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Lost in Translation

alifbaseenA few weeks ago, I read an article called "15 Wonderful Words with No English Equivalent" that describes cool words and phrases found in other languages that are hard to render into English.   There are many, many words like this in the Arabic language, as anyone who has studied both Arabic and English can tell you!  Here are some of my favorite Arabic words that I've found don’t really have an English equivalent that does them justice:

Istarjala استرجل – A verb which means to be a man or act like a man.  The closest we have in English is probably the slang term 'to man up'.

Saqa سقى -  A very basic verb which means to give someone something to drink.  In English, we can water a plant, but we don’t 'water' a guest or a child, but have to resort to longer phrases such as, “giving him something to drink” or “quenching her thirst”.

Kayfiyyah كيفية – A word that means the manner or way one does something.  It’s related to the Arabic word for 'how' (kayf) so literally means the how-ness of doing something :)

Mutashaghil متشاغل – Someone who acts like they are busy.

Mutafayhiq متفيهق – One who acts like they are knowledgeable about Islamic jurisprudence or other religious matters, and gives long-winded and elaborate speeches, but is in reality ignorant.  This word is actually used in a hadith (tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) describing some of the people who will be furthest from him on the Day of Judgment.


You are welcome to add your own words in the comments below!

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