50 Spanish words from Arabic

50 Spanish Words That Have Come From Arabic

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Spanish language and culture has traveled to different corners of the world, interacting with diverse communities throughout Latin America, parts of the US, the Caribbean islands, Europe, and even in Africa and Asia! Spanish is the official language in over 20 countries, one of the six official languages of the United Nations, and currently the fastest-growing language with more than 580 million speakers worldwide. Given its Latin roots, it is also a familiar language for learners and speakers of other Romance languages, such as French, Italian and Portuguese. 

But did you know… about the impact of Arabic over the Spanish language? That’s right! The influence of Arabic on the Spanish language, mostly through loanwords, largely originated from the Arab rule in the Iberian Peninsula between 711 and 1492 AD, notably in Al-Andalus (الأَنْدَلُس) of southern Spain, referred to as Andalusia, today. As a result, there are approximately 4,000 Spanish words with Arabic origins, to date! 

Travel back in time with our top 50 favorite Spanish words that have come from Arabic.

  1. ​​Alcancía (Piggy bank) – from Al-kanz (الكنز), meaning ‘treasure’ in Arabic
  2. Albaricoque (Apricot) – derived from the Arabic word for ‘plum’, al-barquq (اَلْبَرْقُوق‎)
  3. Arroz (Rice) – from ar-ruzz (أَرُزّ‎)
  4. Aceite (Oil) – from az-zait (الزيت) 
  5. Aceituna (Olive) – from az-zaytūn (الزَّيْتُون)
  6. Azafrán (Saffron) – from the Arabic word az-za’farān (اَلزَّعْفَرَان) ultimately derived from Persian.
  7. Azúcar (Sugar) Arabic – from as-sukkar (السكر)
  8. Arrecife (Coral reef) – from ar-raseef (الرصيف), meaning ‘platform’ or ‘sidewalk’ in Arabic
  9. Albahaca (Basil) – from al-habagh (الحبق)
  10. Algodón (Cotton) – from al-quton (القطن)
  11. Alcalde (Mayor) – from al-qādi (القاضي), derived from the Arabic word for ‘the judge’
  12. Aldea (Village) – from al-daya’a (اَلضَّيْعَة), meaning a ‘small village’ in Arabic
  13. Ajedrez (Chess) – evolved al-shatranj (الشطرنج), from Middle Persian chatrang (چترنگ), and ultimately derived from an Indian strategy game called chaturanga (चतुरङ्ग) in Sanskrit, referring to the ‘four arms’ of an army in the ancient times
  14. Alcohol (Alcohol) – from al-kuhol (الكحول) 
  15. Álgebra (Algebra) – derived from the Arabic word al-jabr (الجبر),  meaning ‘reunion/resetting of broken parts’
  16. Algoritmo (Algorithm) – derived from the surname of 9th-century Persian mathematician, Al-Khwarizmi (الْخُوَارِزْمِيّ), roughly transliterated to Medieval Latin as algorismus, whose works introduced advanced mathematics to the West
  17. Alfombra (Carpet/rug) – derived from the Arabic word hanbal (حَنْبَل), originally referring to Moroccan ceremonial tapestry’ still widely using in Morocco today
  18. Almohada (Pillow) – from the Arabic word al-mikhaddah (المخدة), meaning cushion or pillow
  19. Alquiler (To rent) – from the Arabic word al-kirraʾ (الكِرَاء), meaning to ‘rent/hire/lease’
  20. Asesino (Murderer) – with a fascinating etymology and story, evolved from the Arabic word hashashin (حشَّاشين), meaning ‘hashish users’, derived from the word hashish (حشيش), meaning ‘grass’ or ‘[powdered] hemp’
  21. Atún (tuna) – from the Arabic al-tun (التون), derived from ancient Greek thynnos (θύννος), meaning ‘tuna’
  22. Azul (Blue) – from Arabic word lāzuward (لَازُوَرْد), meaning ‘lapis lazuli’, a stone with a deep blue color
  23. Albóndiga (Meatball) – derived from the Arabic word al-bunduq (البندق), meaning ‘hazelnut’, due to its resemblance of shape and color. The Arabic word has allegedly evolved from the Ancient Greek Ποντικόν κάρυον, meaning the ‘nut of/from Pontus [region]’
