Arabic alphabet: Wikis


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This article contains Arabic text, written from right to left in a cursive style with some letters joined. Without proper rendering support, you may see unjoined Arabic letters written left-to-right instead of right-to-left or other symbols instead of Arabic script.
Arabic abjad
Arabic albayancalligraphy.svg
Type Abjad
Spoken languages Arabic
Time period 400 CE to the present
Parent systems
Unicode range U+0600 to U+06FF

U+0750 to U+077F
U+FB50 to U+FDFF

U+FE70 to U+FEFF
ISO 15924 Arab (#160)
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.
Arabic alphabet
ا    ب    ت    ث    ج    ح
خ    د    ذ    ر    ز    س
ش    ص    ض    ط    ظ    ع
غ    ف    ق    ك    ل
م    ن    ه‍    و    ي
History · Transliteration
Diacritics · Hamza ء
Numerals · Numeration
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The Arabic alphabet (Arabic: أبجدية عربية’abjadiyyah ‘arabiyyah) or Arabic abjad is the script used for writing several languages of Asia and Africa, such as Arabic and Urdu. After the Latin alphabet, it is the second-most widely used alphabet around the world.[1]

The alphabet was first used to write texts in Arabic, most notably the Qurʼan, the holy book of Islam. With the spread of Islam, it came to be used to write many languages of many language families including, at various times, Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Baloch, Malay, Fulfulde-Pular, Hausa, Mandinka (in West Africa), Swahili (in East Africa), Balti, Brahui, Panjabi (in Pakistan), Kashmiri, Sindhi (in India and Pakistan), Arwi (in Sri Lanka), Chinese, Uyghur (in China), Kazakh (in Central Asia), Uzbek (in Central Asia), Kyrgyz (in Central Asia), Azerbaijani (in Iran), Kurdish (in Iraq and Iran), Belarusian (amongst Belarusian tatars), Ottoman Turkish, Serbo-croatian (in Bosnia), and Spanish (in Western Europe). To accommodate the needs of these other languages, new letters and other symbols were added to the original alphabet. This process is known as the Ajami transcription system, which is different from the original Arabic alphabet.

The Arabic script is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 basic letters. Because some of the vowels are indicated with optional symbols, it can be classified as an abjad. Just as different handwriting styles and typefaces exist in the Roman alphabet, the Arabic script has a number of different styles of calligraphy, including Naskh خط النسخ, Nastaʿlīq, Ruq'ah خط الرقعة, Thuluth خط الثُلث, Kufic الخط الكوفي, Sini and Hijazi.




There are two collating orders for the Arabic alphabet. The original abjadī order (أبجدي), used for numbering, derives from the order of the Phoenician alphabet, and is therefore similar to the order of other Phoenician-derived alphabets, such as the Hebrew alphabet. The hijāʼī order (هجائي), used where lists of names and words are sorted, as in phonebooks, classroom lists, and dictionaries, groups letters by similarity of shape.

In addition to the alphabaʼi order shown in the table below there is another alphabaʼi order that was used widely in the Maghrib until recently when it was replaced by the Mashriqi order. The Maghribi order is أ ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن هـ و ي from right to left.[2] The abjad order of Mashriq and Maghrib is also different. (See Abjad numerals).

Primary letters

The Arabic alphabet has 28 basic letters. Adaptations of the Arabic script for other languages, such as Persian, Ottoman, Urdu, Malay or Pashto, have additional letters, on which see below. There are no distinct upper and lower case letter forms.

Many letters look similar but are distinguished from one another by dots above or below their central part, called iʿjam. These dots are an integral part of a letter, since they distinguish between letters that represent different sounds. For example, the Arabic letters transliterated as b and t have the same basic shape, but b has one dot below, ب‎, and t has two dots above, ت‎.

Both printed and written Arabic are cursive, with most of the letters within a word directly connected to the adjacent letters. Unlike cursive writing based on the Latin alphabet, the standard Arabic style is to have a substantially different shape depending on whether it will be connecting with a preceding and/or a succeeding letter, thus all primary letters have conditional forms for their glyphs, depending on whether they are at the beginning, middle or end of a word, so they may exhibit four distinct forms (initial, medial, final or isolated). However, six letters have only isolated or final form, and so force the following letter (if any) to take an initial or isolated form, as if there were a word break.

Some letters look almost the same in all four forms, while others show considerable variation. Generally, the initial and middle forms look similar except that in some letters the middle form starts with a short horizontal line on the right to ensure that it will connect with its preceding letter. The final and isolated forms, are also similar in appearance but the final form will also have a horizontal stroke on the right and, for some letters, a loop or longer line on the left with which to finish the word with a subtle ornamental flourish. In addition, some letter combinations are written as ligatures (special shapes), including lām-ʼalif.[3]

For compatibility with previous standards, all these forms can be encoded separately in Unicode; however, they can also be inferred from their joining context, using the same encoding. The following table shows this common encoding, in addition to the compatibility encodings for their normally contextual forms (Arabic texts should be encoded today using only the common encoding, but the rendering must then infer the joining types to determine the correct glyph forms, with or without ligation).

The transliteration given is the widespread DIN 31635 standard, with some common alternatives. See the article Romanization of Arabic for details and various other transliteration schemes.

Regarding pronunciation, the phonetic values given are those of the pronunciation of literary Arabic, the standard which is taught in universities. In practice, pronunciation may vary considerably between the different varieties of Arabic. For more details concerning the pronunciation of Arabic, consult the article Arabic phonology.

The names of the Arabic letters can be thought of as abstractions of an older version where they were meaningful words in the Proto-Semitic language.

Six letters (أ,د,ذ,ر,ز,و) are not connected to the letter following them, therefore their initial form matches the isolated and their medial form matches the final.

