Reading Arabic Literature: Vocabulary Finds


root: ص-ف-ح / noun / plural: صَفَحات / definition: a page

I brought so many books with me to university and I really thought I’d be spending a lot more time reading Arabic literature during this degree. Alas, my novels have been banished to the dark corner underneath my desk for around two months now.

Two days ago though, I sat myself down with موسم الهجرة إلى الشمال (which we previously looked at in our literature translations) and actually read a chapter. So I thought I’d share with you some of my vocab finds…

لا حيلة لي

لا حِيلةَ لي means “I am in no position to (do anything)” or “there’s nothing I can do”.

It’s also an example of the absolute negation, hence the fatha on حيلة.


أَصقاء is the plural form of صُقع, which can mean “area”, “land”, or “country”.

It comes from the same root as صَقيع (“frost”) and the dictionary tells us that الأصقاع المُتَجَمِّدة الجُنوبيّة means “the Antarctic”—not relevant in this context, but interesting nonetheless.

بمحض إرادته

بِمَحضِ إرادَتِه means “entirely of his own will”.

The components are the preposition بِـ plus مَحض (“pure” or “mere”) in an إضافة construction with إرادته (“his will”).

تشرئب بأعناقها

تَشرَئِبُّ بأعناقها means “to crane their necks”—we learnt this one in Wehr Wednesdays #68 but I just couldn’t resist finding a way to add a quadriliteral to this post.

اِشرَأَبّ / يَشرَئِبّ is a form IV quadriliteral verb from the root ش-ر-ء-ب.


أَزِفَ / يَأزَفُ is a form I verb from the root ء-ز-ف meaning “(for a time) to come” or “to draw near”.

Here, ساعة الرحيل قد أزِفَت means “the time to depart has come”.

في حلّي وترحالي

في حَلّي وتَرحالي means “in everything I did”.

Literally: “in my coming/settling and my departure”—a bit like the phrase “comings and goings”, maybe?

أتوسم فيه الخير

أَتَوَسَّمَ فيهِ الخَير means “I have great hopes in him” or “I expect a lot of good from him”.

توسّم / يتوسّم is a form V verb meaning “to look at/regard someone” or “to scrutinise”.

So there’s the little collection of vocab I noted from the chapter. I think next semester I’ll have more time to read—no, actually… I’ll have to read more literature next semester, seeing as that’s what my dissertation is all about. So perhaps there will be more posts like this soon!

Don’t forget to check out last week’s post where I share a great resource for those interested in Arabic dialects, and I’ll see you soon.

!إلى اللقاء

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