The Best Arabic to English Literal Translations

{Zoe Kravitz’s tattoo literally says: let the love the base rather than let love rule}

Growing up in an Arabic speaking home, I never thought twice about direct translations from Arabic to English, I just thought these were normal phrases. It wasn’t until a few of my American friends and  fiancé pointed them out to me that I realized how hilarious these phrases and threats sound in English. Google Translate is notorious for providing literal translations that bare no meaning in English.  So word to the wise: if you’re planning on getting some exotic tattoo, don’t rely on Google Translate to provide you with an accurate translation.

Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

Arabic Phrase or Word
Literal English Translation


Al jou kafer

This is one I struggled with for years and still think should be acceptable in English.
For example: It’s Thanksgiving and you’re inviting your guests to put food! Can you put me some? Come on, don’t be shy! Put!
Hunger is an unbeliever / hunger is an infidel. I just learned this one and lost it when I realized what it sounds like in English.


As in: to feel this hungry should be a sin.

Laish seedie baanie?
Why did my grandfather sell me?
This hilarious expression is used when someone is exasperated and distraught. As in, how did I end up in this stressful situation?

Threats and Curses
These are common threats and curses that make perfect sense in Arabic. Try saying these in an English speaking argument and let me know how that goes for you.


Badas fi batnak
I will step in your stomach

Kul hawa
Eat air

Yilan abouk. Yilan imak
Curse your father!  Curse your mother!

bakrib baitak
I will destroy your house

Damo iteel
His blood is heavy. 
This is used to describe someone who is extremely obnoxious.  
As in: ugh, Joe won’t stop talking. His blood is so heavy.
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