  24. Barrio (Neighborhood) – derived from the Arabic word barri (بَرِّيّ)‎ which originally meant ‘outside [of the city]’
  25. Brújula (Compass) – from bousola (بوصلة) 
  26. Bellota (Acorn) – from balluta (بَلُّوطَة)‎ 
  27. Berenjena (eggplant) – from badenjān (باذنجان) 
  28. Café (Coffee) – borrowed from Dutch koffie, taken from Turkish kahveh, and derived from Arabic qahwa (قهوة), which originally meant ‘wine’. It is also argued that the Arabic word is derived from the Ethopian city, Kaffa, where the coffee plant was discovered
  29. Cifra (digit) – evolved from sefr (صفر) meaning ‘zero’ in Arabic, ultimately from Sanskrit sunya (शून्य), meaning ‘empty’ or ‘void’
  30. Dado (Dice)derived from the Arabic word a’dad (عدد) meaning ‘numbers’
  31. Elixir (Elixir) – from al-iksir (الإكسير) 
  32. Guitarra (Guitar) – from gitara (غيتارة) 
  33. Hasta (Until) – from hatta (حتى)
  34. Hazaña (Feat/deed) – from the Arabic word hasana (حَسَنَة), meaning ‎‘good deed’
  35. Jarabe (Medication) – from the Arabic word sharāb (شَرَاب), meaning ‘a drink/beverage/wine/coffee/syrup’
  36. Jarra (Earthenware jar) – from the Arabic word jarrah (جَرَّة), meaning ‘earthen receptacle’ or ‘made of glass, porcelain’
  37. Jirafa (Giraffe) – from zarāfah (زرافة)   
  38. Joroba (Plateau) – from the Arabic word hadaba (هَضَبَة), meaning ‘hill’ or ‘plateau’
  39. Limón (Lemon) – from the Arabic word limun (ليمون), derived from Persian limu (لیمو)
  40. Mezquino (Stingy or petty) – from the Arabic word miskeen‎ (مِسْكِين), meaning poor or miserly, originally derived from Akkadian, the oldest known Semitic language, spoken in ancient Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq)
  41. Mazmorra (Dungeon) – from the Arabic word matmura (مَطْمُورَة)‎, meaning ‘cellar’
  42. Momia (Mummy) – from the Arabic word moomiya’ (مومياء), ultimately derived from the Persian word moomiya’ (مُومِيَاء‎ ) from Persian moom (موم‎), meaning ‘wax’
  43. Naranja (Orange) – from the Arabic word nāranja (نارنج), derived from the Persian word nārang (نارنگ) referring to the bitter orange fruit, ultimately from Sanskrit nāraṅga (नारङ्ग) meaning ‘orange tree’
  44. Noria (Ferris wheel) – from the Arabic word nā’oora (نَاعُورَة‎), ultimately derived from the old Syriac words nāʿōrtāʾ (ܢܥܘܪܬܐ‎) meaning ‘water wheel/growler’
  45. Ojalá (Hopefully/Let’s hope so) – from the Arabic word inshālla (ان شاء الله), meaning ‘God-willing’ or ‘if God wills’
  46. Sandía (Watermelon) – from the Classical Arabic word sindiyyah (سندية), meaning [the fruit] from the Sindh region (in India and Pakistan), derived from the Sanskrit word sindhu (सिन्धु), also meaning ‘of or from the Sindh’
  47. Tarea (Homework) – from the Arabic word tariha (طَرِيحَة), meaning ‘endeavor’, from the root taraha (طرح), ‘to throw’
  48. Taza (Mug/Cup) – from the Arabic word tassa (طاسة), ultimately from the Persian word tās (تاس) meaning ‘mug’
  49. Tambour (Drum) – from the Arabic word tunbūr (طُنْبُور‎), derived from the Persian word tabir (تبیر), meaning ‘to drum’
  50. Zanahoria (Carrot) – from old Arabic isfanāriyya (إِسْفَنَارِيَّة), ultimately derived from the ancient Greek phrase stafulinos agrios (σταφυλίνη ἀγρία) meaning ‘wild carrot’. Fun fact: both Arabic and Greek use different words for ‘carrot’ today!

Want to dive deeper into language and etymology? NaTakallam can help you with that! Our language partners from refugee or displaced backgrounds can help you pick up Spanish and/or Arabic, while also providing you with a cultural experience that will help you transcend borders.

Whether you’re a Spanish or Arabic learner, or simply a language enthusiast, learning a language with NaTakallam you will get to experience the beauty and interrelated nature of the linguistic world. Sign up here, today!

Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Learn Spanish

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Up for a challenge this summer? We recommend picking/brushing up a language – perhaps, Spanish! As we mark UN Spanish Language Day, observed annually on April 23rd, here are five reasons to learn this beautiful language.

1. Second-most spoken language in the world

Learning Spanish gives you the ability to connect with more than 580 million people! Spanish is the official language of over 20 countries and is widely spoken in Spain, Latin America and the United States. Spanish is the second most spoken language worldwide, with a higher proportion of speakers who recognize it as their first and primary language over English. There is rapid growth in the number of Spanish language speakers, meaning that there is a growing opportunity for Spanish language learners to engage and immerse themselves in the language.

 2. Rich literature 

Spanish is the language of world-class literature. Spanish classics include the likes of Colombian author García Márques’ novel
Cien años de soledad (One hundred years of solitude) which won a Nobel Prize for Literature for its portrayal of magical realism, the award-winning anthology of works by Chilean author Isabel Allende, and the much-celebrated novel, Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. If you have a passion for literature or Spanish culture, learning Spanish might just be for you.

3. Gateway to other languages

Spanish belongs to the family of romance languages. Learning Spanish would open doors to several other languages such as Italian, Portuguese and French. The general structure of these languages is very similar, thereby making them easier to grasp and understand. Spanish has also borrowed several words from Arabic, including ojalá (hope), almohada (pillow), and azúcar (sugar). Besides, Spanish is a fun language to learn and an excellent starting place for those looking to embark on learning a second language!

4. Language of the future 

Spanish is an amazing language with rising potential. If you are interested in travel, increasing your career prospects or learning a new skill, studying Spanish may just be the way to go! Spanish is an excellent way to leverage your career opportunities. The rapid growth of the Spanish language across the globe, from Europe to Latin America, has seen a rising demand for Spanish speakers in the international job market. With a diverse and global array of Spanish speakers, there’s no wonder international organizations, governments and big-name brands are looking to include them. If you are interested in testing your intellectual capabilities and improving your career prospects, learning Spanish will open new doors.

5. Easy to learn

Unlike some other languages, with standard Spanish, what you see is what you get! Spanish is a phonetic language, meaning that words are spelled exactly as they are pronounced – with consideration of the unique pronunciation of certain letters in Spanish (and varieties of Spanish), and the exception of the letter h, which is silent! Also, you may already know some Spanish as thousands of English words are borrowed from the language, for example, the word “barbeque” which comes from the Spanish term “barbacoa”, or the word “cargo” which is derived from the Spanish verb “cargar” meaning “to load”.

If you are interested in discovering new worlds and cultures, increasing your career mobility AND making a social impact, consider learning Spanish with NaTakallam, today!

NaTakallam brings Latin America to your doorstep with native tutors from refugee backgrounds. Learn a language, make a friend and support the livelihoods of forcibly displaced persons – from the comfort of your home.


Copywriting: Lucy Haley is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently completing her Masters in International Relations. She is an avid reader, gym-goer and language learner, and loves nothing more than a good cup of coffee.
Copyediting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
– Copyediting: Emmy Plaschy is a volunteer content writer and editor at NaTakallam. She currently works in communications in Switzerland. In her spare time, she enjoys polishing her Arabic skills, writing and gazing at the stars.

NaTakallam 6 Must-Try Easter Delicacies From Around The World

6 Must-Try Easter Delicacies From Around The World

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Easter is celebrated by millions around the world and it is not a surprise that food is at the heart of these festivities. Join us as we delve into the Easter delicacies from around the world – from Ukraine to Argentina, Armenia to Egypt.

Paska (пáска)1. Paska (Ukraine)

(пáска) is a bread traditionally made at Easter in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe. It is made with milk, butter, eggs, flour and sugar. In Ukraine, it forms an important part of the Easter basket also known as the “basket of blessed food” (свячене, “svyachene”) alongside Easter eggs (писанки, “pysanky”) and sausage (ковбаса, “kovbasa”).

Variations of this bread are also made in Armenian and Assyrian communities of Iran, Iraq, Armenia and the diaspora.

