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Urdu in Persian-Arabic script (Nasta`liq style) URDUARAB.PNG
Pronunciation [ˈʊrduː]
Spoken in Pakistan, India. Also in various countries due to immigration, USA, UK, Germany, Canada, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Fiji, Afghanistan and Burma (Myanmar).
Region South Asia
Total speakers 200 million to 1 billion total (2007) depending on definition of what constitutes Urdu
Ranking 19–21 (native speakers), in a near tie with Italian and Turkish
Language family Indo-European
Writing system Urdu alphabet (Nastaʿlīq script)
Official status
Official language in Pakistan Pakistan
India India
Regulated by National Language Authority, (Pakistan);

National Council for Promotion of Urdu language, (India)
Language codes
ISO 639-1 ur
ISO 639-2 urd
ISO 639-3 urd
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Urdu (Urdu: اُردوُ, Hindi: उर्दू ; IPA: [ˈʊrduː]  ( listen)) is a Central Indo-Aryan language[1][2] of the Indo-Iranian branch, belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. It is one of the two official languages (the other being English) of Pakistan. It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of five Indian states. Its vocabulary developed under Persian, Arabic and Turkic. In modern times Urdu vocabulary has been significantly influenced by English. Urdu was mainly developed in western Uttar Pradesh, India, which is the seat of Hindustani languages in the Indian Subcontinent, but began taking shape during the Delhi Sultanate as well as Mughal Empire (1526–1858) in South Asia. Urdu is the means of communication between the people from various provinces and regions of Pakistan, and the Pakistanis and Indians too. Due to historical affinities and a large number of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Urdu is already read, understood and spoken by most Afghans.[3]

Language scholars independently categorize Urdu as a standardized register of Hindustani (literally translated means belonging to Hindustan) [4][5][6] termed the standard dialect Khariboli.[6] The grammatical description in this article concerns this standard Urdu. In general, the term "Urdu" can encompass dialects of Hindustani other than the standardised versions. The original language of the Mughals was Chagatai, a Turkic language, but after their arrival in South Asia, they came to adopt Persian. Gradually, the need to communicate with local inhabitants led to a composition of Sanskrit derived languages, written in the Perso-Arabic script and with literary conventions and specialised vocabulary being retained from Persian, Arabic and Turkic; the new dialect was eventually given its own name of Urdu.[7]

The word Urdu is believed to be derived from the Turkic or Mongolian word 'Ordu', which means army encampment.[8][9][10] It was initially called Zabān-e-Ordu-e-Mu'alla "language of the Exalted Camp" (in Persian) and later just Urdu.[11] It obtained its name from Urdu Bazar, i.e. encampment (Urdu in Turkic) market, the market near the Red Fort in the walled city of Delhi.[12][13]

Standard Urdu has approximately the twentieth largest population of native speakers, among all languages.

Urdu is often contrasted with Hindi, another standardised form of Hindustani.[14] The main differences between the two are that Standard Urdu is conventionally written in Nastaliq calligraphy style of the Perso-Arabic script and draws vocabulary more heavily from Persian and Arabic,[15] while Standard Hindi is conventionally written in Devanāgarī and draws vocabulary from Sanskrit comparatively[16] more heavily.[5] Most linguists nonetheless consider Urdu and Hindi to be two standardized forms of the same language;[17][18] others classify them separately [19], while some consider any differences to be sociolinguistic.[20] It should be noted, however, that mutual intelligibility decreases in literary and specialized contexts. Furthermore, due to religious nationalism since the partition of British India and consequent continued communal tensions, native speakers of both Hindi and Urdu increasingly assert them to be completely distinct languages.


Speakers and geographic distribution

The phrase Zaban-e Urdu-e Mualla ("The language of the exalted camp") written in Nastaʿlīq script.

