Mother’s Day in the Arabic-speaking world is celebrated on March 21 every year. This date was chosen to coincide with the beginning of spring. This Mother’s Day, join us as we take a look at a few different ways one can say “mother” in Arabic*!
*Please note, this list includes only some of the ways to say “mother” in the region, and by no means exhaustive. There are certainly more terms and variations across the region, countries and even within countries.
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1. Omm (أم) or Ommi (أمي)
From Modern Standard Arabic, or FusHa (فصحى), both terms are commonly used throughout the Arabic-speaking world to refer to mothers. Literally, Omm (أم) means “mother”, and Ommi (أمي) as “my mother”. Note that depending on the region and dialect, pronunciation will slightly different; for example, in parts of Syria, one may hear Emmi (إِمِّيْ), too.
Fairuz, a music icon from Lebanon uses this term in her famous song “Ommi el-Habiba” (أمي الحبيبة, My beloved mother).
2. Yumma (يُمّه) or Ommah (أماه)
In Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, parts of Saudi Arabia, and neighbouring Gulf countries, one often hears the term yumma (يُمّه) for mother. It is also common to use ommah (أماه) in Omani dialect, a shortened form of ya ommah (يا أماه), meaning “oh mother”.
3. Mama (ماما) or Mami (مامي)
In the Levantine dialect, and increasingly across the Gulf and North Africa, two of the terms used for mother are mama (ماما) or mami (مامي). Overall, mama or mami is common across the region and different languages – read more here on why words for “Mom” and “Dad” sound similar across the world!
4. Youm (يوم)
In Aleppo, Syria, one encounters the term youm (يوم) for mother.
5. Yamo (يامو)
In Damascus, Syria, a slightly varied term, yamo (يامو) is used for mothers.
Popular Damascene actor and director, Duraid Lahham, pays tribute to mothers in his song titled “Yamo Yamo“.
6. Lwalida (لوالدة) or Walida (والدة)
In the Moroccan dialect, one of the terms for mother is lwalida (لوالدة), with variations such as walida in neighbouring countries, or Lwalda in some parts of Tunis. Please note, there are many more variations in and within Arabic-speaking communities in North Africa.
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Mothers are an epitome of love, warmth and selflessness. In their embrace, one finds hope, strength and protection. These sentiments are beautifully encapsulated in the award-winning Palestinian poet, Mahmoud Darwish’s (1941-2008) poem titled, “To My Mother” (إلى أمي). Here is an excerpt:
Dearly I yearn for my mother’s bread,
My mother’s coffee,
Mother’s brushing touch.
Childhood is raised in me,
Day upon day in me.
And I so cherish life
Because if I died
My mother’s tears would shame me.
Set me, if I return one day,
As a shawl on your eyelashes, let your hand
Spread grass out over my bones,
Christened by your immaculate footsteps
As on holy land.
Fasten us with a lock of hair,
With thread strung from the back of your dress.
I could grow into godhood
Commend my spirit into godhood
If I but touch your heart’s deep breadth.
أحنُ إلى خبز أمي
ولمسةِ أمي ..
وتكبر فيَّ الطفولةُ
يوماً على صدر يومِ
و أعشق عمري لأني
أخجل من دمع أمي !
خذيني .. إذا عدتُ يوماً
وغطي عظامي بعشبٍ
تعمَّد من طهر كعبكْ
بخصلة شعرٍ ..
بخيطٍ يلوِّح في ذيل ثوبك..
عساني أصيرُ إلهًا
إلهًا أصير ..
إذا ما لمستُ قرارة قلبك !
To all mothers and mother figures out there, عيد ام سعيد, Happy Mother’s Day!
Are you a heritage language learner or perhaps, you are looking for ways to make the mother figures in your life feel a little extra special this Mother’s Day? Gift a NaTakallam Language Experience session to a loved one today, or treat yourself to a session!
Learn Arabic authentically with our native language partners from displaced backgrounds. Besides Modern Standard Arabic, NaTakallam offers Arabic in more than 7 dialects: Egyptian, Iraqi, Sudanese, Yemeni, and Levantine – Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese.
P.S. Write to us and let us know if you use another term to refer to your mother in an Arabic dialect!
Credits: We would like to thank our Language Partner community for helping with the content, and Maria Thomas for copywriting the piece. Maria is a copywriter at NaTakallam and is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.