Kaek and Ma’amoul2. Kaek and Ma’amoul (Egypt and the Levant)

Kaek (كعك) and Ma’amoul (معمول) are two cookies at the heart of all Egyptian and Levantine celebrations (read about ma’amoul in our Ramadan blog). These cookies are made with semolina flour and butter. They are stuffed with dates, pistachios, walnuts and flavoured with rosewater, orange blossom, mastic and mahlab. Each cookie is formed by hand or by using wooden moulds and each shape symbolizes an event associated with the Holy Week and Easter.

Egyptian Fattah3. Fattah (Egypt)

Among the Coptic Christians of Egypt,
fattah (فتّة) is a popular dish eaten at Easter and other feasts. It is a quintessentially Egyptian dish that dates back to the time of the pharaohs. It is made with rice, (lots of) garlic, crispy pita bread and a protein of choice – commonly, lamb. 

The word fatteh comes from the Arabic root verb meaning “to break up” or “crush”, referring to the pita bread crumbs that form the bases of all fatteh recipes. 

A similar but distinct dish is found in southern Levant. This Levantine counterpart (fetteh, فتّة), includes ingredients such as chickpea, strained yoghurt and other regional variations, and is a popular breakfast dish.

Rosca de Pascua4. Rosca de Pascua (Argentina)

This is a sweet bread enjoyed at Easter in Argentina. The name literally translates to “ring or bagel of Easter”. Like the name, the bread is shaped into a ring and decorated with cream, fruits, nuts and often, chocolate eggs. 

It is similar to Rosca de Reyes and Galette des Rois, cakes enjoyed at Epiphany in several Spanish and French-speaking countries, respectively (read more about Galette des Rois, “Kings’ cake”, in our New Year traditions blog).

Choreg5. Choreg (Armenia)

(չորեկ), also spelled as “chorek”, “cheoreg”, or “choereg” is an Armenian sweet yeasted bread made at Easter. It is made with flour, butter, yeast, eggs, milk and sugar, and flavoured commonly with mahlab (cherry-based spice), mastic or orange zest. It is often braided using three strands to represent the Holy Spirit

Variations of this bread are found in Greece (τσουρέκι, “tsoureki), Turkey (paskalya çöreği), Romania (cozonac) and Bulgaria (козунак, “kozunak).

Petits Nids de Pâques6. Petits Nids de Pâques (France)

Literally translating to “little Easter nests”, this is a popular delicacy from France. It is a chocolate-based, nest-shaped pastry that brings together the symbolism of eggs at Easter with the decadence of chocolate. It is made with flour, sugar, a raising agent, butter, eggs and cocoa, and is served with chocolate Easter eggs nestled on the top.


Learn more about these delicacies, people and languages with NaTakallam, today! Book a session with one of our Ukrainian, Arabic, Persian, Spanish, French or Armenian language partners from displaced backgrounds, and delve deeper into the world of languages and everything sweet! 

To all learners, language partners, and friends observing this festival Happy Easter – Shchaslyvoho Velykodnya (щасливого Великодня), Eid Fasih Sa’eid (عيد فصح سعيد), Shnorhavor Surb Zatik (Շնորհավոր Սուրբ Զատիկ), Felices Pascuas, Joyeuses Pâques!


– Copywriting: Maria Thomas is a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.
– Copyediting: Emmy Plaschy is a volunteer content writer and editor at NaTakallam. She currently works in communications in Switzerland. In her spare time, she enjoys polishing her Arabic skills, writing and gazing at the stars.

5 Incredible Latin American Feminists You Need To Know

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Blog contributor: Maria Thomas

Women’s History Month or any day of the year, here are 5 Latin American feminists you need to know and celebrate!

1. Frida Kahlo (Mexico, 1907-1954)

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist known for her paintings that explored themes of female subjectivity, sexuality and marginality. Through her highly symbolic canvases, many of which were built around her own self-portraits – for example, Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair, Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird – Kahlo eschewed gender stereotypes and gave voice to often taboo aspects of femininity.

2. Excilia Saldaña (Cuba, 1946-1999)

Excilia Saldaña was an award-winning Cuban essayist, poet, translator, academic and author of children’s books. Her works – including the book, La Noche (‘The Night’), poems such as My Name (A Family Anti Elegy) and short stories like Kele Kele – were very important contributions to the creation and consolidation of a tradition of Afro-Hispanic women writers and artists.

