Curses and profanity in Moroccan-Jewish Arabic

 As fewer and fewer Jews from Arab countries speak Judeo-Arabic dialects of the national language (Darija in the case of Morocco) it is comforting to know that academics such as Jonas Sibony of the University of Strasbourg are busy trying to salvage what remains. Colourful insults, curses and profanities occupy an important place in the spoken language.

As (with)
the other Moroccan Arabic speakers, Jews from Morocco use different kind of
curses and profanities, some very common and others more specific. Alongside
the ones they share with their Muslim neighbors, they’re used to borrowing
words and concepts to the Jewish texts, mostly from the Bible and the Talmud.
From those words, both in Hebrew and Aramaic, are formulated innovative and peripheral sentences
such imsi kəppāṛa ˁlīna: “may he give his life for
our sake”where imsī and ˁlīna is Arabic but kəppāṛa is

Or a l-ḥrāmi l-mamzīr, where the two words have the same meaning (‘bastard’) but ḥrāmi  is Arabic and mamzīr is Hebrew. Hebrew words are integrated in an Arabic syntax.

Today most of this community has left Morocco
and lives in the state of Israel. Those curses and profanities are still used
in this very new context, sometimes just the way they were and sometimes in the
middle of Hebrew sentences and therefore now integrated into Hebrew syntax.
That situation leads to the production of new bilingual curses and even to
darija swearing hinged with Hebrew morphology.

Read paper in full


  • I know some (american) english curse words I can list here if you like.

  • Hi, I'm Jonas Sibony, the author of the article! I'm very glad to see you posted it on your blog. Just a tiny adjustment, I'm not from University of Bucharest (they are the editors of the volume). I'm a member of University of Strasbourg (France). Anyway, thanks for sharing!


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