what is the real meaning?
HI I can speak some arabic and I got surprised when i found a word in the course which is translated differently from what i knew before! in the course they translate عفوا as you're welcome, which i have used for sorry or excuse me! maybe it's a dialect thing. Can you enlighten me why? thanks
Yes, عفوا can be used as sorry, even though you will see in movies subtitles that would be translated as المعذرة or معذرةً. All can be used as "sorry" without a problem.
However, عفوا is more commonly used as well as a response to "شكرا" and hence it is translated as "you are welcome." Some people (even some of us Arabs) wonder why this word is used as a response to "thank you" in Arabic. The word means (forgiveness), so it is like an abbreviation for (please forgive me) or (excuse me), and when used as a reply to "thank you" it has a meaning of (please forgive me if I didn't do my best). In some sense it is parallel to the German (Bitte) which is used as a reply to (Danke).
Well, as I said, it is used as sorry as well or excuse me. To what I know, everyone uses it as a reply to Shukran as well; Not in any specific spot in the Arab world. Sometimes we even use it as a starter for a conversation, specially when we want to ask something (as such it means sorry for interrupting): عفواً، هل محمد هنا؟ (pardon, is Muhammed here?).