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10 Arabic Proverbs That Make You Wiser

10 Arabic Proverbs That Make You Wiser

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A few words of wisdom to make you reflect on your own view of the world… Introduced by Immanuel Kant in 1790, this concept of Weltanschauung (German for “worldview”), this philosophical concept has played a pivotal role in the development of psychoanalysis, and, as its name suggests, it relates to the conception of the world. Is there one unique and true view of the world, or are there more? According to 2020’s statistics, the world population counts 7.753 billion. This is roughly how many views of the world we have, considering that each and everyone one of us is unique and everyone has their own version of the truth.

Philosophy aside, proverbs are the source of peoples’ wisdom or view of the world. And this blog is all about worldly wisdom and how it is captured in the Arabic language.

10 pieces of Arabic wisdom

1. Time is money.

Probably this English proverb rings more than just one bell. Well, the Arabs have their own unique way of saying the same thing.
.الوقت من ذهب
Al wakto men zahab.
Literal translation: Time is gold.

2. You are the apple of my eye.

Every child is the apple of their parents’ eyes. Of course, there are variations to this saying in English, as there are in Arabic. However, to avoid losing ourselves in the mysteries of Arabic language grammar, we will stick to the second person singular. So, the Arabic saying goes like this:
.(أنت نور عيني (عيوني
Anta Nour ’aynay (or ‘Oyouny in spoken dialect)
Literal translation: You are the light of my eyes.

3. He who digs a pit…

If you’ve read the Bible at least once, you must have stumbled upon The Book of Proverbs and the famous Proverb 26:27, which warns that “He that diggeth a pit, shall fall into it: and he that rolleth a stone, it shall return to him”. The modern English version is less tongue-twisting, “He that digs a pit will fall into it, and he that rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.”
The Arabic version is comparatively simpler:
.من حفر حفرة لأخيه وقع فيها
Man hafara hufra li akheehi waka’a fiha.
Literal translation: He who digs a pit for his brother falls into it.

4. The road to success is paved with hard work.

True in English and Arabic. After all, hard work pays off no matter where you are. It’s a matter of when and how you express the idea. In Arabic, it goes like this:
.من طلب العلى سهر الليالي
Man talaba al ola sahira allayalee.
Literal translation: He who desires the top must sit up many nights

5. A hungry belly has no ears.

Nothing works when you’re hungry. You’re fidgety, and you can’t focus. When that happens, you can say:
.عند البطون ضاعت العقول
‘Inda al botoun da’at al ‘okoul.
Literal translation:The mind is lost when it comes to the stomach.
So, don’t make any important decisions on an empty stomach.

6. Man does not attain all his heart’s desires.

Whatever language you speak, the above is true. Think of yourself, do you always get what you want? Sometimes, it’s all a “love’s labour’s lost”. Well, from the realm of Shakespeare, we navigate again to the desert of Arabia, where people express this idea as follows:
.ما كل ما يتمناه المرء يدركه. تجري الرياح بما لا تشتهي السفن
Ma kollo ma yatamannaho al mar’o youdrikoho. Tajree arriyaho bima la tashtahee assofono.
Literal translation: One will not attain everything he wishes. Or, an equally good and enlightening translation would be “The winds blow unlike what the ships wish for.”

7. Kill two birds with one stone.

Whenever you wish to achieve two things in one go, you say that. The idea of killing is believed to originate from Greek mythology, specifically the story of Daedalus and Icarus, who escaped the Cretan labyrinth by flying. Legend has it that they killed two birds with one stone and stripped them of their feathers to make themselves wings.
Whether Arabic speakers believe the same or not, we cannot know for sure. What we do know is that they have the same concept of efficiency as English speakers since their version of this wise saying is:
.ضربت عصفورين بحجر واحد
Darabt ‘asfourayn bi hajar wahid.
Literal translation: I hit two birds with a single stone.

8. Forbidden fruit is the sweetest.

We all know the pasture on the other side of the pond is greener- to throw another English saying into the mix. This is how coveting starts. Only the pasture may not be as forbidden as the fruit… The same idea is wisely expressed by the Arabic proverb below:
.كل ممنوع مرغوب
Kol mamnou’ marghoub.
Literal translation: Whatever is forbidden is desired.

9. Good brevity makes sense.

“Short and sweet”, or “Less is more”, as Westerners also say. Conciseness is key to getting your message across as clearly and quickly as possible.
.خير الكلام ما قل ودل
Khairo al kalam ma kalla wa dal – would be the Arabic for it.
Literal translation: The best speech is little and indicative.

10. A man of knowledge restrains his words.

When you know more than the others should know that you do, you’d better keep your golden silence.
.إذا كان الكلام من فضة فالسكوت من ذهب
Eza kana al kalamo men fidda fassokouto men zahab.
Literal translation: If speech is silver, then silence is gold.
Can you say otherwise? Anyway, we hope you enjoyed this article and tune in for updates on all things localization.
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