How To Say Hello In Arabic And Respond (Formal + Informal)

How To Say Hello In Arabic And Respond (Formal + Informal)

Whether you’re planning to go to an Arabic speaking country, or have to interact with Arabic speakers or even if you just want to show off having Arabic skills in front of your friends, the most fundamental thing is knowing how to say “hello” in Arabic.

Most Arabic courses cover this topic first.

Even if all you know is “hello”, “good morning” and “good evening” in Arabic, it’ll get you a long way in earning respect.

Like every language, there are more ways than one to greet people in Arabic.

Read along to find out how to say “hello”, proper responses, and some important variations (I also recommend reading our guide on ‘how are you’ in Arabic, for other ways to greet people).

Formal/standard greetings

مرحبًا marhabaan

Marhabaan is arguably the simplest, and most common way to greet someone in Arabic (it’s also the defacto greeting in every textbook).

It’s widespread in every Arabic speaking region regardless of the dialects used there, and you will often hear it as marhaba without the trailing ‘n’, but it still has the same meaning. Turkish adopted it too during the Ottoman period.

It can be used formally and informally to greet a single person or a group of people.

Additionally, marhaban/marhaba is light on the tongue, is considered polite and neutral, and oftentimes, is used by a person who is arriving.

The usual response to it is:

أهلًا وسهلًا ahlan wa sahlan

Which literally means “Family and easy (circumstances)“.

This may not make sense to you but its non-literal implication is, “You are with family now, so you can be at ease and peace”.

This is a precious saying for us because it’s an old Classical Arabic expression that has survived until today.

In the old times, Arabians were wanderers in the desert, traveling a lot of long distances and periods of time. Thus, they often found themselves on the brink of death due to the lack of water and food, so when they came across a possible shelter, the kind residents would say “ahlan wa-sahlan” to make them feel safe.

The usual response to (ahlan wa-sahlan) is أهلًا بيك ahlan bik, which is an informal way to say “You are welcome”.

Another more formal way to respond is تشرفنا tsharafna, which literally means “we have been honored”.

You’ll often encounter a version of the expression ”ahlan wa-sahlan” which is the shortened أهلًا ahlan.

السلام عليكم as-salamu 3alaykum

This is another traditional Arabic greeting that means “peace be upon you”, but it’s also commonly used by non-Arab Muslim speakers all over the world due to the fact that it originated from Islam.

Despite it being an Islamic term, nowadays it is not exclusive to Muslims, as many non-Muslim Arabs use it as well.

The standard response to it is:

وعليكم السلام wa 3alaykum as-salam

Which means “And peace be upon you”.

If marhabaan being six syllables left you dumbfounded, then you’re probably not ready for this.

As-salaamu 3alaykum is a shortened version of the original phrase:

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته as-salamu 3alaykum wa rahmat allahi wa barakatuh

This long expression means “May the peace, mercy and blessings of God be upon you.”

It’s a long one but don’t worry, you don’t really have to use it (you’ll often hear older and more religious folk use this one).

يعطيك العافية ya3tik al-3afiya

This means “May God give you strength”, and is a very common greeting in the Levant (Jordan, Palestine, etc.).

It’s also often used when meeting someone who’s working or doing something, so saying ya3tik al-3afiya instead of a normal hi conveys your appreciation for what they’re doing.

Time-dependent greetings

Below are some greetings depending on the time of day.

To say good morning in Arabic, we say:

صباح الخير saba7 el-5ayr

Which literally means “Good morning” - used to greet someone before noon.

It can be used in formal situations with people you do not know, and also in informal situations in which you meet your friends early in the morning for example.

It has many possible responses including these:

صباح النور saba7 en-nur

Which literally means, “the morning of the light”, and it’s not exactly known what is meant by the light.

It may refer to the sun’s light, or even to the person’s light! 🌟 😊

Yes, when Arabs want to greet someone and compliment their beautiful looks, especially in a photo, they say منور monawar, which means, “you’re radiating”, which is also used in the English language to describe someone’s brilliant looks.

