‘Hayba’: Arabic word for prestige has many meanings

Not to be confused with similar words, in essence it is more elusive to define

Hayba is the Arabic word for prestige.
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It wouldn’t be accurate to translate the Arabic word of the week, hayba, to simply mean prestige. The word encompasses many facets of the positive connotations connected with prestige.

High status, good standing, a respected stature, hayba in its essence is an intangible quality, a presence someone possesses, great dignity without a trace of arrogance.

While having a respected status in society through one’s position or profession can contribute to a sense of hayba, it is actually more elusive than that. Having hayba can be in the way one carries oneself, whether through a commanding physical presence or through a calm, elegant and respectful way of speaking and interacting with others.

The word can also be used as an adverb to describe, for example, how someone addresses a crowd in a speech, or faces a challenge, or carries themselves publicly in the midst of controversy.

While the word pride is often associated with hayba, it is a misconception that the two share any commonality.

A negative facet of pride is having a warped or irrational sense of one’s own ego, value, status or accomplishment. Someone who is proud can be unmoving or unyielding in their position, blinded by their own sense of self.

Having hayba is more about projecting an authentic sense of dignity and respect through one’s actions and presence. It is also unlikely that someone who possesses the hayba to also be light-hearted or jovial.

However, someone who does possess a more extroverted personality or is a comedian by nature can come from a family that has a lot of hayba, meaning their family is one that is respected and known for their honourable conduct in the community.

Another misperception is that a family or an individual that is wealthy is one that has hayba. This is not true. Hayba is not associated with money in the same way that someone who becomes rich doesn’t automatically gain class or dignity.

Al Hayba is a popular Arabic series starring Taim Hassan which explores the idea of hayba through the dignified standing of two powerful families at war with each other. Set on the Lebanese-Syrian border, the brooding series follows the Sheikh Al Jabal family, who control the smuggling routes between the two countries.

When Alia, played by Nadine Nassib Njeim, and her young son visit the family of her recently deceased husband’s native village, the Sheikh Al Jabal family expect her to marry her brother-in-law in order to protect her and the family’s legacy.

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

Updated: October 21, 2022, 6:02 PM
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