التدخل العسكري.

Last weekend, the verbal war between Egypt and Ethiopia returned when the latter signed a memorandum of understanding with the internationally unrecognized government of Somaliland, allowing Ethiopia, a country with no maritime outlets, to establish a naval base and a commercial port in addition to the right to use a 20-kilometer-long seafront on the Somalian coast for 50 years. The initial agreement called for collective condemnation, including the United States, the European Union, China, and the Arab League. However, the Egyptian reaction was the loudest and most harsh, as it came with the threat of military intervention.

“محدش يجرب مصر”، حذّر الرئيس السيسي في كلمة له من مغبةالمساس بسيادة الصومال أو وحدة أراضيه”، واستدعى بشكل ضمني اتفاقية الدفاع المشترك العربية، مع إعلان نية التدخل إذا طلبت حكومة الصومال ذلك.

“No one must test Egypt,” warned President el-Sisi as he gave a speech about the threats of “undermining Somalia's sovereignty or territorial integrity”, and implicitly invoked the Arab Joint Defense Agreement, declaring his intention to intervene if the Somali government requests it.

الموقف المصري المتشدد معني بمواجهة إثيوبيا، لمعادلة الكفة معها في معادلة المصالح والضغوط. فمنذ سنوات، تمارس حكومة أرض الصومال أعمال السيادة، بما فيها توقيع الاتفاقيات مع دول أخرى ومؤسسات غير حكومية، ولم تستدع أي من المعاهدات السابقة رد فعل مصري بمثل هذه الخشونة. فهل يجب التعامل مع الموقف المصري بجدية؟ أم اعتباره مناورة كلامية مثل التصريحات السابقة؟

The Egyptian firm position mainly aimed at confronting Ethiopia, to level the balance in terms of interests and pressures. For years, the government of Somaliland has been exercising acts of sovereignty, including signing agreements with other countries and non-governmental organizations, but none of the earlier treaties called for an Egyptian reaction of such harshness. So, should the Egyptian position be taken seriously? Or should it be considered a verbal maneuver like previous statements?

عمليًا، يصعب على القاهرة الغارقة في أزمتها المالية الكبيرة، تمويل حرب في أعالي البحار. ولا تبدو الإدارة المصرية في وضع تُحسد عليه، فيما تدور ثلاث حروب على حدودها البرية، في غزة وليبيا والسودان، وبشكل أو بآخر هي طرف في الحروب الثلاث. وبحسب معيار الأولوية، سيكون من غير الحكمة فتح جبهة إضافية وبعيدة.

In practice, it is difficult for Cairo, which is mired in its major financial crisis, to finance a war on the high seas. The Egyptian administration does not seem to be in an enviable position, as three wars are raging on its land borders, in Gaza, Libya, and Sudan, and in one way or another it is a party to the three wars. According to the criterion of priority, it would be unwise to open an additional and distant front.

الواقع أن القاهرة، وبالتوازي مع تصريحاتها الحادة تجاه إثيوبيا، أصدرت في الأسبوع نفسه تهديدات نادرة تجاه تل أبيب، ملوحة بتبعات خطيرة حال مبادرة إسرائيل إلى تغيير الوضع القائم على محور فيلادلفيا. ولعل الفوضى الشديدة التي ضربت المنطقة من الجهات كافة، دفعت القاهرة نحو اتخاذ مواقف أكثر صرامة، ومن بينها البحث عن موطئ قدم في القرن الأفريقي في ظل اضطراب الملاحة في البحر الأحمر، والذي يتضرر منه الاقتصاد المصري أكبر الضرر.

In fact, in parallel with its sharp statements towards Ethiopia, Cairo also voiced some rare threats towards Tel Aviv in the same week, hinting at serious consequences if Israel were to change the status quo on the Philadelphia axis (see box below). Perhaps the severe chaos that struck the region from all sides pushed Cairo towards taking tougher positions, including searching for a foothold in the Horn of Africa amid the disruption of maritime transportation in the Red Sea, which is causing the Egyptian economy the greatest harm.

