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10 Must-Know Arabic Idioms & Proverbs

As a language that stretches back as far as the 6th century, Arabic is definitely one of the oldest, and most fascinating languages in the world. Proverbs were always an important part of Classical Arabic, Modern Arabic’s ancestor, and still hold sway in the language today. Furthermore, some of these proverbs and idioms have spread, and are a common part of many other languages around the world. Are you curious to know which of the idioms that you use in your day-to-day life have roots in Arabic? If so, read on to discover 10 popular Arabic proverbs – many of which have versions you might already be using!

1. لا يلدغ المؤمن من جحر مرتين. (la yuldaġ il-mo’men min gohr marratein.)

Meaning : The believer is not bitten from the same hole twice.

Alternate version: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

2. الطيور على اشكالها تقع. (it-tuyuur 3ala aškaaliha taqa3u.)

Meaning: Birds of a feather flock together.

Photo_1 (11)“Birds of a feather flock together.” Image via PhotoPin

3. التكرار يعلّم الحمار. (it-tikraar yi3allim il-humaar.)

Meaning: Repetition can teach even a donkey.

Alternate version: Practice makes perfect.

4. بعد ما شاب ودوه الكتّاب. (ba3d ma šaab wadduuh ik-kuttaab.)

Meaning: After his hair when white, he went to school.

Alternate meaning: You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

5. هاك الشبل من ذاك الأسد. (haak iš-šiblu min zaak il-asad.)

Meaning: This cub is from that lion.

Alternate version: Like mother, like daughter. (Or any other proverb which points to children being like the parents.)

Photo_3 (7)هاك الشبل من ذاك الأسد. meaning “this cub is from that lion.” Photo via PhotoPin

6. على قد لحافك مد رجليك. (ala ‘add lihaafak midd regleik.)

Meaning: Stretch your legs as far as your blanket extends.

Alternate version: Live within your means.

7. طبّاخ السمّ بيدوقه. (tabbaax is-simm biyduu’u.)

Meaning: One who cooks poison tastes it.

Alternate version: What goes around comes around.

8. شحات ونزهي. (šahhaat we-nozahi.)

Meaning: A beggar who is acting like a rich man.

Alternate version: Beggars can’t be choosers. OR He/She doesn’t have a leg to stand on.

9. ديل الكلب عمره مايتعدل (deil ik-kalb 3omru mayet3edel.)

Meaning: A dog’s tail will never straighten.

Alternate version: A leopard can’t change its spots.

Photo_2 (9) ديل الكلب عمره مايتعدل means “a dog’s tail will never straighten.” Image via PhotoPin

10. الكفن مالوش جيوب (il-kafan maluuš giyuub.)

Meaning: The shroud has no pockets.

Alternate version: You can’t take it with you (when you die).

Now that you’ve realized you are using versions of these popular Arabic sayings every day, you might be inspired to try your hand at learning and using the originals. Remember, التكرار يعلّم الحمار (practice makes perfect), and to successfully learn a new language you’ll need plenty of it, so get started with a free online placement test to find your language level and be sure to sign up for some excellent language classes as well. With the right foundation and know-how in place, you’ll be ready to start spouting off Arabic wisdom in no time at all!