Contextual forms Name Translit. Phonemic Value (IPA)
Isolated End Middle Beginning
ا ـﺎ ـﺎ ا ʾalif ʾ / ā various, including /aː/
ـب ـبـ بـ bāʾ b /b/, also /p/ in some loanwords
ـت ـتـ تـ tāʾ t /t/
ـث ـثـ ثـ ṯāʾ /θ/
ـج ـجـ جـ ǧīm ǧ (also j) [ dʒ~ʒ ]
ـح ـحـ حـ ḥāʾ /ħ/
ـخ ـخـ خـ ḫāʾ (also kh, x) /x/
ـد ـد د dāl d /d/
ـذ ـذ ذ ḏāl (also dh, ð) /ð/
ـر ـر ر rāʾ r /r/
ـز ـز ز zāy z /z/
ـس ـسـ سـ sīn s /s/
ـش ـشـ شـ šīn š (also sh) /ʃ/
ـص ـصـ صـ ṣād /sˁ/
ـض ـضـ ضـ ḍād /dˁ/
ـط ـطـ طـ ṭāʾ /tˁ/
ـظ ـظـ ظـ ẓāʾ [ ðˁ~zˁ ]
ـع ـعـ عـ ʿayn ʿ /ʕ/
ـغ ـغـ غـ ġayn ġ (also gh) /ɣ/ (/ɡ/ in many loanwords)
ف ـف ـفـ فـ fāʾ f /f/, also /v/ in some loanwords
ـق ـقـ قـ qāf q /q/
ـك ـكـ كـ kāf k /k/
ـل ـلـ لـ lām l /l/, (/lˁ/ in Allah only)
ـم ـمـ مـ mīm m /m/
ن ـن ـنـ نـ nūn n /n/
ـه ـهـ هـ hāʾ h /h/
ـو ـو و wāw w / ū / aw /w/ / /uː/ / /au/, sometimes /u/, /o/ and /oː/ in loanwords
ـي ـيـ يـ yāʾ y / ī / ay /j/ / /iː/ / /ai/, sometimes /i/, /eː/ and /e/ in loanwords

Further notes

  • The letter ʾalif originated in the Phoenician alphabet as a consonant-sign indicating the glottal stop [ʔ]. Today it has lost its function as a consonant, and, together with yaʾ and wāw, is a mater lectionis, a consonant sign standing in for a long vowel (see below), or as support for certain diacritics (madda and hamza).
  • Arabic uses a diacritic sign, , called hamza, to denote the glottal stop, written alone or with a carrier:
    • alone: ء‎ ;
    • with a carrier: إ, أ‎ (above and under a ʾalif), ؤ‎ (above a wāw), ئ‎ (above a dotless yāʾ or yāʾ hamza).
  • Letters lacking an initial or medial version are never connected to the following letter, even within a word. As to the hamza, it has only a single form, since it is never connected to a preceding or following letter. However, it is sometimes combined with a wāw, yāʾ, or ʾalif, and in that case the carrier behaves like an ordinary wāw, yāʾ, or ʾalif.

In academic work, the glottal stop [ʔ] is transliterated with the right half ring sign (ʾ), while the left half ring sign (ʿ) represents a different pharyngeal, pharyngealized glottal, or epiglottal sound.

Modified letters

The following are not individual letters, but rather different contextual variants of some of the Arabic letters.

Conditional forms Name Translit. Phonemic Value (IPA)
Isolated Final Medial Initial
ـآ ـآ آ ʾalif madda ʾā /ʔaː/
ـة tāʾ marbūṭa h or
t / h /
/a/, /at/
ـى ʾalif maqṣūra ā / /aː/


The only compulsory ligature is lām + ʼalif. All other ligatures (yāʼ + mīm, etc.) are optional.

  • (isolated) lām + ʼalif ( /laː/):
  • (final or medial) lām + ʼalif ( /laː/):

Unicode has a special glyph for the ligature Allāh (“God”), U+FDF2 ARABIC LIGATURE ALLAH ISOLATED FORM:

The latter is a work-around for the shortcomings of most text processors, which are incapable of displaying the correct vowel marks for the word Allāh, because it should compose a small ʼalif sign above a gemination šadda sign. Compare the display of the composed equivalents below (the exact outcome will depend on your browser and font configuration):

  • lām, (geminated) lām (with implied short a vowel, reversed) hāʼ :
  • ʼalif, lām, (geminated) lām (with implied short a vowel, reversed) hāʼ :


The shadda sign indicates a doubled consonant.

Gemination is the doubling of a consonant. Instead of writing the letter twice, as in English, Arabic places a w-shaped sign called šadda, or shadda, above it. (The generic term for such diacritical signs is harakat). When a shadda is used on a consonant which also takes a kasra (a dash below the consonant indicating that it takes a short /i/ as its vowel), the kasra may be written between the consonant and the šadda rather than in its normal place.

Name Transliteration
šadda (consonant doubled)


ـٌ /-un/, ـٍ /-in/ and ـً /-an/

Nunation (the Arabic term is تنوين, tanwīn) is the addition of a final /-n/ to a noun or adjective. The vowel before it indicates grammatical case. In written Arabic nunation is indicated by doubling the vowel diacritic at the end of the word. There are three of these vowel diacritics, and the signs indicate, from left to right, the endings /-un/ (nominative case), /-an/ (accusative), and /-in/ (genitive). The sign ـً‎ is most commonly written in combination with اʼalif ‎(ـًا‎), ةً‎ (tāʼ marbūṭa تاء مربوطة ) or stand-alone ءً‎ (hamza همزة). An alif should always be written unless the word ends in tāʼ marbūṭa, hamza or is a diptote, even though the "un", "an", or "in" is not written. Nunation is used only in formal Arabic (including Modern Standard Arabic); it is absent in everyday spoken Arabic, and many Arabic textbooks introduce even standard Arabic without these endings.


In everyday life, when writing Arabic, Long vowels are usually written, but short ones are usually omitted, so the reader must be familiar with the language to understand the missing vowels. However, in the education system and particularly in Arabic Grammar classes these vowels are used since they are crucial to the grammar. An Arabic sentence can have a completely different meaning by a subtle change of the vowels. This is why in an important text such as the Qur'an the vowels are mandated.