صباح الفل saba7 el-ful

This one means the morning of Jasmine flowers!

It’s a beautiful, meaningful phrase that is a less formal expression than saba7 en-nur. But you need to remember to say it with a short o, so you don’t end up with (sabah al-fool), which means the “morning of broadbean”. 🤣

صباحو saba7u

This is a very informal way of responding.

It literally means “his morning” - whose morning?

Exactly! No one knows yet.

But we guess it means, “right back at you”. As in, the respondent is wishing the person a good morning as well.

In Arabic, there’s no special greeting for the afternoon, so when Arabs want to greet someone during it, they use the same greetings which are reserved for the evenings. However, you’re in for a treat because they’re pretty much identical to the ones in the morning!

The greetings are:

مساء الخير masa2 el-5ayr

Which means good afternoon or good evening, and the typical response for it, is:

مساء النور masa2 an-nur

This is exactly the same as sabaḥu an-nur, but for the afternoon and evening.

مساء الفل masa2 al-ful

For these masa2 greetings, you can make yourself sound a little bit more friendly and informal, just by removing the ء (hamza) at the end of (masa2) when you say it, so you get the (masa el-5ayr) which is easier to say and makes you sound more fluent.

These are the main common and basic ways to say ”hello” in Arabic, but of course we’re never limited to these.

Less formal greetings

سلام salam

It derives from as-salamu 3alaykum wa rahmat allah wa barakatuh, which as stated before is a bit heavy on the tongue.

So to keep it short, people just say salam.

It’s informal and it conveys a friendlier attitude than the original phrase, as it literally means “peace”.

عوافي 'awafi

This is the plural of “health”, and it’s very informal.

It implies “May God give you good health”.

The standard response to 3awafi is الله يعافيك allah ya3fik which means “May God give you health.”

هلا والله hala wallah

This phrase is mainly used in the Gulf countries, and it’s used by the host, not the guest.

Hala is short for the aforementioned (ahlan) and wallah means “by God”.

يا مرحبا ya marhaba

This ones an informal phrase that is used in the Middle East.

It’s a stronger “hello” than marhaba, and again, it’s usually used by the host, not the guest.

So if you think marhaba isn’t doing a good job at showing how welcoming you are, use ya marhaba.

مراحب maraheb

Arabs are generous by nature and their generosity isn’t limited to material things because even when it comes to saying “hi”, they are also very generous about it.

maraheb is the plural of marhaba, and it’s an informal phrase.

When used, you know the speaker is so excited to see you that they’re giving you many “hellos”, not just one.

نهارك سعيد naharak sa3eed

If you come by your neighbor early in the morning, you can wish them a happy day by saying ”naharak sa3eed“.

It’s not just a simple greeting, as it’s literally translated to “you’re having a happy day”, so it’s like an invitation to optimism.

عسلامه aslaama

This is a Tunisian expression for “hello” that is mostly used when welcoming a guest to show hospitality.

It implies “I’m grateful that you’re alright”.

European borrowings

In some Arab countries, and especially among the youth, it’s not uncommon to hear “hello” in other languages besides Arabic. In fact, “bonjour” and “bonsoir” are more widely used in Lebanon than السلام عليكم (as-salamu 3alaykum).

In Egypt, you will also hear هاي hi used a lot in the streets.

But these are not yet fully socially acceptable to use. And as we have seen in this guide, there are many other acceptable ways to say “hi”.

A fun way to say “hello” is the French word ”allô”. In essence, it has the same usage in the Arab world as in French which is answering the telephone, but friends use it playfully, especially if the one they’re talking to is absent-minded.

So that’s how you say ‘hello’ in Arabic

That covers the most common ways to say ‘hello’ in Arabic. I hope you found this insightful!

Of course, there are many more alternative greetings and slang expressions across the different Arabic dialects which I haven’t covered here.

The best resource for learning all these variations and many more is TalkInArabic.com (which covers Egyptian, Levantine, Iraqi, Saudi, Tunisian, Algerian, Moroccan and even Sudanese).

Use code MEZZOGUILD for 20% off any subscription option.


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Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Icelandic

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