Emirates Literature Foundation Blog (ELF)

Happy World Dictionary Day! Here Are Some Of Our Favourite Words

By: Emirates Literature Foundation

When it's tough to pick just one

Here at the Emirates Literature Foundation, we're a big fan of books. When we're not organising and attending one of our many book clubs, or reviewing our latest reads, we're putting together lists of recommendations to help other book lovers find their next literary obsession. So it probably comes as no surprise that we each have a favourite word; one we just love above all others. 

With this being World Dictionary Day, we thought we'd share our favourite words with you — with a slight twist! We asked our staff to share their favourite word in the language they're not a native speaker of, i.e. Arabic speakers chose words in English, and vice versa. Not only did this give us a chance to celebrate the power of words and the memories or feelings some of them might spark, but it also allowed each person a chance to consider the other language in a way they might not have before. So, without further ado, here are the words everyone chose: 

Shukran (شكراً)
"It's a short word and e
asy to remember. It's also to show my gratitude for the person who did good things unto me, be it simple or grand.— Cathy Penaflor

"My favorite Arabic word is Shukran! Why? Because in whatever language it is said, saying 'Thank you' is the sweetest word ever uttered. We should always be thankful for everything. May it be a good or not-so-good thing, there is still something to be thankful for. I want to share this quote: 'When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate. When life is bitter, say thank you and grow.'"  — Mia Santiago

"It gives a sense of gratitude."  — Mary Obaba

"Seeing this word on the menu, an email or a text makes me happy and look forward to the day.
" — Krishna de la Paz

Yalla (يلا

"It carries strong emotion, It is representative of our lives today and it infuses a call to action which I love." — Shama Noman 


"A word my friends use to describe me often, and I’ve been fascinated with them from a young age. Fun fact: I was a clown for Halloween last year!"  — Shurooq Kamal 

Habibi (حبيبي) 

"It means 'my dear.' I like it because I call my close friends and family members by it." — Lohith Prabhakara


"It's a 'great' way to end any conversation!" — Soha Oda

Zowj (زوج) and Jowz(جوز)

""Zowj' was one of the first words I learned in Arabic, and I used to remember it as being the opposite of 'jowz' which means 'walnuts.'" — Flora Rees

"I chose the word because through sustainable measures, policies, and actions, humankind can avoid the depletion of natural resources." 
— Hani Yakan

Dajaj (دجاج)

"It's one of the first words I learned in Arabic when I was growing up, and you'd always hear it on those old KFC commercials on TV. But even all these years later it's very easy to remember, on top of just being nice to hear." — Nivea Serrao


"The word makes me imagine soap bubbles and smiles, and pronouncing it and all the words related to it (bubbles, bubbling, bubbly) is really fun... And also because my friends always use a meme of Bubbles from the Powerpuff Girls to describe me!" — Nada Abdulaziz

Ya’ani (يعني)

"The word actually means 'means.' But it's used as a filler word. I like it because every language has a filler word that doesn't necessarily mean anything, and this is it for Arabic." — Annabelle Corton


"Babies always put a smile on my face and tenderness in my heart. And it reminds that even if I've aged, I will still have that inner child/baby within me. Also, my favourite high school song in the 90's was Britney Spears' 'Baby One More Time.'"  — Hagop Dertavitian

Habibi (حبيبي) 

"It means 'my dear' and I like it because I call my close friends and family members that.'"  — Lohith Prabhakara

Kef Halak (كيف حالك؟)  

"It means 'How are you?' and it's a nice phrase because it means someone cares to know how you're doing."  — Lathief Mohammed


"It's one of those words you don't hear or read as often, so it's always fun when I happen upon it somewhere. But I love that it means that something is either of great excellence or unparalleled beauty. It's such a small word but it says so much! It also looks like how it feels: sublime."  — Nivea Serrao

Fuloos (فلوس)

"It means money. And who doesn't like THAT?"  — Jeric Manio

Insha'allah  (إن شاء الله)

"It means 'If God wills,' and it gives me the feeling that God's blessing is necessary in everything."  — Loise Arabis 

For more news on what the Emirates Literature Foundation is up to, follow us on Twitter and Instagram. And to keep up with the rest of our book-filled discussion, you can listen to the latest episode of our Boundless Book Club podcast, which features Booker Prize-shortlisted author Avni Doshi, featured down below!