'Na’eeman': the Arabic word for blessings - after a shower or haircut

Common yet unique, the expression is used to congratulate and to bless

The National's Arabic word of the week is an idiomatic expression used when someone has had a shower or bath, a haircut or had their beard trimmed.
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For this week’s Arabic word, we've chosen a very common phrase that seems to have no equivalent in any other language.

Na’eeman, used for males and females, is an idiomatic expression used in three particular instances: when one has had a shower or bath; when one has had a haircut; or when one has had his beard trimmed.

The phrase is used to congratulate the recipient on their clean state or fresh look.

The root of the word comes from naeem, which means bliss or paradise. This also adds more layers to the meaning and usage of the phrase.

With the root meaning of the word in mind, Na’eeman also implies well wishes to the recipient that their experience during their shower, bath or haircut was a blissful and pleasant one. It also reinforces the notion that being more hygienic, or having improved your appearance after a haircut, is a blessing for you.

While Naeem can be used to describe a mental or spiritual state of existence, adding the "an" at the end of the word changes its use to only ever be applicable to these three particular instances where one is “transformed”.

It’s common for na’eeman to be used among acquaintances and friends, but the phrase is used more often for family members and loved ones — since you're more likely to see them straight after a shower or bath at home.

When one is a recipient of the phrase na’eeman, a sufficient response would be "shukran", meaning “thank you".

However, to equal the sentiment and intention of na’eeman, the ideal response would be “Allah Yen’am alayk” for males or “Allah Yen’am alayki” for females. The literal meaning of this response is “may God bless you” or “may God return the blessing on to you”.

Much like using the expression “bless you” after someone sneezes or “cheers” after a toast has been made, na’eeman has no origin or reference to religion, but has become such a common idiom and set phrase in the Arabic language that it has become a part of dialects across the region.

Legendary Egyptian singer and actress Leila Mourad had a popular song Na’eeman Ya Habiby which translates to Na’eeman my Love.

The song was from the 1950 romantic musical The Shores of Love, where Mourad plays a character also named Leila, a penniless, beautiful singer who falls in love with Adel, a rich bachelor from a well-known upper-class family played by Husain Sidqi.

Mourad sings the words Na’eeman Ya Habiby and other iterations of the phrase to Adel after they marry, despite his family’s schemes to separate them. Even though Mourad’s character serenades Adel after he showers, shaves and while he gets ready for work, the phrase is used also as a blessing to protect him and their marriage from anyone who means to cause them harm.

The lyrics of Na’eeman Ya Habiby are by celebrated Egyptian poet and writer Salah Jawdat, while the melody was composed by Mohamed Alqasbijee, who is widely regarded as one of the 20th century's leading Egyptian composers.

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

Updated: August 26, 2022, 6:02 PM