Religious (Coptic) Phrases & Expressions In Egyptian Arabic
Arabic learners who focus on the Egyptian dialect often wonder about the many expressions that are religious in nature but have embedded their way into the Egyptian culture.
However due to the presence of a Muslim majority and hence our linguistic dominance, there has not much out there that has been written on Christian/Coptic religious expressions.
The following is a guide of some common Coptic expressions and is meant to fill the gap in your knowledge about Christian phrases and their equivalent in mainstream Muslim culture.
If you haven’t done so yet, please read the guide on Islamic expressions, as it will help with understanding this guide better.
The guide is meant to provide for you as many phrases as possible to be acquainted with if you were to go to Church with friends or want to attend mass for example. Following the same scaling difficulty of part I, you will find the easiest phrases at the beginning and they will escale in difficulty as we move through the guide.
If you have spent enough time in Egypt and are already familiar with these initial expressions, feel free to skip ahead and find what suits you as an advanced student.
Yalla, let’s begin.
Religious (Coptic / Christian) expressions and phrases in Arabic
This one is too easy. You must have heard the word Salam too many times since you started learning Arabic.
El Salam ‘alaykoum and its response Wa ‘alaykom El Salam is the Islamic greeting meaning peace upon you/and upon you as you have already learned in Part 1 of this guide. Christians just say “peace” and respond with “peace”.
Here it is also worth mentioning that culturally, millennials have also been using salam/salam to say goodbye to each other.
It is very similar to “peace out” as someone heads out. We usually just say “Yalla salam” and the phrase has no religious connotation.
Additionally, you will also hear people saying Sabah El Kheir or Masaa’ Elkheir (Good morning/Good evening) as neutral greetings.
|Good Morning||Sabah Elkheir||صباح الخير|
|Response: Good Morning \ (Literally: Morning of Light)||Sabah Elnour||صباح النور|
|Good Evening||Masaa’ Elkheir||مساء الخير|
|Response: (Literally: Evening of Light)||Masaa’ Elnour||مساء النور|
2. El Salam/ El Salam Wil Ni‘ma
This is another way to say hello, however you will mostly hear it with older religious people and contextually, in the church between priests.
The response to the initial “Peace” greeting is “Peace and Blessing”
|Peace and Blessing||E-ssalam wil ni‘ma||السلام والنعمة|
3. Bism El- Salib
|In the name of the cross||Bism El Saliib||بسم الصليب|
This phrase is quite important and you will hear it in different contexts.
Basically, It’s asking the cross to protect the person from evil, whatever its kind.
The first context where someone would say it is when they are expressing appreciation at something beautiful they are asking for the cross’s protection against the evil eye.
From what we have read in part I on Islamic expressions, this would be the equivalent of Masha’allah.
|Merna: Mum! I passed & I ranked the top of my class.||Merna: Mama! Ana nagaht wi tala‘t el oula ‘ala el dof‘a||ميرنا: ماما! أنا نجحت و طلعت الأولى على الدفعة!|
|Mum: In the name of the cross! (a thousand) congrats!||Mama: Bism el Salib! Ya alf Mabrouk!||ماما: بسم الصليب! يا ألف مبروك يا حبيبتى!|
Merna just ranked the top of her class! And her mum is incredibly happy at her daughter’s success; she uses Bism Elsalib for protection from the evil eye and people’s envy.
The Second and more common context in which you will hear Bism El-Salib is when someone is scared or shocked.
If you’re hearing a weird sound at night and you’re scared, this is the perfect time to say Bism- El Salib.
In this following example, Yustina walks in the house crying, frightening her mother.
|Yustina: Mum, today was such a bad day!||Yustina: Mama elnahdra wihish awy!||يوستينا: ماما النهاردة وحش أوى!|
|Mum: In the name of the cross! What happened, dear?||Mama: Bism El-Salib! Fi eh ya habibti? Eh hasal?||ماما: بسم الصليب! فى ايه يا حبيبتى؟ ايه حصل؟|
As you can see, Yustina’s mother was frightened and taken aback by her daughter’s tears, and that was a most suitable occasion to use “Bism El Salib”.
