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𐤃𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 𐤋𐤁𐤍𐤉𐤌
dabarīm labonīm
Lebanese Dialects.png
Pronunciation[/da.ba.ˈriːm la.boː.ˈniːm/]
Created byRaistas
SettingParallel Earth
Native toLebanon
Native speakers4.81 million (2015)
Early forms
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.

The Lebanese language (Lebanese: 𐤃𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 𐤋𐤁𐤍𐤉𐤌‎‎, dabarīm labōnīm) is a Northwest Semitic language, native to and spoken primarily in Lebanon. Lebanese and Hebrew are the only Canaanite languges still spoken. Modern Lebanese is the official language of the Lebanese Republic, however other languages like Arabic and Western Aramaic have a special status as regional languages with their native speakers speaking Lebanese as a second language. Since a majority of the Lebanese people are bilingual or trilingual, it is not uncommon for them to mix Lebanese, Arabic, English or French into their daily speech.

Lebanese is descended from the Phoenician language originally spoken in the coastal region of Levant called 𐤐𐤕̇ Pūt. Phoenician had almost ceased to be a written language somewhere between 900 and 1400 CE, being slowly replaced by Arabic. With the rise of nationalism in the 19th century, it was revived as a literary language, becoming modern standard Lebanese.


The modern name "Lebanese" comes from the word 𐤋𐤁𐤍 labōn, meaning "white", apparently from its snow-capped peaks of the Mount Lebanon range (𐤄𐤓𐤉 𐤄̇𐤋𐤁𐤍𐤅𐤍 horē hallabōnūn). The name was introduced in the 19th century, however, some occurences of this name have been found in the 17th century texts, though it is unclear whether the name referred to the Lebanese language or one of its dialects. Before that the language was called Phoenician (𐤐𐤕̇𐤉𐤌 pūttīm) or simply Canaanite (𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍𐤉𐤌 kanaʿanīm). The etymology of these names is uncertain.


Lebanese belongs to the Canaanite group, which itself is a branch of the Northwest Semitic family of languages. Its direct ancestor is called the Phoenician language. In its widest sense, Old Phoenician refers to the spoken language of Northern Levant in a wide range between the 10th century BCE and the turn of the 7th century CE, when it was being replaced by other local languages, mostly by Arabic.

From a traditional linguistic perspective, Phoenician was composed of a variety of dialects. However, the insufficient records of the time make it unclear whether Phoenician formed a separate and united dialect or was a part of a broader language continuum. Punic colonisation spread Phoenician to the western Mediterranean, where the distinct Punic language (𐤃𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 𐤐𐤍𐤉𐤌 dabarīm pōnnim) developed. It underwent some phonological and lexical changes as it spread among the North-African peoples. Most notable changes were the loss of laryngeals (/ħ/, /ʕ/, /ʔ/ and /h/) and the coalescence of sibilants into /s/. In the Roman period Punic remained the spoken language of the majority of the African population and other regions nearby. Punic died out, it seems to have survived into the 9th century AD. Today there are a number of common Berber words that descend from it.

Old Phoenician

The Phoenicians were the first state-level society that had an extensive use of the Semitic alphabet. The Phoenician alphabet is the oldest verified consonantal alphabet, or abjad. The Phoenician alphabet is generally believed to be at least the partial ancestor of almost all modern alphabets.

In Phoenician writing, unlike that of abjads such as those of Aramaic, Biblical Hebrew and Arabic, even long vowels remained generally unexpressed, regardless of their origin (even if they originated from diphthongs, as in 𐤕𐤁 /beːt/ (modern /beːθ/, "house"). Eventually, writers began to implement systems of marking of vowels by means of matres lectionis. In the 3rd century BC appeared the practice of using final "𐤀" ('ālp) to mark the presence of any final vowel and, occasionally, of "𐤉" (yōd) to mark a final long [iː] and "𐤅" (wāw). for [uː].

Both in Punic and in Old Phoenician the voiceless stop consonants started developing fricative allophones (probably under the influence of Aramaic for Phoenician and the influence of Berber for Punic), and these sounds eventually became phonemic in Phoenician. Those were likely parallel processes since the contact between the two varieties was weak during this period. A simialr process occured in Hebrew, but it involved voiced stops as well.

Middle Age Phoenician

Since the 3rd century AD Western Aramaic has started being spoken in the region. Following the early Muslim conquests of the 7th century and the cultural and linguistic Arabization of the Levant, Arabic gradually started displacing Phoenician (and Aramaic) as the first language of most people. Despite this, Phoenician have survived for a relatively long time in many villages of the Mount Lebanon area. In fact, up until the seventeenth century, travelers to the Lebanese cities still reported a few Phoenician speakers there, even though people in the cities spoke almost exclusively in Arabic. In the 11th century the Crusades were launched in Western Europe to reclaim the former Byzantine Christian territories. These crusader states made a lasting impact on the region as many Phoenicians became Christians and many religion related loanwords entered their language during this period. The need to express scientific and philosophical concepts motivated Phoenician to borrow terminology from from Latin and Greek as well as other languages. Also during this time many Phoenisians started settling on Malta and Greek islands, bringing their language with them. These communities were later assimilated, however they had an impact on the Maltese language.

