Reading Arabic Literature: Snippets From This Week


root: س-ب-ع / noun / plural: أَسابيع / definition: week

Conveniently for this reading literature series, I’ve just started Arabic literature classes at university this term—which means lots more reading for me and lots more vocabulary for these posts!

We’re using the book “Advanced Arabic Literary Reader” for these lessons, which I listed and talked about as one of the Arabic Books on My (ever-expanding) Bookshelf.

This week, we went through an extract of a short story collection called فراولة وكعك وشكولاتة (Strawberry, cake, and chocolate) by Samia Mustafa Ayyash.

Here are some of the interesting/unfamiliar vocabulary I came across while reading:


لاكَ / يَلوكُ—from the root ل-و-ك—means “to chew”.

In this context, it’s being used metaphorically, with تَلوكُ الدَمعَ literally meaning “you chew tears”.

(You can see from my pencilled-in question mark that I wasn’t sure about the translation in this context until our teacher confirmed it in class—metaphors can have you questioning the dictionary!)

القاطرة دما

So this one was interesting.

القاطِرة is an active participle describing the noun الصور (“images”, which was in the line above). It’s derived from the form I verb قَطَرَ / يَقطُرُ meaning “to trickle/drip”. So قاطِر means “trickling”.

دَم means “blood”, and the reason it’s منصوب (in accusative case) here is because it’s التمييز—i.e. it’s specifying in what way the images were “trickling” (another metaphor).

So القاطرة دماً means “trickling (with) blood”.


تَشَبَّثَ / يَتَشَبَّثُ is a form V verb from the root ش-ب-ث meaning “to cling/hold on”, usually followed by بـ to give the meaning of clinging on to something.

بـ and في are used interchangeably a lot, so consider that in this context: تشبّث فيك means “he clung onto you”.

(Note: for a reminder of the verb forms, take a look at this table!)


This one sort of sounds like what it means—maybe it’s the weak letter at the end making it feel like you’re slipping into sleep.

غَفا / يَغفو is a form I verb meaning “to doze off” or “fall asleep”.


تَحَسَّسَ / يَتَحَسَّسُ is a form V verb from the root ح-س-س which means “to feel/grope/reach around for”.

So يتحسّسها means “he feels around for it”.

I had to look this verb up when reading the text even though the word itself was familiar to me. I was thinking of its other definition—“to perceive”—when I read it, and that just didn’t fit the context.


عُنفُوان comes from the same root as the noun عُنف (“violence”), and it means “prime” or “bloom”.

The Hans Wehr gives us the phrase في عنفوان شبابه under this word, meaning “in the prime of his youth”.

جلت بعيني

جُلتُ is the first person, singular, past tense conjugation of the form I verb جالَ / يَجولُ, meaning “to roam” or “wander”.

Then we have the preposition بِـ (“with”) and then a dual noun with a possessive suffix, عَينَيَّ (“my (two) eyes”).

Together جُلت بعيني means “I roamed with my eyes”, or we could say “my eyes roamed”.

These certainly weren’t the only unfamiliar/interesting words/phrases I came across in the extract—but this post would be way longer if I actually crammed in all the words I had to look up while reading!

I have to say, the metaphorical style of this particular piece definitely didn’t help with comprehension as you end up second-guessing even the words you know because they don’t seem to “fit” the context that you find them in.

Anyway, I’m definitely enjoying these classes and feel so happy to be reading literary texts in class—and we have the chance to do our own creative writing in Arabic too which is super exciting!

Don’t forget to check out the first post in this series, as well as all of the literature translation posts if you want to explore the literary side of the language a bit more.

!إلى اللقاء

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