4. Ya Oum El Nour
|O mother of light (Calling on Mary)||Ya Oum El- Nour||يا أم النور|
Speaking of being worried and frightened, Ya Oum El Nour is another Christian expression that you would hear a lot when someone is scared.
Here however, they would be asking for the Virgin Mary’s protection.
If someone is loudly knocking on your door late at night, what would you say?
Check out the following example.
|Sandra: Who’s knocking on the door at 3 in the morning?||Sandra: Meen biykhabat ala el bab elsa‘a 3 el sobh?||ساندرا: مين بيخبط على الباب الساعة ٣ الصبح؟!|
|Sandy: O mother of light!||Sandy: Ya Oum El-Nour!||ساندى: يا أم النور!|
Someone is knocking at Sandra and Sandy’s door at 3 am, and they’re both scared of the possibility of who that person could be or the emergency that would bring them.
Let’s move on to more happy thoughts and think about the future!
5. Bi’ithn Rabina
|With God’s permission/When God allows it||Bi’thn Rabina||بإذن ربنا|
This is the Christian equivalent of the Islamic phrase “Insha’allah”.
Bi’thn means “with permission” and the entire phrase means “When God allows it” or “As God permits”
|Mariam: We must finish the asssignment/the homework by next Tuesday.||Mariam: Lazim nekhalas elwageb youm el talat ely gay||مريم: لازم نخلص الواجب يوم التلات اللى جاى.|
|Merette:Yes, we must if God permits.||Merette: Ah lazim bi’thn rabina||ميريت: اه لازم بإذن ربنا.|
(5) Swearing to God
You will definitely hear “Wallahi والله” as soon as you step in Egypt. Wallahi is the most common Islamic way to swear to God.
In Christianity, you might also hear a few stereotypical ways shown in films and mainstream TV shows to emphasize that the person speaking is a Christian. In reality, people use other phrases. Let’s go over both!
Most common ways shown in the media:
6. Wil Maseeh - Wil Maseeh el Hai
These are two different ways to say by Jesus Christ.
|by Jesus Christ||Wil Maseeh||و المسيح|
|Jesus Christ (Literally means: Living Jesus)||Wil Maseeh el hai||و المسيح الحى|
7. Wil ‘adra
|I swear to the Virgin Mary||Wil ‘Adra||و العدرا|
This is another very common way to swear by the Virgin Mary.
|Teacher: where is the homework?||El modaress: feen el wageb?||المدرس: فين الواجب؟|
|Student: I swear to Virgin Mary, I did it but I can’t find it||El Taleb: Wil ‘adra ‘amlto bas mesh la’eeh.||الطالب: والعدرا عملته بس مش لاقيه!|
In this very unfortunate situation, the student is trying to explain to the teacher that he has done his homework but he can’t find it right now.
He swears to the Virgin Mary! You better believe him, teacher.
10. Ye‘lam Allah
|God knows||Ye‘lam Allah||يعلم الله|
All of these phrases are interchangeable and you can use any of them in the previous example about the student swearing he has done his homework.
Okay, let’s think about ways to pray and phrases to say during hardships.
11. Shafa‘tek ya ‘dra
Shafa‘a could be best translated as blessing, but it actually means when a saint or a religious figure makes a supplication to God on someone’s behalf.
So when someone says the following:
|O Virgin Mary, your blessings||Shafa‘tek ya ‘dra||شفاعتك يا عدرا|
They are asking Virgin Mary to bless them or to make a supplication to God on their behalf.
