Kuwaiti Arabic

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kuwaiti Arabic
Native toGrane, nowadays State of Kuwait
Native speakers
2.55 million (2021)[1]
Arabic, with addition of 3 or 4 letters.[2]
Official status
Official language in
Not official in any country
Regulated byNot recognised as a language
Language codes
ISO 639-1afb
ISO 639-3afb
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Kuwaiti (Arabic: كويتي, romanizedKuwaytī, [kweːti]) is a Gulf Arabic dialect spoken in Kuwait. Kuwaiti Arabic shares many phonetic features unique to Gulf dialects spoken in the Arabian Peninsula.[3] Due to Kuwait's soap opera industry, knowledge of Kuwaiti Arabic has spread throughout the Arabic-speaking world and become recognizable even to people in countries such as Tunisia and Jordan.[4]: p. 113[5]

History and development[edit]

Kuwaiti Arabic speakers exhibit features not found in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), due in part to natural linguistic change over time, influence from nearby dialects in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as well as influence from English, Italian, Persian, Turkish, as well as Hindi-Urdu and Swahili.[6][3] Three groups make up the Kuwaiti population: the descendants of people from the Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, and Iran.[7]

Kuwaiti Arabic is rapidly changing due to many factors,[8] in particular contact with speakers of other languages and other Arabic varieties.[9]


Kuwaiti Arabic has three short vowels /a i u/ and five long vowels /a: e: i: o: u:/. Short [e] and [o] appear in some words, typically as allophones (such as word-final /a/, which raises to [e]), though their phonemicity is marginal and many of the words they appear in are loans from other languages.[10]

Kuwaiti Arabic consonants[11][12][13]
Labial Dental Denti-alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
 plain  emphatic
Nasal m n
Occlusive voiceless (p) t k q ʔ
voiced b d () ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x ħ h
voiced (v) ð z ðˤ ɣ ʕ
Trill r
Approximant l j w

Consonants in parentheses are marginal, found exclusively in formal, educated speech or from loanwords. Similarly, the glottal stop [ʔ] is rare, occurring in borrowings from Modern Standard Arabic.[11]

/ɡ/ and /tʃ/ are the Kuwaiti Arabic reflexes of Classical Arabic *q ([q] in MSA) and *k ([k] in MSA), respectively. [12] /ɡ/ may also be fronted to /dʒ/ in the context of front vowels.[14]12

/v/ appears exclusively in loanwords from English; speakers may have difficulty with this sound and replace it with [f].[12]

Emphatic consonants are pronounced with simultaneous velarization or pharyngealization; like MSA and other Arabic dialects, Kuwaiti Arabic makes phonemic contrasts between emphatic and non-emphatic consonants, though AlBader identifies allophonic emphaticization of /b f l m n r/, which become [bˤ rˤ] when they come before a long /a:/ or when they are in close proximity to an emphatic consonant or back vowel.[10]


Kuwaiti Arabic is divided into two varieties: Urban and Bedouin; the latter is considered to be more linguistically conservative, while the former, associated largely with sedentary urban speakers, has novel features not shared by surrounding dialects[3] and is considered to be more prestigious.[15][9] The urban dialect originates from the spoken dialect of Arabian Peninsular Arabic speakers who migrated to the area in the 18th century, being strongly influenced by contact with and immigration from the outside world.[16]

The Urban speech is divided into four sub-dialects, while the Bedouin dialect is divided into two.[17] The four sedentary dialects are:

  • Sharq: Mainly used by Ajam, who settled the district. It is a result of a mixture of the various different dialects spoken in Kuwait in the past.[18] (See also Sharg)[19]
  • Jibla (See also Jibla)
  • Failicha (See also Failaka Island)
  • Fintaas (See also Fintaas, Kuwait)

While the two Bedouin varieties are:

Historians and researchers usually demonstrate differences between the dialects using /sukkar/, the Kuwaiti word for "sugar", which has three different pronunciations depending on the speaker's dialect. It is pronounced ([ʃɪkər]) in Sharg dialect, Shakar ([ʃəkər]) in Fintaas dialect, and Shakir ([ʃakɪr]) in Jibla dialect.[17][20][21][18]