Short vowels

Vowels are indicated by diacritical marks placed above or below the letters. In the Arabic handwriting of everyday use, in general publications, and on street signs, short vowels are typically not written. On the other hand, copies of the Qurʼan cannot be endorsed by the religious institutes that review them unless the diacritics are included. It is also generally preferred and customary that they be included whenever the Qurʼan is cited in print. Children's books, elementary-school texts, and Arabic-language grammars in general will include diacritics to some degree. These are known as "vocalized" texts.

Written Arabic cannot be considered truly complete without the notation of its short vowels, which are essential to it. They convey information not coded in any other way. Like dotted letters, diacritical marks were a later addition to the writing system.

Short vowels can be included in cases where word ambiguity could not easily be resolved from context alone, or simply wherever they might be considered aesthetically pleasing.

Short vowels may be written with diacritics placed above or below the consonant that precedes them in the syllable, called harakat. All Arabic vowels, long and short, follow a consonant; in Arabic, words like "Ali" or "alif", for example, start with a consonant: ʻAliyy, ʼalif.

Short vowels
(fully vocalised text)
Name Trans. Value
fatḥa a /a/
ḍamma u /u/
kasra i /i/

Long vowels

A long a following a consonant other than a hamza is written with a short a sign on the consonant plus an ʾalif after it; long i is written as a sign for short i plus a yāʾ; and long u as a sign for short u plus a wāw. Briefly, aʾ = ā, iy = ī and uw = ū. Long a following a hamza may be represented by an ʾalif madda or by a free hamza followed by an ʾalif.

In the table below, vowels will be placed above or below a dotted circle replacing a primary consonant letter or a šadda sign. For clarity in the table below, the primary letter on the left used to mark these long vowels are shown only in their isolated form. Please note that most consonants do connect to the left with ʾalif, wāw and yāʾ written then with their medial or final form. Additionally, the letter yāʾ in the last row may connect to the letter on its left, and then will use a medial or initial form. Use the table of primary letters to look at their actual glyph and joining types.

Long vowels
(fully vocalised text)
Name Trans. Value
064E 0627
fatḥa ʾalif (ـَا) ā /aː/
064E 0649
fatḥa ʾalif maqṣūra (ـَى) ā / aỳ /a/
064F 0648
ḍamma wāw ū / uw (ـُو) /uː/
0650 064A
kasra yāʾ ī / iy (ـِي) /iː/

In unvocalized text (one in which the short vowels are not marked), the long vowels are represented by the vowel in question: ʾalif, ʾalif maqṣūra (or yeh), wāw, or yāʾ. Long vowels written in the middle of a word of unvocalised text are treated like consonants with a sukūn (see below) in a text that has full diacritics. Here also, the table shows long vowel letters only in isolated form for clarity.

Combinations وا and يا are always pronounced and respectively, the exception is when وا is the verb ending, where ʾalif is silent, resulting in ū.

Long vowels
(unvocalised text)
Name Trans. Value
(implied fatḥa) ʾalif ā /aː/
(implied fatḥa) ʾalif maqṣūra ā / aỳ /a/
(implied ḍamma) wāw ū / uw /uː/
(implied kasra) yāʾ ī / iy /iː/


The diphthongs [ai] and [au] are represented in vocalised text as follows:

(fully vocalised text)
Name Trans. Value
064E 064A
fatḥa yāʾ ay /ai/
064E 0648
fatḥa wāw aw /au/

Vowel omission

An Arabic syllable can be open (ending with a vowel) or closed (ending with a consonant).

  • open: CV [consonant-vowel] (long or short vowel)
  • closed: CVC (short vowel only)

When the syllable is closed, we can indicate that the consonant that closes it does not carry a vowel by marking it with a diacritic called sukūn ( ْ‎ ) to remove any ambiguity, especially when the text is not vocalized. A normal text is composed only of series of consonants; thus, the word qalb, "heart", is written qlb. The sukūn indicates where not to place a vowel: qlb could, in effect, be read qalab (meaning "he turned around"), but written with a sukūn over the l and the b (قلْبْ‎), it can only have the form qVlb. This is one step down from full vocalization, where the vowel a would also be indicated by a fatḥa: قَلْبْ‎.

The Qur’an is traditionally written in full vocalization. Outside of the Qur’an, putting a sukūn above a yāʼ (representing [iː]), or above a wāw (representing [uː]) is extremely rare, to the point that yāʼ with sukūn will be unambiguously read as the diphthong [ai], and wāw with sukūn will be read [au]. For example, the letters m-w-s-y-q-ā (موسيقى‎ with an ʼalif maqṣūra at the end of the word) will be read most naturally as the word mūsīqā ("music"). If one were to write a sukūn above the wāw, the yāʼ and the ʼalif, one would get موْسيْقىْ‎, which would be read as *mawsaykāy (note however that the final ʼalif maqṣūra, because it is an ʼalif, never takes a sukūn). The word, entirely vocalized, would be written as مُوسِيقَى‎. The Quranic spelling would have no sukūn sign above the final ʼalif maqṣūra, but instead a miniature ʼalif above the preceding qaf consonant, which is a valid Unicode character but most Arabic computer fonts cannot in fact display this miniature ʼalif as of 2006.

No sukūn is placed on word-final consonants, even if no vowel is pronounced, because fully vocalised texts are always written as if the ʼiʻrāb vowels were in fact pronounced. For example, ʼAḥmad zawǧ šarr, meaning “Ahmed is a bad husband”, for the purposes of Arabic grammar and orthography, is treated as if still pronounced with full ʼiʻrāb, i.e. ʼAḥmadu zawǧun šarrun with the complete desinences.

