8 colloquial Arabic words that were originally ancient Egyptian

8 colloquial Arabic words that were originally ancient Egyptian

Did you know that many colloquial Egyptian words that Egyptians use daily are not actually Arabic?

The Egyptian Arabic dialect is fundamentally Arabic, but with the influence of history and local people, some of the peculiarities that distinguish the Egyptian dialect come from the integration of ancient Egyptian, Greek and Coptic words and expressions. Surviving for thousands of years, many commonly used modern Egyptian words and phrases can actually trace back to the ancient predecessors of the current dialect.

Here are some examples of words Egyptians use, often not knowing their ancient origin, according to the books ‘From Pharaoh’s Lips’ (2003) by Ahmad Abdel-Hamid Youssef, and ‘Al Logha Al Masrreya Al Qadeema’ (Ancient Egyptian Language, 2012) by Abdelhaleem Nour El-din.

Umbu (drink)

Often in communication with infants or toddlers, broken down or simplified words are used to allow presenters to express themselves without too much difficulty. For example, umbu is the common word used by Egyptian children to express their thirst. The ancient Egyptian term simply means “water”.

Your your (step by step)

When Egyptian parents try to help their crawling baby walk, they use the phrase “ta ta” derived from the ancient Egyptian word “ti ti”. Although Arabic became the main language in Egypt, the Coptic language was initially still used in the daily life of the majority of the population. The term “ti ti” was adopted by the Coptic language and changed to “ta ta”, which is used until today.

Mom (food)

The word Mumm is an Egyptian slang word derived from the ancient Egyptian “my wnm”, which means “to give food”. Many Egyptians, to this day, teach their babies to say “mommy” whenever they’re hungry – because it’s quick and easy to say.

Dahya tiwaddih al amendi (May disaster send him to hell)

The Egyptian expression “Dahya tiwaddih al amendi”, is of ancient Egyptian origin. The word “amendi” is a Coptic word meaning “hell”, derived from the ancient Egyptian word “imntt”, meaning the “underworld”.

Bikh (Boo!)

The word “Bikh!”, which means “Boo!”, is often used in modern Egypt to sneak up on someone and scare them. The term is an ancient Egyptian word “pa akh” meaning “demon” or “spirit”.

Wahawy ya Wahaway iyuha (the moon has appeared)

The Egyptian phrase “Wahawy ya Wahaway iyuha” is part of a song that Egyptians sing during the holy month of Ramadan. Families and young children wave their fanoos (lanterns) while singing the lyrics to Wahawy ya Wahaway iyuha. The popular lyrics are thought to be inspired by the ancient Egyptian word “wah” which means “to put” or “to appear”, and “iyah” which means “moon”. Thus, including the words “the moon has appeared” during the month of Ramadan, which is decided according to the lunar calendar of Islam.

Krkr (laughing)

The word “krkr” is frequently used in modern Egypt to describe someone who laughs uncontrollably. The term is originally the ancient Egyptian “ķrķr” and has been adopted into modern Egyptian society.
Gatek maw (May a lion come to you)

Gatek maw (May a lion get you)

The phrase “jak maw” or “gatek maw”, often changed depending on the region in which it is used, basically means “let a lion come to you”. The phrase is an Egyptian expression used as an insult. The “mouth” is based on a pun on the words “lion” and “mother”. The expression is often used by mothers who are embarrassed by their children.

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