Dashti identifies four varieties of Arabic in Kuwait. Classical Arabic (CA), the language of the Quran, the liturgical language of Islam, the religion of the vast majority of Kuwaitis, and old Arabic literature, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is the medium of formal communication and school education. This variety is considered the second language of Kuwaitis as they are only introduced to when they start school. Kuwaiti Arabic (KA), the language of everyday's life and the symbol of the Kuwaiti identity. It is a symbol of prestige in the Kuwaiti society. The last variety is Educated Standard Arabic (ESA), in which the speaker mixes between MSA and KA. This language is used in Radio, TV, and academics' informal discussions. Kuwait is diglossic, like the rest of the Arab world, with the Arabic language being seen as the high variety, while Kuwaiti is seen more like a patois or a low-variety colloquial dialect of Arabic.[22][23]

Kuwaiti is the "normal" way of speaking in everyday's life and is acquired naturally at home and not taught at schools (as it is considered a mere dialect of the Arabic language by the public).

After conducting several interviews with speakers of Kuwaiti, Akbar states that for many, speaking Kuwaiti is the most important criterion of being considered Kuwaiti.[24]

Features and characteristics[edit]

Kuwaiti Arabic is a variant of Gulf Arabic, sharing similarities with the dialects of neighboring coastal areas in Eastern Arabia.[17] Due to immigration during its early history as well as trade, Kuwaiti was influenced by many languages such as Persian, English, Italian, Urdu, Turkish, and others.[25]

A characteristic in Kuwait is the use of words and phrases by women exclusively, for example "يَا حَافِظ", roughly translated to "Oh Saver [God]", is rarely or never used by men.[26] It also differs from other Arabic variants in the way phonological assimilation occurs to a multitude of words, but not to all of them. The only case of full assimilation is /dˤ/ changing to /ðˤ/ in all words.

Differences between Standard Arabic and Kuwaiti[edit]

Each colloquial variety of Arabic has evolved and developed over time from earlier Arabic dialects. In addition to the phonological differences mentioned above, some of the grammatical differences between the Standard Arabic (MSA) and Kuwaiti Arabic are:

  • Kuwaiti uses SVO more often (unless the subject is omitted because of the verb's conjugation), while Modern Standard Arabic uses VSO most of the time. There may be a relationship between definiteness and pragmatic factors that control the choice of VSO vs. SVO in Kuwaiti and other Arabic varieties.[27]
  • Copulas are used in Kuwaiti, unlike Arabic. Below is a table of copulas used in Kuwaitis:

Note: Copulas are used before verbs only, not adjectives. For example: I am drinking, not I am drunk. Many linguists define copulas as expressing identity and "is-a" relations. Since the following "copulas" are only use before verbs, they may be classified as aspectual particles.

Verb In Kuwaiti Transliteration
am, is قَعَ/قَامْ/قَاعِدْ/قَاعْ/قَعْدْ [ɡəʕ, [ɡam], [ɡaʕɪd], [ɡaʕ], [ɡəʕd]
are قَعَ/قَامْ/قَاعْدِينْ/قَاعْ/قَعْدْ [ɡəʕ, [ɡam], [ɡaʕdin], [ɡaʕ], [ɡəʕd]

The past tenses are formed by adding كَانْ kaːn before each copula.

  • Almost all of Arabic declensions are omitted in Kuwaiti.
  • Dual grammatical person is not used, though dual nouns are still used.
  • Feminine forms in plural second and third person are not used.
  • The definite article, al- ([al]), became el- ([ɪl]-) in Kuwaiti.


Kuwaiti has borrowed many words from other languages due to immigration and trade. Below are few examples with the corresponding Arabic words. As noticed, many words come from Turkish. This is due to the historical influence of Ottomans that ruled over neighboring regions.

Note: A green box indicates that the MSA word is used in Kuwaiti (most of the times interchangeably), while a red box means it is not.