Modern Lebanese

The name "Phoenician" became being used more and more to refer to the Christian population of Lebanon. Approximately during the 19th century the nationalist movements began in the region and the Phoenician people wanted to establish an independent state and the Phoenician language started being revived. Several attempts were made to standardize the language and in the 20th century when Lebanon became a French territory, the language was first officially recognized as Lebanese. This name quickly received popularity among the nationalists because of its neutrality (Lebanon has already been the most religiously diverse territory in the Middle East, though it became largely a Christian territory during the French rule).

On the 22 of November, 1943 Lebanon declared its independence and the Lebanese language became the official language of the country along with Arabic, however a few years later both Arabic and Western Neo-Aramaic received a regional language status. This lead to a conflict with the Arabic-speaking population and more than a 100 thousand Levantine Arabs fled to other countries. In 1950 a few changes were made in the language that introduced words for new concepts and organised the rules of accurately representing foreign words.

Standard Lebanese (𐤇𐤃𐤔‎ 𐤃𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 dabarīm ḥados) was based on the Central Lebanese dialect. However, the speakers of other dialects and different languages introduced some calques, borrowings and phono-semantic matchings of international words. Currently, about 69% of the population speaks Lebanese as a native language, while most of the rest speak it fluently.

Maltese and Cypriot Lebanese

There were several varieties of Phoenician, spoken in Malta and on the island of Cyprus, usually called 𐤃𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 𐤐𐤕̇𐤉𐤌 dabarīm pūttīm (or 𐤃𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 𐤀𐤋𐤔𐤉𐤌 dabarīm alasēm in Cyprus). Phoenician was brought there by traders and settlers in the medieval period following the Arabisation of Lebanon, so neither of these varieties are direct descendants of Punic, which had likely become extinct by that time. Maltese Phoenician died out in Malta, with its former native speakers switched to Maltese, while the Cypriot variety is still being spoken by a small number of speakers. Both are mutually intelligible with Lebanese and are very close to dialects spoken around Sidon. Several unique characteristics of Cypriot Phoenician are: the use of a negative particle 𐤀𐤉 ī instead of standard Lebanese bal (used with nouns, suffixing forms and participles) and al (with prefixing forms of verbs), which it shares with the Sidonian dialect; the presents of vowel "y" [y] instead of Lebanese "i" or "e" ([jy.ˈsal] for esˁal - "I am asking", [zyθ] for edzō "this (feminine)", [byn] for bin "son"), lack of [ʕ] (which also happens in Lebanese) and [ħ], which merges with [x], as well as many loanwords from Greek, for example podilat "bicycle" (welō or more formal bitsiklet in Lebanese), ḥurōmoth "colour" instead of Lebanese lūnoth.


Old Phoenician had a typical Semitic consonant inventory, with pharyngeals, a series of "emphatic" consonants (possibly ejective, but this is debated), and in early stages also a lateral fricative /ɬ/, and uvular /χ/ and /ʁ/ sounds. /χ/ and /ʁ/ merged into /ħ/ and /ʕ/ respectively while /ɬ/ merged into /ʃ/. Later in some dialects of Old Phoenician /ʃ/ became indistinguishable from /s/ and /p/, /t/ and /k/ became aspirated [pʰ], [tʰ] and [kʰ], which was represented in Ancient Greek and later in Latin texts. Recent scholarship argues that 𐤔 was originally [s], while 𐤎 was [t͡sʰ], which fits well with 𐤆‎ being [d͡z], and 𐤑‎ being [t͡s]. Thus, when the aspirated plosives later changed further into fricatives, 𐤎 also became [s], merging with 𐤔 everywhere. This process did not involve voiced stops, unlike in Aramaic and Biblical Hebrew (𐤆‎ also remains an affricate). The vowel system underwent a Canaanite shift - the process, partly shared by Biblical Hebrew, but going further in Phoenician (for example: 𐤓𐤅𐤔 rūs, "head", Tiberian Hebrew rōš, ראש).

A special reading tradition, called the "religious reading" (𐤒𐤓𐤉𐤕 𐤒𐤃𐤅𐤔𐤕 qirīyoth qodūsoth), has been preserved in liturgical use. In it the emphatic consonants are usually realized as pharyngealized, 𐤒 may sometimes be a uvular [q], though usually it's still [k], 𐤏 is always pronounced clearly (as [ʕ]), 𐤔 is [ʃ] (the latter is not compulsory, however). Nowadays this tradition is slowly dying out, especially among the Catholics, who now always use a regular pronunciation.

Modern Lebanese pronunciation developed from a mixture of the different dialects, generally tending towards the Central Lebanese and the dialect of Bêrūth. According to it, emphatic consonants have shifted to their ordinary (but unaspirated) counterparts, /b/ has an allophone [β] before other consonants, and [ɣ] and [ð] are not present. Most Lebanese native speakers still have a contrastive gemination of approximants and nasals, while the gemination of stops is lost almost everywhere, except for the religious pronunciation. Many speakers, whose first language is Aramaic, have [β] and [ɣ] in their speech, but only some people in rural areas have [ð].


