Part 2


  • الي ما له ما بروح له (AF 119)


He who has not, loses not.

– له  (pronounced “lo” or “ilo”) = he has/owns

– راح، يروح  = to go

– روّح، يروّح  = to go home


  • إلي معه مصرية بقول شو بريدها وإلي معه مية بقول يا رب زيدها  (AF 121)


He who has got one penny says: “For What do I want it?” But he who has a hundred pennies says: “May God increase their number.”

– معه  = he has (with him – note: Though له  and معه  are very similar, the former usually refers to inalienable possession (like a child, a disease or something abstract), the latter usually translates into “with him” as in “he doesn’t have any money with him”)

– مِصْرِيِّة  = money, coin

– مَصَاري  = money (more common)

– شو  = Fuṣḥā ماذا

–  بريد  = Fuṣḥā أريد  (rarely used in dialects, seems to be an old saying)


  • إم علي بتزرَع وأبو علي بيقلَع (AF 123)


Imm Ali (Ali’s mother) plants, but Abu Ali (Ali’s father) plucks out.

(Said of two people who lack all sort of cooperation, or of whom one does the opposite of what the other one does.)

– إم  = Fuṣḥā آُم

– قَلَع، يِقلَع  = to remove; pluck out


  • إم القاتل بتنسى إم المقتول ما بتنسى (AF 123)


The mother of the murderer forgets, (but) the mother of the murdered never.


  • أمتال العوام ملح الكلام (AF 124)


Proverbs of the common people are like salt to speech.

– متل، امتال = Fuṣḥā  مثل، امثال

– عامّة، عوام  = the general public, the common people (both have a plural meaning)

– عامّ  = general, universal; public

– عامي  = common, vulgar

– عامية  = colloquial language

– عمومي  = public, common; civil, state

– تعميم  = generalization, universalization

– مِلِح  = salt

– مَالِح  = salty

– مليح  = good (usually pronounced منيح)


  • أمَر الأوجاع الحاضْرة (AF 124)


The bitterest pain is the present (one).

– مُرّ  = bitter (أمَر  = superlative)

– مرارة  = gallbladder

– وَجَع ج أَوجَاع  = pain, ache

–  الحاضْرة  = don’t know why the feminine form is used here, maybe it’s meant to mean “the bitterest pains are the present ones”


  • أن حَبّيت حِب أمير، إن سَرَقت اسرُق حرير (AF 129)


If you fall in love, let him be a prince; if you steal, steal silk.

– حَبّيت  (ḥabbēt) = Fuṣḥā أحْبَبْتُ ; note: 1. in ʿĀmmiyya the verb is in form I, not IV; 2. note how verbs with radicals 2 & 3 being the same are treated like final weak verbs (so ḥabbēt is of the same form as mashēt)

– أمير  = prince

– meaning in Uru: rich


  • إن سلّم عليك عِد أصابيعك (AF 131)


(He is the sort of man who) when he shakes hands with you, you need to count your fingers.

(Said of a professional thief.)

– سلّم، يسلّم  = to great (s.o. على); to send regards; to hand over; to surrender; to protect

– الله يسلمك  (allah yisalmak) = May God protect you (used as a response for formalities that include the root سلم  like سلامتك  (= get well soon)

–  إِصْبِع ج أصَابِع / أصَابِيع  = finger; toe


  • إن ضبطت المي بالغِرْبال بتْأمِن المرة للرجال (AF 132)


It is far easier for a sieve to hold water than for a woman to trust a man.

– ضَبَط، يضبُط  (ẓabat, yiẓbut/yuẓbut) = to control; to work out

– هدا ما بضبط معي  = this doesn’t work for me

– ضبطت  = note the feminine agreement because مي  is feminine

– مي  = Fuṣḥā ماء

– غِرْبال  = sieve


  • أنا وخيي على إبن عمي، وأنا وإبن عمي ع الغريب (AF 141)


My brother and I are against my cousin; my cousin and I are against a stranger.

– خي  = Fuṣḥā أخ , “brother”, also used to address friends

– ع = shortened form of على


  • الإنسان زينته عقله (AF 142)


Man’s ornament is his mind.

– زينة  (zīne) = decoration, ornament

– زين  (zēn) = good (mostly used in the Gulf and Iraq)

– زيّن، يزيّن  = to decorate


  • الإنسان لسانه بحقه قصير (AF 143)

Man’s tongue fails when it concerns his own praise.

