Part 1


  • إبنك لا تعلمه الدهر بِعَلمه (AF 12) 


You do not have to teach your son; life will teach him.

– دَهْر  = course of time, epoch, lifetime

– بِعَلّمه  = Fuṣḥā يُعَلّمُه ; note that it’s not بِيعَلّمه  as you might expect. This is because of the fact that if a vowel is following the first consonant after the b (ع  in this case) the ي  is dropped. So you would get “بيتعلم” (byit3allam – 3 is following the t) but “بِعَلّم” (bi3allim – vowel after the 3) without the ي


  • أبوه بصل وأمه توم، ومنين بدها تجي الريحة الطيبة (AF 13)


His father is an onion, his mother is garlic, so where does the good fragrance come from?

– توم  (tōm) = Fuṣḥā ثوم  (tūm)

– منين (mnēn) = من وين  = Fuṣḥā من اين 

– بدها = wants to, (in this case more like “is supposed to”), from the noun ّوِد (wish, desire, love): بودها = in her desire


  • إترِك الشَر بيِتْرِكَك (AF 13)


Let trouble (lit. evil) alone, and trouble will let you alone.

– إترِك  =  Fuṣḥā آُترُك  (note the difference in vocalisation)

– شَرّ  = evil, malice

– شرير  = bad, wicked evil, malicious

– شرارة  = spark

– Urdu: شرارتي  = naughty


  • إتعب لسانك ولا تتعب اقدامك (AF 14)


Tire out your tongue, but not your feet.

(Ask and inquire before you start looking for something, it will save you plenty of walking)

– تَعَب، يتعب and تعّب، يتعّب  = to tire out, to wear out, to trouble

– تِعِب، يتعَب  = to become tired (note that intransitive verbs are often of the pattern  فِعِل

– تعْبان  = tired, exhausted; unwell, sick

– مِتعِب  = tiresome, exhausting

– تَعَب  (noun) = effort, trouble

– قَدَم ج أقدام  = foot; more common: إِجِر (which can mean leg as well)


  • إخفِض صوتك وقَوّي حِجّتك (AF 25)


Lower your voice and strengthen your argument.

– حِجّة ج حِجَج  = argument, excuse

– احتجّ  = to protest, to complain


  • أخوِت يحكي وعاقل يفهم (AF 26)


A madman is speaking and a wise man understands.

– أخْوَت ج خُوت  = crazy, insane

– خِوِت  = to go crazy

– تخوّت  = to fool around, to joke around

– تجوّت على  = to make fun of

– حكى، يحكي  = to speak


  • إذا الغني أكل الحيّة قالوا من حِكْمَته وإذا أكلها الفقير قالوا من جهالته (AF 30)


If a rich man eats a snake, people say, “This is wisdom!” If a poor man eats a snake, they say, “This is foolishness!”

– note the word order: While in Fuṣḥā the verb must precede the noun (VSO – Verb Subject Object), dialects are more flexible, in fact the usual sentence order is SVO. 


  • إذا كان “نعم” بتقضي حاجة كلمة “لا” بتقضي ألف حاجة (AF 33)


If “yes” satisfies one’s want, “no” satisfies a thousand.

(If you say “yes” to every demand or request, you shall be asked over and over again, but when you say once “no”, you close the door for good)

– قضى، يقضي  = several meanings: 1. to judge, decide, end, wind up; 2. to spend, pass; 3. to satisfy, perform (one’s duty) 3. to wipe out, exterminate (with على ); note that the form  بتقضي  is feminine because “كلمة” is implied


  • أضرب هالحجر في هالجوزة (AF 46)


Throw this stone into this walnut tree (and see how many walnuts it brings down).

– ضَرَب، يُضرُب  = to beat, to hit; to bomb, to shell

– هالحجر = Fuṣḥā هذا الحجر  (= this stone), but note: this is the stone = هدا الحجر


  • الإعتبار للمال مش للرْجال (AF 49)


Respect is given to wealth, not to men.

– مش  = Fuṣḥā ليس

– رِجَّال ج رْجَال = man (note that this is the normal way of saying “man” in colloquial, Fuṣḥā رجُل is considered very formal)


  • أعطِ خُبزك للخَبّاز ولو أكَل نصه (AF 50)


Give your dough (lit. bread) to a baker though he may eat half of it.

(Let experts or professionals do things for you, however expensive they may be. In the long run it is more advantageous.)

– نص = Fuṣḥā نصف


  • أعطيني عقل وحاسبني (AF 51)


Give me intelligence, then hold me responsible.

(Responsibility should be in proportion to intelligence)

– حاسب، يحاسب  = to hold responsible, to ask for an accounting

– حسب، يحسِب  = to calculate, to count; to reckon

– حَسَب  = depending on, according to

– حسّب، يحسِّب  = to think, consider (s.o. to be sth.)