في حال كانت التصريحات المصرية تجاه مسألة أرض الصومال غير جادة أو مفتقدة لموارد تنفيذها- وهو الأرجح– فإن النتيجة الوحيدة لها ستكون تدهور علاقة سيئة بالأساس مع الجار الإثيوبي البعيد، (…)

The Philadelphia Axis is a geopolitical term that relates to a specific area along the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, known colloquially as the Philadelphi Corridor.

It was initially the Israeli code name for a narrow 14 km (8.699 miles) strip of land along the entire border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. According to a Reuters report1, the name Philadelphi was “randomly chosen by the Israeli army as a code name for the border area”; in other words, the name has no historical roots in the area. It was defined in the April 18, 2004 draft disengagement plan as “the border area between the Gaza Strip and Egypt”.

Since the recent war on Gaza, the term has returned to the discussion. Speaking at a press conference at the end of December 2023, the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “The Philadelphi Corridor – or to put it more correctly, the southern closing point (of Gaza) – must be in our hands. It must be shut. It is clear that any other arrangement would not assure the demilitarization that we seek.”2

Some more facts:

  • The Philadelphia Corridor ( ציר פילדלפי) is also called the Salah al-Din Axis (محور صلاح الدين) in Arabic.
  • This corridor is located in Zone D of the Sinai Peninsula, categorized as such according to the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
  • The axis stretches from the shores of the Mediterranean Sea to the Kerem Shalom crossing, approximately 14 kilometers.
  • The peace treaty between Egypt and Israel mandates specific limits on the size and type of military forces each party can deploy, including those on the Egyptian side of the Philadelphia Axis.
  • Israel maintained jurisdiction over the Philadelphia Axis within Area D until 2005, when it withdrew its presence from the Gaza Strip, ceding control to the Palestinian Authority.
  • The withdrawal was accompanied by the signing of a new pact that set the framework for the military presence within the Axis and allowed for Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation.
  • On its side of the axis, Egypt maintains a limited contingent of soldiers tasked with curbing cross-border incursions and smuggling attempts.
  • Recent revelations suggest that Israel is considering the construction of an underground barrier hidden within the Philadelphi Axis zone.

If the Egyptian statement concerning the issue with Somaliland is not serious or if Egypt lacks the needed resources to carry them out – which is very likely – the only outcome shall consist of a further deterioration of the already bad relations with the distant Ethiopian neighbor…

Vocabulary list

All the words in the above article marked in yellow can be found in this table with explanations.