 حقه  = here: himself


  • اُنطُر يا كْدِيش تَ يطْلع الحشيش (AF 144)


Wait, mule, until the grass grows.

– نَطَر، يُنْطُر  = to wait, to expect; to watch, to guard (soley ‘āmmiyya)

– كْدِيْش  = old mule (also: insult meaning “blockhead”)

– تَ  = Fuṣḥā حتى


  • إيد لوحدها ما بتْزَقِّف (AF 152)


One hand alone cannot clap.

– إيد  (īd) = Fuṣḥā يد (yadd)

– زقّف، يزقّف  = to clap, to applaud (Fuṣḥā صفّق )


  • بحبك بسَتِّر عيوبك، ببغضك بكَبِّر ذنوبك (AF 163)


I love you (so) I overlook your defects.

I hate you (so) I magnify your shortcomings.

– سَتِّر، يستّر \ سَتَر، يستُر  = to cover, to protect

– سَاتِر  = protector, guardian, epithet of God

– مَستُوْر  = respectable, modest, protected (from slander, ill-doings)

–   أنا) مِستُور الحَمْدُ لِله) = Things are good for me, thank God!      

– سِتَار  = curtain, screen (‘āmmiyya بُردَاي ج بَرَادي )


  • بده قط من خشب يصطاد ولا ياكل (AF 169)


He wants a wooden cat which hunts (mice) but does not eat.

–   اصطاد، يصطاد / صاد، يصيد / تصيّد، يتصيّد  = to hunt, to fish

– صَيْد  = hunting

– صَيَّاد  = hunter

– مَصيدة ج مَصايد  = trap, mousetrap


  • بَزَق بزْقة وعاد لَحَسْها (AF 174)


He spits and then licks it back.

(Said of somebody who promises or pledges and then changes his mind.)

– بَزَق، يُبزُق  = to spit, to spit out

– بزَاق  = saliva, spit

– عاد، يعود  = to return, go back; resume, to redo, do again

– لَحَس، يلحَس  = to lick


  • بِضَوِي زيته عَ العِميان (AF 180).


He burns his oil for blind people.

(Said of goodness done for the wrong person.)

– ضَوَى، يضوي  = to light, illuminate, give light


  • بطن ملان كيف تمام (AF 181)


Full stomach, full happiness.

– بَطِن ج بطون  = stomach, belly

– مَليَان / مِلْيَان / ملان  = full

– ملّى، يملّي  = to fill, to fill up; to drink

– ملاية  = wrap; sheed, bedsheed

– مِلي  = as long as

– تَمَلِّي  = always

– كيف  = pleasure, fun; liking; how

– كيّف، يكيّف  = to have fun, have a good time; to give pleasure

– كيّف، يكيّف  = to air-condition

– تَكييف / مُكَيِّف  = air-conditioning

– تكيّف، يتكيّف  = to adapt to, get used to


  • بفَصِّل للبَرْغوت قميص (AF 189)


He cuts a shirt for the flea.

(He is very exact)

– فصّل، يفصّل  = to cut (cloth); to detail

– تفصيل ج تفاصيل  = detail; tailoring

– فَصَل، يفْصُل  = to fire, dismiss, expel

– فَاصلِة  = comma

– فَصِل  = season; separation

– فاصَل، يفاصِل  = to bargain

– بَرغوت ج براغيت  = flea


  • بَفَلي البرغوت (AF 189)


He delouses the head of a flea.

– فَلَّى، يْفَلّي  = to delouse, search for fleas (in s.o.’s hair); search through


  • بَلا الناس من الناس (AF 193)


Man’s misfortune is caused by man.

– بَلا  = Fuṣḥā بلاء (misfortune, distress, affliction)


  • بنت الشرق للغرب، وبنت الغرب للشرق (AF 197)

A girl from the East (marries a man from) the west; a girl from the West (marries a man from) the East.


  • بالوِج خَيي وبالقفا حيِة (AF 200)


To (one’s) face (he is like) a brother; in one’s absence (he is) a snake.

– وِج  = Fuṣḥā وجه

– خَيي  = Fuṣḥā أخ

– قَفَا  = back, backside; buttocks, bottom

–  قِفَى، يِقْفَى  = to hide away




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