Eight Ways to Say “to Die” in Arabic

The Dead Sea, Jordan

وَفاة

root: و-ف-ي / noun / plural: وَفَيات / definition: death


There’s life… and there’s death. And we have to know how to talk about both in Arabic. So I thought I’d compile a (non-exhaustive) list of words and phrases we can use to talk about the latter.

(On a side note: a pat on the back for my subconscious as, when I chose the photo at the top of the post, I hadn’t made any conscious connection between what was in it and today’s topic… it’s the Dead Sea. Obviously a part of my brain is always working behind the scenes to add more coherence to my blog than I can consciously process!)

So let’s take a look at our little list of synonyms that can be used to mean “to die”:

ماتَ / يَموتُ

Here’s the verb most commonly associated with “to die”.

It’s a hollow form I verb (i.e. the middle root letter is weak) from the root م-و-ت.

تُوُفِّيَ / يُتَوَفّى

تُوُفِّيَ—as I remember learning during my undergrad—is considered a euphemistic version of the one above, similar to the English “to pass away”.

It’s a form V passive verb from the root و-ف-ي, which is both assimilated (its first root letter is weak) and defective (its third root letter is weak).

لَقِيَ / يَلقَى حَتْفَهُ

This phrase literally means “to encounter / meet death”.

The verb is form I, from the defective root ل-ق-ي. The noun, حتف, is the object of the verb and therefore منصوب.

لَقِيَ / يَلقى رَبَّهُ

This phrase contains the same verb as the previous one, and literally translates as “to meet his Lord”.

اِنتَقَلَ / يَنتَقِلُ إلى رَحمَةِ الله

انتقل is an intransitive form VIII verb from the root ن-ق-ل meaning “to move / pass”.

As a whole, the phrase means “to pass into God’s mercy”.

وافاهُ / يُوافيهِ الأَجَلُ

In this phrase, we have the form III verb وافى / يوافي (from the same root as توفّي, i.e. و-ف-ي) which means “to come to someone”.

Attached to the verb is an object pronoun—above, this is ـه, “him”.

And then we have the subject of the verb, الأجل, which can be translated as “appointed time”.

So, the phrase literally means “his appointed time came to him”.

حَضَرَهُ / يَحضُرُهُ المَوتُ

This one is semantically similar to the one above.

We first have the form I verb حضر, “to come to”.

Then the object pronoun.

Then the subject, الموت, “death”.

Together: “death came to him”.

قَضى / يَقضي نَحبَهُ

And in our last phrase on the list, we encounter another defective verb. This time, it’s the form I قضى from the root ق-ض-ي, with the meaning (among many) of “to complete”.

نَحب is the object here, and has the meaning of “time (period)”. So قضى نحبه means “he completed his time”.

It’s interesting to note that the noun نَحب comes from the same root as نَحيب, “wailing / lamenting”!

And there we have it, another list in our synonyms series!

I also had the realisation whilst writing the post that وفاة (“death”) comes from the same root as وفى / يفي (“to fulfil a promise”). The only thing we’re all promised is the fact we’re going to die one day, and death is simply a fulfilment of that “promise”!

I hope this post wasn’t too morbid—it’s all about building up that lexicon—so chin up, and see you soon!

.في أمان الله



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