3. Cecilia Vicuña (Chile, 1948-)

Cecilia Vicuña is a Chilean poet and multidisciplinary artist. Her works, which include collections of poems such as Precario/Precarious (1973) and Unravelling Words and Weaving Water (1992), and art installations such as Could-Net and Quipu Menstrual, are grounded in her understanding that the political, environmental and indigenous are inherently connected and must be addressed as such. Also, central to Vicuña’s works are her explorations of the connections between gendered injustice and environmental despoliation.

4. Selva Almada (Argentina, 1973-)

Selva Almada is an Argentinian writer who is considered one of the most powerful voices of contemporary Argentinian and Latin American literature. She is also recognised as one of the most influential feminist intellectuals of the region. Her works, particularly her book,  Dead Girls – originally published originally in Spanish as Chicas Muertas in 2014 – highlight issues such as gendered violence, femicide and the legal inadequacies of Argentinian legal systems in addressing them.

5. Clarice Lispector (Brazil, 1920-1977)

Clarice Lispector was an Ukranian-born Brazillian novelist and short-story writer. Her family fled Western Ukraine to escape the pogroms that followed World War I and the Russian Civil War. Her works written in Portuguese include short story collections such as Laços de família (‘Family Ties’) and Para não esquecer (‘Not to Forget’), and novels such as Perto do coração selvagem (translated and published in English as Near to the Wild Heart), A Paixão segundo G.H. (translated and published in English as The Passion According to G.H.). French feminist writer Hélène Cixous credits her works with “exploring women’s identity with a depth that no one has achieved until now”.

Learn Spanish and explore the worlds of these inspirational women with NaTakallam!

We are a women-led and women-fueled community that offers language sessions in Spanish, among other languages. Our Latin American native language tutors are individuals who have been displaced from countries like Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, and are currently resettled in neighboring countries such as Uruguay, Costa Rica, the United States, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago, and Argentina. 

Brush up your Spanish skills, delve into Latin American cultures and experiences, and celebrate these incredible women, today and everyday!


This piece was contributed by Maria Thomas, a copywriter with NaTakallam. She is currently pursuing her doctoral studies in art history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, powerlifting and going on hikes.

How People Express Laughter in Different Languages

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Laughter is a universal yet culturally-tinted phenomenon. It draws people together and has the power to stimulate physical, emotional, psychological and social changes. Ever wondered how people from different cultures conveyed laughter and humor? Join us as we explore laughter and humor in five different language-cultures!


In Persian, laughter is transcribed as either خخخخخ (khkhkhkhkh), ههههه (hahahahaha), or هاهاهاها (ha ha ha ha). 

Central to Persian popular humor is the figure of Mulla Nasruddin Khodja. Born in Seljuk Sultanate of Rum in the 13th century, Khodja was a philosopher and a wise man who imparted his wisdom through witty jokes and funny tales. A famous Khodja tale that Persian-speakers (and others) chuckled to over generations goes as follows: 

Mulla had lost his ring in the living room. He searched for it for a while, but since he could not find it, he went out into the yard and began to look there. His wife, who saw what he was doing, asked: “Mulla, you lost your ring in the room, why are you looking for it in the yard?” Mulla stroked his beard and said: “The room is too dark and I can’t see very well. I came out to the courtyard to look for my ring because there is much more light out here”.


In Arabic, laughter is written as ههههه (hhhhh or hahahaha), هاهاها (hā hā hā), or even هع هع هع (ha’ ha’ ha’). 

Like Mulla Nasruddin Khodja in the Persian-speaking world, Arabic-speaking countries too have a popular figure who effortlessly combines humor and wisdom. Known as Juha, Djoha, or Goha, this figure first appeared in Al-Jahiz’s 9th-century book “Saying on Mules” (القول في البغال). However, over the centuries, the character of Juha was merged with that of Mulla Nasruddin Khodja. Juha appears in thousands of tales, always witty, sometimes wise, and other times gently absurd – a butt of his own jokes. 

In one story, a man sees Juha across a raging river. “How do I get across?” the man cries. “You are there already!” Juha shouts back.


In Spanish, laughter is expressed as jajajaja (hahahaha). 

The Spanish sense of humor is well encapsulated in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, a mock epic which satirizes early modern obsession with noble knights, ridiculous quests and chivalric attitudes. Published in two parts, in 1605 and 1615, it is considered one of the founding works of western literature. Humor in Don Quixote is subtle but sharp. Cervantes sets his story as follows, before going on to describe the absurd adventures of his titular character:

“En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no hace mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo de los de lanza en astillero, adarga antigua, rocín flaco y galgo corredor.”