عَقْدٌ – عُقُودٌdecade. For example: the last decade (الْعَقْدُ الْأَخِيرُ)
جَوْلةٌround; also: tour (tourism). For example: a tour of the office (جَوْلةٌ فِي المَكْتَبِ) – notice the preposition فِي. Or: to run/have a new round of negations (أَجْرَى جَوْلةً جَدِيدةً مِن الْمُباحَثاتِ)
تَجَدُّدٌrenewal, resumption. It is the infinitive noun of the V-verb تَجَدَّدَ – يَتَجَدَّدُ which means to renew; also: to happen again or to be revived
كُلُّ حِينٍ وَآخَرَevery now and then. There are many similar phrases with حِين which basically just means time or opportunity. For example: from time to time = now and then can also be expressed by بَيْنَ الْحِينِ وَالْآخَرِ or مِن حِينٍ لِآخَرَ or مِن حِينٍ إِلَى حِينٍ. Watch out: If you use حين with the definite article, it expresses something else! The expression فِي الْحِينِ denotes immediately; directly; right away.
خِلافٌIn politics, it usually means disagreement, conflict, dispute. In a more general sense, it means difference.
سَدٌّ -أَسْداد/سُدُودٌdam; blockage. In a certain context, it can mean payment. For example: road block (سَدُّ طَرِيقٍ)
نَهْضةٌrebirth; renaissance; advancement (in an abstract sense). For example: The Renaissance (عَصْرُ النَّهْضَةِ). You should use this expression carefully and specify which Renaissance you mean: The Renaissance in Europe (النَهْضة الأوروبّيّة) or the al-Nahda = The Arab Awakening of the nineteenth century (عَصْرُ النَهْضَةِ العَرَبِيَّةِ). The al-Nahda was a cultural movement that flourished in Arab-populated regions of the Ottoman Empire, particularly in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Tunisia, during the second half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. In general, the word نَهْضةٌ is often used in an Islamic political context. One political party in Tunis is called Ennahda (حَرَكَةُ النَّهْضَةِ).
مَسْدُودٌblocked; closed. It is the passive participle of the I-verb سَدَّ – يَسُدُّ which means to block (see the word for dam). The phrases طَرِيقٌ مَسْدُودٌ or حائِطٌ مَسْدُودٌ mean dead end; impasse; deadlock. For example: The negotiations reached a dead end (وَصَلَتْ الْمُفاوَضاتُ إِلَى طَرِيقٍ مَسْدُودٍ).
قَطَعَ خُطُواتٍ واسِعَةًto make big steps. Another example: to make significant progress (قَطَعَ شَوْطًا كَبيرًا). The word شَوْطٌ – أَشْوُاطٌ means part (جُزْء) or round. How can it be that the I-verb قَطَعَ – يَقْطَعُ, which means “to cut”, can express such a meaning? That is because قَطَعَ has many, many meanings, among them also to overcome; to cross/traverse.
مَرْحَلةٌ – مَراحِلُphase; stage. Note that the plural form مَراحِلُ is a diptote (ممنوع من الصرف). For example: an early stage (مَرْحَلةٌ مُبَكِّرةٌ)
خَزّانٌ – خَزازينُ/خَزّاناتٌreservoir; storage tank. Also used for the car. For example: a full tank (خَزّانُ وَقُودٍ مَلِيءٍ); an empty tank (خَزّانُ وَقُودٍ فارِغٍ)
مُلْزِمٌbinding; obligatory – active participle (اسم الفاعل) of IV-verb أَلْزَمَ which means to bind; to force. For example: a binding agreement (اِتِّفاقٌ مُلْزَمٌ). If you use the word غَيْر, you can produce the opposite meaning, like in non-committal (غَيْر مُلْزِمٍ). Now, what about the passive particle (اسم المفعول), i.e., مُلْزَمٌ? It means liable to/for or bound. For example: to be confined to bed (كانَ مُلْزَمًا بِالفِراشِ).
حَوْضٌbasin. It is used in geography as well as for household stuff. For example: river basin (حَوْضُ نَهْرٍ); sink (حَوْضُ غَسِيلٍ)
ضَمِنَ – يَضْمَنُto guarantee (I-verb). Watch out: In the phrase to guarantee somebody that something will work, you should use the preposition ل in front of the person: ضَمِنَ لِشَخْصٍ نَجاحَ شَيْءٍ
حِصّةٌ – حِصَصٌshare; portion; quota. It can also mean period; class; season. For example: a share of the profit (حِصّةٌ فِي الرِّبْحِ). First period at school is الْحِصّةُ الْأُولَى. Note: First Season (e.g. on Netflix) is usually expressed by the word مَوْسِم which means season.
