Lexical similarities between Greek and Levantine Arabic

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One of the reasons I choose Levantine as the variety of Arabic I wanted to study, aside from my fascination with Lebanon as a francophone, and the widespread intelligibility of the language due to Lebanese media, was the interaction since ancient times between the Levant as it’s traditionally understood today (Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Cyprus, Israel) and the wider historical Levant, essentially the eastern Mediterranean including Egypt and Greece.

Yes, what I'm saying is essentially Mr. Robot is the human embodiment of the Levant
Yes, what I’m saying is essentially Mr. Robot is the human embodiment of the wider Levant.  Seriously, Google Rami Malek.

Now of course in almost no case of extended contact between two language groups does either language emerge completely uninfluenced by the other (hell, the entire Balkan Sprachbund is a testament to the power of areal influence among languages, in that case grammatically rather than lexically) and Greek and Levantine Arabic are no exception (though I’d guess that the proximal cause of most of these similarities are borrowings into Greek through Turkish from Levantine Arabic during the time of the Ottoman Empire).

I’m sure a more in-depth study, ideally done by someone with much more knowledge of Levantine Arabic than I currently have, would yield even more similarities, not just in the area of vocabulary but also in syntactic and grammatical features.  Somebody, please do that.  Any takers?  No?  Fine, I guess I’ll have to do it myself…one day.

For today, however, and with my A2-on-a-good-day level of Levantine, here are some examples of words and turns of phrase shared between the two groups:


Levantine Arabic

جيبة (zheebe)


τσέπη (tsepi)



شنته،شنتاية (shanta, shantaya)

τσάντα (tsanda)


Grocery store

بقال (ba’ael [bagal,baqal in some dialects])

μπακάλικο (bakaliko)


Ice cream (Ar.), frigid (Gr.)

بوضه (buuZa)

μπούζι (buuzi)


And this one, courtesy of TeamMaha, and actually also Egyptian Arabic:

“You messed up”

خربت الدنية (kharrabt id-dinye)

بوّظت الدنيا (bawaZt ed-dunya) in Egyptian

χάλασες τον κόσμο (xalases ton kosmo)

Both of these phrases have the same word-for-word translation (“you broke the world”) and a similar metaphorical meaning (“you’ve ruined everything” in the case of Arabic, “you’re making a big deal” in the case of Greek unless it’s used in the intransitive in which case the meaning is very close to “everything is ruined”).

A-A-ron بوّظت الدنيا
A-A-ron بوّظت الدنيا

This last example is maybe the most interesting to me, as it speaks to not just a commonality of vocabulary but of metaphorical extension, which can, though it doesn’t always, indicate certain shared cultural referents in the background of the languages in question.

One thing you’ll have noticed is that all the influences I’ve pointed out are monodirectional — the direction is always from Arabic to Greek (with a stop in Turkish).  I’d like to see if there are any examples of the reverse, borrowings into Levantine from Greek.  Any Arabic etymologists out there who can help a brother out?

So there you are, a (very) brief introduction into the admittedly limited but intriguing world of Arabic influence on Greek (and maybe vice-versa?).  More to come as my Levantine studies progress, and hopefully others chime in.

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