Word Pronunciation Meaning Origin In Original Language In Modern Standard Arabic
دِقْمَة or دُقْمَة [dɪɡ.mə] or [dʉ́ɡ.mə] 'button' Turkish düğme زِر
شِگرْدِي [ʃɪɡərdɪ] 'kind-hearted person' Persian شگردي طَيِّب
بَخْت and بَخَتْ [bəxt] and [bəxæt] 'luck' Persian بخت حَظ
وَايِر [wajɪr] 'wire' English wire سِلْك
دَبَل [dəbəl] 'double' English double مزدوج or ثنائي
أَصَنْصير [əsˤən.sˤeːr] 'elevator' French ascenseur مِصْعَد
تِيلَة [tiːlə] 'marble [toy]' Persian تیله العَاب الكُرَة
كِتِر [kɪtɪr] 'quarters' English quarter مكان or زاوية
جيكَر [dʒeːkər] 'ugly' (often used humorously) English joker, from the playing card قبيح (lacks humorous meaning)
رزنامة [rɪznamə] 'calendar' Persian روزنامه تقويم
شوُرْبَة or شورُبَة [ʃoːrbə] or [ʃoːrʉ́bə] 'soup' Turkish çorba حَسَاء
صَالون /sˤaloːn/ 'lounge' French salon ردهة
طرْشِي [tˤʊrʃi] 'pickle' Turkish turşu مُخَلَّل
نَمْرَة or نِمْرَة [nɪmrə] or [nəmrə] 'phone number' Persian نمره رقم
بنْك or بَّنْگ [bəŋk] or [bʌŋg] 'bank' English bank مَصْرِف
يَواشْ يَواش [jəwaʃ] or [jəwaʃ] 'slow down/be careful' Turkish yavaş تَمَهَّل
طوز [tˤoːz] 'sandstorm' Turkish toz عاصفة غبارية/عاصفة ترابية
تلفزيون [tĭlfvɪzjɔ́n] or [təlvɪzjɔ́n]or [tĭlɪfɪzjɔ́n] 'television' English television تلفاز
كمْبِيُوتَرْ [kɪ́mbjutar] 'computer' English computer حاسوب
دِرِيشَة [dɪrɪ́jʃə] 'window' Persian دريچه نافذة
زبالة [ɪ́zbalə] or [zubalə] 'garbage/trash' Persian زباله قمامة or نفاية
صالَة [sˤalˤaːh] 'living room' Spanish sala غرفة المعيشة
جُوتي (pl. جُواتي) [ʤʉ́ti (pl.ʤʉ́waːti ] 'shoe(s)' Urdu جوتا حذاء (pl. أحذية)
أُوتي [ʉ́ti] 'flatiron' Turkish ütü مكواة
أَبَجوْرَة [abajɔ́rə] 'lampshade' French abat-jour عاكس الضوء
ميز تُواليْت [mɛ́z twaːlɛ́t] 'dresser/makeup table/toilette' Persian ميز توالت تسريحة
أكو (conj. شكو، ماكو) [akʉ́ (conj.ʃakʉ́, makʉ́] 'there is (there isn't, what is there? [often also "no way!" in exclamation.])' Akkadian - يوجد
دِكّان [dɪkːkɑ́ːn] 'store' Persian دكان محل
بَّنْكَة [bʌŋkːah] 'fan' Urdu پنکها مروحة
سِيْدَة [sɪ́jdːah] 'straight/straight ahead' Urdu سیدها مستقيم
أَبْلَّة [ʌbːxʲah] 'female teacher' Turkish abla معلمة
بخشيش [baxːʃɪ́ʃ] 'tip (as in tipping at a restaurant)' Turkish bahşiş
قوزي [k̚ʉ́zɪ] or {{IPA|[[ɣʉ́zɪ]}} '*regional lamb dish made of whole lamb*' Turkish kuzu
هم [həm] 'also' Persian هم أيضًا
كنْديْشِن [candēshin] 'air conditioner' English air conditioner مكيف
فِنگر [28] [fingar] 'to kick something with one's toes' English finger رفسة
شُوت [ʃuːt] 'to kick (a ball, or in martial arts, etc.)' English shoot ركلة
خَزْ [xəz] 'stare' Turkish gözü حدق
گز [ɡəz] 'to meander' English gaze[29] ْنظر

Old-fashioned or obsolete words[edit]

some words were replaced by native Arabic words over time. A few examples of such words include:[30][31]

  • رنق (ring), A Persian word that means colour.
  • خاتون (ḵātūn) "female nurse", from Turkish word meaning "noble woman", now replaced with سستر (sister), from English.
  • بنسل (binsil), from English Pencil.
  • كرفاية (karfāya), from Hindi.

