Arabic Compliments

Egyptian Compliments

  • Arabic compliments tend to be lengthy because it is generally considered that the longer a compliment is, the more sincere.

  • Egyptian compliments often utilize similes and metaphors in reference to marriage or Allah: shaklak ’ariis in-naharda (you look like a bridegroom today); maa shaa’a Allaah ’aleek (God’s grace be upon you) (Nelson, El-Bakary, & Al-Batal, 1993 [©]).

  • Four Arabic adjectives are commonly used: hilw (pretty), kwayyis (good), shiik (chic), and tayyib (kind).

  • Egyptians mainly compliment others on their appearance, personality traits, and skills. Perhaps half of the Egyptian compliments on appearance are likely to praise natural attributes.

  • Compared to Americans, Egyptians compliment others less frequently.

  • Most Egyptian compliments are given directly, but they also offer compliments in a kidding or joking way (Nelson, et. al, 1993). The third most common Egyptian response utilizes formulaic expressions such as: eeh l-Halaawa di! Eeh sh-shiyaaka di! (What is all this beauty! What is all this chicness!).

Above passages from Nelson, Al-Batal, & Echols (1996) [©].

[ Research notes on the section above... ]

Syrian Compliment Responses

  1. Accept
    • Appreciation Token (shukran [thank you])
    • Agreement (kill tasaamiimi naajha [All my designs are successful])
    • Return (w-inti heek yaa Sawsan [And you and the same, Sasan])
    • Acceptance + Formula (m’addame [it is presented to you])

  2. Mitigate
    • Deflecting or Commenting on History (A: Your body has filled out. B: I used to work out a long time ago. )
    • Questioning or Request Reassurance/Repetition (Is that really me?)

  3. Reject
    • Syrians prefer acceptance or mitigation of the compliment to rejection.
    • Agreement + Formula tends to be the most common response type in Syrian compliments. For example, one can say: m’addam ([It is] presented [to you]), offering the object of the compliment to the complimenter. This offer comes in a formulaic expression and is not likely to be accepted. It is an expected polite response to certain compliments. The complimenter typically says: shukran! Ala saahibtu ahiaa (Thank you! It looks much nicer on its owner) or Tithanni fiiha. InshaaLLaah tihriiha bi-l-hanaa (May you enjoy it. May you, God willing, wear it out in happiness).

Above passages from Nelson, El-Bakary, & Al-Batal (1993) [©].

[ Research notes on the section above... ]



Nelson, G. L., Al-batal, M. & Echols, E. (1996). Arabic and English compliment responses: Potential for pragmatic failure. Applied Linguistics, 17(4), 411-432.

Nelson, G. L., El-Bakary, W., & Al-Batal, M. (1993). Egyptian and American compliments: A cross cultural study. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 17. 293-313.


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