Labial Dental Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
Nasals m n
Stops asirated
unasirated p t k~q[note 1] ʔ
voiced b d g
Fricatives voiceless f θ s (ʃ)[note 2] x~χ[note 3] ħ h
voiced (β)[note 4] (z)[note 5] ʕ[note 6]
Affricates voiceless t͡s
voiced d͡z
Approximants w l j
Trill r[note 7]
  1. ^ The velar pronunciation is preferred by most modern native speakers, but the uvular pronunciation is found in Arabic and Aramaic speaking population as well as in some mountainous dialects.
  2. ^ Can be found only in loanwords and foreign names. In North Lebanese dialect it is the usual pronunciation of the letter 𐤔, while in the Standard this letter is pronounced identically to 𐤎 (as [s]).
  3. ^ The velar pronunciation is preferred by the native speakers.
  4. ^ Allophone of /b/ before other consonants.
  5. ^ Allophone of /d͡z/ usually in foreign words only, also before some consonants. Some speakers tend to pronounce 𐤆 as [z] word-initially as well.
  6. ^ The friction of /ʕ/ is very weak and it's close [ɦ]. Modern native speakers tend to drop it entirely between vowels and before consonants.
  7. ^ It is often a tapped [ɾ] instead.

Voiceless aspirated stops lenite between vowels and before another consonant and become fricatives:

Letter Plain Lenited Example Pronunciation
𐤊 kōph x lakhūn "it might be" [la.ˈxuːn]
𐤐 pī f tsipher "zero" [ˈt͡sɪ.fer]
𐤕 tāw θ lathittīn "she may give" [la.θɪ.ˈtʰiːn]

Historically, 𐤎 was likely involved in this process too, being [t͡sʰ] and leniting to [s]. Later the remaining [t͡sʰ] also lenited to [s], thus merging with 𐤔 completely.

Lenition is not marked. If the consonant doesn't lenite in a typical position, a line (similar to a macron) is placed above it ( ̄ ). Sometimes a dot ( ̇ ) is placed instead, both are equally correct and the different use is due to artistic preferences.

Native Lebanese words lack the phoneme [ʃ] even though it is represented with a letter "𐤔" (only North Lebanese still keeps the old pronunciation - 𐤔𐤋𐤌 is often pronounced as [ʃo.ˈluːm] or [ʃu.ˈluːm] instead of the standard [sɔ.ˈluːm]). It is the well-known shibboleth, once used to distinguish speakers of other dialects, though nowadays native Lebanese speakers can pronounce this sound easily, in fact many loanwords that contain it are pronounced with [ʃ].


All short vowels in modern Lebanese have long counterparts, but their phonetic values do not exactly match up with each other with the short vowels being centralized. The vowel length itself is not distinctive in modern speech and native Lebanese speakers tend to distinguish them by their qualities instead. Two vowels, spelt as "ê" and "ô" vary greatly among different speakers and are not present in most dialects, where they merge into [iː] (or with [ɛː] into a mid [eː]) and [uː] respectively even in the formal speech. In other speakers, who still distinguish them, these phonemes vary from true mid to close-mid vowels.

Front Back
short long short long
Close ɪ (i) iː (ī) ʊ (u) uː (ū)
Mid eː (ê) oː (ō)
Open-mid ɛ (e) ɛː (ē) ɔ (o)
Open a (a) aː (ā)*
  • Historically /a/ could only be a short vowel, because it's long counterpart became pronounced [oː]. In the modern language [aː] appeared from the contraction of [aʕa] after the weakening of /ʕ/ (not indicated in writing), from compensatory lengthening after the loss of [ʔ] in some words (𐤕𐤔̄𐤀 tissā "you take"), new borrowings (𐤊𐤀𐤓𐤕 kārt, plural karahūth, "credit card") and in some words (wāw - the canonical name for the letter "𐤅", however variants and can often be found in various texts).

There are 10 vowel phonemes in total (11 if counting the marginal [aː]). They often alternate with each other when the stress shifts or while declining words. In some Central Lebanese varieties there is a distinct phoneme "ô" (usually pronounced [oː] while "ō" is [ɔː]), while it merged into "ū" in all other dialects, including the stardard Lebanese and in the Northern and Tyrian dialects "ê" merges into "ī" (thus words, like 𐤌𐤌 mêm "water", are pronounced [miːm]). In Sidonian, however, "ē" typically merges "ê" and both are mid [eː]. In modern Lebanese only stressed vowels can be distinctly long or short, while the duration of unstressed vowels is stays more or less the same. Arabic speakers typically also merge some short vowels, called 𐤕𐤍𐤅𐤏𐤅𐤕 𐤒𐤈̇𐤍𐤅𐤕 tunūʿūth qiṭannūth ("reduced vowels") into a single phoneme that varies from [æ] to [ɒ] depending on its environment. These reduced vowels are pronounced the same as other short vowels, but in Phoenician their pronunciation might have been different. Many North Lebanese speakers also often merge short "e" and "o" into "i" and "u", but it only occures in a colloquial speech, especially when speaking fast.


Stress is mobile in Lebanese. There are two frequent patterns of lexical stress: on the last syllable and on the penultimate syllable. Final stress is usually more frequent, than other types. Contrary to the prescribed standard, some words exhibit stress on the antepenultimate syllable or even further back, usually in loanwords, e.g. 𐤐𐤅𐤋𐤉𐤈𐤉𐤒𐤀 (polīṭiqa - "politics") /pʰɔ.ˈliː.tɪ.ka/. The stress pattern is typically predictable, depending on syllable weight (that is, vowel length and whether a syllable ended with a consonant): 𐤔𐤌𐤌 samêm /sa.ˈmeːm/ ("sky"), 𐤀𐤕̄𐤊̄ ettekki /ʔɛ.ˈtʰɛ.kʰɪ/ ("I give to you").


