Happy New Year

Published 2021-12-30

Happy New Year! There is an Arabic greeting that is suitable for New Year, birthdays and Christmas. We will go through the greeting, word by word.

Around New Year you might see this greeting appear in your social media flow:

Every year and you are fine.

In Arabic, the greeting is pronounced kullu 3aamin wa 'anta bikhayr. For pedagogical reasons, I have translated it quite literally to Every year and you are fine. According to Wikipedia, it is an equivalent to the greeting Many happy returns.

Now we will go through the greeting, word by word. We will start from the end.

Goodness

The Arabic word khayr has many meanings. For example goodness, well-being and wealth.

ﺧَﻴﺮ
khayr
goodness, wealth, well-being

The word khayr is used in two common greetings that we say every day. When we want to wish someone a good morning in Arabic, we say SabaaHu l-khari that literally means morning of goodness.

good morning

To wish a good afternoon and good evening in Arabic, we say masaa'u l-khari that literally means evening of goodness.

good evening

With goodness

The Arabic prepositionen bi means with. This preposition consists only of the letter b and the short vowel i.

ﺏِ
bi
by, with

If we combine the preposition bi with khayr we get bikhayrin. Note that bi is attached to the word that follows, there is no space between.

fine

The expression bikhayrin literally means with well-being. It usually simply translates to fine. You may notice that is says khayrin with the ending in. That is because words that follow prepositions get genitive case.

When two people meet, it is common that they exchange these phrases:

How are you?
I'm fine.

The phrase 'anaa bikhayrin means I am fine.

The question kayf Haaluka is used when speaking to a man. When speaking to a woman, kayf Haaluki is used . As you can see, the final vowel is changed depending on gender.

You are fine

We know that I am fine is 'anaa bikhayrin in Arabic. In order to say you are fine, we just need to change the pronoun.

The Arabic word for you is 'anta when speaking to a man and 'anti when speaking to a woman.

ﺃَﻧﺖَ
'anta
you
ﺃَﻧﺖِ
'anti
you

The phrase you are fine in Arabic is therefore 'anta bikhayrin to a man and 'anti bikhayrin to a woman.

You (m) are fine.
You (f) are fine.

Year

The Arabic word 3aam means year.

ﻋَﺎﻡ
3aam
year

The first letter of the word is ayn ع which is characteristic of Arabic. I use the number 3 as a symbol of the letter, since that is used in the Arabic chat alphabet.

Another Arabic word for year is sana. That is easier to pronounce if you are a beginner, but in our greeting phrase the word 3aam is used.

ﺳَﻨَﺔ
sana
year

Every year

The Arabic word kull can mean every, whole and all. In this case, the meaning is every.

ﻛُﻞّ
kull
all, every, whole

If we combine the words kull and 3aam, we get kullu 3aamin that means every year.

every year

The word combination kullu 3aamin is an ownership construction. One way to see that is that the last part has genitive case which often gives the ending i or in. The Arabic expressions for good morning and good evening, that we have looked at, are also ownership constructions.

The reason that the word kull has the meaning every in the combination kullu 3aamin is that the word 3aam is singular and has indefinite form. There is a lesson about the Arabic word kull that I recommend if you want to know more.

Every year and you are fine

Now there is only one word that we have not looked at yet. That is the conjunction wa that means and. This conjunction only consists of the letter w and the short vowel a.

ﻭَ
wa
and

A conjunction has the task of gluing sentences together. Just like the preposition bi, the conjunction wa is attached to the word that follows.

We are now ready to look at the greeting again.

Every year and you are fine.

We know that kullu 3aamin means every year and that 'anta bikhayrin means you are fine. Inbetween there is the conjunction wa that means and and that glues the two parts together.

The literal translation is every year and you are fine. That is a rather clumsy translation, but it is still clear that you want someone to have a long and healthy life. If we just want to focus on the message, we can translate the phrase to Many happy returns.

Regarding Swedish, my mother tongue, I have heard the translation "May you have prosperity every year". However, that is an old-fashioned expression that we no longer use. My own proposal for translation is an expression that is also old-fashioned, but frequently used in Swedish. By a small change of the Swedish birthday song, we can say: May you live for a hundred years.

Glossary

On the page for the greeting phrase kullu 3aamin wa 'anta bikhayrin, there is a detailed description of the words and their grammar, with links to each word. I also list the words below.

An Arabic greeting
every kull كلّ
year 3aam عام
every year kullu 3aamin كلّ عام
and wa و
you 'anta أنت
with bi ب
well-being kyayr خير
you are fine 'anta bikhayrin أنت بخير
Every year and you are fine kullu 3aamin wa 'anta bikhayrin كلّ عام وأنت بخير

Happy New Year!