Similar prayers and supplications that follow the same lines:
12. Shafa’at Al-‘dra wa Al-Qideseen
|Blessings of the Virgin Mary and the Saints||Shafa'at Al-'dra wa Al-Qideseen||شفاعة العدرا و القديسين|
13. Shafa‘tak ya (Ism Al-Qidees)
|O (Saint’s Name), your blessings||Shafa‘tak ya (Ism Al-Qidees)||شفاعتك يا (اسم القديس)|
Let’s look at an example:
|Mina: Bishoy has had an accident this morning and is in the hospital.||Mina: Bishoy hasalitlo hadthet ‘arabeya elnahrda elsobh wi fil mostashfa||مينا: بيشوى حصلت له حادثة عربية النهاردة الصبح و فى المستشفى!|
|Kirolos: No way! O virgin Mary, Your blessings! I was with him yesterday!||Mesh ma‘’oula! Shaf’tek ya ‘adra! Ana kont ma‘ah embareh!||كيرولوس: مش معقولة! شفاعتك يا عدرا! أنا كنت معاه امبارح!|
Remember the accident Mohamed had in the last guide?
This time is Bishoy’s unfortunate turn.
Kirolos is so shocked at the news, he asks the virgin Mary to protect their friend.
Salli is an imperative verb asking someone to pray.
Do you remember “Sali ‘ala el Nabi” from guide 1? “Salilly” is a beautiful request for people to pray for you when you are facing hardship.
|Pray for me||Salilly||صليلى|
If we think about the previous example about Bishoy’s accident, if a friend of his is visiting him he use “Salilly” or if Mina is talking about him, he would say “Salillo” meaning - Pray for him
Do you remember when we used “Sali ‘ala el Nabi” in guide 1 to calm people down?
Here is an interesting phrase to use that you are bound to hear if a Christian talking to a muslim (or vice versa) telling them to calm down.
|Pray to whomever will bless you||Sali ‘ala ely hayeshfa‘ feek||صلى على اللى حيشفع فيك|
In my opinion, I think this phrase is super cool. Because its purpose is quite clear, remember whomever will calm you down. Be prepared to use it!
15. Magged Seidak
This is another cool phrase and similar to “Sali ‘ala el Nabi” in the other sense of the phrase, meant to provoke a mention and praise for the Lord.
You might hear this from a Muslim to a Christian, or in a conversation between two Christians together.
In the former case, a Muslim can’t tell a Christian “Sali ‘ala el Nabi” because it’s a strictly Islamic phrase, but “Magged Seidak” is meant to transcend this.
|Praise your Lord||Magged Seidak||مجد سيدك|
Usually, the appropriate response to this phrase is: El Magd li’ismo.
|Praise be his name||El Magd li’ismo||المجد لاسمه|
This phrase as far as I know is used by the majority of Christians of the different sects in Egypt, but not by Protestants.
Okay, let’s move on condolensces.
16. Rabina Yenih Rouho/ Rabina Yenih Qadasto
|May God rest his soul||Rabina Yenih Rouho||ربنا ينيح روحه|
|May God rest his blessed/saintly soul||Rabina Yenih Qadasto||ربنا ينيح قداسته|
When a priest or a religious figure passes away, people usually use this phrase because it’s more directed towards قداسة or saintlyhood.
Another appropriate phrase in this case would be: ربنا يقدس روحه و يدينا بركة صلواته
|May God sanctify his soul and gives us the blessings of his prayers.||Rabina yeqadis rouho wi yedeena baraket salawato||ربنا يقدس روحه و يدينا بركة صلواته|
17. Rabina Ye‘aziik (Wi ye‘azi Osritak)
|May God console you (and your family)||Rabina Ye‘aziik (Wi ye‘azi Osritak)||ربنا يعزيك (و يعزى أسرتك)|
“Rabina Ye‘aziik” is what you would usually say if you’re talking to a friend who has lost someone. This is for regular people.
An important note here about transliteration.
Make sure to pronounce the Ain sound and not a hamza, because it will change the meaning drastically from “console” to “hurt”!
I hope this guide was useful to you and you have learned something new. Feel free to message us or comment with your favorite religious expressions.
Until then, Ma‘a el salama