Modern Lebanese is partly analytic, expressing such forms as dative, ablative, and accusative using prepositional particles rather than morphological cases (a few dialects still retain the old accusative case in some words, but generally the accusative form became the same as the nominative one). On the other hand, Lebanese is also a fusional synthetic language: inflection plays a role in the formation of verbs and nouns (displaying non-concatenative morphology) and pronominal suffixes. For example, 𐤀𐤁-𐤍𐤌 abū-nom "father-3stPerson.Plural.Possessive", "their father". Like other Semitic languages, Lebanese morphology (the way words are formed) is based on the consonantal root. The root generally consists of two or three consonants and has a basic meaning, for example, 𐤊𐤕𐤁 k-t-b has the meaning of "writing". This is then modified by the addition of vowels and other consonants to create different nuances of the basic meaning:

  • 𐤊𐤕𐤁𐤕 kithōbith, handwriting, script; kithaboth, book;
  • 𐤊𐤕𐤁𐤉𐤌 kithōbīm, inscriptions;
  • 𐤊𐤅𐤕𐤁 kūthēb, writer;
  • 𐤊𐤕𐤁𐤕 kathavti, I wrote;
  • 𐤀𐤊𐤕𐤁 ekhtab, I shall write;
  • 𐤋𐤊𐤕𐤁 likhtōb, he shall write;
  • 𐤉𐤊𐤕𐤁𐤀 yikhtuba, may he write.

Nouns and adjectives

Lebanese nouns and adjectives are inflected to show gender, number, case and state, though in a common speech cases (of which modern Lebanese preserves only two: nominative and genitive) are often dropped. Old Phoenician also had a third case for nouns in singular number - the accusative, but it has already been dropped in Phoenician.

There are two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine. The feminine gender is often marked by the ending 𐤕- -th, while nouns ending in other letters are masculine, with an exception of a few "defective" nouns, like 𐤎𐤌𐤋𐤕 simloth "statue". There is a very strong tendency toward natural gender for nouns referring to people and animals. Such nouns generally come in pairs, one masculine and one feminine; for example, 𐤀𐤔 is means "man" (previously also meant "person", but now adom is a gender-neutral word) and 𐤀𐤔𐤕 ist means "woman", but when discussing mixed-sex groups, the plural of the masculine noun is used. Some nouns are feminine, even though they don't end in -th, for example: 𐤀𐤓𐤑 arts "land", 𐤀𐤉𐤌 im "mother", 𐤉𐤅𐤌 yūm "day".

Nouns can be either singular or plural, but an additional dual number exists for some nouns that usually come in pairs. The dual number gradually disappeared in Old Phoenician over time and is still present as relics in some dialects. In the Standard it is treated as a form of plural. Masculine nouns generally form their plural by adding the suffix 𐤉𐤌- -īm to the stem (𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤌 - 𐤀𐤇 aḥ - aḥīm, "brother" - "brothers"). the two-syllable masculine nouns accented on the penultimate syllable also undergo a vowel change in the plural: (𐤇𐤃𐤓𐤉𐤌 - 𐤇𐤃𐤓 ḥíder - ḥadarīm, "room" - "rooms", the stress also shifts to the last syllable). Feminine nouns ending in -oth simply change the ending to -ūth (with a few exceptions: 𐤔𐤍𐤅𐤕 - 𐤍̄𐤕 sat - sanūth, "year" - "years"). Nouns ending in -t have -hūth in their plural: 𐤃𐤋𐤄𐤅𐤕 - 𐤃𐤋𐤕 dalt - dalahūth, "door" - "doors". For nouns that end in -īth/-ē, the plural ending is -iyūth: 𐤔𐤃𐤉𐤅𐤕 - 𐤔𐤃𐤉 sadī - sadiyūth, "field" - "fields"). A few nouns show irregular plural: 𐤌𐤋𐤊𐤉𐤅𐤕 - 𐤌𐤋𐤊𐤕 milkoth - milkiyūth, "queen" - "queens", 𐤀𐤋𐤌 ilīm "god, goddess" has two plurals, both irregular: 𐤀͘𐤋𐤍𐤉𐤌 allōnīm, "gods" and 𐤀͘𐤋𐤍𐤅𐤕 allōnūth, "goddesses". Nouns can also attach possessive suffixes in order to indicate possession. These suffixes are represented below:

"brother" isolated 1st sg. 2st sg. 3st sg. 1st sg. 2st sg. 3st sg.
common masculine feminine masculine feminine common masculine feminine masculine feminine
absolute 𐤀𐤇 aḥ 𐤀𐤇𐤉 aḥī 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤊 aḥūkha 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤊𐤉 aḥūkhī 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤉𐤀 aḥūyo 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤉𐤀 aḥūya 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤍 aḥūn 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤊𐤌 aḥūkhom 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤊𐤉𐤌 aḥūkhīm 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤍𐤌 aḥūnom 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤍𐤌 aḥūnam
construct 𐤀𐤇𐤅 aḥū- 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤉 aḥūyī
genitive 𐤀𐤇𐤉 aḥī 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤀 aḥīya[note 1] 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤅 aḥīw[note 2] 𐤀𐤇𐤉 aḥi[note 3]
absolute 𐤀𐤇𐤌 aḥīm 𐤀𐤇𐤉 aḥay 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤊 aḥêkha 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤊𐤉 aḥêkhī 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤉𐤀 aḥêyo 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤉𐤀 aḥêya 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤍 aḥên 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤊𐤌 aḥêkhom 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤊𐤉𐤌 aḥêkhīm 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤍𐤌 aḥênom 𐤀𐤇𐤉𐤍𐤌 aḥênam
construct 𐤀𐤇𐤅 aḥê-
genitive 𐤀𐤇𐤅𐤌 aḥêm[note 4]
  1. ^ Not used anymore, can be found in some old texts, replaced by aḥī.
  2. ^ This form can still be found in the language, but usually are not used in common speech.
  3. ^ Not used in common speech.
  4. ^ Usually not found in common speech.