There are between 60 and 80 million native speakers of standard Urdu (Khari Boli). According to the SIL Ethnologue (1999 data), Urdu اردو/Hindi is the fifth most spoken language in the world.[21] According to George Weber’s article Top Languages: The World’s 10 Most Influential Languages in Language Today, Hindi/Urdu is the fourth most spoken language in the world, with 4.7 percent of the world's population, after Mandarin, English, and Spanish.[22]

Due to interaction with other languages, Urdu has become localized wherever it is spoken, including in Pakistan itself. Urdu in Pakistan has undergone changes and has lately incorporated and borrowed many words from Pakistani languages like Pashto, Punjabi and Sindhi, thus allowing speakers of the language in Pakistan to distinguish themselves more easily and giving the language a decidedly Pakistani Flavour. Similarly, the Urdu spoken in India can also be distinguished into many dialects like Dakhni (Deccan) of South India, and Khariboli of the Punjab region since recent times. Because of Urdu's similarity to Hindi, speakers of the two languages can usually understand one another at a basic level if both sides refrain from using specialized vocabulary. Some linguists count them as being part of the same language diasystem.[23][24] and contend that they are considered as two different languages for socio-political reasons.[25] It learned as a second or third language. Nearly 93% of Pakistan's population has a mother tongue other than Urdu. Despite this, Urdu was chosen as a token of unity and as a lingua franca so as not to give any native Pakistani language preference over the other. Urdu is therefore spoken and understood by the vast majority in some form or another, including a majority of urban dwellers in such cities as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Abbottabad, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Quetta and Sargodha. It is written, spoken and used in all Provinces/Territories of Pakistan despite the fact that the people from differing provinces may have different indigenous languages, as from the fact that it is the "base language" of the country. For this reason, it is also taught as a compulsory subject up to higher secondary school in both English and Urdu medium school systems. This has produced millions of Urdu speakers from people whose mother tongue is one of the State languages of Pakistan such as Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Potwari, Hindko, Pahari, Saraiki, and Brahui but they can read and write only Urdu. It is absorbing many words from the regional languages of Pakistan. This variation of Urdu is sometimes referred to as Pakistani Urdu. So while most of the population is conversant in Urdu, it is the mother tongue only of an estimated 7% of the population, mainly Muslim immigrants (known as Muhajir in Pakistan) from different parts of South Asia (India, Burma, Bangladesh etc.). The regional languages are also being influenced by Urdu vocabulary. There are millions of Pakistanis whose mother tongue is not Urdu, but since they have studied in Urdu medium schools, they can read and write Urdu along with their native language. Most of the nearly five million Afghan refugees of different ethnic origins (such as Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazarvi, and Turkmen) who stayed in Pakistan for over twenty-five years have also become fluent in Urdu. With such a large number of people(s) speaking Urdu, the language has in recent years acquired a peculiar Pakistani flavour further distinguishing it from the Urdu spoken by native speakers and diversifying the language even further.

Autograph and a couplet of Last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah II, dated 29th April 1844

A great number of newspapers are published in Urdu in Pakistan, including the Daily Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Millat, among many others (see List of newspapers in Pakistan).

In India, Urdu is spoken in places where there are large Muslim minorities or cities which were bases for Muslim Empires in the past. These include parts of Uttar Pradesh(Awadh), Areas of Former State of Hyderabad and cities namely Lucknow, Delhi, Meerut,Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee, Deoband, Moradabad, Bijnor, Najibabad, Rampur, Aligarh, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Agra, Kanpur, Badaun, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mysore, Patna, Gulbarga, Nanded, Bidar, Ajmer, and Ahmedabad.[26] Some Indian schools teach Urdu as a first language and have their own syllabus and exams. Indian madrasahs also teach Arabic as well as Urdu. India has more than 3,000 Urdu publications including 405 daily Urdu newspapers. Newspapers such as Sahara Urdu, Daily Salar, Hindustan Express, Daily Pasban, Siasat Daily, The Munsif Daily and Inqilab are published and distributed in Bengaluru, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai (see List of newspapers in India).

