How to Say Dates and Times in Arabic

By David F. DiMeo

When making plans, appointments, and travel arrangements in Arabic-speaking countries, you need to be able to state dates and other calendar terms in Arabic. Understanding the days of the week, the months of the year, and how to tell time in Arabic can help you to avoid confusion.

Calendar terms

In Arabic, the week always starts on Sunday and the names of the days of the week are based (mostly) on numbers.

yawm al-aHad (Sunday)

yawm al-ithnayn (Monday)

yawm ath-thulaathaa (Tuesday)

yawm al-arbiaa (Wednesday)

yawm al-khamiis (Thursday)

yawm al-juma (Friday)

yawm as-sabt (Saturday)

When using the names of the days in conversation, the word yawm (day) is often dropped.

Other terms used to describe days in more general terms include

al-yawm (today)

ams (yesterday)

ghadan (tomorrow)

taariikh (date)

The Arab world uses three different systems for the names of the months. The two most common ones are one based on the French months (used commonly in North Africa) and one that is used in the Fertile Crescent area (Syria, Iraq, and Jordan).

North African Fertile Crescent English
yanaayir kaanuun ath-thaanii January
fabraayir shubaaT February
maaris aadhaar March
abriil niisaan April
maayuu ayyaar May
yuuniyuu Haziiraan June
yuuliyuu tammuuz July
aghusTus aab August
sibtambir ayluul September
uktuubir tishriin al-awwal October
nuufimbir tishriin ath-thaanii November
diisambir kaanuun al-awwal December

The last system is based on the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar and doesn’t correspond to the months used in our calendar.

Telling time

The time of day can be described in general terms or specific times. The following words can be used to describe the general time of day.

SabaaH (morning)

DHuhr (noon)

bad-aDH-DHuhr (afternoon)

masaa (evening)

layl (nighttime)

nahaar (daytime)

When you want to know a specific time of day, you can ask as-saaa kam? (What time is it?). Remember that time expressions use ordinal (first, second, and so on) numbers rather than cardinal numbers (one, two, and so on), such as the following:

as-saaa al-waaHida (one o’clock)

as-saaa ath-thaaniya (two o’clock)

as-saaa ath-thaalitha (three o’clock)

as-saaa ar-raabia (four o’clock)

as-saaa al-khaamisa (five o’clock)

as-saaa as-saadisa (six o’clock)

as-saaa as-saabia (seven o’clock)

as-saaa ath-thaamina (eight o’clock)

as-saaa at-taasia (nine o’clock)

as-saaa al-aashira (ten o’clock)

as-saaa al-Haadiya ashra (eleven o’clock)

as-saaa ath-thaaniya ashra (twelve o’clock)

When expressing time between the hours, use the following terms to break things down.

saaa (hour/time/clock/watch)

daqiiqa (minute)

thaaniya (second)

nuSf (half)

rub (quarter)

thulth (third [20 minutes])

To give a specific time, you would state the hour and then add the minutes, quarters, etc. to the end of the phrase, as in the following examples.

as-saaa ar-raabia illaa rub (quarter ’til four)

as-saaa al-waaHida wa nuSf fii-SabaaH (1:30 a.m.)

as-saaa as-saabia wa rubfii-l-masaa (7:15 p.m.)