Every language has its slang and when you use it, the natives are definitely impressed. Egyptian language is extremely rich with idioms and street expressions. We are going to introduce a few of the common expressions with their meaning and how to use them.
To avoid any misunderstanding, the expressions will be marked VS “very slang” and S “slang” according to the degree of informality. For example, an expression that’s marked VS shouldn’t be used with a banker or your teacher.
1- ماشي S /mashy/: this means “ok” or “yes”. It literally means “walking” or “going” and the latter is used in English as well to say that things are ok. “How’s everything?” “Going!” But “mashy” is somehow different: “Would you like some tea?” “Mashy.”
2- كبر دماغك VS /kabbar demaghak/: it means “ don’t bother” but it literally says “enlarge your head”. Head in this expression means “mind” and enlarge means “expand or broaden”. So “broaden your mind” or “kabbar demaghak” is a piece of advice for you to rise above the given issue and not to give it much attention.
3- قشطة VS /eshta/ : this word means “great” and it’s used for agreeing on something. If your friend says “let’s meet up this weekend” you can simply reply by قشطة if you like the idea. What the word really means is “cream”. Yes, you can go to the supermarket to buy some قشطة.
4- استابينا VS /esta bena/: also meaning “great” or “agreed”. And if you are familiar with the Italian and Spanish languages, you can tell that it sounds very similar to “sta bene” or “esta bien” which have almost the same meaning in both languages. This expression is old and you’re very likely to hear it in the black and white Egyptian movies. I believe it’s very fun to use as it brings back beautiful memories.
5- انجز VS /engez/: this is one of the coolest words and it means “hurry up”. What’s fun about this word is that it literally means “achieve” and that actually makes sense; when you’re in a hurry, you need to “achieve” as much as you can in a short time. So next time your friend is slow but you really need to go, you just yell at them “engez!!!” or “Achieve!! We have to go.”
6- بشويش S /beshweish/: softly and slowly. You use it to ask someone to slow down while talking or doing anything fast/ hard. The word itself is not a real word I think. However, one of the explanations I read stated that it comes from the word وشوشة washwasha that means “whispering” and of course we all know that to whisper is to speak softly and in a very low voice or “beshweish”.
7- أي كلام S /ay kalam/: it means nonsense, of a bad quality or trivial. When you’re talking to someone but they’re not making any sense or you feel they’re lying, you use this expression “He’s saying ay kalam.” Or if you buy a product of a very bad quality you say “This phone is ay kalam”. The expression accurately means “any words”.
8- جدع S /gadda/: This is one of my favourite words and I don’t think it has an equivalent in any other language. It plainly means “reliable”, although, this is really unfair to the word. You know that superhero who you find whenever you’re in need; that angel who’s ready to help anyone in the street, at work, in a supermarket, in a different country or any other situation you can think of. We call that person “gadda”.
IH Cairo Teacher