How To Say No In Arabic (Egyptian Dialect)
Learning how to say “no” is essential knowledge for a beginner student in Arabic.
It’s one of the most common words you’ll use very early on, so I want to help you learn all the different ways you can express your aversion in Arabic while having a well-rounded understanding of Egyptian culture.
If you are wondering about the different ways to say yes, make sure to check our previous article: How to Say Yes in Egyptian Arabic if you haven’t already.
Now, however, onto more negative feelings and words.
Today’s guide will walk you through the different ways of how to say “no” in Egyptian Arabic. You’ll also learn how to verbalize the varying levels of aversion towards doing an action or making certain plans.
Yalla, let’s dive in! 😊
How to say “no” in Arabic
1. La’ - La’a
No is a complete sentence and La’a is definitely one and should always be respected. Plain and simple.
You might hear it as La’ with a pause at the end, or with an a. Both are interchangeable and suitable to use.
The following song is the perfect start to kick off our guide of how to say no. It’s one of the most famous Mahraganat tracks in Egypt and is called La’ La’ by El Sawareekh (The Rockets)
For those of you who don’t know about Mahraganat music, this was a new wave of electronic Shaabi dance music, originating in 2004 and is highly reliable on autotune as a signature sound. Mahraganat is basically a mixture of Shaabi music, EDM and Hip Hop. It is currently very heavily attacked and banned by the conservative music syndicate since it went mainstream. It is attacked due to its direct mentioning of sex, drugs and alcohol and does not represent Egyptian family ideals. Additionally, it is the music genre of the lower classes that became popular with the rest of society, so the social aspect of it also adds to the debacle because it is not refined enough. The music according to the music syndicate has become too popular and they attempted to officially ban it.
You will hear this following song in weddings, Tuk Tuks, taxis, etc.
This is about a young man who is complaining about the behavior of the girl he loves, as she passes him by and doesn’t say hi, wears tight clothing and spends time with her guy friends. He asks his listeners if what she’s doing is acceptable and okay.
|Then, is this okay? Then, is this to your liking?|
(Would you accept that?)
|Tayeb yenfa‘ keda? Tayeb yerdeiko keda?||طيب ينفع كده؟ طيب يرضيكوا كده؟|
|No, No.||La’a La’||ﻷ ﻷ|
2. La’ Shukran
|No, Thanks.||La’ Shukran||ﻷ شكرا|
This is also another simple more polite way to say No.
In Egypt, we feel very uncomfortable to say no in general, so adding thanks is a simple way to soften the blow. You might have a lot of street vendors who come into your personal space as you walk and ask if you want to buy something from them, or others who invite you to their cafes and restaurants. Taxi drivers also tend to slow down and ask you if you want to take a taxi. An automatic “No Thanks” goes a long way.
|Do you want a taxi?|
|'ayza taxi hadretik?||عايزة تاكسى حضرتك؟|
|No, thanks.||La Shukran||ﻷ شكرا.|
3. Mesh Hayehsal
|Not going to happen!||Mesh Hayehsal||مش حيحصل|
Now onto more forceful ways to say No.
“Mesh Hayehsal” is your way of responding when someone asks for something that is too ridiculous or difficult to do, and you have to assert yourself that this is not happening.
|Amr, we need that report tomorrow.||Amr, mehtageen el taqrir da bokra.||عمرو محتاجين التقرير ده بكرة.|
|Not gonna happen. I just started working on it today. You told me I had a week.||Mesh hayehsal. Ana lessa bade’ ashtaghal feeh elnahrda. Enta kont ayyelli iny odami ismou‘||مش حيحصل. أنا لسه بادىء أشتغل فيه النهاردة. أنت كنت قايللى انى قدامى أسبوع.|
4. La’ Ma‘lish
The term Ma‘lish is always difficult to translate correctly into English. It’s a term that could mean different and varying levels of: “No worries, I’m sorry (both as an excuse and as an a consolation), and take it easy.” Many people get frustrated when they have something bad happen to them, and someone tells them Ma‘lish. It’s perceived as a useless expression meant to deal with sadness and failing greatly.
Funny enough, a lot of people make these sarcastic jokes about being cured of their sadness because someone told them Ma‘lish.
Let’s take a look at the following example by Hamza Namira.
Here, he is speaking to the word “Ma‘lish” telling it “Ma’lish ya Ma‘lish” as the word has been entirely useless to him having lived through bad times.
Now that you understand what Ma‘lish means. La Ma‘lish is then understood as “No, sorry.” but not really feeling sorry.
|Are you free to talk for a bit on thursday?||Fady youm elkhamis netkalim showaya?||فاضى يوم الخميس نتكلم شوية؟|
|No, sorry, not free. Next week works though.||La Ma‘lish mesh fady. Momken el isbou‘ ely ba‘do.||ﻷ معلش مش فاضى. ممكن اﻷسبوع اللى بعده.|
As you can already notice, La Ma‘lish is not exactly used as a sincere apology. It’s just another way to be polite while refusing to do something.