Lebanese nouns and adjectives can exist in one of two states. To a certain extent, these states correspond to the role of cases in the Indo-European languages:

  • The absolute state is the basic form of a noun. It expresses indefiniteness, comparable to the English indefinite article "a(n)" (for example, 𐤊𐤕𐤁𐤕 kithaboth, "a book"), and can be used in most syntactic roles. To nouns in this state (and also to attributive adjectives) a definite article can be added, which is traditionally considered to be an actual part of the definite noun. However, in modern use, the definite article is taken as a clitic, attaching to a noun. For example, the term for school is 𐤁𐤕𐤊𐤕𐤁𐤕‎ (bêthkithaboth, “house-of book”); “the school” is 𐤄𐤁̄𐤕𐤊𐤕𐤁𐤕 (hebbêth-kitaboth, “the-house-of-book”). The article triggers gemination (in this example /b/ is techically geminated, but the word is actually pronounced [hɛ.ˈbːeːθ.kɪ.θa.ˌbɔθ]. Here the assimilation of the final "th" into /s/ occurs).
  • The construct state is a form of the noun used to make possessive constructions (for example, 𐤌𐤒𐤌 𐤔𐤉𐤁𐤕𐤉 muqōm sivti, "the place of his residing", where muqōm is the construct state of the noun maqūm. In dialects muqūm sivto can often be heard due to the absence of the genitive case in them). In the masculine singular the form of the construct is often the same as the absolute, but it may undergo vowel reduction (usually into /u/). Unlike a genitive case (often dropped entirely), which marks the possessor, the construct state is marked on the possessed. This is mainly due to Lebanese word order: possessed[const.] possessor[abs./gen.] are treated as a speech unit, with the first unit (possessed) employing the construct state to link it to the following word.

Adjectives agree with their nouns in number and gender. Predicative adjectives are in the absolute state regardless of the state of their noun. Below is an example of a typical adjectival declension:

"good" masc. sg. fem. sg. masc. pl. fem. pl.
absolute 𐤍𐤏𐤉𐤌 naˁīm 𐤍𐤏𐤉𐤌𐤕 neˁīmoth 𐤍𐤏𐤉𐤌𐤉𐤌 neˁīmīm 𐤍𐤏𐤉𐤌𐤅𐤕 neˁīmūth
construct 𐤍𐤏𐤉𐤌𐤕 neˁīmat(h)- 𐤍𐤏𐤉𐤌𐤉 neˁīmê-
"happy" masc. sg. fem. sg. masc. pl. fem. pl.
absolute 𐤁𐤓𐤊 barīkh 𐤁𐤓𐤊𐤕 birīkhoth 𐤍𐤏𐤉𐤌𐤉𐤌 naˁīmīm 𐤁𐤓𐤊𐤅𐤕 birīkhūth
construct 𐤁𐤓𐤊 birīkh- 𐤁𐤓𐤊𐤕 birīkhat(h)- 𐤁𐤓𐤊𐤉 birīkhê-

Lebanese also has a special form of nominals, called 𐤍𐤎𐤁𐤕 niseboth, used to form demonyms from placenames (𐤑𐤃𐤅𐤍𐤉 Tsidōnī - "Sidonian, the one from Sidon"), names of laguages (𐤊𐤍𐤏𐤍𐤉𐤌 Kanaʿanīm - "Phoenician", 𐤏𐤁𐤓𐤉𐤌 ʿIberīm - "Hebrew"), cardinal numbers from the ordinal ones (𐤀𐤓𐤁𐤏𐤉 - 𐤀𐤓𐤁𐤏 arbaʿ - arbaʿī, "four - fourth"), some adjectives from nouns and rarely from prepositions (𐤃𐤅𐤓𐤉 dūrī "permanent, eternal" from 𐤃𐤅𐤓 dūr "eternity", 𐤋𐤐𐤍𐤉 lifenī - "former, past" from 𐤋𐤐𐤍𐤉 lifnê "before").

"Lebanese" masc. sg. fem. sg. masc. pl. fem. pl.
absolute 𐤋𐤁𐤍𐤉 labōnī 𐤋𐤁𐤍𐤉𐤕 labōnīth 𐤋𐤁𐤍𐤉𐤌 labōnīm 𐤋𐤁𐤍𐤉𐤅𐤕 labōniyūth
construct 𐤋𐤁𐤍𐤉𐤌 labōnê-

Word patterns

Scholars have attempted to categorize the varied types of nouns in the Semitic languages by organizing them according to their root shapes (usually various vowel changes that modify the basic root word). Scholars often use the root q-ṭ-l as the base for illustrating the patterns. Verbs are categorized differently by using the root p-ˁ-l, except for the most common pattern is qal (just like in Hebrew). A certain semantic range of meaning is often associated with a particular pattern.

