Religious (Coptic) Phrases & Expressions In Egyptian Arabic

Mariam Enany

Author

Mariam Enany

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

1. Salam/Salam

EnglishTransliterationArabic
PeaceSalamسلام

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.

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Good MorningSabah Elkheirصباح الخير
Response: Good Morning \ (Literally: Morning of Light)Sabah Elnourصباح النور
Good EveningMasaa’ Elkheirمساء الخير
Response: (Literally: Evening of Light)Masaa’ Elnourمساء 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”

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Peace and BlessingE-ssalam wil ni‘maالسلام والنعمة

3. Bism El- Salib

EnglishTransliterationArabic
In the name of the crossBism El Saliibبسم 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.

Example:

ميرنا: ماما! أنا نجحت و طلعت الأولى على الدفعة!
ماما: بسم الصليب! يا ألف مبروك يا حبيبتى!
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Merna: Mum! I passed & I ranked the top of my class.Merna: Mama! Ana nagaht wi tala‘t el oula ‘ala el dof‘aميرنا: 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.

يوستينا: ماما النهاردة وحش أوى
ماما: بسم الصليب! فى ايه يا حبيبتى؟ ايه حصل؟
EnglishTransliterationArabic
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

EnglishTransliterationArabic
O mother of light (Calling on Mary)Ya Oum El- Nourيا 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.

ساندرا: مين بيخبط على الباب الساعة ٣ الصبح؟!
ساندى: يا أم النور!
EnglishTransliterationArabic
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

EnglishTransliterationArabic
With God’s permission/When God allows itBi’thn Rabinaبإذن 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”

Example:

مريم: لازم نخلص الواجب يوم التلات اللى جاى.
ميريت: اه لازم بإذن ربنا.
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Mariam: We must finish the asssignment/the homework by next Tuesday.Mariam: Lazim nekhalas elwageb youm el talat ely gayمريم: لازم نخلص الواجب يوم التلات اللى جاى.
Merette:Yes, we must if God permits.Merette: Ah lazim bi’thn rabinaميريت: 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.

EnglishTransliterationArabic
by Jesus ChristWil Maseehو المسيح
Jesus Christ (Literally means: Living Jesus)Wil Maseeh el haiو المسيح الحى

7. Wil ‘adra

EnglishTransliterationArabic
I swear to the Virgin MaryWil ‘Adraو العدرا

This is another very common way to swear by the Virgin Mary.

Example:

المدرس: فين الواجب؟
الطالب: والعدرا عملته بس مش لاقيه!
EnglishTransliterationArabic
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 itEl 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.

8. Bi’amana

EnglishTransliterationArabic
TruthfullyBi’amanaبأمانة

9. Sada’ny

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Believe MeSada’nyصدقنى

10. Ye‘lam Allah

EnglishTransliterationArabic
God knowsYe‘lam Allahيعلم 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:

EnglishTransliterationArabic
O Virgin Mary, your blessingsShafa‘tek ya ‘draشفاعتك 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

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Blessings of the Virgin Mary and the SaintsShafa'at Al-'dra wa Al-Qideseenشفاعة العدرا و القديسين

13. Shafa‘tak ya (Ism Al-Qidees)

EnglishTransliterationArabic
O (Saint’s Name), your blessingsShafa‘tak ya (Ism Al-Qidees)شفاعتك يا (اسم القديس)

Let’s look at an example:

مينا: بيشوى حصلت له حادثة عربية النهاردة الصبح و فى المستشفى!
كيرولوس: مش معقولة! شفاعتك يا عدرا! أنا كنت معاه امبارح!
EnglishTransliterationArabic
Mina: Bishoy has had an accident this morning and is in the hospital.Mina: Bishoy hasalitlo hadthet ‘arabeya elnahrda elsobh wi fil mostashfaمينا: 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.

14. Salilly

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.

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Pray for meSalillyصليلى

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.

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Pray to whomever will bless youSali ‘ala ely hayeshfa‘ feekصلى 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.

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Praise your LordMagged Seidakمجد سيدك

Usually, the appropriate response to this phrase is: El Magd li’ismo.

EnglishTransliterationArabic
Praise be his nameEl Magd li’ismoالمجد 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

EnglishTransliterationArabic
May God rest his soulRabina Yenih Rouhoربنا ينيح روحه
May God rest his blessed/saintly soulRabina Yenih Qadastoربنا 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

EnglishTransliterationArabic
May God sanctify his soul and gives us the blessings of his prayers.Rabina yeqadis rouho wi yedeena baraket salawatoربنا يقدس روحه و يدينا بركة صلواته

17. Rabina Ye‘aziik (Wi ye‘azi Osritak)

EnglishTransliterationArabic
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

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