(‘‘Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing.’’)


In Armenian, laughter is transcribed as հա հա հա (ha ha ha). 

Humor, in more recent times, has been used by Armenians as a form of resistance and empowerment. The famous Radio Yerevan jokes are an example. Popular in the 20th century, these jokes took a Question & Answer format, mimicking that of popular series on Armenian Radio. 

When asked ‘‘Could an atomic bomb destroy our beloved town, Yerevan, with its splendid buildings and beautiful gardens?’’

Radio Yerevan answered: ‘‘In principle, yes. But Moscow is a far more beautiful city.’’


In French, laughter is often expressed with the initials mdr’ for mort de rire (dying of laughter) – equivalent to LOL in English. 

French humor is celebrated in cartoonist André Franquin’s Gaston, a gag-a-day comic strip first published in 1957 in the comic strip Spirou. The series focuses on the everyday life of Gaston Lagaffe (meaning Gaston “the blunder”), a lazy and accident-prone office junior working at Spirou’s office in Brussels. It is much loved not only for its perfectly timed comedy, but also for its warm outlook on everyday life.

Explore humor and laughter in different languages this New Year with NaTakallam’s native language partners! Sign up for sessions here or spread the laughter (it’s contagious!) with a loved one by gifting a NaTakallam session here – an experience like no other.

Gaston comic visual source:

5 Ways to Say “I Love You” in Spanish

Reading Time: < 1 minutes

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, express your affection to your loved one in one of the most romantic languages in the world – español! Here are 5 fun ways to impress your loved one this Valentine’s.

1. Te quiero

From the verb “querer” (to want), this phrase literally translates to “I want you”, however, within certain contexts, it is also taken to mean “I love you”. It is usually a lighter expression of care and affection compared to “te amo” (I love you), which has a more romantic or intimate connotation and is reserved for a lover.

2. Flechazo

Literally translates to “an arrow shot” – and connotes love at first sight! It is used to refer to the joys and pains of falling in love at the first sight and has no equivalent word/expression in English.

3. Querido/Querida

One of the most common terms of endearment – it’s translated as “darling” or “sweetheart”!

4. Mi reina/rey

Make your Valentine feel extra special – and royal – by calling them “my queen” or “my king”. This term of endearment is also used between platonic friends to mean “darling” or “dude”.

5. ¡Que mono/mona eres!

In Spain, this phrase means something like “you’re so cute”. But if you want to translate it literally, you would be telling your crush: “you’re so monkey”!

Have you ever experienced a “Flechazo”? Fall in love with Español, one of the most romantic languages in the world, with NaTakallam’s unique language learning experience with Latin American tutors from displaced backgrounds.

PS: Still scrambling for a last minute Valentine’s gift? NaTakallam’s Gift of Language is meaningful, shipping-free and will surely surprise your querido/querida!

10 Untranslatable Love Expressions From Different Languages

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Love is a universal language but some days you need a little extra help with expressing your affection to your loved one. Here are our top 10 love expressions in 6 languages.

1. Arabic: Damu-hu/hā khafeef (دمه/ دمها خفيف)
Literally meaning “his/her blood is light”, this expression is used to say that you find someone extremely funny and adorable! Don’t forget that gender matters in Arabic: when referring to a male, use damu-hu khafeef, and for a female, use damu-ha khafeef.

2. Spanish: Eres un bombón
Like the previous expression, this phrase is a way of complimenting a loved one when they look particularly sweet. It literally translates to “you are a bonbon”.

3. French: Mon petit chou (masculine) or Ma choupinette (feminine)
This unique term of endearment can often be confusing. It literally translates to “my little cabbage”! However, you’re not calling your loved one a cabbage here but a “chou” short for ‘chou à la crème’, a sweet French puff pastry!

4. Persian (Farsi): Delam barāt tang shode (دلم برات تنگ شده)
When “I miss you” just isn’t enough, employ this poetic Persian phrase. It literally translates to “my heart has tightened for you”. This expression conveys the physical agony of being separated from a loved one – you miss someone so much that you can’t breathe!

5. Spanish: Me haces mucha falta
Although this Spanish expression is commonly translated as “I miss you”, it has a more heartwarming meaning to it. When broken down, it translates to: you make a big absence in me, or you are lacking from me!

6. French: Retrouvailles
Perhaps more relevant these past two years than ever: the unmatched feeling of joy when finally reunited with a loved one after much time apart – that’s exactly what this untranslatable French word conveys!