  • Single consonant (q): 𐤐𐤉 "mouth", 𐤔𐤅 "sheep";
  • Biconsonantal: qal: 𐤀𐤁 ab "father", 𐤃𐤌 dom "blood", qil: 𐤁̄𐤕 bit "daughter", qul: 𐤒𐤅𐤋 qūl "voice";
  • Triconsonantal (singular - qVtel, plural qitVl, where "V" is a vowel): qatl: 𐤀𐤓𐤑 arts "earth", 𐤁𐤏𐤋 baˁal "master, lord", qitl: 𐤌𐤋𐤊 milk "king";
  • qatol: 𐤀𐤃𐤌 adom "person", qital 𐤉𐤓𐤇 yiraḥ "moon", qatul: 𐤒𐤈𐤍 qatun "small", qital: 𐤆𐤓𐤏 dziraʿ "seed";
  • Furtive "a" roots: ̄𐤌𐤅𐤇 mūaḥ "brain", ̄𐤋𐤅𐤇 lūaḥ "tablet";
  • Weak roots (roots, once containing "w" or "y"): 𐤁𐤉𐤕 bêth "house", 𐤔𐤉𐤓 sīr "song".


Verbal consonantal roots are placed into derived verbal stems, which mainly serve to indicate grammatical voice. This includes various distinctions of reflexivity, passivity, and causativity. Verbs of every pattern have three non-finite forms (one participle, two infinitives), three modal forms (cohortative, imperative, jussive), and two major conjugations (prefixing, suffixing). These two conjugations have different functions. The meaning of the prefixing and suffixing conjugations are also affected by the conjugation‎, and their meaning with respect to tense and aspect is a matter of debate. The basic root type of the suffixing conjugation is qatol (other types are less common). Here is an example of a suffixing conjugation of the verb:

Form Singular Plural Meaning
1st Person 2nd Person 3rd Person 1st Person 2nd Person 3rd Person
M. F. M. F. M. F.
paˁol 𐤐𐤏𐤋𐤕𐤉


















nepˁal 𐤍𐤐𐤏𐤋𐤕𐤉


















was made
peˁil 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋𐤕𐤉


















been effective
paˁul 𐤁𐤏𐤅̄𐤕𐤉


















been far from
piˁēl 𐤇𐤉𐤃̇𐤔𐤕𐤉


















puˁal 𐤇𐤅𐤃̇𐤔𐤕𐤉


















was restored
yipˁēl 𐤉𐤒𐤃𐤔𐤕𐤉


















yopˁal 𐤉𐤒𐤃𐤔𐤕𐤉


















was dedicated
yithpeˁēl 𐤉𐤕𐤒𐤃̇𐤔𐤕𐤉


















dedicated oneself to
yithpuˁal 𐤉𐤕𐤍𐤅𐤃̇𐤁𐤕𐤉


















made to volunteer

This form is usually used to mark the perfective aspect or the past tense but also for the optative, though the pattern is a bit different (𐤇𐤉𐤃̇𐤔 ḥeddēs - "may he restore" from ḥiddēs - "he restored"). The verb agrees with its subject in person, number, and (for the second-person and third-person singular), gender. The corresponding pronouns are not necessarily used in conjunction. The pronominal suffixes can be attached directly to the stem in order to mark a direct object (for example: peˁalato - "she made it"). From the suffixing form the pluperfect is derived: 𐤀𐤇𐤍𐤉𐤊 𐤇𐤔𐤁𐤕𐤉 𐤊𐤍 𐤐𐤏𐤋𐤀 anīkh ḥasavti kon paˁolo "I thought he had done it".

The prefixing form of the verb comprises three subforms (usually simply called A', B and C, examples of which are yipʿol for A and B and yipʿola for the C form, which also has and extended form yipʿalan). These three forms are used on different occasions. The prefixing form A expresses the imperfective aspect and usually marks the present tense. The prefixing form B is used only to mark the past tense and the perfective aspect (similarly to the suffixing form, but it is placed in a sentence-initial position instead and also with the w- prefix). It also can express the subjunctive and optative, but is rarely used for that purpose, usually together with a proclitic particle l-, 𐤋𐤔𐤌𐤀 lismaʿ "may he hear". The prefixing form C marks cohortative and optative. Its extended form has the same meaning as a simple form and is usually used only with verbs that don't have a distinction between A and B forms.

Below is a table of prefixing A forms:

Form Singular Plural Meaning
1st Person 2nd Person 3rd Person 1st Person 2nd Person 3rd Person
M. F. M. F. M. F.
paˁol 𐤀𐤔𐤏𐤋


















yipˁēl 𐤀𐤒𐤃𐤔


















yiptaˁal 𐤀𐤇𐤕𐤎𐤐



















All imperatives are only used in affirmative commands. Negative commands use the particle 𐤀𐤋 al followed by the corresponding optative form. The passive verbs of puʿal, paʿul and yopʿal do not have imperatives and only the optative form can be used and the nepʿal form is not used anymore, but can still be found in older texts. There are three grades of imperatives: simply called Grade I (or simple form), Grade II (the "-a" form) and Grade III (or extended form), for instance: 𐤋𐤊 lēkh "go!" - 𐤋𐤊𐤀 lēkha "you'd better go" - 𐤋𐤊𐤍𐤀 lakhanna "please, go!", which are the tree forms of the verb 𐤄𐤋𐤊 halokh" "to go". These forms have the same meaning, but the Grade II is more polite and the Grade III is used for emphasis. In Lebanese, just like in English, the word 𐤁𐤀͘𐤓𐤔𐤕 ba'arrōsoth ("please") is used together with the imperative form, however a single Grade III form is more commonly used for that purpose.