Name Translit. Phonemic Value (IPA)
sukūn (no vowel with this consonant letter or
diphthong with this long vowel letter)
ʾalif above ā /aː/

The sukūn is also used for transliterating words into the Arabic script. The Persian word ماسک‎ (mâsk, from the English word "mask"), for example, might be written with a sukūn above the ‎ to signify that there is no vowel sound between that letter and the ک‎.

Additional letters

Additional modified letters, used in non-Arabic languages, or in Arabic for transliterating foreign words only, include:

Sometimes used in Arabic for transliterating foreign words only

  • ڤ - Vā', sometimes used to represent the letter V when transliterating foreign words in Arabic. Also used in writing dialects with that sound.[4] Normally the letter ف - Fā' is used to transliterate the V letter. Also used as Pa in the Jawi script. In Tunisia a character similar to Vā' in its initial and medial forms, is sometimes used to represent the phoneme [ɡ]. In final and isolate form it has the form ڨTunisian-gaf.svg which resembles the letter Qāf whence it is derived. The sound V in Tunisia is rendered using the Arabic letter Fa with three dots underneath ڥ.
  • پ - Pā', used to represent the sound [p] in Persian, Urdu, and Kurdish; sometimes used to represent the letter P when transliterating foreign words in Arabic, although Arabic nearly always substitutes B for P in the transliteration of foreign terms. Normally the letter ب - Bā' is used to transliterate the P letter. So, "7up" can be transcribed as سفن أب or سڤن أﭖ.
  • چ - Chā', used to represent the [tʃ] ("ch") phoneme. It is used in Persian, Urdu, and Kurdish and sometimes used when transliterating foreign words in Arabic, although Arabic usually substitutes other letters (such as t + sh, as in Chad) in the transliteration of foreign terms. Normally the combination تش - tā' and šīn are used to transliterate the [tʃ] ("ch") sound.
  • گ - Gāf, used to represent the [ɡ] phoneme (as in "get"). Normally used in Persian, Kurdish, and Urdu. Often foreign words with the G sound are transliterated in Arabic with ك (kāf), غ (ġayn) or ج (ǧīm), which may or may not change the original sound, (in Egyptian Arabic ج is usually read as a hard "G" (get), which also creates a confusion when the original sound is like the English [dʒ] (j) phoneme (as in "job")).
  • In addition, when transliterating Spanish or Italian, Arabs write out most or all the vowels as long (a with alif, e and i with ya, and o and u with waw), meaning it approaches a true alphabet.

Used only in languages other than Arabic

  • ݐ - used to represent the equivalent of the Latin letter Ƴ in some African languages such as Fulfulde; not used in Arabic
  • ڳ - represents a variety of G in Sindhi
  • ڱ - represents the "ng" phoneme in Sindhi
  • ڀ - represents an aspirated "b" ("bh") in Sindhi
  • ڕ - used in Kurdish to represent rr
  • ݣ - Gaf, represents G in informal Moroccan Arabic, as well as officially to transliterate the letter G in many city names such as Agadir (أݣادير), and family names such as El Guerrouj (الݣروج).
  • ے - Bari ye, represents "ai" or "e" in Urdu and Punjabi
  • ێ - represents Ê or É (e) in Kurdish
  • ۆ - represents O (o) in Kurdish, and in Uyghur it represents the sound similar to the French eu and œu (Ø) sound
  • ۋ - represents V in Kyrgyz, Uyghur, and Old Tatar; and W in Kazakh; also formerly used in Nogai


There are two kinds of numerals used in Arabic writing; standard numerals (predominant in the Arab World), and Eastern Arabic numerals (used in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India). In Arabic, the former are referred to as "Indian numbers" (arqām hindiyyah, أرقام هندية‎). Arabic (or Hindu-Arabic) numerals are also used in Europe and the rest of the Western World in a third variant, the Western Arabic numerals, even though the Arabic alphabet is not. In most of present-day North Africa, the usual western numerals are used; in medieval times, a slightly different set was used, from which Western Arabic numerals derive, via Italy. Like Arabic alphabetic characters, Arabic numerals are written from right to left, though the units are always right-most, and the highest value left-most, just as with Western "Arabic numerals". Telephone numbers are read from left to right.

(Maghreb, Europe)
(Persian, Urdu)
0 ٠ ۰
1 ١ ۱
2 ٢ ۲
3 ٣ ۳
4 ٤ ۴
5 ٥ ۵
6 ٦ ۶
7 ٧ ۷
8 ٨ ۸
9 ٩ ۹

In addition, the Arabic alphabet can be used to represent numbers (Abjad numerals). This usage is based on the abjadī of the alphabet. أʼalif is 1, ب bāʼ is 2, ج ǧīm is 3, and so on until ي yāʼ = 10, ك kāf = 20, ل lām = 30, …, ر rāʼ = 200, …, غ ġayn = 1000. This is sometimes used to produce chronograms.


Evolution of early Arabic calligraphy (9th - 11th century). The Basmala was taken as an example, from kufic Qur’an manuscripts. (1) Early 9th century. script with no dots or diacritic marks;[5] (2) and (3)9th - 10th century under Abbasid dynasty, the Abu al-Aswad's system establish red dots with each arrangement or position indicating a different short vowel. Later, a second black dots system was used to differentiate between letters like "fāʼ" and "qāf";[6][6] (4) 11th century, In Al Farāhídi's system (system we know today) dots were changed into shapes resembling the letters to transcribe the corresponding long vowels.[7]

The Arabic alphabet can be traced back to the Nabataean alphabet used to write the Nabataean dialect of Aramaic. The first known text in the Arabic alphabet is a late fourth-century inscription from Jabal Ramm (50 km east of Aqaba), but the first dated one is a trilingual inscription at Zebed in Syria from 512. However, the epigraphic record is extremely sparse, with only five certainly pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions surviving, though some others may be pre-Islamic. Later, dots were added above and below the letters to differentiate them. (The Aramaic language had fewer phonemes than the Arabic, and some originally distinct Aramaic letters had become indistinguishable in shape, so that in the early writings 15 distinct letter-shapes had to do duty for 28 sounds; cf. the similarly ambiguous Pahlavi alphabet.) The first surviving document that definitely uses these dots is also the first surviving Arabic papyrus (PERF 558), dated April 643, although they did not become obligatory until much later. Important texts like the Qur’an were frequently memorized; this practice, which is still widespread among many Muslim communities today, probably arose partially from a desire to avoid the great ambiguity of the script. (see Arabic Unicode)

