What Does Ahlan wa Sahlan Mean? (Origins & Meaning)

Photo of author
Written By Jessica Knight

Founder of Linguatics. Passionate multilinguist.

As it’s one of the most commonly used greetings throughout Arabic-speaking countries, chances are you will have heard Ahlan wa sahlan  أَهْلًا وَسَهْلًا on more than one occasion!

But what does Ahlan wa Sahlan mean?

The books will tell you it suffices for “welcome” or you may have deduced that it’s used for “hello”. But, as with most classical Arabic, it has a deeper sentiment behind it.

The eloquence that Arabic is known for means that many simple translations hold a beautiful significance.

So whilst Ahlan wa sahlan does generally mean “welcome” and is accepted as such at face value there is far much more to it than that.

Scroll on to get the low down behind these three Arabic words, understand their true worth, and learn a few ways to greet modern-day locals in their slang forms.

So What Does Ahlan wa Sahlan Mean?

Ahlan wa Sahlan is a high form of greeting despite its frequent use.

To fully get to grips with what Ahlan wa sahlan  أَهْلًا وَسَهْلًا means, we have to look at the root words, the FusHa from which it is constructed.

So let’s break it down!

Ahlan أهلاً – comes from the word ahl, this word refers to a person’s immediate and extended family or “people”. When it has the suffix ‘an’ then it pertains to you, so your family. This implies you are with your family or people.

Read  12 Ways to Say How Are You in Arabic & Responses

In reality, it is a far older word that describes a type of kinship, when used in the context of a greeting, you are telling the person that they’re among family and welcome here.

The root of the word Sahlan سهلاً is the word sahl, which in modern days translates to easy or simple. The classical root refers to the lay of the land; flat terrain that is easy to dwell in.

The addition of the ‘an’ (the tanween) makes the verb a “Locative adverb” so the meaning changes again to something more along the lines of “within the dwelled land”.

It even equates in some sense to a beautiful garden. But in the sense of this greeting, Ahlan wa sahlan means that the difficult part of the journey is over and you can rest in an easy place where you will not be treated as an outsider as you are in your own dwelled land.

Once upon a time, people traveled long distances over rugged and steep terrain often without bumping into many travelers along the way. On the occasions that they did, they could be met with hostility by nomadic peoples.

In these times to hear those three words Ahlan wa sahlan  أهلاَ وسَهْلاَ  was the hope of every traveler that came upon a group of people.

Ahlan wa Sahlan comes from a longer traditional phrase halalta ahlan wa nazalta sahlan.

This is a bit more in-depth but without bombarding you with too much information means you have come to a people who will treat you as kin, and have arrived in a place that is smooth and plain.

Read  Days Of The Week In Arabic & How to Say Them (Full Guide)

The sentiment of the greeting isn’t a unique concept. We quite often say make yourself at home to a guest, some of us English speakers even adopt the Spanish saying; mi casa is su casa.

The promise of a friendly and relaxed visit is the nicest way to be received into someone’s home. It is always good to know your presence isn’t going to be a burden.

Responding to Ahlan wa Sahlan

The typical reply for Ahlan wa sahlan when speaking to a male is ahlan bik أهلاًبيك. This changes to ahlan biki أهلاًبيكي for a female, and ahlan biikum أهلاً بيكم in the plural form.

In a simple sense, it means hello but implies “good to be here” or “great to see you”.

Again with the word Ahlan and what you now know you are on a deeper level acknowledging the feeling of being family with this person also.

Levantine Arabic dialects will often use ahleen as an informal response the vowel sound change emphasizes the sentiment and is almost like saying well “I’m welcoming you twice as much”.

So listen out as you may hear this endearing expression from a Lebanese or Syrian speaker.

Vernacular Versions of Ahlan wa Sahlan

In a formal setting among friends, you will likely only hear Ahlan أهلا the shortened version is used. A bit like how you might hear youths yell bro or fam as a greeting today!

If Ahlan wa sahlan is treated as “hello” then you might say Ahlan is a more casual “hi” or “hey”.

Another shortened vernacular version of Ahlan is Hala (هلا) it is a common slang greeting in some of the eastern dialects such as Levantine and Iraqi.

Read  Best Way to Learn Arabic - 10 Expert Tips

You may hear it used twice, Hala Hala and even Hala Wallah هلا والله in Gulf dialects which means “hi there welcome”

What Does Ahlan wa Sahlan Mean? – Video Guide

Final Thoughts

Despite its everyday use and simple translation, as with the majority of Arabic phrases, Ahlan wa sahlan أَهْلًا وَسَهْلًا holds a deeper significance.

At a glance, Ahlan wa Sahlan is a greeting that means hello and is used to welcome people

The etymology and origins of Ahlan wa sahlan أَهْلًا وَسَهْلًا may seem heavy going, but if you have made it this far you will hopefully understand what Ahlan wa sahlan means on a greater level.

If you hear it out and about you can rest assured knowing that you are with family, so take it easy!

Want a simpler way to learn Arabic? Check out our comprehensive guide on the best apps for learning Arabic.

Similar Articles:

How to Say – Good Night in Arabic

How to Say – I Love You in Arabic

How to Say – Hello in Arabic