Form Grade I Grade II Grade III Meaning
Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine
pa'ol 𐤀𐤌𐤓 omor 𐤀𐤌𐤓𐤉 omirī 𐤀𐤌𐤓𐤅 omorū 𐤀𐤌𐤓𐤀 ōmara 𐤀𐤌𐤓𐤉 ōmirī 𐤀𐤌𐤓𐤅 ōmorū 𐤀𐤌𐤓͘𐤍𐤀 amaranna 𐤀𐤌𐤓͘𐤍𐤉 amarannī 𐤀𐤌𐤓͘𐤍𐤅 amarannū say!
nep'al 𐤍͘𐤕𐤍 netton 𐤍͘𐤕𐤍𐤉 nettonī 𐤍͘𐤕𐤍𐤅 nettonū 𐤍𐤉𐤕𐤍𐤀 neyithna 𐤍𐤉𐤕𐤍𐤉 neyithnī 𐤍𐤉𐤕𐤍𐤅 neyithnū 𐤍͘𐤕𐤍͘𐤍𐤀 nettananna 𐤍͘𐤕𐤍͘𐤍𐤉 nettanannī 𐤍͘𐤕𐤍͘𐤍𐤅 nettanannū be given!
pe'il 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋 peʿil 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋𐤉 peʿilī 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋𐤅 peʿilū 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋𐤀 pēʿila 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋𐤉 pēʿilī 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋𐤅 pēʿilū 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋͘𐤍𐤀 peʿilanna 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋͘𐤍𐤉 peʿilannī 𐤐𐤏𐤉𐤋͘𐤍𐤅 peʿilannū be effective!
pi'ēl 𐤄𐤊͘𐤓 hikkēr 𐤄𐤊͘𐤓𐤉 hikkerī 𐤄𐤊͘𐤓𐤅 hikkerū 𐤄𐤊͘𐤉𐤓𐤀 hīkkira 𐤄𐤊͘𐤉𐤓𐤉 hīkkirī 𐤄𐤊͘𐤉𐤓𐤅 hīkkirū 𐤄𐤊͘𐤓͘𐤍𐤀 hikkēranna 𐤄𐤊͘𐤓͘𐤍𐤉 hikkērannī 𐤄𐤊͘𐤓͘𐤍𐤅 hikkērannū remember!
yip'īl 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒 yippīq 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒𐤉 yippīqī 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒𐤅 yippīqū 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒𐤀 yīppiqa 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒𐤉 yīppiqī 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒𐤅 yīppiqū 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒͘𐤍𐤀 yippīqanna 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒͘𐤍𐤉 yippīqannī 𐤉͘𐤐𐤉𐤒͘𐤍𐤅 yippīqannū find!
yithpe'ēl 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤃 yithekkēd 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤃𐤉 yithekkēdī 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤃𐤅 yithekkēdū 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤉𐤃𐤀 yittekkida 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤉𐤃𐤉 yittekkidī 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤉𐤃𐤅 yittekkidū 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤃͘𐤍𐤀 yithekkēdanna 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤃͘𐤍𐤉 yithekkēdannī 𐤉𐤕͘𐤊𐤃͘𐤍𐤅 yithekkēdannū resolve itself!


Lebanese has a decimal alphabetic numeral system that used the letters of the Phoenician alphabet. In modern days, however, the decimal system of Arabic numerals is used in almost all cases (money, age, date on the civil calendar). The old numerals are used only in special cases, much as Roman numerals are used in Europe.

The Lebanese language has native names for numbers that range from zero to ten thousand, which were inherited from Phoenician. Cardinal and ordinal numbers must agree in gender with the noun they are describing, but if there is no such noun (e.g. telephone numbers), the feminine form is used.