5- La’ tab‘an
|Of course not.||La’ tab‘an||ﻷ طبعا|
If you have read our “How to Say Yes guide”, then you would have come across Tab‘an/of course. Here is its exact similar equivalent in the negative.
|Ahmed, are you cheating on me?||Ahmed, enta betkhounni?||أحمد أنت بتخوننى؟|
|Of course not! I would never do that to you.|
(Literally: It’s impossible I would do that to you)
|La tab‘an! La youmken a‘mil feeki keda!||ﻷ طبعا! ﻷ يمكن أعمل فيكى كده!|
In this example, Ahmed is being asked if he is cheating on his girlfriend and he responds with a forceful no. He also follows it with “La Youmken” to indicate that this is impossible and that he would never do that to her.
6. Mesh Mowafe’- Mesh Mowaf’a
|I refuse |
Literally: I do not give my consent (masculine)
|Mesh mowafe’||مش موافق|
|I refuse. |
Literally: I don’t give my consent (feminine)
|Mesh mowaf’a||مش موافقة|
This is very straightforward. I do not consent. If you would like to soften the blow of a straightforward rejection of something, you can begin by saying “La Ma‘lish”
This is a conversation between 3 students working on a group project. They are required to submit a presentation and a research paper/ a written component of their work. Now, they are talking about the order of their work submission.
|So, are we submitting the presentation first and then the research paper?||Han’adem el presentation el awel, wi ba‘den el bahth?||حنقدم البريزينتيشن اﻷول وبعدين البحث؟|
|Okay, that works.||Ah mashy||اه ماشى|
|No, sorry. I disagree. It’s supposed to be the opposite, first the research paper then the presentation.||La ma‘lish. Mesh mawaf’a. Mafroud el ‘aks. El bahth el awal wi ba‘deen elpresentation||ﻷ معلش. مش موافقة. مفروض العكس. البحث اﻷول و بعدين البريزينتيشن.|
7. Mesh Tamam Keda
|That’s not cool||Mesh Tamam keda.||مش تمام كده|
This is another outright way to say that you disapprove of what’s happening.
Usually, it would be phrased in the following way:
|By the way, this is not cool.||'Ala fekra mesh tamam keda.||على فكرة مش تمام كده.|
If you see someone creating a messy situation or behaving inappropriately, and you feel like you need to say something. This phrase would be the perfect thing to say.
8. Mesh Tamam elly byehsal
|What’s happening (right now) is not cool.||Mesh Tamam elly byehsal.||مش تمام اللى بيحصل|
This is also an alternative way to verbally disapprove of someone’s behavior.
9. (La) Khales
|Not at all.||La Khales||ﻷ خالص|
|Do you approve of what’s happening?|
(Literally: Do you like what’s happening?)
|'Agbak ely byhsal da?||عاجبك اللي بيحصل ده؟|
|Not at all.||La Khales.||ﻷ خالص.|
|Are you mad?||Enty et.daye’ty?||انتى اتضايقتى؟|
|Not at all||La Khales||ﻷ خالص.|
10. ‘ala gositti
|Over my dead body||‘ala gositti||على جثتى|
Now, onto a very aggressive way to say no. This is a literal “Over my dead body” expression. You would usually hear it from parents when their children want to do something that they deem immoral and not respectable.
|Dad, I got a scholarship and I want to travel and study in the US.||Baba ana gally menha wi ‘ayza asafer adres fi Amreeka.||بابا أنا جالى منحة و عايزة أسافر أدرس فى أمريكا.|
|Over my dead body. I swear this will never happen.||'ala gositti walahi ma hayesal.||على جثتى والله ما حيحصل.|
Here in this example, the father thinks it’s not appropriate for his daughter to travel to the U.S alone, and this is why his answer is melodramatic. Egyptians or not, we have all been there.
|No way/ Impossible.||Mostaheel||مست حيل|
This is another dramatic phrase to indicate that something will never happen. Mostaheel literally means Impossible so it can be used in different contexts and it would mean “No way” or “Never in a thousand years” depending on how serious the situation is.
|Do you think the professor would agree to give us extra time to submit the work a little late?||Teftikr el ostaaz yerda yedeena wa’t zeyada wi nesalim elsoghl met’akhr showaya?||تفتكر اﻷستاذ يرضى يدينا وقت زيادة و نسلم الشغل متأخر شوية؟|
|No way, the professor never gives extra time for submissions.||Mostaheel. El ostaaz ‘omro ma byedi wa’t zeyada lil tasleemat.||مستحيل. اﻷستاذ عمره ما بيدى وقت زيادة للتسليمات.|
|Will we be able to finish that book today?||Hanelha’ nekhalas el ketaab da elnahrda?||حنلحق نخلص الكتاب ده النهاردة؟|
|Honestly no way.||El saraha mostaheel||الصراحة مستحيل.|
Let’s switch gears a little from the melodrama.