مَصَبٌّ – مَصابُّoutlet; drain; river mouth
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 01/24 – © Gerald Drißner
اِكْتِفاءٌ بِsatisfaction; contentment with (ب). It is the infinitive noun of the VIII-verb اِكْتَفَى – يَكْتَفِي بِ which means to be enough; to content oneself with.
عَنْ كَثَبٍat close quarters; at a short distance. The noun كَثَبٌ means nearness; proximity.
مَلْءٌfilling. It is the infinitive noun of the I-verb مَلَأَ – يَمْلَأُ. For example: to fill out a form (اسْتِمارةً)
اِحْتِفاظٌ بِpersevering; maintaining. It is the infinitive noun of the VIII-verb احْتَفَظَ – يَحْتَفِظُ بِ which means to keep, to preserve something (use the ب before the thing you want to preserve).
ضَرَرٌ -أَضْرارٌdamage; harm. For example: severe damage (أَضْرارٌ جَسِيمةٌ) vs. minor damage (ضَرَرٌ خَفِيفٌ)
بِمَثابةِlike/as; equivalent to
اسْتِسْلامٌcapitulation; surrender. It is the infinitive noun of the X-verb اسْتَسْلَمَ – يَسْتَسْلِمُ لِ to surrender to something. For example: to give in to depression (اِسْتَسْلَمَ لِلْاكْتِئابِ)
أَمْرٌ واقِعٌfait accompli; status quo; (an accomplished) fact
غَزِيرٌabundant; lavish. For example: heavy rain (مَطَرٌ غَزِيرٌ)
مَوْسِمٌ – مَواسِمُseason; time of year. It can also be used for Netflix series (season 1).
مَلْمُوسٌnoticeable; tangible; concrete. For example: tangible results (نَتائِجُ مَلْمُوسَةٌ). It is the passive participle (اسم المفعول) of the I-verb لَمَسَ – يَلْمُسُ which means to touch.
مُؤَجَّلٌpostponed; deferred. For example: a postponed match (مُباراةٌ مُؤَجَّلَةٌ)
جَفافٌdrought; dryness
مُحْتَمَلٌpossible; probable; likely
مُعْضِلةٌ – مَعاضِلُproblem; dilemma; puzzle. For example: economic dilemma (مُعْضِلَةٌ اِقْتِصادِيَّةٌ)
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 01/24 – © Gerald Drißner
بادَرَ – يُبادِرُ بِ / إِلَىto start, begin with (ب or إِلَى); to take the initiative. For example: to start doing something (بادَرَ ب \ إلى (فِعْلِ) شَيْءٍ)
خَرْقٌ – خُرُوقٌhole; breach; violation
إقْدامٌ عَلَىrecklessness; audacity; boldness. The IV-verb أَقْدَمَ – يُقْدِمُ عَلَى means to risk, to dare, also: to commit/carry out.
مَهَّدَ – يُمَهِّدُto pave; to smooth; to make even; to facilitate. For example: to pave the way for something/someone (مَهَّدَ الطَريقَ لِشَيْءٍ \ لِشَخْصٍ)
مَنْبَعٌorigin, source; well, spring. For example: the sources of the Nile (مَنابِعُ نَهْرِ النِّيلِ)
خَسارةٌ – خَسائِرُdamage; loss. For example: loss of human lives (خَسائِرُ بَشَرِيَّةٌ); minor losses (خَسائِرُ طَفِيفَةٌ) vs. substantial losses (خَسائِرُ جَسِيمَةٌ).
صَبَّ – يَصُبُّto spill; to pour (out). The phrase يَصُبُّ فِي مَصْلَحَةِ is very common in the media. It literally means: to pour/spill into the favor of – but is usually translated as to be in the interest of. For example: What is being done is in the interest of our people (وَما نَفْعَلُهُ يَصُبُّ فِي مَصْلَحَةِ الشَعْبِ.).
اسْتِشْرافٌforeseeing; predicting. For example: foreseeing the future (اسْتِشْرافُ الْمُسْتَقْبَلِ). It is the infinitive noun (مصدر) of the X-verb اسْتَشْرَفَ – يَسْتَشْرِفُ which means to look towards. For example: to look into new prospects (اسْتَشْرَفَ الْآفاقَ الْجَدِيدةَ).
فِي ظِلِّunder the protection/patronage of; under the sovereignty of (plus noun in the genitive = 2nd part of the إضافة). It can often simply be left untranslated.
نِيّةٌ – نَواياintention; will/desire
تَرْغِيبٌarousal of interest. It is the infinitive noun of thee II-verb رَغَّبَ – يُرَغِّبُ فِي which means to arouse/awaken interest in
لُجُوءٌ إِلَىreferring to; seeking refuge in; fleeing/resorting to. This is the infinitive noun (مصدر) of the I-verb لَجَأَ – يَلْجَأُ which means to refer to; to turn to; to flee to; to seek refuge in.
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 01/24 – © Gerald Drißner