Outside South Asia, it is spoken by large numbers of migrant South Asian workers in the major urban centres of the Persian Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. Urdu is also spoken by large numbers of immigrants and their children in the major urban centres of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Australia. Along with Arabic, Urdu is among the immigrant languages with most speakers in Catalonia.[27]

Countries with large numbers of native Urdu speakers:

Country No of speakers as per year % of total population Reference/Note
India 51,536,111 2001 58.2%


Pakistan 38,765,000 2001 44.2%

[29], [30]

United Kingdom 300,000 2008 est.


Bangladesh 50,000 0.06%


United Arab Emirates 200,000 1.1% [citation needed]
Saudi Arabia 282,000 12.43%


United States 150,000 0.1% [citation needed]
Afghanistan 120,000 0.8% [citation needed]
Canada 56,415 2006 0.5%


Oman 90,000 2.8% [citation needed]
Bahrain 80,000 11.3% [citation needed]
Mauritius 74,000 5.6% [citation needed]
Qatar 70,000 8% [citation needed]
Germany 50,000 [citation needed]
Cuba 1,000 [citation needed]
Norway 27,700 2006


France 20,000 [citation needed]
Spain (Catalonia) 18,000 2004


Sweden 10,000 2001


World Total 88,459,578


Official status

Urdu is the national and one of the two official languages (Qaumi Zabaan) of Pakistan, the other being English, and is spoken and understood throughout the country, while the state-by-state languages (languages spoken throughout various regions) are the provincial languages. It is used in education, literature, office and court business.[39] It holds in itself a repository of the cultural and social heritage of the country.[40] Although English is used in most elite circles, and Punjabi has a plurality of native speakers, Urdu is the lingua franca national language in Pakistan.

Urdu is also one of the officially recognised languages in India[41] and has official language status in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar,[42], Andhra Pradesh,Chattisgarh and the national capital, New Delhi.

The importance of Urdu in the Muslim world is visible in the Holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, where most informational signage is written in Arabic, English and Urdu, and sometimes in other languages. Despite being the national language of Pakistan, it is not native to the country, but was introduced by Urdu-speaking immigrants from India. Urdu was not spoken as a native language in the area that would become Pakistan before the Partition of India, although it was taught as literary language.


Urdu has four recognised dialects: Dakhni, Pinjari, Rekhta, and Modern Vernacular Urdu (based on the Khariboli dialect of the Delhi region). Sociolinguists also consider Urdu itself one of the four major variants of the Hindi-Urdu dialect continuum.[18]

Dakhni (also known as Dakani, Deccani, Desia, Mirgan) is spoken in Deccan region of southern India. It is distinct by its mixture of vocabulary from Marathi and Telugu language, as well as some vocabulary from Arabic, Persian and Turkish that are not found in the standard dialect of Urdu. In terms of pronunciation, the easiest way to recognize a native speaker is their pronunciation of the letter "qāf" (ﻕ) as "kh" (ﺥ). Dakhini is widely spoken in all parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Urdu is read and written as in other parts of India. A number of daily newspapers and several monthly magazines in Urdu are published in these states.

Pakistani variant of the language spoken in Pakistan; it becomes increasingly divergent from the Indian dialects and forms of Urdu as it has absorbed many loan words, proverbs and phonetics from Pakistan's indigenous languages such as Pashto, Panjabi and Sindhi. Furthermore, due to the region's history, the Urdu dialect of Pakistan draws heavily from the Persian and Arabic languages, and the intonation and pronunciation are informal compared with corresponding Indian dialects.

In addition, Rekhta (or Rekhti), the language of Urdu poetry, is sometimes counted as a separate dialect.


Levels of formality

Urdu in its less formalised register has been referred to as a rekhta (ریختہ, [reːxt̪aː]), meaning "rough mixture". The more formal register of Urdu is sometimes referred to as zabān-e-Urdu-e-mo'alla (زبان اردو معلہ [zəbaːn eː ʊrd̪uː eː moəllaː]), the "Language of Camp and Court".