7. Kurmanji Kurdish: Kezeb-a min
Go beyond the typical terms of endearment with this Kurmanji expression. Address your loved one – lover, family or friend – with: “kezeb-a min”, literally meaning “my liver”. This expression conveys how vital they are to your life, like the liver to the human body!

8. Arabic: Tuqburnii (تقبرني)

No, we did not mix up our Valentine’s Day and Halloween expression lists! Although this phrase literally means: “you bury me”, it’s used to imply that one would rather die and have you bury them, than live without you! A rather touching expression of love!

9. Persian (Farsi): Doret begardam (دورت بگردم)
Another poetic Persian phrase, this one translates literally to: “let me circle around you”, in effect meaning, “I would do anything for you”. We love the planetary imagery this evokes!

10. Eastern Armenian: Janit mernem (ջանիդ մեռնեմ)
Literally meaning “let me die on/for your body”, this is said to show your profound love and care for someone! A heartwarming expression of love, to be taken metaphorically, of course ;)!


Roses are red, violets are blue, express love in new languages, & meet NaTakallam’s awesome (refugee) language tutors, too! Treat yourself to our unique language lessons or give the Gift of Language to your loved ones, near or far. Available in Arabic, Armenian, English, French, Kurdish, Persian and Spanish.

At NaTakallam, every language session contributes to the livelihoods of our skilled tutors from displaced backgrounds. Learn a language, make a friend, change a life.

10 ways to go beyond a simple “thank you” in different languages

Reading Time: 2 minutes

2020 has been a testing year for us all, to say the least. As a way of expressing our gratitude to all our language learners, language instructors, translators, interpreters, volunteers & team members throughout, here are 10 ways of saying thank you — in Arabic, French, Persian and Spanish!

1. تسلم / تسلمي (Tislam/Tislami)

Coming from the root verb “سلم” or “salama” meaning “to come out safe/healthy”, this phrase means “May you stay safe”, and can be used as a way to thank someone, while literally also wishing well for their health and safety!

2. يعطيك العافية (Ya‘tik al-‘afiya)

Literally translating to “may [God] give you health,” this is a recognition of someone’s hard work and allows you to show your appreciation.

3. Merci de tout coeur (mekh-see dah tu ker)

A heartfelt phrase in French meaning, “thank you with all my heart”.

4. C’est très gentil à toi / vous (seh tkheh jan-tee a twa/voo)

In more formal settings, one might say “that’s very kind of you”. Remember to use “vous” when speaking in a respectful manner! 

5. Daste shomā dard nakone (دست شما درد نکنه )

Never realized how poetic Persian is? This phrase means “may your hand not hurt”, often used when someone gives you a gift or prepares food for you.

6. Ghorbāne shomā (قربان شما )

Literally meaning “your sacrifice”, this is an example of a Persian taarof or an Iranian sign of etiquette and politeness, displaying humility. Read more here for context.

7. Te la/lo debo (te la/lo de-bo)

Spanish for “I owe you” – use this with friends to let them know you’re grateful for them and you got them next time!

8. (Estoy) Muy agradecido/a (ehs-toy muy agra-de-cido/a)

This is a lovely way to say “(I’m) very grateful for you” – another version of “thank you so much”, as the adjective “agradecido” is translated as “grateful”.

9. Mamnoun(t)ak/ek (ممنونك/ممنونتك)

You may hear this Arabic loanword, “mamnoun” or “ممنون”, in Arabic or Persian, as a way to say “thank you” or “I’m grateful to you”.

10. Merci (mekh-see)

Don’t be surprised if you hear “merci”, a common way to say “thank you”, beyond francophone countries, it’s also common in Middle Eastern countries and even Iran!  

Here’s to reaching new language feats in 2021! 

Happy new year, كل سنة وأنتم بخير, Feliz año nuevo, Bonne année, سال نو مبارک, from the NaTakallam family to yours 🙂

P.S. In case you missed our thank you series in the past month, check them here in Arabic, Persian, French and Spanish!

5 ways to express “thank you” in Spanish

Reading Time: 2 minutes 

“Bienvenido/a”! The holidays are (almost) here! As we enter the season of giving and gratitude, let us explore 5 ways of expressing gratitude in Spanish.