Later still, vowel marks and the hamza were introduced, beginning some time in the latter half of the seventh century, preceding the first invention of Syriac and Hebrew vocalization. Initially, this was done by a system of red dots, said to have been commissioned by an Umayyad governor of Iraq, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf: a dot above = a, a dot below = i, a dot on the line = u, and doubled dots indicated nunation. However, this was cumbersome and easily confusable with the letter-distinguishing dots, so about 100 years later, the modern system was adopted. The system was finalized around 786 by al-Farahidi.

Arabic printing presses

Although Napoleon Bonaparte generally is given the credit with introducing the printing press to Egypt, upon invading it in 1798, and he did indeed bring printing presses and Arabic script presses, to print the French occupation's official newspaper Al-Tanbiyyah (The Courier), the process was started several centuries earlier.

Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in 1450 was followed up by Gregorio de Gregorii, a Venetian, who in 1514 published an entire prayer book in Arabic script entitled Kitab Salat al-Sawa'i intended for the eastern Christian communities. The script was said to be crude and almost unreadable.

Famed type designer Robert Granjon working for Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici succeeded in designing elegant Arabic typefaces and the Medici press published many Christian prayer and scholarly Arabic texts in the late sixteenth century.

The first Arabic books published using movable type in the Middle East were by the Maronite monks at the Maar Quzhayy Monastery in Mount Lebanon. They transliterated the Arabic language using Syriac script. It took a fellow goldsmith like Gutenberg to design and implement the first true Arabic script movable type printing press in the Middle East. The Greek Orthodox monk Abd Allah Zakhir set up an Arabic language printing press using movable type at the monastery of Saint John at the town of Dhour El Shuwayr in Mount Lebanon, the first homemade press in Lebanon using true Arabic script. He personally cut the type molds and did the founding of the elegant typeface. He created the first true Arabic script type in the Middle East. The first book off the press was in 1734; this press continued to be used until 1899.[8][9]

Languages written with the Arabic alphabet

Worldwide use of the Arabic alphabet
Arabic alphabet world distribution.
 →  Countries where the Arabic script is the only official orthography
 →  Countries where the Arabic script is used officially alongside other orthographies.

The Arabic script has been adopted for use in a wide variety of languages besides Arabic, including Persian, Kurdish, Malay, and Urdu, which are not Semitic. Such adaptations may feature altered or new characters to represent phonemes that do not appear in Arabic phonology. For example, the Arabic language lacks a voiceless bilabial plosive (the [p] sound), so many languages add their own letter to represent [p] in the script, though the specific letter used varies from language to language. These modifications tend to fall into groups: all the Indian and Turkic languages written in Arabic script tend to use the Persian modified letters, whereas Indonesian languages tend to imitate those of Jawi. The modified version of the Arabic script originally devised for use with Persian is known as the Perso-Arabic script by scholars.

In the case of Kurdish, vowels are mandatory, making the script an abugida rather than an abjad as it is for most languages. Kashmiri and Uyghur, also, write all vowels.

Use of the Arabic script in West African languages, especially in the Sahel, developed with the penetration of Islam. To a certain degree the style and usage tends to follow those of the Maghreb (for instance the position of the dots in the letters fāʼ and qāf). Additional diacritics have come into use to facilitate writing of sounds not represented in the Arabic language. The term Ajami, which comes from the Arabic root for "foreign", has been applied to Arabic-based orthographies of African languages.

Languages currently written with the Arabic alphabet

Today Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Israel and China are the main non-Arab states using the Arabic alphabet to write one or more official national languages, including Persian, Dari, Punjabi, Pashto, Urdu, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Uyghur.

The Arabic alphabet is currently used for the following:

Middle East and Central Asia

  • Kurdish in Northern Iraq, Northwest Iran, and Northeast Syria. (In Turkey, the Latin alphabet is used for Kurdish);
  • Official language Persian and regional languages including Azeri, Kurdish and Baluchi in Iran;
  • Official languages Dari (which differs to a degree from Persian) and Pashto and all regional languages including Uzbek in Afghanistan;
  • Tajik also differs only to a minor degree from Persian, and while in Tajikistan the usual Tajik alphabet is an extended Cyrillic alphabet, there is also some use of Arabic-alphabet Persian books from Iran; in the southwestern region of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwest China Arabic script is the official one (like for Uyghur in the rest of Xinjiang);
  • Garshuni (or Karshuni) originated in the seventh century AD, when Arabic was becoming the dominant spoken language in the Fertile Crescent, but Arabic script was not yet fully developed and widely read. There is evidence that writing Arabic in Garshuni influenced the style of modern Arabic script. After this initial period, Garshuni writing has continued to the present day among some Syriac Christian communities in the Arabic-speaking regions of the Levant and Mesopotamia.
  • Uyghur changed to Roman script in 1969 and back to a simplified, fully voweled, Arabic script in 1983;
  • Kazakh in Pakistan, Iran, China, and Afghanistan; and
  • Kyrgyz by its 150,000 speakers in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.

