'Sana': Arabic word for year is filled with good wishes

The term crops up in all manner of common expressions, including to wish someone good health for years to come

As we approach New Year's Eve, sana is the Arabic word for year
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With the year ending, this is a good opportunity to unpack sana, as well as the good wishes that spring from it.

Sana is Arabic for year. In its plural form, the word becomes sineen or sanawat.

Sana al baseeta is the common year, with 365 days, as opposed to leap years, or sana kabisa, which contains an additional day in February to keep the calendar year synchronised with the astronomical or seasonal year.

The lunar year is sana al qamriya. Here the monthly cycles of the moon’s phases are used to segment the calendar. The Islamic Hijri calendar (Al Taqweem al Hijri) is a lunar calendar, but even the Gregorian, a solar calendar system, can trace its origins back to lunar calendars.

The solar year is sana shamsiya, the time it takes for the sun to return to the same position in the Earth sky, signalling a full cycle of the seasons. The solar year is also known as a tropical year, or sana madariya. The four seasons, meanwhile, or al fusool al arbea, are: al khareef (autumn), al shitaa (winter), al rabee (spring) and al saif (summer).

Returning to the stars, light years are known as sanawat dawiya.

As you may be bracing yourself for the new year (raas al sana) with resolve, or are simply looking forward to quietly marking the end of this one, we look at a few good wishes you can pass to friends and family; these phrases vary in regional dialects but have the same spirit of meaning.

“Koul sana ou antom bi alf kheir” is a pretty common one and wishes a person good health for years to come. “A’baal koul sana” is a wish that every year ahead will be radiant. “Inshallah bikoon al sana kheir aleikon” is a wish that the year is filled with goodness.

A less cheerful expression is “sana wara sana al yown a’m biyimdi,” or “year after year, the day is going by”.

The word can also be found in all sorts of common expressions. “Kam sana sar omrak?” is a way of asking someone’s age. “Kam sana mish shaifeen ba’d?” or “How long has it been since we last saw each other?”

Finally, a poem by Nizar Qabbani. He writes to his loved one on the night of the new year:

“Illa habibati fi raas al sana. Shukran lianaki adkhaltani al madrasa, wa shukran lianaki alamtani abjadiyat al ishq, wa shukran lianaki qabilti an takooni habibati.”

"To my loved one on the new year. Thank you for admitting me to school. Thank you for teaching me the alphabet of passion. Thank you for agreeing to be my loved one."

Updated: December 30, 2022, 6:02 PM