There isn’t anything new about this; Arabic is a complex language. Its rich imagery, idioms, and nuances are inevitably lost once translated. With more than 20 dialects spoken, it can be difficult even for Arabs to understand one another. In this series, we’ll try to unravel some of the few words and phrases that are unique to our language. Today, we’re tackling na’eeman. 

You will typically hear na’eeman 90% of the time after getting out of the shower, doing your nails, or shaving. The other 10% is saved for when you get a haircut. Let’s face it, if your friends and family don’t like your new hairdo, don’t expect to hear anything close to na’eeman. 

But in short, we congratulate you on your hygiene. The word na’eeman can be derived from two words. The first one is na’eem, which translates to paradise. Na’eem also translates to a blissful state of being (both spiritually and mentally). The other word is ni’am, which translates to blessings. The fast way to solve it for a non-Arab speaker is by referencing the English expression “cleanliness is next to godliness”, which was coined in the 17th century by Victorian Christian moralists. While the word na’eeman has no original religious references, both Arabic derivatives add a spiritual layer adjacent to a state of bliss. The word can also be taken in the sense that the speaker bestows blessings on the recipient and wishes them to have had a pleasant shower or haircut. If you’re speaking with someone from the Levant, they might also add the phrase “na’eeman salaf”, – which means you bestow the blessings before the shower/haircut.

There are multiple ways to go about it. So we asked a few people to share how they’d explain na’eeman. 

Celine A, Lebanon.

“We say na’eeman to a person after taking a shower or having a haircut. It’s a derivation or an adaptation from the word ne’am, meaning blessings. In a way, we are confirming his blessings after a shower.”

Abdullah Salhiye, Jordanian.

“Na’eeman is like bless up. You look fresh, bless. It’s like throwing blessings after a shower, but also telling you that you look good and fresh.”

Budreya Faisal, Emirati.

“I’m happy you’re clean, congratulations.”

Mervette Imam, Egyptian.

“Congratulating someone for taking a shower or getting a haircut. Like blessings – we take hygiene as a pillar of our faith.”

Ward Faten, Syrian

“It’s a blessing we bestow on someone who just showered. Na’eem also means heaven. So you look fresh, but also cleanliness is something close to heaven.” 

Ahmed, Emirati.

“The best way I can explain it is that you are looking fresh!”

But no matter how you’d like to go about explaining the word, don’t forget the requisite response “yin’am aleik/aleiki” – a phrase to reciprocate the blessing. 

And if you’re reading this after the shower, na’eeman!