East Asia

South Asia

Southeast Asia

  • Malay in the Arabic script known as Jawi is co-official in Brunei, and used for religious purposes in Malaysia, Indonesia, Southern Thailand, Singapore, and predominantly Muslim areas of the Philippines. Therefore, Arabic script or Jawi can be seen or used for the sign board or market or shop board. Particularly in Brunei, Jawi is practically used in terms of writing or reading for Islamic Religious Educational Program which is like Primary school, Secondary School, College even higher educational institute such as University. In addition, some television programs is associated with Jawi for announcement, advertisement, news, social programs, obviously religious program and etc.
Southeast Asia
  • Early history of Islamic belief and culture is experienced by Brunei from the influenced of Arabian merchants. Through the Arabian reached Brunei, some culture of Brunei is mixed with Arab even today some language is derived from Arab words. According to history, during the 14th century the founder of Brunei Sultanate is Sultan Muhammad Shah (1363 to 1402, formerly Awang Alak Betatar) who converted to Islam through the relational marriage with Tumasek (now Singapore) princess (now Johor in which at that time already received the teaches of Islamic faith). However, the influence of Islam is not strong enough at that time in Brunei.
  • During 15th century one of Arab merchant named Sharif Ali, who believed was the direct-descendant of Muhammad, his grandchild, was Saidina Hassan r.a who married Sultan Ahmad's daughter, Puteri Ratna Kesuma. He became the third sultan of Brunei and called as Sultan Sharif Ali (also known as Barkat Ali ibnu Sharif Ajlan ibni Sharif Rumaithah). He was made Sultan after Sultan Ahmad died without leaving any male descendants, and as such, at the request of the people of Brunei themselves, he became eligible for the throne after marrying Sultan Ahmad's daughter, Puteri Ratna Kesuma. His legacy by adding "Darussalam" which mean abode of peace after Brunei. Today, in the Brunei flag there is Jawi scripted in the emblem.[10]


Languages formerly written with the Arabic alphabet

Speakers of languages that were previously unwritten used Arabic script as a basis to design writing systems for their mother languages. This choice could be influenced by Arabic being their second language, the language of scripture of their faith, or the only written language they came in contact with. Additionally, since most education was once religious, choice of script was determined by the writer's religion; which meant that Muslims would use Arabic script to write whatever language they spoke. This led to Arabic script being the most widely used script during the Middle Ages.

In the 20th century, the Arabic script was generally replaced by the Latin alphabet in the Balkans, parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, while in the Soviet Union, after a brief period of Latinisation,[11] use of the Cyrillic alphabet was mandated. Turkey changed to the Latin alphabet in 1928 as part of an internal Westernizing revolution. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of the Turkic languages of the ex-USSR attempted to follow Turkey's lead and convert to a Turkish-style Latin alphabet. However, renewed use of the Arabic alphabet has occurred to a limited extent in Tajikistan, whose language's close resemblance to Persian allows direct use of publications from Iran.[12]

Most languages of the Iranian languages family continue to use Arabic script, as well as the Indo-Aryan languages of Pakistan and of Muslim populations in India, but the Bengali language of Bangladesh is written in the Bengali alphabet.



Central Asia and Russian Federation

Southeast Asia

Middle East

Computers and the Arabic alphabet

The Arabic alphabet can be encoded using several character sets, including ISO-8859-6 and Unicode, in the latter thanks to the "Arabic segment", entries U+0600 to U+06FF. However, neither of these sets indicate the form each character should take in context. It is left to the rendering engine to select the proper glyph to display for each character.


As of Unicode 5.0, the following ranges encode Arabic characters:

  • Arabic (0600–06FF)
  • Arabic Supplement (0750–077F)
  • Arabic Presentation Forms-A (FB50–FDFF)
  • Arabic Presentation Forms-B (FE70–FEFF)

The basic Arabic range encodes the standard letters and diacritics, but does not encode contextual forms (U+0621–U+0652 being directly based on ISO 8859-6); and also includes the most common diacritics and Arabic-Indic digits. U+06D6 to U+06ED encode Qur'anic annotation signs such as "end of ayah" ۝ۖ and "start of rub el hizb" ۞. The Arabic Supplement range encodes letter variants mostly used for writing African (non-Arabic) languages. The Arabic Presentation Forms-A range encodes contextual forms and ligatures of letter variants needed for Persian, Urdu, Sindhi and Central Asian languages. The Arabic Presentation Forms-B range encodes spacing forms of Arabic diacritics, and more contextual letter forms.

Arabic chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+060x ؀ ؁ ؂ ؃     ؆ ؇ ؈ ؉ ؊ ؋ ، ؍ ؎ ؏
U+061x ؐ ؑ ؒ ؓ ؔ ؕ ؖ ؗ ؘ ؙ ؚ ؛     ؞ ؟
U+062x   ء آ أ ؤ إ ئ ا ب ة ت ث ج ح خ د
U+063x ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ػ ؼ ؽ ؾ ؿ
U+064x ـ ف ق ك ل م ن ه و ى ي ً ٌ ٍ َ ُ
U+065x ِ ّ ْ ٓ ٔ ٕ ٖ ٗ ٘ ٙ ٚ ٛ ٜ ٝ ٞ  
U+066x ٠ ١ ٢ ٣ ٤ ٥ ٦ ٧ ٨ ٩ ٪ ٫ ٬ ٭ ٮ ٯ
U+067x ٰ ٱ ٲ ٳ ٴ ٵ ٶ ٷ ٸ ٹ ٺ ٻ ټ ٽ پ ٿ
U+068x ڀ ځ ڂ ڃ ڄ څ چ ڇ ڈ ډ ڊ ڋ ڌ ڍ ڎ ڏ
U+069x ڐ ڑ ڒ ړ ڔ ڕ ږ ڗ ژ ڙ ښ ڛ ڜ ڝ ڞ ڟ
U+06Ax ڠ ڡ ڢ ڣ ڤ ڥ ڦ ڧ ڨ ک ڪ ګ ڬ ڭ ڮ گ
U+06Bx ڰ ڱ ڲ ڳ ڴ ڵ ڶ ڷ ڸ ڹ ں ڻ ڼ ڽ ھ ڿ
U+06Cx ۀ ہ ۂ ۃ ۄ ۅ ۆ ۇ ۈ ۉ ۊ ۋ ی ۍ ێ ۏ
U+06Dx ې ۑ ے ۓ ۔ ە ۖ ۗ ۘ ۙ ۚ ۛ ۜ ۝ ۞ ۟
U+06Ex ۠ ۡ ۢ ۣ ۤ ۥ ۦ ۧ ۨ ۩ ۪ ۫ ۬ ۭ ۮ ۯ
U+06Fx ۰ ۱ ۲ ۳ ۴ ۵ ۶ ۷ ۸ ۹ ۺ ۻ ۼ ۽ ۾ ۿ

See also the notes of the section on modified letters.