The etymology of the word used in the Urdu language for the most part decides how polite or refined your speech is. For example, Urdu speakers would distinguish between پانی pānī and آب āb, both meaning "water" for example, or between آدمی ādmi and مرد mard, meaning "man". The former in each set is used colloquially and has older Hindustani origins, while the latter is used formally and poetically, being of Persian origin.

If a word is of Persian or Arabic origin, the level of speech is considered to be more formal and grand. Similarly, if Persian or Arabic grammar constructs, such as the izafat, are used in Urdu, the level of speech is also considered more formal and grand. If a word is inherited from Sanskrit, the level of speech is considered more colloquial and personal.[43]

That distinction has likenesses with the division between words from a French or Old English origin while speaking English.



Urdu is supposed to be a subtle and polished language; a host of words are used in it to show respect and politeness. This emphasis on politeness, which is reflected in the vocabulary, is known as adab and to some extent as takalluf in Urdu. These words are generally used when addressing elders, or people with whom one is not acquainted. For example, the English pronoun 'you' can be translated into three words in Urdu the singular forms tu (derogatory) and tum (informal and showing intimacy called "apna pan" in Urdu) and the plural form āp (formal and respectful).


Urdu has a vocabulary rich in words with Indic and Middle Eastern origins. The language's Indic base has been enriched by borrowing from Persian and Arabic.[44] There are also a small number of borrowings from Turkish, Portuguese, and more recently English. Many of the words of Arabic origin have different nuances of meaning and usage than they do in Arabic. Other words have exactly the same pronunciation, spelling, and meaning. For instance, the words "Sawaal" (lit. "Question") and "Jawaab" (lit. "Answer") are exactly the same in both Urdu and Arabic.

Writing system

The Urdu Nastaʿliq alphabet, with names in the Devanāgarī and Latin alphabets

Persian script

Urdu is written right-to left in an extension of the Persian alphabet, which is itself an extension of the Arabic alphabet. Urdu is associated with the Nastaʿlīq script style of Persian calligraphy, whereas Arabic is generally written in the modernized Naskh style. Nasta’liq is notoriously difficult to typeset, so Urdu newspapers were hand-written by masters of calligraphy, known as katib or khush-navees, until the late 1980s.

Kaithi script

Urdu was also written in the Kaithi script. A highly-Persianized and technical form of Urdu was the lingua franca of the law courts of the British administration in Bengal, Bihar, and the North-West Provinces & Oudh. Until the late 19th century, all proceedings and court transactions in this register of Urdu were written officially in the Persian script. In 1880, Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal abolished the use of the Persian alphabet in the law courts of Bengal and Bihar and ordered the exclusive use of Kaithi, a popular script used for both Urdu and Hindi.[45] Kaithi's association with Urdu and Hindi was ultimately eliminated by the political contest between these languages and their scripts, in which the Persian script was definitively linked to Urdu.

Devanagari script

More recently in India, Urdu speakers have adopted Devanagari for publishing Urdu periodicals and have innovated new strategies to mark Urdū in Devanagari as distinct from Hindi in Devanagari.[46] The popular Urdu monthly magazine, महकता आंचल (Mahakta Anchal), is published in Delhi in Devanagari in order to target the generation of Muslim boys and girls who do not know the Persian script. Such publishers have introduced new orthographic features into Devanagari for the purpose of representing Urdu sounds. One example is the use of अ (Devanagari a) with vowel signs to mimic contexts of ع (‘ain). To Urdu publishers, the use of Devanagari gives them a greater audience, but helps them to preserve the distinct identity of Urdu when written in Devanagari.

