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8 Idioms Only Arabs Understand

by Izzy Hendry Dec 5, 2014

Traveling to Jordan or Palestine? Don’t be confused by these idiomatic expressions!

1. على عيني وراسي (‘ala ‘aini wa raasi) — On my head and my eyes.

This is a hugely popular saying in the Arab world, so if you ask an Arab friend for a favor don’t be surprised when they start talking about putting things on their heads and eyes. This means that they will absolutely do what you asked.

2. أكل إسفين (Aakala Isfeen) — He ate a wooden wedge.

This literally means that someone slandered or talked badly about him.

3. باعه بقشرة بصلة (baa’hu beqishra basala) — He sold him for an onion peel.

This is often used when someone throws away a relationship with somebody else, whether for a good reason or not.

4. حطه في دوّامة (hattathu fii dawwaama ) — It put him in a whirlpool.

This means something along the lines of “it totally shocked him.” It actually makes perfect sense when you stop to think about it.

5. حفف دمه (haffaffa damhu) — He lightened his blood.

This phrase means that somebody stopped clowning around or acting like an idiot. Conversely, saying that someone has “heavy blood” means that they are boring or otherwise annoying.

6. – كس يبلعك (kis Yibla’ak) — May a vagina swallow you.

Unsurprisingly, this is something that you say to people you are not pleased with.

7. عمل أبو علي عليه (‘amela abu Ali ‘aleehu) — To do a ‘Father of Ali’ on him.

To do an “Abu Ali” or “Father of Ali,” on someone means to boss them around. I have never met anyone who knows who or what Abu Ali may actually be, but if you know, please comment!

8. لعب الحديد- (l’aba elhadeed) — He played iron.

Possibly evidence that fitness culture isn’t taken very seriously in the Middle East, this expression is used to mean “he lifted weights” or worked out.

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