Arabic keyboard layout

Keyboards designed for different nations have different layouts so that proficiency in one style of keyboard such as Iraq's does not transfer to proficiency in another keyboard such as Saudi Arabia's. Differences can include the location of non-alphabetic characters such as '

All Arabic keyboards allow typing Roman characters, e.g., for the URL in a web browser. Thus, each Arabic keyboard has both Arabic and Roman characters marked on the keys. Usually the Roman characters of an Arabic keyboard conform to the QWERTY layout, but in North Africa, where French is the most common language typed using the Roman characters, the Arabic keyboards are AZERTY.

When one wants to encode a particular written form of a character, there are extra code points provided in Unicode which can be used to express the exact written form desired. The range Arabic presentation forms A (U+FB50 to U+FDFF) contain ligatures while the range Arabic presentation forms B (U+FE70 to U+FEFF) contains the positional variants. These effects are better achieved in Unicode by using the zero width joiner and non-joiner, as these presentation forms are deprecated in Unicode, and should generally only be used within the internals of text-rendering software, when using Unicode as an intermediate form for conversion between character encodings, or for backwards compatibility with implementations that rely on the hard-coding of glyph forms.

Finally, the Unicode encoding of Arabic is in logical order, that is, the characters are entered, and stored in computer memory, in the order that they are written and pronounced without worrying about the direction in which they will be displayed on paper or on the screen. Again, it is left to the rendering engine to present the characters in the correct direction, using Unicode's bi-directional text features. In this regard, if the Arabic words on this page are written left to right, it is an indication that the Unicode rendering engine used to display them is out-of-date.[14][15]

There are competing online tools, e.g. Yamli editor, allowing to enter Arabic letters without having Arabic support installed on a PC and without the knowledge of the layout of the Arabic keyboard.[16]

Handwriting recognition

The first software program of its kind in the world that identifies Arabic handwriting in real time has been developed by researchers at Ben-Gurion University.

The prototype enables the user to write Arabic words by hand on an electronic screen, which then analyzes the text and translates it into printed Arabic letters in a thousandth of a second. The error rate is less than three percent, according to Dr. Jihad El-Sana, from BGU's department of computer sciences, who developed the system along with master's degree student Fadi Biadsy.[17]

See also


  1. ^ "Arabic Alphabet". Encyclopaedia Britannica online. Retrieved 2007-11-23. 
  2. ^ (Arabic) ترتيب المداخل والبطاقات في القوائم والفهارس الموضوعية Ordering entries and cards in subject indexes Discussion thread (Accessed 2009-Oct-06)
  3. ^ Rogers, Henry (2005). Writing Systems: A Linguistic Approach. Blackwell Publishing. p. 135. 
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ File:Basmala kufi.svg - Wikimedia Commons
  6. ^ a b File:Kufi.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
  7. ^ File:Qur'an folio 11th century kufic.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
  8. ^ Arabic and the Art of Printing — A Special Section, by Paul Lunde
  9. ^ A Bequest Unearthed, Phoenicia, Encyclopedia Phoeniciana
  10. ^ File:Flag of Brunei.svg
  11. ^ Alphabet Transitions — The Latin Script: A New Chronology — Symbol of a New Azerbaijan, by Tamam Bayatly
  12. ^ Tajik Language: Farsi or Not Farsi? by Sukhail Siddikzoda, reporter, Tajikistan.
  13. ^ Chechen Writing
  14. ^ For more information about encoding Arabic, consult the Unicode manual available at The Unicode website
  15. ^ See also MULTILINGUAL COMPUTING WITH ARABIC AND ARABIC TRANSLITERATION Arabicizing Windows Applications to Read and Write Arabic & Solutions for the Transliteration Quagmire Faced by Arabic-Script Languages and A PowerPoint Tutorial (with screen shots and an English voice-over) on how to add Arabic to the Windows Operating System.
  16. ^ Yamli in the News
  17. ^ Israel 21c

External links

Online Arabic keyboards

This article contains major sections of text from the very detailed article Arabic alphabet from the French Wikipedia, which has been partially translated into English. Further translation of that page, and its incorporation into the text here, are welcomed.


Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to Arabic script article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Wikipedia has an article on:



Arabic script


Arabic script

  1. The 28-letter abjad used for writing the Arabic language. Derived from the Phoenician alphabet. The Arabic script has been adapted for use in a wide variety of languages other than Arabic, including Persian, Kurdish, Malay, Urdu and some Punjabi dialects.


Name alif ba ta tha jim ha kha dal dhal ra
Letter alif ba ta tha jim ha kha dal dhal ra
Name zayn sin shin Sad Dhad Ta Za ayn ghayn fa
Letter zayn sin shin Sad Dhad Ta Za ayn ghayn fa
Name qaf kaf lam mim nun ha waw ya    
Letter qaf kaf lam mim nun ha waw ya    
Some letters have an initial, medial and final form.



Up to date as of January 23, 2010
(Redirected to Arabic/Arabic alphabet article)

From Wikibooks, the open-content textbooks collection

< Arabic



Here are all the official letters of the Arabic alphabet in order. Alph2.gif

The following image shows which letters have an equivalent in the English language. Note that the r differs from the English one; it is a trill like in Spanish and Russian.

Because you know English, you have an advantage that speakers of other Western European Languages don't have:
"th" sound

The rest of the letters have no true English equivalents. Before you learn them they will sound silent, or seem like another letter. We will learn to pronounce and recognize these letters later.

