In the American version of The Killing, detective Stephen Holder is seen using the term habibi several times when talking to his sister and his nephew, Habibi is an Arabic term of endearment widely used with close family members and friends. From what I can tell, Holder doesn't seem to have any Arab roots, so why the seemingly random use of that term?

  • I'm assuming you're talking about the 2nd season, correct? Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 19:27
  • @DustinDavis - I don't remember which season it was to be honest. I think I first heard it when Holder was leaving a voice message for his nephew. Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 19:47
  • This might shed some light, but doesn't explain why he'd be using the masculine form of the word for the sister (habibti according to the post). Commented Apr 2, 2014 at 21:46
  • @Paulster2 - Oh I'm well aware of the meaning of the word (after all, I speak Arabic). What's bothering me is why Holder would use that word. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 2:07
  • I figured as much, but was just adding comment for others understanding and to muddy the waters even more, it would seem. Commented Apr 3, 2014 at 9:51

2 Answers 2


I believe it's because Holder is supposed to embody the addict/cool/street guy. He is the guy that knows how to get secrets out of people and how to get things done discretely. Basically he is a smooth talker! So it makes sense that he would know a few words of a different language.

Also I don't see why he can't also have a knowledge of various languages! It's upsetting that would bother someone. I'm pretty sure there were a few episodes that featured Arabic speaking in regards to the mosque and the high school teacher.

  • Not convincing enough. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 6:17
  • Here's the thing. Those were the only Arabic words he used throughout the series. Sure they could be just random words he picked up, but why those. Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 6:21
  • What?! It totally makes sense! We know that Habibi is a term of endearment. But did you also know it's a slang term as well. In regard to Holder's street style this makes sense. I think it also adds to his character. The writers don't explain those words, but want us, as an audience, to know Holder had a history with the family because of it. They have their our affectionate names, in another language at that. It adds to the mystery of holder as a character.
    – user13329
    Commented Aug 18, 2014 at 8:14

Let's all not forget that Holder was an avid book reader, and general seeker of knowledge. He is interested in many cultures, and draws from many religions...


So he might not be getting the exact details right, although he is getting the general messages from the teachings, and applying them to his own life.

I personally do not know any Arabic, so I can't weigh in on if the term was used correctly or not within the context.

I just thought it was important to point out that even if he is a white male with no ties to any ethnic cultures/ religions, it does not mean that he isn't knowledgeable about them.

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