The best way to go about an explanation is an example.

Imagine if the times would go back, when we were living in Baghdad, when all was quiet and mellow.

"Ooo Peace! O God O God. If only we can relive a day."

In Arabic, O peace translates to (يا سلام) (ya salam). However, here there's an elongation in the way it's pronounced (yaa salaaaam). This adds emotion with a couple of nods and a circular gesture of the hand.

Here it means, O beautiful/great if that be/if that happen.

It's like when peace has just come and one looks into the horizon and warm-heartedly says, "O peace, lovely peace."

It's also for example:

Ya salaaaaaaam (O peace). What a lovely soup.

It's sort of an intensifier with the elongation.

It's used in many cases: yearning, something pleasant you hear (poem etc), you watch, you eat. Anything that arouses affection and emotions. Just imagine that moment when peace is finally there.

It can also be used satirically:

Ya salaaaaam. Yeah That's great, wonderful, amazing.

I hope it's understood.

  • 1
    It's not really clear what you mean by "o' peace", as that's not really English in the first place, unless an abbreviation for "of peace". Perhaps the first task is to establish exactly what the phrase means in English. It sounds a bit like the English expression "Ahhh [insert word here]", as in "Ah, peace!" Of course, the "Ah" can be strung out in informal writing, such as "Ahhhhh, peace!"
    – ralph.m
    Dec 22, 2015 at 22:57
  • Oh happy time! Oh blessed time!
    – Graffito
    Dec 22, 2015 at 23:12
  • (Oh) My! might work.
    – ermanen
    Dec 22, 2015 at 23:14
  • It's not something that can be translated into English. The words can be, but native speakers wouldn't use the expression. Medica gives an answer but I have never heard anyone use it. I lived in the Middle East and understand ya salaam. Dec 23, 2015 at 1:05
  • @michael_timofeev at least someone understands.
    – user151577
    Dec 23, 2015 at 1:25

3 Answers 3


The closest thing I can think of would be Ah, Heaven! It's an expression of bliss.

Ah, Heaven: A Big Game, A Jug of Beer and Thou - NYT
Ah, heaven: unabashed love at first sight, with a high I.Q. - NYT
Ah Heaven! said the little woman, laying the tips of the fingers of her two little hands against each other, that would be generous indeed, that would be a special gallantry. - Charles Dickens, Little Dorrit

It can also be said sarcastically.

You're spending New Year's Eve with your in-laws? Ahhhh...heaven!

It can be, less often, I think though, a cry for help.

"Ah, heaven!" he cried; "I will speak, I will tell all. Ah! cursed duch—" The voice had been heard above everything, but suddenly it ceased. - Alexandre Dumas, The forty-five guardsmen


Your question puts us squarely into the realm of nonverbal communication, even though the raw materials of verbal communication are involved!

A purely nonverbal emphasizer, for example, could be the gesture of a vehement speaker who when he says the words

"This must stop, now!"

pounds the bottom of his right clenched fist into the open palm of his left hand. The gesture obviously adds vehemence to those four simple words.

Your example of ya salaaaaaam is what I'd call a hybrid, verbal-nonverbal example of a communication emphasizer. By drawing out (elongating) the sound of the second letter a in the word salam, you get salaaaaaaam. In written form you can write as many a's as you like, I guess. In speaking, you can elongate verbally for a fraction of a second or for a couple seconds or more, depending on the effect you are after.

Having lived with an Arabic speaker (my spouse) for decades, I can vouch for the similarity between what both Arabic and English speakers do in order to express shades of emotion through the elongation process. In Arabic, the word harram (pronounced hŭ rrŏmʹ--roll the r)can mean poor, as in

"Poor you, your pet dog died."

It's thus an expression of sympathy. Harram can also mean wrong, as in

"Look at all the food going to waste. How wrong that is!"

In the former use of harram, the second letter a is generally elongated, almost as if the extra sound which is generated by the speaker's addition of a's lends the word an almost imperceptible sigh:

"Ya, harraaaaaaam!" (Meaning: Oh, poor you!).

There would, of course, be additional nonverbal cues (mostly facial expressions) which could be detected on the speaker's face, but I'll save that for a future answer.

The point is, in some--but probably not all--instances, the elongation process of which you speak works quite similarly in both Arabic and English. So, don't hesitate; elongate!

  • 1
    This is very informative, @rhetorician. I can really benefit from you a lot, given that you're mother tongue is English but have association with Arabic. You've been helpful. Thanks again.
    – user151577
    Dec 23, 2015 at 2:11
  • @user151577: : Shukran! (By the way, my wife is an Egyptian, and a Christian!). Don Dec 23, 2015 at 2:46
  • @rhetorician there are quite a few Arabic expressions that don't "port" well to English. Good answer. Dec 23, 2015 at 3:25

I believe ya salaaam! is untranslatable to English. The expression I could think of & which could more or less be closest in my opinion to the intended meaning of ya salaaam! in this particular context is what a blessing!

Imagine if the times would go back, when we were living in Baghdad, when all was quiet and mellow. If only we can relive a day. What a blessing!

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