Cardinal Ordinal
Masculine Feminine Masculine Feminine
0 (tsifer) 𐤑𐤐𐤓
1 𐤀 eḥod 𐤀𐤇𐤃 eḥath 𐤀𐤇𐤕 lifanī 𐤋𐤐𐤍𐤉 lifanīth 𐤋𐤐𐤍𐤉𐤕
2 𐤁 esnêm 𐤀𐤔𐤍𐤉𐤌 estêm 𐤀𐤔𐤕𐤉𐤌 sinī 𐤔𐤍𐤉 sinīth 𐤔𐤍𐤉𐤕
3 𐤂 salūst 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔𐤕 salūs 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔 salūsī 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔𐤉 salūsīth 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔𐤉𐤕
4 𐤃 arbaʿath 𐤀𐤓𐤁𐤏𐤕 arbaʿ 𐤀𐤓𐤁𐤏 arbaʿī 𐤀𐤓𐤁𐤏𐤉 arbaʿīth 𐤀𐤓𐤁𐤏𐤉𐤕
5 𐤄 ḥamēs 𐤇𐤌𐤔𐤕 ḥamist 𐤇𐤌𐤔 ḥamissī 𐤇𐤌͘𐤔𐤉 ḥamissīth 𐤇𐤌͘𐤔𐤉𐤕
6 𐤅 sēsith 𐤔𐤔𐤕 sēs 𐤔𐤔 sissī 𐤔͘𐤔𐤉 sissīth 𐤔͘𐤔𐤉𐤕
7 𐤆 sibaʿath 𐤔𐤁𐤏𐤕 sēbaʿ 𐤔𐤁𐤏 sibeʿī 𐤔𐤁𐤏𐤉 sibeʿīth 𐤔𐤁𐤏𐤉𐤕
8 𐤇 samūnīth 𐤔𐤌𐤅𐤍𐤉𐤕 samūnī 𐤔𐤌𐤅𐤍𐤉 samūnī 𐤔𐤌𐤅𐤍𐤉 samūnīth 𐤔𐤌𐤅𐤍𐤉𐤕
9 𐤈 tisaʿath 𐤕𐤔𐤏𐤕‎ tīsaʿ 𐤕𐤉𐤔𐤏 tiseʿī 𐤕𐤔𐤏𐤉 tiseʿīth 𐤕𐤔𐤏𐤉𐤕
10 𐤉 ʿasirt 𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤕‎ ʿaser 𐤏𐤔𐤓 ʿasirī 𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉 ʿasirīth 𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉𐤕
11 𐤉𐤀 eḥadʿasōr 𐤀𐤇𐤃𐤏𐤔𐤓‎ eḥatʿasirt 𐤀𐤇𐤕𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤕 eḥadʿasirī 𐤀𐤇𐤕𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉 eḥatʿasirīth 𐤀𐤇𐤕𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉𐤕
12 𐤉𐤁 esnêʿasōr 𐤀𐤔𐤍𐤉𐤏𐤔𐤀𐤓‎ estêʿasirt 𐤀𐤔𐤕𐤉𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤕 esnêʿasirī 𐤀𐤔𐤍𐤉𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉 estêʿasirīth 𐤀𐤔𐤕𐤉𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉𐤕
13 𐤉𐤂 salūsitʿasōr 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔𐤕𐤏𐤔𐤀𐤓‎ salūsʿasirt 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤕 salūsitʿasirī 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔𐤕𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉 salūsʿasirīth 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉𐤕
20 𐤊 ʿasrīm 𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉𐤌‎‎
21 𐤊𐤀 eḥod waʿasrīm 𐤅𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤉𐤌‎‎ 𐤀𐤇𐤃
30 𐤋 salūsīm 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔𐤉𐤌‎‎
100 𐤒 mī'ith 𐤌𐤉𐤀𐤕‎‎
200 𐤓 mētêm 𐤌𐤀𐤕𐤉𐤌‎‎
300 𐤔 salūs mī'ūth 𐤌𐤉𐤀𐤅𐤕‎‎ 𐤔𐤋𐤅𐤔
1000 𐤀׳ alp 𐤀𐤋𐤐‎
10 000 𐤀׳𐤒 ribbō 𐤀‎𐤓͘𐤁 ribbūth 𐤅𐤕‎𐤓͘𐤁
100 000 𐤀׳𐤉 ʿasrith ribbo'īm 𐤓͘𐤁𐤀𐤉𐤌‎ 𐤏𐤔𐤓𐤕 ʿaser ribbo'ūth 𐤓͘𐤁𐤀𐤅𐤕‎ 𐤏𐤔𐤓
1 000 000 𐤀׳׳ miliyūn 𐤌𐤉𐤋𐤉𐤅𐤍

Writing system

Sample text

Nidirath habBaʿal (the Lord's prayer)

Lebanese (romanized) English

Abūn sibbissamêm,
yithqeddēs simka.
To bō’o mimlakhathka,
yiʿsē ratsūnka,
kibissamêm kōn ba’ārts.
Ith liḥem yumīnū tēn lonū hayūm,
wasaloḥ lonū ʿal ḥittên,
Komū sissūlḥīm komū is naḥnū liḥūṭīm lonū.
Wa‘al nasōnū liyidê pittūnoth,
wu’aph lilitsenū min harraʿi.
Kī likha hammimlakhathka wuhattiqūphoth wuha’addirt
Līʿūlmê ʿūlōmīm.

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours
For ever and ever.

had'Deklaratsiya ʿūlomī dzikhiyuth-ʿamīm (the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

  • Kil adamīm nūladū ḥurīn wusuwīn bikkorūmathom wibiddzikhiyūthom. Ḥūnenū kilom it tibīnoth wi it ittawigdīn wilippeʿīlū habbirruḥ aḥuwoth.
  • Translation: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Nidirath liMarīyom (Ave Maria)

Lebanese (romanized) English

Ḥawū, Marīyom, ḥised mil’ath,
Marīyom, ḥised mil’ath,
Marīyom, ḥised mil’ath,
Solūm, solūm liBaʿal.
Baʿal ethakhī.
Birīkhoth atti bi’isathūth, wu barīkh,
Barīkh pirī boṭnothkī,
Riḥemkī, Yesūʿ.
Ḥawū, Marīyom!

Ḥawū, Marīyom, Am Illīm,
Tsalū ʿaltênū ḥūṭi’īm,
Tsalū, tsalū ʿaltênū,
Tsalū, tsalū ʿaltênū ḥūṭi’īm,
Keʿan wu-biʿith mūthnū,
Biʿith mūthnū,
Biʿith mūthnū.
Ḥawū, Marīyom.

Live, Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Mary, full of grace,
Hail, Hail, the Lord.
The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women, and blessed,
Blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
Thy womb, Jesus.
Live, Mary!

Live, Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Pray, pray for us;
Pray, pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death,
The hour of our death,
The hour of our death.
Live, Mary.