Egyptian Arabic Dictionary

Quick search

Search for:  

Other stories...

awy... alif or qaf?

A visitor to the web site contacted me recently to point out a mistake: the Egyptian arabic word 'awy, which means 'very', was spelt 'awi أوي, and he said that it should be spelt 'awi قـَوي.

For people from Cairo, the two are pronounced the same: both 'a أ and ' ق are pronounced as a gluttal stop. Does it really make a difference, then? I asked a friend from Cairo. "Of course it makes a difference!" he said. "If you write it with a qaf, people will think that you are a bit strange". He went on to say that Qawi قـَوي is used only as an adjective meaning 'strong'. I asked several other people from Cairo and Hurghada, and they all insisted that awy is spelt with an alif

I checked all of the dictionaries from Cameron (1895) to Stevens and Sallib (2004), and they all say that it's spelt with a qaf. Could they all be wrong?

There is an easy way to find the answer to all this: ask somebody from upper Egypt. They pronounce a qaf as a g, not as a gluttal stop. I asked my neighbour's doorman, who comes from Qina (or gina, as he says it), and he said gawy.

So the dictionaries are (or at least were) right- the word was spelt with a qaf, and in upper Egypt they still spell it that way. But language changes all the time- usually so slowly that nobody notices- and it is clear that as far as Cairenes are concerned, 'awy is now spelt with an alif-hamza.

Mike Green 04May2014

Other stories...

Main Features

Download apps and documents

Learn arabic writing: An easy, online introduction to learning arabic writing

Grammar A comprehensive summary of Egyptian Arabic grammar

Word of the day


Dictionary formats...

Online: use it on any computer, tablet or phone that has a web browser

Android app that you can use wherever you are: no internet connection needed.

Apps for Windows, MAC OS/X, Linux

iOS: apps for iPhone and iPad

Kindle eBooks for dictionary, thesaurus and grammar

PDF: dictionary, thesaurus and grammar

Other info...

What's new: updates to the apps and web site

About the dictionary

Contact us with comments or suggestions

New word: Suggest a word that you think we should add


Privacy policy

Links to other useful sites