Syriac Identity of Lebanon – part 5: Typical Lebanese Phrases

ܗܺܝܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܳܝܬܐ ܕܰܒܠܶܒܢܳܢ

By Dr. Amine Jules Iskandar President of the Syriac Maronite Union – Tur Levnon

To show the importance of Syriac in the Lebanese tongue, and to proof it is a dialect of Syriac, we will go through 6 typical phrases and 5 proverbs, and analyze them word by word to define their meanings and origins.


1) Holé lghrad la beit el natour aw la barra?

Are these belongings for the guard’s house or for the exterior?

Holé: in Syriac Holén, in Arabic Ha’ula’
Ghrad: The Arabic word Aghrad has been pronounced in the Syriac way by eliminating the Harakah on the first letter.
La beit: in Syriac “la beit”, in Arabic “li manzil”.
Natour: in Syriac Notour, in Arabic Haris.
Aw la barra”: in Syriac “Aw la bar”, in Arabic “Aw lil kharij”.

In this case, 5 words out of 6 are Syriac words. Only one is from Arabic.

2) Tèb ta‘o ‘al ‘ein ta nochrab mén haydé lmay ltaybé

So come to the source so that we drink from this good water.

Tèb: in Syriac tob, in Arabic ithan.
Ta‘o: in Syriac tao, in Arabic ta‘alu. So the word is a mixture of both.
‘al ‘ein: in Syriac “‘al ‘ain”, in Arabic “ila al ‘ain” or “ ‘ila al nabi‘ “.
Ta: in Syriac da, in Arabic likay.
Nochrab: from the Arabic nashrabu.
Mén haydé: in Syriac “mén hodé”, in Arabic “min hathihi”.
May: in Syriac may, in Arabic ma’.
Taybé: in Syriac tobé (tobto), in Arabic lathithah.

In this case 8 words are from Syriac, one word is from Arabic, and one word is a mixture of both.

3) é lshrashef mashlouhin barra bel jneiné

Yes, the bed sheets are spread outside in the garden.

É: in Syriac én (in), in Arabic na’am.
Shrashéf: from Arabic Sharashef, pronounced the Syriac way by eliminating the Harakah of the first letter.
Mashlouhin: Syriac verb shlah, Arabic verb armi.
Barra: Syriac bar, Arabic al-kharej.
Bel: Syriac , Arabic fi.
Jneiné: Syriac gan (ganto), Arabic hadiqa.

5 words are from Syriac, and one word is from Arabic.

4) Oum sakkér lshebbék, shob barra

Get up, close the window, it’s hot outside.

Oum: Syriac qoum, Syriac Maronite oum, Arabic qoum.
Sakker: Syriac skour, Arabic aghliq.
Shebbék: Syriac sobék (and kawto), Arabic nafithah.
Shob: Syriac Shub, Arabic har.
Barra: Syriac bar, Arabic al-kharej.

The 5 words of this phrase are all in Syriac.

5) ‘ri ktéb hélo ou ktob ‘anno

Read a beautiful book and write about it.

‘ri: in Syriac qri, in Syriac Maronite ‘ri, in Arabic iqra’.
Ktéb: in Syriac ktobo, in Arabic kitab.
Hélo: in Syriac halyo, in Arabic jamil.
Ktob: in Syriac ktub, in Arabic Uktub.
‘anno: from Arabic ‘annahu, pronounced the Syriac way by eliminating the H.

4 words are from Syriac and one word is from Arabic.

Image 1: Book in Garshuni

6) arréb la éddém, khod ltélté ‘al shmél ba‘d lboura

Come forward, take the third to the left after the junkyard.

Arréb: Syriac qaréb, Syriac Maronite aréb, Arabic Iqtarib.
La éddém: in Syriac “la qdom”, Syriac Maronite “la edom”, in Arabic “ila al amam”.
Khod: from Arabic khodh, pronounced the Syriac way by eliminating the interdental dh.
Télté: in Syriac tloyto, in Arabic thalithah.
‘al shmél: in Syriac “ ‘al sémol”, in Arabic “ ‘ala al yassar”.
Ba‘d: in Syriac botar, in Arabic ba ‘da.
Boura: in Syriac bouro, in Arabic “ard falitah”.

5 words are in Syriac, and 2 words are in Arabic.


1) Nafad bé risho

He saved his head.

Nfad: in Syriac nfad, in Arabic ibta‘ada, haraba.
Risho: in Syriac risho, in Arabic ra’sahu.

2) Ma’tou‘ haylo

To loose his strength.

’Ta’: in Syriac qta‘, in Syriac Maronite ’ta‘, in Arabic intaha.
Haylo: in Syriac haylo, in Arabic quwwatuhu.

3) Bedna nékul l‘enbét aw né’tul lnatour ?

Are we aiming to eat the grapes or to kill the guard?

Bedna: in Syriac bo‘énan, in Arabic nuridou.
Nékul: in Syriac nékul, in Arabic na’kulu.
L‘enbét: in Syriac l‘énbé, in Arabic al-‘inabu.
Aw: in Syriac aw, in Arabic aw.
Né’tul: in Syriac Néqtul, in Syriac Maronite Né’tul, in Arabic naqtulu.
Natour: in Syriac Notour, in Arabic haris.

4) Mén el délfé lta7t lmézréb

From the dripping to the fast waters.

Mén: in Syriac mén, in Arabic min.
Délfé: in Syriac délfé, in Arabic tanqit.
Ltaht: in Syriac lathét, in Arabic “ila tahtu”.
Mézréb: from Syriac zribo (fast); in Arabic sari‘u.

5) ‘a sous w no’ta

“holding like” a nail on a dote.

‘a: in Syriac ‘a, in Arabic ‘ala.
Sous: in Syriac sés, in Arabic mismar.
Nu’ta: in Syriac Nuqzo, in Syriac Maronite Nu’zo, in Arabic Nuqtah.

By learning Syriac, the Lebanese people would be amazed to know that they are already using it every single day. This is the prove that Syriac was not just a liturgical language for the Maronites, but a living everyday language and an essential part of their identity.

Amine Jules Iskandar is President of Syriac Maronite Union-Tur Levnon

For the article in Spanish. You can also watch episode 5 of the associated TV-series as broadcast by Nour Al-Sharq Tv.