Word: Sorry or You're Welcome (عَفْواً)

This is a tricky one. This one word in Arabic is used in a wide variety of situations. Let’s look at the root and break down the different ways it is used.

Pardon; amnesty عَفْواً 3f-wan

Part of speech Root [1]
Noun عفو

Different Uses

Sorry or Excuse Me

This word comes from the verb عَفَا which also has a number of meanings such as “to obliterate, to eliminate past mistakes”, or put more simply to “forgive” or “excuse”.

عَفْواً is commonly used in situations where you might interject with a “sorry” or “excuse me” in every day speech. Imagine you are having trouble hearing someone and you say “Sorry?”, or you are trying to move past someone in a store aisle and you would normally say “excuse me” as you pass them.

You’re Welcome

However, it is also common to hear عَفْواً, with the meaning of “you’re welcome”, used in response to شُكْراً. This does not immediately make sense in connection with the root definition of the word but does fit in with the norms of many languages where “you’re welcome” is the common response to thank you. This alone has some interesting history in English and other languages.

Example Conversations

Thank you شُكْراً Shuk-ran for عَلَى '3la the hummus الحُمُّص al'hummus

You're welcome عَفْواً 3f-wan beloved حَبِيب ha-beeb

Excuse me, عَفْواً، 3f-wan you have عِنْدَكَ 3n-dika bath (room)? حَمّام؟ Ham-mam

Yes, نَعَم، n3m in فِي fee back وَراء 'wara