– حساب  = calculation; account; bill

– عحسابك  = I’m at your service

– محاسب  = accountant


  • إعقل وتوكل (AF 52)


(First) use your own mind, and (then) rely upon God.

– According to a story there was a man who wanted to leave his camel for some time and wasn’t sure what to do with it. He asked the Prophet: “What shall I do with it? Shall I leave it and rely on God or shall I tie it up and rely on God?” And the Prophet responded: إعقل وتوكل  which can either mean “become reasonible / use your mind and (then) rely on God” or, “Tie up and (then) rely on God.

– عَقَل، يعقِل  = either 1. to hobble (the feet of a camel), or 2. to become reasonible, have intelligence; to understand, comprehend

– توكّل، يتوكّل  = to rely, to depend on, to trust (in God); to be responsible; to be appointed as an agent, to take on sth.


  • ألأعمال بالنيّات (AF 52)


Actions (are to be judged) by good intentions.

– نيّة، نيّات  = intent, purpose, plan

– حُسن النية  = good intention, good will

– سوء النية  = bad intention, malice

– ناوي، ناوية  = planning on, intending to


  • ألأعمى أعمى القلب (AF 53)


The (truly) blind man is he whose heart is blind.

– أَعْمى، عَمْيا ج عِمْيَان = blind


  • أعمى بقود أعمى، إلتنين بيوقعوا بالجُورة (AF 53)


When a blind man leads another blind man both will fall into the pit.

– قاد، يقود  = to lead, note that it is  بقود  and not بيقود  because a vowel follows the first radical ق 

– إلتنين  = Fuṣḥā الإثنان

– وِقِع، يُوْقَع  = to fall, Fuṣḥā وَقَع، يقَع  (note that the w is not chopped off in spoken)

– جُورة  = pit, hole

– جار، جيران  = neighbour

– مجاور  = neighboring


  • إلي بده يسْكَر ما بِعِدّ قداح (AF 79)


He who wants to get drunk does not count glasses.

(Who wants something should not shy away from the costs.)

– إلي  = Fuṣḥā الذي

– بده  = Fuṣḥā يريد

– سِكِر، يِسْكَر  = to get drunk

– سَكران  = drunk, intoxicated

– سَكّير  = drunkard, alcoholic

– عَدّ، يعِدّ  = to count; to reckon

– عَدَد ج أعداد  = number

– أعدّاد  = meter (in a taxi)

– قَدَح ج قْداح  = drinking cup, glass


  • إلي بخاف من مونة القط، الفار بياكل ذينيه (AF 76)


He who fears (the cost) of provisions for the cat, the mice shall eat up his ears.

– موُنة  = provisions

– موّن، يموّن  = to supply with provisions

– تموّن  = to store up provisions

– قِطّ، قِطَط  = tomcat (more common: بِسّ ج بْساس)

– قِطة  = female cat

– قَطّوطة  = kitten

– دَان، ج دِنَيْن  = Fuṣḥā أُذُن ج آذان


  • الي في قلبه على راس لسانه (AF 85)


That which is in his heart is at the tip of his tongue.

–  راس  = lit.: head


  • الي بيزْرَع الشَوْك ما بيحْصُد عِنَب (AF 94)


He who plants thistles does not reap grapes.

– زَرَع، يِزْرَع  = to plant; to transplant

– زِرَاعَة  = agriculture

– مَزرَعَة ج مَزَارِع  = farm

– مُزَارِع  = farmer

– شَوْك = thorn (collective noun)

– شَوْكة ج شُوَك  = (a) thorn; fork

– حَصَد، يُحصُد  = to harvest

– عِنَب  = grape (collective noun)


  • الي بيتْطلّع لفوق بيتعب (AF 91)

He who looks upwards gets tired.


– تطلّع، يتْطلّع  = to look, stare (usually with على، في، ب )

– طِلِع، يطْلع  = to leave, go out; to turn out (a certain way); to go up, rise

– طَلَّع، يْطَلِّع  = to take out, bring out

– مطالعة  = reading, studying

– اْستِطلَاع  = investigation, exploring

– فوق  (fō’)  = up, upstairs; above

–  فوقية  (fōqiye)  = haughtiness, conceitedness

– تفوّق = excellence, supremecy


  • الي بيضرُب حاله كف ما بقول آخ (AF 97)


He who slaps himself on the face should not say “Ouch!”

– حاله  = Fuṣḥā نفسه  (himself)

– شايف حاله / شايفة حالها  = conceited, proud (lit.: “seeing himself/herself”)

– لِحاله / لحالها  = alone, on his/her own

– كَفّ ج كْفُوْف  = palm (of the hand), slap



AF = Anis Frayha. Modern Lebanese Proverbs; Collected at Ras Al-matn. American Uninversity of Beirut, Beirut (1953)