Roman script

Urdu is occasionally also written in the Roman script. Roman Urdu has been used since the days of the British Raj, partly as a result of the availability and low cost of Roman movable type for printing presses. The use of Roman Urdu was common in contexts such as product labels. Today it is regaining popularity among users of text-messaging and Internet services and is developing its own style and conventions. Habib R. Sulemani says, "The younger generation of Urdu-speaking people around the world, especially Pakistan, are using Romanised Urdu on the Internet and it has become essential for them, because they use the Internet and English is its language. Typically, in that sense, a person from Islamabad in Pakistan may chat with another in Delhi in India on the Internet only in Roman Urdū. They both speak the same language but would have different scripts. Moreover, the younger generation of those who are from the English medium schools or settled in the west, can speak Urdu but can’t write it in the traditional Arabic script and thus Roman Urdu is a blessing for such a population."[47] Roman Urdu also holds significance among the Christians of Pakistan and North India. Urdū was the dominant native language among Christians of Karachi and Lahore in present-day Pakistan and Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh Rajasthan in India, during the early part of the nineteenth and twentieth century, and is still used by Christians in these places. Pakistani and Indian Christians often used the Roman script for writing Urdū. Thus Roman Urdū was a common way of writing among Pakistani and Indian Christians in these areas up to the 1960s. The Bible Society of India publishes Roman Urdū Bibles which enjoyed sale late into the 1960s (though they are still published today). Church songbooks are also common in Roman Urdū. However, the usage of Roman Urdū is declining with the wider use of Hindi and English in these states.


Bilabial Labio-
Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p



Fricative f s z ʃ x ɣ ɦ
Tap or Flap ɾ (ɽ)
Approximant ʋ l j

Hindi vowel chart.png

A list of the Urdu alphabet and pronunciation is given below. Urdu words retain Arabic and Persian spellings, and therefore has many irregularities. The Arabic letters yaa and haa are split into two in Urdu: one of the yaa variants is used at the ends of words for the sound [i], and one of the haa variants is used to indicate the aspirated consonants. The retroflex consonants needed to be added as well; this was accomplished by placing a superscript ط (to'e) above the corresponding dental consonants. Several letters which represent distinct consonants in Arabic are conflated in Persian, and this has carried over to Urdu. The National Language Authority of the Government of Pakistan has finalized the list and collating order of Urdu letters.[48]

Letter Name of letter Phonemic representation (in IPA)
ا alif /ɪ/, /ʊ/, /ə/, /ɑ/ depending on diacritical marks
ب bay /b/
پ pe /p/
ت te /t̪/ (dental)
ٹ ṭe /ʈ/ (retroflex)
ث se /s/
ج jīm /dʒ/
چ chay /tʃ/
ح baṛī he /h/
خ khe /x/
د dāl /d̪/ (dental)
ڈ ḍāl /ɖ/ (retroflex)
ذ zāl /z/
ر re /r/
ڑ ṛe /ɽ/ (retroflex flap)
ز ze /z/
ژ zhe /ʒ/
س sīn /s/
ش shīn /ʃ/
ص su'ād /s/
ض zu'ād /z/
ط to'e /t/ (dental)
ظ zo'e /z/
ع ‘ain /ɑ/ after a consonant; otherwise /ʔ/, /ə/, or silent.
غ ghain /ɣ/
ف fe /f/
ق qāf /q/
ک kāf /k/
گ gāf /ɡ/
ل lām /l/
م mīm /m/
ن nūn /n/ or a nasal vowel
و vā'o /v/, /u/, /ʊ/, /o/, /ow/
ہ, ﮩ, ﮨ choṭī he /ɑ/ at the end of a word, otherwise /h/ or silent
ھ do cashmī he indicates that the preceding consonant is aspirated (/pʰ/, /t̪ʰ/, /ʈʰ/, /tʃʰ/, /kʰ/) or murmured (/bʱ/, /d̪ʱ/, /ɖʱ/, /dʒʱ/, /ɡʱ/).
ء hamzah /ʔ/ or silent
ی choṭī ye /j/, /i/, /e/, /ɛ/
ے baṛī ye /eː/

Transliteration of Urdu

Usually, bare transliterations of Urdu into Roman letters omit many phonemic elements that have no equivalent in English or other languages commonly written in the Latin alphabet. It should be noted that a comprehensive system has emerged with specific notations to signify non-English sounds, but it can only be properly read by someone already familiar with Urdu, Persian, or Arabic for letters such as:ژ خ غ ط ص or ق and Hindi for letters such as ڑ. This script may be found on the Internet, and it allows people who understand the language but without knowledge of their written forms to communicate with each other.


