'Aamal': Arabic word for work touches on art, good deeds and festering wounds

The word is as versatile as its English counterpart

Aamal can refer to someone’s job – wadhifa – as well as a handcraft – aamal yadiwiya – or workshop – warshat aamal.
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Aamal is the Arabic word for work, but it can depict someone’s treatment of others as much as it does their profession.

The word is as versatile as its English counterpart. It can refer to someone’s job — wadhifa — or profession — mihna — as well as a handcrafted artwork — aamal yadiwiya — or workshop — warshat aamal.

In its noun form, aamal becomes aamel: worker.

For work done meticulously, you could say amala amalan salehan or sayean, and it can refer to anything from floral arrangements to car repairs. For work poorly executed, you could say amala amalan sayye'an. Amala binashat is work done energetically.

Amal can also mean do, as in a bored or troubled “what are we going to do?” — mal amal? — or in a colloquial expression: "Shu rah naamol?"

Shu rah taamol/taamoli is" “What are you going to do?”

Aamal khairiyya is charity work. Amal ijtimaa'i is social work. Amal jama'i is a collaborative effort. Aamal tijariyya is trade. Aamal sinaa'iyya is manufacturing. Aamal ziraa'iyya is agricultural work. Aamal manziliyya are house chores. Amal fanni is an artwork.

Amal layli is the night shift at work. Amal mu'aqqat is temporary work. Amal nisfi is a part-time job. Jadwal aamal is a business agenda. Maktab aamal is an office. Wizarat al aamal is the Ministry of Labour.

Muaamaleh sayyi'a is a mistreatment. Amala jirih is when a wound festers. Muamaleh jayyida is fair treatment. Aamalahu/aamaluha bilmethel is when a person treats someone as they are being treated.

Finally, an idiom or two.

Eamal kheiran wa kibbo belbahr means do a good deed and “throw it out to sea”, not expecting anything in return.

Ajalat el haz la yadfa'uha illa al aamal, which translates to the wheel of fortune, is only pushed by work.

Scroll through the gallery below to see The National's other Arabic words of the week

Updated: July 01, 2022, 6:02 PM