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Arabic/The word


QUESTION: Hi Sirine Malas,

I want to ask a very simple question. I want to know that can the Arabic word "makr" used positively in Arabic language? For example, a soldier doing "makr" from enemies to protect his country? If "makr" means craftiness? It's a very simple and short question.

Thank you very much.

ANSWER: Dear Den,

Makr in Arabic مكر means cunning craftiness as you said.

And yes it can have a positive meaning as being cunning entails a high level of intelligence and smarts, not to mention an ability to plan and lay strategies.

Regarding soldiers and wars , as they say "all is fair in love and war". In war it all comes down to strength sometimes you need to use illusion or mislead your ennemy if you are not on the same level of strength enough to confront them one on one, leaving you with no other choice to protect yourself, country, loved ones etc... which is again a positive thing as an enemy would be targeting you and means harm.

Personally I believe most things in life can be both negative and positive, afterall nuclear power was supposed to be a positive science when research and studies first started. It is people who turn things, skills and tools into weapons and evil items.

I hope this answer was helpful.

All the Best,


[an error occurred while processing this directive]---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Respected Sirine,

Thank you for your answer. You stated in your answer that the Arabic word "makr"مكر means craftiness and it can be used for something good. The thing that has confused me is that how can we associate "makr" مكر (cunning) with something good? Isn't the word "makr" or "cunning" used in a negative way? Or can it really be used for something good? Let's take some sentence example,

"I did makr (مكر) from the gang to save my friend." (Positive Makr)

"He did makr (مكر) from the people to earn money." (Negative Makr)

Sirine, I hope that you understand my question.


Hi Den,

Ok in this case , let's go back to the best source for Arabic; the Quran.

In the Quran, cunning is used both negatively and positively in the same sentence.

و مكروا و مكر الله و الله خير الماكرين
Wamakaroo wamakara Allahu waAllahu khayru almakireena.
[003:054] And they devised, and God devised, and God is the best of devisers.

In this verse God himself is doing the act of Makr (positive) against another act of makr by people who mean harm. This verse is talking about Jesus Christ as certain people wanted to tell on his hiding place and allow the Romans to kill him. God used Makr against Jesus's enemies in order to save him.

Positiveness or negativeness is not related to the action itself here Den , it is related to the intention of this action. Being cunning is a creative skill that you can use either for a good cause or to harm someone. Many other words hold dual meanings the same way like hit and punish are they negative or positive? It is negative to hit man but postive to hit a ball. As for puishment it is always a reaction to someones bad actions which positive because without punishment the criminal will carry on harming others even if the punishment itself if something painful but it still is positive due to the context.

Makr is basically fooling someone, creating an illusion or not letting them know something that is better kept hidden , sometimes you do that with children for their own good , as there are things that will reflect badly on them if they knew them too early in life. It is better to tell a child his mom went to a nice beautiful garden named heaven then to tell them his mom is lying dead in a dark grave under soil.

I hope it is clear this time.




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Sirine Malas


I can answer questions related to Syrian culture especially Damascene. I can also answer questions about "Arabic" cultures in general. I can answer in English, French and of course in Arabic.


I m a native.

Layalina English Magazine - BBC Arabic short story award

BA in Marketing

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