English Urdu Transliteration Notes
Hello السلام علیکم assalāmu ‘alaikum lit. "Peace be upon you." (from Arabic)
Hello و علیکم السلام waˈalaikum assalām lit. "And upon you, peace." Response to assalāmu ‘alaikum (from Arabic)
Hello (آداب (عرض ہے ādāb (arz hai) lit. "Regards (are expressed)", a very formal secular greeting
Goodbye خُدا حافظ khuda hāfiz lit. "May God be your Guardian" (from Persian).
yes ہاں n casual
yes جی formal
yes جی ہاں jī hān confident formal
no نہ casual
no نہیں، جی نہیں nahīn, jī nahīn casual; jī nahīn formal
please مہربانی meharbānī lit. "kindness" Also used for "thank you"
thank you شُکریہ shukrīā from Arabic shukran
Please come in تشریف لائیے tashrīf laīe lit. "(Please) bring your honour"
Please have a seat تشریف رکھیئے tashrīf rakhīe lit. "(Please) place your honour"
I am happy to meet you اپ سے مل کر خوشی ہوئی āp se mil kar khushī hūyī
Do you speak English? کیا اپ انگریزی بولتے ہیں؟ kya āp angrezī bolte hain? lit. "Do you speak English?"
I do not speak Urdu. میں اردو نہیں بولتا/بولتی main urdū nahīn boltā/boltī boltā is masculine, boltī is feminine
My name is ... میرا نام ۔۔۔ ہے merā nām .... hai
Which way to Lahore? لاھور کس طرف ہے؟ lāhaur kis taraf hai? lit. "What direction is Lahore in?"
Where is Lucknow? لکھنؤ کہاں ہے؟ Lakhnau kahān hai
Urdu is a good language. اردو اچھی زبان ہے urdū achhī zabān hai lit. "Urdu is a good language"

Sample text

The following is a sample text in zabān-e urdū-e muʻallā (formal Urdu), of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by the United Nations):

Nastaliq text (used in Pakistan and India)

دفعہ 1: تمام انسان آزاد اور حقوق و عزت کے اعتبار سے برابر پیدا ہوۓ ہیں۔ انہیں ضمیر اور عقل ودیعت ہوئی ہی۔ اسلۓ انہیں ایک دوسرے کے ساتھ بھائی چارے کا سلوک کرنا چاہیۓ۔

Transliteration (ALA-LC)

Dafʻah 1: Tamām insān āzād aur ḥuqūq o ʻizzat ke iʻtibār se barābar paidā hu’e haiṇ. Unheṇ zamīr aur ʻaql wadīʻat hu’ī he. Isli’e unheṇ ek dūsre ke sāth bhā’ī chāre kā sulūk karnā chāhi’e.

IPA Transcription

d̪əfa ek: t̪əmam ɪnsan azad̪ ɔɾ hʊquq o ʔizət̪ ke ɪʔt̪ɪbaɾ se bəɾabəɾ pɛda hʊe hẽ. ʊnʱẽ zəmiɾ ɔɾ ʔəqəl ʋədiət̪ hʊi he. ɪslɪe ʊnʱẽ ek d̪usɾe ke sat̪ʰ bʱai tʃaɾe ka sʊluk kəɾna tʃahɪe.

Gloss (word-for-word)

Article 1: All humans free[,] and rights and dignity *('s) consideration from equal born are. To them conscience and intellect endowed is. Therefore, they one another *('s) with brotherhood *('s) treatment do must.

Translation (grammatical)

Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Note: *('s) represents a possessive case which when written is preceded by the possessor and followed by the possessed, unlike the English 'of'.


Urdu has become a literary language only in recent centuries, as Persian and Arabic were formerly the idioms of choice for "elevated" subjects. However, despite its relatively late development, Urdu literature boasts some world-recognised artists and a considerable corpus.



