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cropped egypt columns

lissa in Egyptian Arabic

When I started learning Egyptian Arabic, there was one word which gave me a headache: lissa -لِسّه; sometimes also written لِسَّى or لِسّة. Let’s see why.

Last updated: May 2, 2021

The word lissa – an overview

Lissa (لِسّه) can mean “still“, “just“, “not yet” in Egyptian Arabic.

  • Lissa means not yet in negative sentence. This is also the case when lissa is used as a stand-alone expression.
  • In non-negative sentences (affirmative) the word lissa usually means still or just.

“Just” versus “not yet”

This can be very confusing for beginners.

Lissa in the meaning of “just” or “only recently”

I have just arrived..لِسّه واصِل
They just came.. لِسّه جايِّين
He was standing next to me just a second ago..ده لِسّه واقِف جَنْبِي مِن ثانْيَة

Note that the word lissa is frequently used in combination with the active participle (اِسم فاعِل) to express a past tense meaning (meaning of just): لِسّه+اسْم فاعِل


The meaning of “not yet”

I haven’t arrived yet..ما وَصَلْتش لِسّه
They haven’t come yet.. لِسّه ماجُوش

Note that if you want to express the meaning of not yet, you use the past tense (الْماضي) in Arabic in combination with the negation (ما+ش).


The meaning of “still”

No action involved

How do we use lissa if there is no action (no verb) mentioned in the sentence, but an adjective or adverb of time? Some examples:

It is still early.. لِسّه بَدْرِي
There is still time.. لِسّه فيه وَقْت
There is still one week (to go);. لِسّه أُسْبُوع
He’s still young..هُوَّ لِسَّه صُغَيَّر
It’s still to soon for…لِسَّه بَدْرِي عَلَى

What verb-form do you use if you want to express “still”?

The present tense (الْمُضارِع).

I am still eating..لِسَّه بآكُل
I am still studying at the center.لِسَّه بادْرِس في الْمَرْكَز
I’ve still to deliver the menu (food)..لِسَّه حاوَدِّي الْوَجْبة

Note that you use the present tense in Egyptian Arabic (ب+فِعل مُضارِع) to express still. Do not use the active participle (اِسْم فاعِل) as this usually expresses just – see number 1.


“Just” in the meaning of “now”

The word lissa is often used in the connection with the Egyptian Arabic expression for now, i.e. dilwa’ti (دِلْوَقْتِي)

They just now left..لِسَّه طِلْعِوا دِلْوَقْتِي

Lissa as a stand-alone word

Have… yet?

You will also hear the word lissa very often in questions that contain Have… yet?

Question: Have you written it?كِتِبْتُه وَلا لِسَّه؟
Answer: Not yet..لِسَّه

Directly connected to a sentence

She put up with a lot, and there’s more to come..اِسْتَحْمِلِتْ كْتِير، وَلِسَّه

Remark:

In some Arabic dialects, the word lissa (لِسّاis connected to a pronoun (ضَمِير), for example:

Haven’t you…لِسَّاكُو

Egyptian Arabic is a wonderful dialect – here is some “proof”:

picture credit: Image by Ron Porter from Pixabay

5 comments
  1. In this sentence the translation is not accurate , lissa here means „yet“ or „still will“
    Mostafa yet/still will appeal after the judge…

  2. I have “The Big Fat Book of Egyptian Arabic Verbs” and an example sentence is given

    “مصطفى لسه هيستأنف بعد ما القاضي يحكم في قضيته” and the translation is given as “Mostafa will appeal after the judge rules in his case”.

    I can’t find out exactly what لسه is doing in this case. Maybe “he will still appeal”? or just a filler word?

    Any help would be much appreciated.

    Thank you

Any thoughts or ideas about this? Leave a reply!

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