الْجامِعةُ الْعَرَبيّةُThe Arab League. Another version is The League of Arab States (جامِعةُ الدُّوَلِ الْعَرَبيّةِ)
الْاِتِّحادُ الْأُورُوبِّيٌّEuropean Union
خُشُونةٌcrudeness; rudeness; roughness. For example: to deal with someone roughly (تَعامَلَ مَعَ شَخْصٍ بِخُشُونةٍ)
مَشْفُوعٌ بِaccompanied by. It is the passive participle (اسم المفعول) of the I-verb شَفَعَ – يَشْفَعُ which means to add; to enclose; to attach. In the passive voice, you use the ب, for example, to be accompanied by something (شُفِعَ بِشَيْءٍ).
جَرَّبَ – يُجَرِّبُto try out; to examine. But also: to tempt; to put to the test. It is a II-verb.
حَذَّرَ – يُحَذِّرُ مِنto warn. It is a II-verb. Please keep in mind the preposition مِن if you want to include what the warning is about. For example: to warn that… (حَذَّرَ مِنْ أَنَّ). But if you want to include the addressee of the warning, you just add it directly as a direct object or a pronoun attached to the verb. For example: I warn you! (أُحَذِّرُكَ)
مَغَبّةٌresult; consequence; effect. It is a مصدر ميمي of the I-verb غَبَّ – يَغِبُّ. The verb is tricky. The meaning is various. In the old times, it meant to be watered every second day or to pass the night. But it does also convey the meaning of to be brought to an end – which is usually meant when we see the infinitive noun غِبٌّ or, more commonly, مَغَبّةٌ. For example: He warned him of the consequences of his disgraceful behavior (حَذَّرَهُ مِنْ مَغَبَّةِ سُلُوكِهِ وتَصَرُّفِهِ الْمَشِينِ)
مِساسٌ بِbreach; violation; without the preposition: touching; feeling. For example: breach of the peace (الْمِساسُ بالنِّظامِ وَالْأَمْنِ الْعامِّ). The infinitive noun مِساسٌ is sometimes difficult to translate because it has many meanings. For example: it touches upon/concerning (لَهُ مِساسٌ بِ). The I-verb مَسَّ – يَمُسُّ means to touch; to feel or to befall, to hit, but when the preposition بِ is added, it means to harm. For example: he fell ill = the illness befell him (مَسَّهُ المَرَضُ).
سِيادةٌsovereignty; rule. For example: a sovereign state (دَوْلَةٌ ذاتُ سِيادَةٍ)
ضِمْنِيٌّimplicit; tacit; hidden. Notice: some phrases can be tricky to translate. For example: قَبِلَ شَيْئًا ضِمْنيًّا which means to take something for granted.
مَعْنِيٌّ بِconcerned, involved. You will often encounter the phrase مَعْنِيّ بِالْأَمْرِ which can often be translated as (the person/thing) concerned.
مُعادَلةٌleveling. In mathematics, it means equation.
كِفّةٌ – كِفَفٌscale (of a balance); evening the score
مُعاهَدةٌagreement; treaty; pact
جِدّيّةٌseriousness. For example: seriously; in all seriousness (بِجِدّيّةٍ)
مُناوَرةٌmove; maneuver. For example: a tactical maneuver (مُناوَرةٌ تَكْتِيكيّةٌ). It is the infinitive noun (مصدر) of the III-verb ناوَرَ – يُناوِرُ (root: ن-و-ر) which means to maneuver.
عَمَليٌّpractical; pragmatic; useful; function. For example: in theory and practice (نَظَرِيًّا وَعَمَلِيًّا)
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 01/24 – © Gerald Drißner
غَرِقَ – يَغْرَقُto sink; to drown. Also metaphorically: to be deep in thought (غَرِقَ فِي أَفْكارِهِ) or to sleep well (غَرِقَ في النَوْمِ)
فِي أَعالِي الْبِحارِon the high seas. The noun بَحْر (sea) has many plural forms: بِحار or أَبْحار or بُحُور or أَبْحُر
يُحْسَدُ عَلَيْهِenviable. We use the passive voice of I-verb حَسَدَ – يَحْسُدُ to envy something (=على)! For example: an unenviable position/task (وَضْعِيَّةٌ \ مُهِمَّةٌ لا يُحْسَدُ عَلَيْها)
بِشَكْلٍ أَوْ بِآخَرَone way or another