Arabic Letters have tails

Minus tails The Arabic letters actually have extra parts to them. These parts only written at the end of words, a few of them are optional. Look at the picture, these extra parts have been cut off, and brightened so you can see the important part of each letter. Without the extra parts, and you get what letters look like at the beginning of words. Focus_on_some_letters.gif

Some letters

There were some letters that didn't seem to have any extra parts in the last picture. We boxed these letters in the next picture. Some of them don't. These ones don't connect to letters after them. Connecting them to letters after them would make words very difficult to read, and is not allowed. some of these letters do connect, but don't have tails; the whole shape of the letter changes. These letters are circled. ه هـ ـهـ ـه


Arabic letters change shape according to place within a word. Usually this means not writing a tail, because the letter is not at the end of the word. But because Arabetics is meant to be written by hand mainly, there are also other changes so that writing is easier (i.e. shortcuts). Here is an important shortcut, Because the shortcut is always used in handwriting, it has made it's way into Arabic printing. ه هـ ـهـ ـه Notice how the hole in the middle and final forms of the letter get covered presumably due to thick ink. This comes from calligraphy, Arabetics has an incredibly rich calligraphic history.

There are also even more shortcuts (mainly ligatures), that we will cover later. Just in case you didn't notice Arabetics is written and read from right to left.

The Arabic alphabet is very focused on representing sounds. Some of the sounds may be hard to distinguish for English speakers. See Arabic sounds and Wikipedia:Arabic Alphabet for more details on sounds.

The alphabet does not have capital letters (letters especially designed for names or certain grammar cases). But the way letters are written does depend on the location of the letter in a word. A letter at the beginning of a word (initial) is often written slightly different from the same letter at the ending of a word (final), or somewhere inbetween (medial).

The easiest way to learn the language is to try to recognize certain shapes in the letters (like hooks, bows, and points). Based on these shared shapes, the letters can be divided in shape groups. See Arabic alphabet (by group) to learn more on how to tell the written shapes apart, and how to write them.

Synthetic table

Note that 'a' is pronounced as the sound 'a' in 'cat' or the sound 'u' in 'but'.
Stand-alone Initial Medial Final Name Transliteration Phonetic Value (IPA)
أ ؤ إ ئ ٵ ٶ ٸ, etc. hamza ʼ / ʾ / [ʔ]
ʼalif e aa various, including [æː]
bāʼ b [b]
tāʼ t [t]
tħāʼ [θ]
Other Accents:(jīm, gīm)
j [ʤ] / [ɡ]
ḥāʼ [ħ]
ḫāʼ [x]
dāl d [d]
ḏāl [ð]
rāʼ r [r]
zāī z [z]
sīn s [s]
šīn [ʃ]
ṣād [sˁ]
ﺿ ḍād [dˁ]
ṭāʼ [tˁ]
ẓāʼ dħž [ðˁ] / [zˁ]
ʻayn [ʕ] / [ʔˁ]
ġhayn [ɣ] / [ʁ]
fāʼ f [f]
Other Accents:(qāf, gāf)
q [q]
kāf k [k]
lām l [l], [lˁ] (in Allah only)
mīm m [m]
nūn n [n]
hāʼ h [h]
wāw w, uu [w] , [uː]
yāʼ y , ii [j] , [iː]
Stand-alone Initial Medial Final Name Trans. Value
ʼalif madda 'aa [ʔæː]
tāʼ marbūta (ä),äh,ät [ɛ̈], [ɛ̈t]
ʼalif maqṣūra [ɛ̈]
lām ʼalif NA NA

Each Arabic letter is made up of two parts: a shape, a number of dots. Rules for all writing systems using the Arabetic (writing using Arabic shapes, with dots) system. The following Rules apply.

  1. Every letter consists of a shape with no dots or some dots.
  2. The placement (above or below) is important. A shape with a dot underneath is not the same letter as the same shape with a dot above.
  3. The number of dots is important. A shape with one dot is a different letter than the same shape with a different number of dots.

In Arabic Arabetics, dots can only be above or below the shape, never both at the same time. The way the dots are placed relative to each other, (ie. diagonally, vertically, in a triangle) does not make different letters.

Simple English

Use of the Arabic alphabet in the world
 →  Countries where the Arabic script is the only script used officially
 →  Countries where the Arabic script is used with other scripts.
Arabic abjad
Type Abjad
Spoken languages Arabic, Persian, Baloch, Urdu, Kurdish, Pashto, Sindhi, Malay and others.
Time period 400 CE to the present
Parent systems
  • Phoenician
    • Aramaic
      • Nabataean or Syriac
        • Arabic abjad
Unicode range

U+0600 to U+06FF
U+0750 to U+077F
U+FB50 to U+FDFF

U+FE70 to U+FEFF
ISO 15924 Arab (#160)
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.

The Arabic alphabet is an alphabet that has been used to write the Arabic language. Some other languages use a similar writing system; examples are Persian and Urdu.

There are 28 basic letters. All of them are cursive, both in handwriting and in print. This means that inside a word, a letter is usually directly connected to the letter following it. Arabic is written from right to left. Each letter can have up to 4 different forms. Which of the forms is used depends on the letters before and after it. The form for uppercase letters and lowercase letters is the same.

The alphabet can also be used to write numbers. This was common in the Middle Ages. Today it can be found more rarely. Usually, Latin-alphabet (Arabic) numbers are used.

Another usage that is rare today, is to use the letters of the alphabet to stand for numbers. That way, the letter ʼalif is 1, ب bāʼ is 2, ج ǧīm is 3, and so on until ي yāʼ = 10, ك kāf = 20, ل lām = 30, …, ر rāʼ = 200, …, غ ġayn = 1000. This is sometimes used to produce chronograms.

Other pages

History of the alphabet

bjn:Abjad Arapkrc:Араб алфавит

rue:Арабскый алфавіт

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