The 5 Levant Arabic Words that Every Arabic Speaker Needs to Know

While learning Amiyyah, you will keep hearing words that keep cropping up again and again. I’ve put these words into a table below:

Amiyyah Pronunciation Meaning Equivalent in Fus-ha Pronunciation
بس bas just فقط faQat
هيك heik that ذلك dhalik
عن جد ‘njad really حقاً Haqqan
كتير kteer many / a lot كثيراً katheeran
شوي shway little / few قليلاً Qaleelan

1. بس

The use of بس is quite straightforward, it’s exactly how you would use it in English. For example:

Amiyyah Fus-ha
Sentence أنا بس بدي كتاب واحد أنا فقط أريد كتاب واحد
Pronunciation Ana bas biddi kitab wahid Ana faqaT ureed kitab waHid
Meaning I just want one book.

Similarly in Fus-ha, could use also بس at the end of the sentence in Amiyyah, as in أنا بد كتاب واحد بس .

2. هيك

هيك quite simply is used to mean that, however not in the sense of this table or that table, but rather in the sense of ‘like that’. For example:

Amiyyah Fus-ha
Sentence الموضوع هيك الموضوع كذلك
Pronunciation almawDuu’ heik almawDuu’ kadhalik
Meaning The topic is like that.

Another example would be:

Amiyyah Fus-ha
Sentence مش هيك ؟ ا ليس كذلك ؟
Pronunciation mish heik? a laisa kadhalik?
Meaning Is it not like that?

3. عن جد

عن جد quite literally means ‘on seriousness’ and is often used as an expression of surprise, or as a form of emphasis. For example, here’s how it’s used as a form of emphasis:

In a different context, it can be used a response for confirmation or as an expression of surprise:

Person 1: أنا تعبان (I’m tired)

Person 2: !عن جد؟ إنت نمت عشر ساعات (Really? You slept for ten hours!)

4. كتير

I personally love using this because it’s one of those words that make you sound legit and can be comfortably inserted in many contexts. For example:

Amiyyah Fus-ha
Sentence أنا بحب حلويات كتير أنا أحب حلويات كثيراً
Pronunciation Ana baHibb 7alawiyyat kteer ana a7ibb Halawiyyat katheeran
Meaning I love sweets a lot.

In addition, كتير can also be used in place of عن جد in the sense that it can be used to emphasise the (large) magnitude of something. You can think of it as substitute to the Fus-ha word جداً .

The reason why it’s pronounced kteer instead of katheer is because sometimes in Levantine dialect the ث is dropped to a ت . Don’t worry about the substitution of letters for now, we’ll pick that up in a different post.

Example 1: أنا خائف كتير

Literally this means I am afraid a lot, but is meant to say ‘I’m really scared.’

Example 2: هو كتير طويل

Similarly, this literally means he is tall a lot, but means he’s really tall.

5. شوي

شوي is probably one of the most synonymous words associated with Amiyyah. You could easily substitute it in any context would you use the Fus-ha word قليلاً , for example:

Amiyyah Fus-ha
Sentence أنا أحكي اللغة العربية شوي أنا أتكلم اللغة العربية شوي
Pronunciation Ana aHki alloghah al’rabiyyah shwai Ana atakallan alloghah al’rabiyyah shwai
Meaning I speak a little Arabic

Another example would be:

Person 1: بدك سكر؟ / biddak sukkar? (Do you want sugar?)

Person 2: شوي / shwai (A little)

Interestingly, it’s possible to even combine some of these words to form a complete sentence in Amiyyah. For example:

بس شوي / bas shwai (just a little)

بس هيك / bas heik (its just like that)

So these are my top picks for the 5 must-know Amiyyah words that every Arabic speaker must know. There will be more than these, of coure, which we will pick up in another post but these 5 should be enough for you to get by on for now. If you have more suggestions, leave them in the comments!

2 comments

  1. Your blog is very very good! I suggest it to everyone I know!
    Congratulations and Allah yaTeek al-3afiah!

    • zubaidah.jalil@gmail.com

      Hi Kadu, I apologise for the late response but thank you so much for the nice words! It means a lot to me and I really hope it’s come in useful for you and your language learning buddies. If you have any suggestions for topics, please feel free to let me know!

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