The following three phrases are different ways of expressing that you are not comfortable or simply not into doing something.
12. Mesh ‘ayez / ‘ayza
|I don’t want to (masculine)||Mesh ‘ayez||مش عايز|
|I don’t want to (feminine)||Mesh ‘ayza||مش عايزة|
|Do you wanna eat?||‘ayza takly?||عايزة تاكلى؟|
|No, not really.|
(Literally: I don’t really feel like eating)
|Mesh ‘ayza akol awi.||مش عايزة اكل أوى.|
|Don’t you want to go to “Wost el Balad” concert?||Mesh ‘ayez through haflet west elbalad?||مش عايز تروح حفلة وسط البلد؟|
|Honestly, I don’t want to. I don’t like them.||La el saraha mesh ‘ayez. Mesh bahibohom.||الصراحة مش عايز. مش بحبهم.|
13. Mesh Haabib / Habba
|I don’t want to |
Literally: I am not loving this.(masculine)
|Mesh Haabib||مش حابب|
|I don’t want |
Literally: I am not loving this (feminine)
|Mesh Habba||مش حابة|
This is quite similar to the one before it. You can alternate between both and they give off the same understanding of not preferring to do something.
14. Mesh Taleb / Talba
|I don’t feel like it (masculine)||Mesh taleb||مش طالب|
|I don’t feel like it (feminine)||Mesh talba||مش طالبة|
This is a more informal equivalent of “I don’t want”. You can use it more with friends and siblings than with older people or with strangers because it might seem disrespectful.
This following conversation is between two sisters deciding what food to order.
|How about we get pizza?||Mateegy nakoul pizza?||ما تيجى ناكل بيتزا؟|
|I don’t feel like it. Let’s get chinese.||La mesh talba. Ta‘aly negeeb akl seeni.||ﻷ مش طالبة. تعالى نجيب أكل صينى.|
15. Mesh Awi
|Not so much |
|Mesh Awi||مش أوى.|
|Do you want to sleep?||'ayez tenaam?||عايز تنام؟|
|Not so much. I can stay up a bit more.||Mesh awi. Momken a‘oud showaya kaman.||مش أوى. ممكن أقعد شوية كمان.|
16. Bara ‘anni
|Literally: Outside/Away from me.||Bara ‘ani||بره عنى|
This is an informal phrase to indicate that the speaker is too frustrated and does not like to take any part in the situation.
If you have made your case against a certain plan or event, and the people you’re talking to have decided to do the thing that you have advised against, “Bara ‘ani” is what you would say next. The phrase is meant to tell people that you will not take any part in it and when the eventual consequences occur, you do not want to hear about them.
|We’re traveling to Dahab to attend the New Year eve’s party. Do you want to come along?||Ehna hansafer Dahab ‘ashan haflet raas el sana. Teegy ma‘ana?||احنا حنسافر دهب عشان حفلة راس السنة. تيجى معانا؟|
|No, away from me. How are you even going to a party when people have covid?||La bara ‘anni. Ezay trouho hafla aslan wil nas ‘andaha Corona?||ﻷ بره عنى.ازاى تروحوا حفلة أصﻷ والناس عندها كورونا.|
17. Fil Mishmish
|In Your Dreams|
(Literally: In the season of Apricots)
|Fil mishmish||فى المشمش|
Finally, our last expression is an interesting cultural Egyptian expression. In order to understand it, let me give you a proper background to why Apricots!
The Season of Apricots is quite short in Egypt and most of the time, is quite unnoticeable. People are caught by surprise when apricots are sold in the markets. And then, one day they are in the market, the next the season has ended, and the fruit is officially off the market. It’s quite abrupt.
When people ask for unrealistic demands that you will never do, this would be your magical phrase. Everyone knows that it will never happen once you say, “I’ll eventually do what you have requested in the season of apricots.”
|Can I get 5 thousand pounds?||Momken khamas alaf geneeh?||ممكن خمس آﻷف جنيه؟|
|For sure. In the season of apricots.||Akeed fil mishmish.||أكيد فى المشمش.|
I hope this guide has been useful.
Now that you’ve learned the different ways to say ‘no’ (including many creative Egyptian ways to say it), what was your favorite term, and which one do you plan using the most?
Ma‘a el salama. 😊