1. Gracias (grah-see-ahs)

The most common way to say “thank you” in Spanish can be used anywhere and anytime: from when you receive your “café con leche” at a cafe to when you thank someone for holding the door open. You can also add “muchas” in front of the word to give “many” thanks to someone in all Spanish-speaking countries. Added bonus: try to roll the “r” in the word to sound like a local!

A simple response to this would be “de nada” meaning “you’re welcome” or, literally “from nothing”.

2. (Estoy) Muy agradecido/a (ehs-toy muy agra-de-cido/a)

This is a lovely way to say “(I’m) very grateful” – a more polite version of “thank you so much”. The adjective “agradecido” is translated as “grateful”, and prefacing it with “estoy muy…” will earn you bonus points. Remember to modify masculine “agradecido” to “agradecida” if you’re speaking to a female!

3. Eres un sol (eres un sol)

This is slang-Spanish so make sure to read the room first! “Eres un sol” literally means “you are a sunshine” and by calling this person “the sun” or “sunshine” you are thanking them for something. For example, if you give your Spanish-speaking friend a gift, you may receive a flattering “eres un sol”, similar to the English endearment “you’re a doll”.

4. Eres recapo/a (eres reh-capo/a)

Anyone looking to head to Argentina once travel eases again? This is a term used by Argentines to mean “You’re the best” when you want to go beyond just “gracias”.

Did you know, the “acento argentino” or Argentine accent of Spanish is influenced by Italian, due to large waves of Italian immigration to Argentina in the 19th & 20th centuries? You may even hear Argentinians use the word “chao”, to mean “bye” – derived from the Italian “ciao”!

5. Te la/lo debo (te la/lo de-bo)

Spanish for “I owe you” – instead of responding with a simple “gracias” if your friend buys you tickets to see “un partido de fútbol”, or “a football game”, you can say “te la/lo debo” to let them know you got them next time.

Now, want to put these tips into practice? “¡Vámonos!” Let’s go…

Book a language session herewith one of our native Spanish language partners or gift a conversation here, to a loved one – near or far.

5 Spanish Words With Arabic Origins

Reading Time: 3 minutes

We have all learned and witnessed how languages evolve over time and geography. The roots of a language are often tied to their region of origin, their birthplace so to speak. The European Romance languages such as French, Spanish and Italian evolved from Latin while the Semitic languages such as Arabic, Amharic and Hebrew all originated in the modern day Middle East. 

That said, languages are full of complexity, often interacting in dynamic and organic ways. For instance, traveling through Spain, it is near impossible to avoid local vocabulary and names derived from… Arabic! The influence of Arabic on Spanish language (and culture!) largely originates from Muslim rule in the Iberian Peninsula between 711 and 1492 AD.

Because the origins of words can be fascinating… Here are our top five Spanish words borrowed from Arabic!

1. Almohada / المخدة

Has indoor time and chilly fall weather got you snuggling up more these days? Spanish speakers owe their good night’s sleep to Arabic! Almohada comes from المخدة (al-mikhadda), meaning cushion or pillow – and potentially one of our favorite quarantine objects. And it inspired Palestinian writer Mourid Barghouti’s beautiful poem.

2. Jirafa / زرافة

According to Oxford Languages, the earliest recorded origin of the word “giraffe” – “girafe” in French” and “jirafa” in Spanish – is actually from Arabic, زرافة (“zarafa)”, which roughly translates to “fast walker” – nothing to do with its height nor its distinctively long neck!

3. Mezquino / مسكين

Did you know the Spanish word “mezquino” meaning “stingy” or “petty” is derived from Arabic’s مسكين (miskeen) meaning “poor” or “miserly”? Si! The Arabic word itself is a loanword from Akkadian, the oldest known Semitic language, spoken in ancient Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq).

4. Ojalá / إن شاء الله

“Ojalá”, which means “hopefully” or “let’s hope so”, comes from the Arabic phrase “inshallah”, which means “God-willing” and is also used in Arabic to reflect the hope that something will happen. Nowadays, it is used by all Arabic speakers, regardless of faith groups.

5. Barrio / بري

The word “barrio”, meaning neighborhood, actually originates from the #Arabic word “بري” (barriy) which refers to the outside or the exterior. This year we’ve definitely learned to love and value both barrio and بري a whole lot more than earlier!

Fascinated by etymology and languages? Look no further. With NaTakallam, pick up Spanish and/or Arabic with our native tutors from displaced and refugee backgrounds! Sign up here.