5 Lebanese words you can’t live without

Sometimes learning the Lebanese dialect might seem a monstrous task. They have soooooo many words, terms, phrases and even greetings that it’s impossible to find a translation to whichever language you speak.  Once you learn (or you think you have learned it) the context, it’s impossible not to use them in your daily life…

Yes, I know. This is one of several posts in which a foreigner, or not, tries to describe how once you’ve learned these terms, you can’t get rid of them no matter which language you speak. Why is this article any different? I really don’t know, I hope you tell me.  Maybe because … Yeah, I don’t know.

Anyway… as native spanish speaker, these are the words that sneak out in every conversation.

1. Khalas


As I told you before, every word has a different meaning depending on the context.  In this case khalas would be like something is finished or done. It usually comes with a hand washing-like gesture, like Pontius Pilate.  It could have a positive or negative meanings depending, obviously, on the tone. I know that it doesn’t look like a big deal, but trust me, once this word becomes part of your repertoire you would never let go.



This is what we in spanish call “muletilla” (petword).  So it’s one of those words that you use (or abuse) in order to connect one thought with another. In English it could be: “like”.  Well, in Lebanese it’s ya3ney.  The irony is that ya3ney actually means: means. But,  you can use it like a wildcard in any conversation.  I just use it when I literally don’t know what to say.  I insist in the “literally” because half of the timesI don’t know the words to it.

3. Eh’


This short word finds its way around conversations in a very subtle manner.  It means “yes”, but kinda like “yeah”.  For example, if someone is telling you a story or whatever,  you nod and you say: yeah, yeah; like agreeing.  Well, this is eh for Lebanese people. Even when I speak in Spanish or English if someone is explaining something to me I nod and say: eh, eh.

Then, when you realize what you are doing it comes to your head that you are doing like chorus of song.  Like my homegirl Rihanna singing umbrella.. ,ella, ella, eh eh, eh, eh.

4. Shou badna na3mel

shou badna

I know that technically it’s a phrase more than a word, but trust me, the way that Lebanese say it, so closed and fast, it’s almost like one word.

The translation of this is: “What are we going to do?”. It most of the times is accompanied with a shrug and a face expression that tells you “it is what it is”.  As you can tell, Lebanese use this to express a little bit of resignation, for not saying a lot..  

Because of most of my dialogues I don’t understand half of what people are saying, I finish most of my comments with shou badna n3mel, and it fits like a charm; maybe because in Beirut there is always something to be resigned about.

5.  Yallah


Eh, eh; I mean yeah, yeah, we all know this one. It’s like the cliché of arabs terms.  Well, clichés are clichés for some reason. If you are new to the arabs terms, this word basically means “let’s go”. However, there are a lot uses for it, for example: “cheer up”; “come on, I’m late, move”; “what are you doing standing there, do something”… You catch my drift.

I know  I’m not such a polyglot like the Lebanese, but whenever I find myself saying these words even in my native language, I totally get why Lebanese talk the way they do, mixing everything.  Trust me, if you ever visit Lebanon, it wouldn’t matter if you don’t speak an ounce of Arabic, this words would be a part of you, *whispers..  for ever*…


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