Dr. Ya'goob al-Ghaneem points at the increasing numbers of Arab expatriate and exposure to media in different Arabics as the reasons behind this change. Fatima Mahasin hypothesises that the words being replaced are not of English, French or Italian origins, and tend originate from "less-prestigious" languages.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kuwaiti Arabic at Ethnologue (26th ed., 2023) Closed access icon
  2. ^ Qafisheh, Hamdi A. 1999. NTC's Gulf Arabic-English Dictionary. (USA: McGraw-Hill Contemporary), p. XV
  3. ^ a b c Mahsain (2014), p. 20.
  4. ^ Mansfield (1990).
  5. ^ Abd-el-Jawad (1992), p. 286.
  6. ^ Taqi (2010), p. 10.
  7. ^ Taqi (2010), p. 11–12.
  8. ^ AlBader (2015).
  9. ^ a b Taqi (2010), p. 67.
  10. ^ a b AlBader (2015), p. xvi.
  11. ^ a b AlBader (2015), p. xv.
  12. ^ a b c Mahsain (2014), p. 9.
  13. ^ Taqi (2010), p. xii.
  14. ^ Taqi (2010), p. 68.
  15. ^ Al-Dashti (1997), p. 41.
  16. ^ Taqi (2010), p. 65.
  17. ^ a b c "خالد الرشيد: "اللهجة الكويتية" "مظلومة" في مدارسنا.. لأن أغلب معلمينا وافدون". 2015-01-20. Archived from the original on 2015-01-20. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  18. ^ a b Taqi (2010), p. 14.
  19. ^ "نحن عيم الكويت".
  20. ^ http://www.kuwaitmag.com/index.jsp?inc=5&id=1031&pid=219&version=9[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ ":: Lahjah :: لـهجـة". www.lahjah.com. Retrieved 2016-10-01.
  22. ^ Akbar, Rahima (April 2007). "1.3 The Sociolinguistic Situation in Kuwait" (PDF). Students' and Teachers' attitudes towards Kuwaiti/English code-switching (Ph.D.). Cardiff University. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  23. ^ Mahsain, Fatima (April 2007). " Literacy" (PDF). Motivations Behind Code-switching Among Kuwaiti Bilingual Schools" Students (Ph.D.). University of Manchester. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  24. ^ Akbar, Rahima (April 2007). "2.2.2 Language as a Symbol of Group Identity" (PDF). Students' and Teachers' attitudes towards Kuwaiti/English code-switching (Ph.D.). Cardiff University. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  25. ^ Mahsain, Fatima (April 2007). " Language" (PDF). Motivations Behind Code-switching Among Kuwaiti Bilingual Schools" Students (Ph.D.). University of Manchester. Retrieved 7 July 2016.
  26. ^ Lahjah Kuwaiti-Arabic dictionary
  27. ^ The Syntax of Spoken Arabic, Kristen Brustad
  28. ^ Dashti, Abdulmuhsin (2015). "The Role and Status of the English Language in Kuwait". English Today. pp. 28-33. doi:10.1017/S026607841500022X
  29. ^ "يوسف البدر يستعرض كلمات كويتية اصولها الاولى بريطانية في جامعة شيفيلد بالمملكة المتحدة". الوطـــن الإلكترونية. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  30. ^ "كونا : اللهجة الشعبية الكويتية القديمة.. زخرت بمفردات ذات أصول عربية واجنبية - الثقافة والفنون والآداب - 19/04/2018".
  31. ^ al-Ghaneem, Ya'goob. ألفاظ اللهجة الكويتية في كتاب – لسان العرب – لإبن منظور.
  32. ^ Mahsain, Fatima (April 2007). " Language" (PDF). Motivations Behind Code-switching Among Kuwaiti Bilingual Schools" Students (Ph.D.). University of Manchester. Retrieved 7 July 2016.


Further reading[edit]

  • Ayyad, Hadeel (2011). Phonological Development of Typically Developing Kuwaiti Arabic-Speaking Preschoolers (Thesis). University of British Columbia.