How Do I Love Thee (in Arabic) – Let Me Count the Ways

The most basic words for love in Arabic (حُبّ), English and French (aimer) don’t look anything alike, but they do share the same set of meanings. If I say alternately ‘I love you’ or ‘je t’aime’ or ‘أُحِبّك,’ I could be speaking to a lover, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a pet or even an inanimate object. I might even just mean, “I like you.” It’s all about the context – and this is also a handy word to know in Arabic, السِياق.

If I’m speaking to a male, I’m going to say أُحِبُكَ (u7ebbuka), whereas if I’m speaking to a female, I’ll say أُحِبُكِ (u7ebbuki).

Of course, if I’m in الشام area of the Arab world, I might add a ‘بَ’ to the beginning of the word to signify that it’s in the present tense (and, in this case, tweak the internal vowels). In the Levant (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Jordan) and in Egypt, for instance, I’d say بَحَبك (ba7ebbak/ik). If I’m just talking about love in general, I’ll use the مصدر or verbal noun and be sure to make it definite: الحُبّ.

This particular verb, however, is hardly the only one you’ll hear used to describe love. In London-based Egyptian writer Ahdaf Soueif’s 1999 novel,The Map of Love, one of her characters – an avid Arabic student – goes looking for love in the Arabic language. In a lyrical journal entry, she writes about what she has discovered:

” ‘Hubb’ is love, ’3ishq’ [عِشْقَ] is love that entwines two people together, ‘sha3′af’ [شَغَفَ] is love that nests in the chambers of the heart, ‘hayam’ [هامَ/هَيم] is love that wanders the earth, ‘taym’ [تامَ/تَيْم] is love in which you lose yourself, ‘walah’ [وَلَهَ] is love that carries sorrow within it, ’9abaabah’ [صَبَّ/صَبابة] is love that exudes from your pores, ‘hawa’ [هَوَى] is love that shares its name with ‘air’ and with ‘falling,’ ’3′arem’ [غَرِمَ - pass.] is love that is willing to pay the price.”

If you’re yearning to know more about these specific words – well, yallah, look them up in our dictionary!

Posted on October 9th, 2009 by SierraPrasada

2 Responses to “How Do I Love Thee (in Arabic) – Let Me Count the Ways”

  1. jb Says:

    Is it normal for someone in Arabic country start calling a wrong phone number and kept calling almost once in 10 minutes?

    By the way, i wanted to share about crazy Egyptian’s phone number i started receiving phone calls from this afternoon. i do not know who he is but i kept calling me even after midnight. I have no idea how to stop him calling me as my phone does not have rejection button for certain number, so I share this here.

    Here are the phone numbers. I guess they might have some mental problem calling someone over 6 hours with more than 20times in total… disturbing my study. Are they some kinds of marketing people? I don’t know Egyptian language and they don’t speak English well..


    I hope this person stops harassing me. I just share it here so someone else might call him to keep him busy to stay away calling me.

    Here is the message I got from the one called from 0100793599

    “Hello, good night really i like your voice and i hope to hear u again and know more about u like ur name and how old u are? Good night and good dream with angel my name is ahmed and my number is 0117718273″

  2. jb Says:

    Now I got 2 calls from 0117718273 again. Even after 12.30am…

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