At least in the Maghreb, there is a word to say "serves [somebody] right!", i.e. "!شاه" or "ccah!" in Berber form.

I'm struggling to find its etymology. Although it might be Arabic or Berber, the reference Kabyle-French dictionary Parler des At Mangellat, II (in french) reports this word and links it to the root C-H, without mentioning any Arabic origin or an etymology. Thus, it might a Berber root.

Are there some information about it?

  • 4
    Though I know absolutely nothing about Maghreb or Berber, chah! sounds extremely like a simple interjection, like bah or meh or pfft in English. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if this has no real ‘etymology’ but is just a primitive exclamation. Sep 9, 2021 at 21:18
  • @JanusBahsJacquet, it may be an explanation, indeed.
    – Amessihel
    Sep 10, 2021 at 10:29
  • 1
    It sounds to me like šā’ahu = “he (God) willed it”. Just a guess. Sep 10, 2021 at 11:00
  • @BertBarrois, interesting, haven't thought of that.
    – Amessihel
    Sep 10, 2021 at 23:05
  • I know nothing about Maghreb but in Persian شاه means king and it is not chah or cheh it is Shaah ;)
    – Amir
    Oct 1, 2021 at 12:10

1 Answer 1


In Algerian, the word شاه means "what", usually interchangeable with واش. For example, شاه قلت؟ means "What did you say?", or شاه هذا؟ "What is this?". It is common to use it as an interjection, شاه؟, which is best translated as "What?". I have not heard it used to mean "serves them right", but I have not lived in Algeria for long.

I'm not sure about its etymology. It might come from واش, which comes from وأي شيء (and which thing).

  • 1
    "Cheh!" or expressions like "cheh fik!" ("serves you right", "bien fait !" in french) are pretty common in Algeria and in the Maghreb.
    – Amessihel
    Apr 14 at 8:28

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