'Hob': the Arabic word for love has a lot of heart

While the root form of the word is sparsely used, hob's derivatives are sprinkled generously in most people’s daily vocabulary

Hob is the Arabic word for love, but can be used in many contexts.
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The Arabic word for love has a strong presence in colloquial use. We’d be remiss not to cover it in our weekly Arabic word column, especially with Valentine's Day around the corner.

Hob means love. While the root form of the word is sparsely used, its derivatives crop up regularly in most people’s daily vocabulary.

The most common of these is habib, meaning beloved or darling. It can be used romantically or even between close friends. In possessive form, the word becomes habibi for males and habibti for females.

Try to refrain from using habibi too gratuitously, because the word will lose its intimate connotation if you call everyone that. Refer to it only when addressing those in your innermost circle.

Only use 'habibi' or 'habibti' with your closest friends and loved ones. Imam Muhaimin / Unsplash

Want to announce your love head on? “I love you” would be bahibak for males and bahibik for females. In classical Arabic, the phrase becomes uhibuka or uhibuki, which does add an air of formality but would also make you sound like a character in the dubbed soap operas of yore.

However, the classical form of the phrase is routinely used in Arabic music, particularly with the songs of Kazem El Saher, such as Quli Uhibbuka (Say I Love You), which was adapted from a poem by Nizar Qabbani.

In fact, much Arabic pop is almost an index of hob’s derivates, from Wael Kfouri’s Law Hubna Ghalat (If Our Love is Wrong) to Ahlam’s Thebahk El Hob (Love Killed You) and Hussein El Jasmi’s Ma Behibik (I Don’t Love You).

Hob also has non-romantic uses: hob el uzri is platonic love; mitl ma bithib/bithibi translates to “as you wish"; hob el marifa is love for knowledge; and hob sadeq is honest love, as compared to hob maslaha, which is a love with ulterior motives.

Finally, there is the love for the self, which translates to hob el zat.

Updated: February 11, 2022, 6:03 PM
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