بِحَسَبِ according to; depending on; occasionally also with عَلَى. You will encounter it in many forms: حَسَبَما (according to what; depending on how)
مِعْيارٌ – مَعاييرُcriterion; standard
أَوْلَويّةٌpriority; precedence. For example: to give priority to something (أَعْطى الأَوْلَويّةَ لِشَيْءٍ)
الْواقِعُ أَنَّit is a fact that…; as a matter of fact…; actually…
تَوازٍparallelism; also: equal distance. Often used in phrases like side by side; parallel (عَلَى التَّوازِي). The noun تَوازٍ is the infinitive noun (مصدر) of the VI-verb تَوازَى – يَتَوازَى which means to run side by side; to go together.
مُلَوَّح بِwaved; signaled at. Passive participle of II-verb لَوَّحَ – يُلَوِّحُ ب to wave; to signal (to = ب).
تَبِعةٌ – تَبِعاتٌconsequence. Sometimes, it may also denote responsibility; liability, as in legal liability (تَبِعاتٌ قانُونِيَّةٌ).
حالَin case of; in the event of – when used as an adverb (ظرف منصوب), thus followed by the second part of a إِضافة. can also mean: during; immediately upon; just at. The noun حالٌ is part of many phrases: in any case; anyhow (عَلَ كُلِّ حالٍ)
مُبادَرةٌinitiative. For example: peace initiative (مُبادَرةُ سَلامٍ)
قائِمٌestablished (lit.: standing)
كافّةٌall; entirely, fully. For example: all the people (النّاسُ كافّةً or كافّةُ النّاسِ)
صَرامةٌstrictness; harshness; fierceness
مُوْطِئُ قَدَمٍfoothold. The word مُوْطِئُ means footstep; footprint.
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 01/24 – © Gerald Drißner
اِضْطِرابٌ – اِضْطِراباتٌunrest; turmoil; riots. For example: social unrest (اِضْطِراباتٌ اِجْتِماعيّةٌ)
الْقَرْنُ الْإِفْرِيِقيُّthe Horn of Africa
مِلاحةٌshipping; navigation, maritime transport. Watch out: مَلاحةٌ with “a” means beauty; kindness.
مُفْتَقِدٌlacking; being deprived of. It is the active participle (اسم الفاعِل) of the VIII-verb افْتَقَدَ – يَفْتَقِدُ
أَرْجَحُmost likely. It is a diptote (ممنوع من الصرف) and based on the root ر-ج-ح (to incline; to be very likely). Usually used in the phrases الأرْجَحُ أَنَّ and عَلَى الْأَرْجَحِ which can be translated as most likely; probably.
تَدَهْوُرٌdecline; deterioration; decay. For example: degeneration of morals/society (تَدَهْوُرُ الْأَخْلاقِ)
سَيِّئٌbad; evil
أَساسٌ – أُسُس/أَساساتfoundation. For example: a solid/firm foundation (أَساسٌ مَتِينٍ)
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 01/24 – © Gerald Drißner

NOTICE: If there are any errors or mistakes in this article, please let me know or use the comment section below. I am not a native English speaker, and inaccuracies can quickly creep in with more complicated texts. We are all here to learn.

DISCLAIMER: Just so you know, my focus is purely on the language, and my selection of texts does not express any political views. The Arab world is currently full of sad conflicts. If a text excerpt hits someone personally or makes them angry, please remember that as a journalist, I listen to all sides without judgment, and I do not want to spread any political views or engage in discussions on Arabic for Nerds. All I care about here is the wonderful language of Arabic, and that we can all use it to understand each other better.


  1. Source: https://www.reuters.com/article/idUSLB69330/ ↩︎
  2. Source: https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/fighting-between-israeli-forces-hamas-rages-after-nearly-200-killed-gaza-2023-12-30/ ↩︎

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This month (03/24) in Media Arabic Booster: The verb تَلَأْلَأَ and a translation of an article on five political trends in Jordan (al-Ghad)
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