As part of our ongoing Lost in Translation series, we’re discussing the word Ya’aburne this month. Although it is sometimes written as yo’borne or tu’burne, the former is the most common spelling of the word. Besides the placement of vowels, the letter T indicates that it’s used in feminine Arabic. The phrase’s literal translation is “you bury me,” which expresses the desire to die and be buried by your loved ones rather than live a day without them. While it is difficult to determine where the word originated and why it gained popularity, we do know that it comes from the Levant, specifically Syria and Lebanon.

Over time, it has been widely used in Middle Eastern culture and, at times, even in the West. If you are a Halsey fan, you might’ve noticed that her latest studio album includes a song named “Ya’aburnee”. Poets and songwriters in our society have long used the word to either express a lovey-dovey obsession with someone (especially in Arabic pop music) or convey the mixed sentiment that accompanies the political turmoil in the Middle East.

For example, Lebanese poet Zeina Hashem Beck once wrote the poem “YA’ABURNEE” to share her mixed emotions about the word. “That day my daughter told me ‘ya’aburnee,’ and I felt terrified. Ya’aburnee is a very common term we Arab parents tell our children, and it translates as ‘May you bury me.’ The implication is, ‘May I die before you do (because I love you so much).’ The poem followed all this. This is for the parents who had to bury children and for those who are fighting against the burial of identity.”

Context plays a huge role in how grim or endearing the sentiment may be. So, we decided to ask a few people to share how they feel about the word, and here’s what they had to say.

Michket, Lebanon.

“I personally don’t use it much, and I didn’t particularly grow up hearing it from my direct family either, probably because of its dark meaning. But even with that the case, I generally associate it with something so cute it makes you want to die.”

Zuha, Syrian.

“I never really had any feeling towards the word. I used to feel like when I was a kid, whoever used to say ‘don’t say it’ or whatever, I used to always wonder why because I never clocked the literal meaning as a kid. But that stuck with me as an adult, and I never used the word until I became an aunt. So it’s not that I was ever for or against using it, but I only used it when it came to someone that I would use the word for its literal meaning.”

Tamara, Lebanon.

“I completely forgot that the origin of the word had a darker meaning. Whenever I hear it, I associate it with someone showing affection. It gives off the same energy as a grandma talking to a child.”

Danny, Lebanon.

“The meaning behind it obviously feels incredibly dark and grim, but I understand the cultural context of the term. I do find it endearing, even if it does feel like an extreme expression of love.”

Tamanna, Lebanon.

“It makes me feel some weird type of joy, especially when the person says it with a high pitch because I don’t think I’ve ever heard it in a normal pitch. It’s always been a case when someone is violently complimenting something about me or something I did. For example, when I graduated from university, my mom said it in the highest pitch while violently pinching my cheek and hugging me. It’s the verbal form of seeing something so cute and wanting to squeeze it.”

Tala, Syria.

“I grew up in a household where my mother always told me to avoid saying to ya’aburne. Even if I say it now, she’ll warn me not to say it and that it’s really bad. Although it has a slightly dark meaning if you look deeply, I always find it so beautiful. It’s a raw feeling to tell someone that I love you so much that I actually want you to be the one that buries me first because I don’t want to experience your death. But in my daily life, it’s something typical, and it’s only when you sit down and think about it that you truly feel it.”