Urdu holds the largest collection of works on Islamic literature and Sharia after Arabic. These include translations and interpretation of Qur'an, commentary on Hadith, Fiqh, history, spirituality, Sufism and metaphysics. A great number of classical texts from Arabic and Persian, have also been translated into Urdu. Relatively inexpensive publishing, combined with the use of Urdu as a lingua franca among Muslims of South Asia, has meant that Islam-related works in Urdu far outnumber such works in any other South Asian language.[citation needed] Popular Islamic books, originally written in Urdu, include Barahin-e-Ahmadiyya, Bahar-e-Shariat, Fazaeil-e-Aamaal and Faizan-e Sunnat.


Secular prose includes all categories of widely known fiction and non-fiction work, separable into genres.

The dāstān, or tale, a traditional story which may have many characters and complex plotting. This has now fallen into disuse.

The afsāna, or short story, probably the best-known genre of Urdu fiction. The best-known afsāna writers, or afsāna nigār, in Urdu are Munshi Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Krishan Chander, Qurratulain Hyder (Qurat-ul-Ain Haider), Ismat Chughtai, Bhupendra Nath Kaushik "Fikr", Ghulam Abbas, Bano Qudsia and Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi. Munshi Premchand, became known as a pioneer in the afsāna, though some contend that his were not technically the first as Sir Ross Masood had already written many short stories in Urdu.

Novels form a genre of their own, in the tradition of the English novel.

Other genres include saférnāma (travel story), mazmoon (essay), sarguzisht(account/narrative), inshaeya(satirical essay), murasela(editorial), and khud navvisht (autobiography).


Urdu has been one of the premier languages of poetry in South Asia for two centuries, and has developed a rich tradition in a variety of poetic genres. The 'Ghazal' in Urdu represents the most popular form of subjective music and poetry, while the 'Nazm' exemplifies the objective kind, often reserved for narrative, descriptive, didactic or satirical purposes. Under the broad head of the Nazm we may also include the classical forms of poems known by specific names such as 'Masnavi' (a long narrative poem in rhyming couplets on any theme: romantic, religious, or didactic), 'Marsia' (an elegy traditionally meant to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad, and his comrades of the Karbala fame), or 'Qasida' (a panegyric written in praise of a king or a nobleman), for all these poems have a single presiding subject, logically developed and concluded. However, these poetic species have an old world aura about their subject and style, and are different from the modern Nazm, supposed to have come into vogue in the later part of the nineteenth century.

Probably the most widely recited, and memorised genre of contemporary Urdu poetry is nāt—panegyric poetry written in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. Nāt can be of any formal category, but is most commonly in the ghazal form. The language used in Urdu nāt ranges from the intensely colloquial to a highly Persified formal language. The great early twentieth century scholar Imam Ahmed Rida Khan, who wrote many of the most well known nāts in Urdu (the collection of his poetic work is Hadaiq-e-Baqhshish), epitomised this range in a ghazal of nine stanzas (bayt) in which every stanza contains half a line each of Arabic, Persian, formal Urdu, and colloquial Hindi. The same poet composed a salām—a poem of greeting to the Prophet Muhammad, derived from the unorthodox practice of qiyam, or standing, during the mawlid, or celebration of the birth of the Prophet—Mustafā Jān-e Rahmat, which, due to being recited on Fridays in some Urdu speaking mosques throughout the world, is probably the more frequently recited Urdu poems of the modern era.

Another important genre of Urdu prose are the poems commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali Allah hiss salam and Battle of Karbala, called noha (نوحہ) and marsia. Anees and Dabeer are famous in this regard.


Ash'ār (اشعار) (Couplet). It consists of two lines, Misra (مصرعہ); first line is called Misra-e-oola (مصرع اولی) and the second is called 'Misra-e-sānī' (مصرعہ ثانی). Each verse embodies a single thought or subject (sing) She'r (شعر).

Urdu poetry example

This is Ghalib's famous couplet in which he compares himself to his great predecessor, the master poet Mir:[49]

ریختے کے تمہی استاد نہیں ہو غالب
کہتے ہیں اگلے زمانے میں کوئی میر بھی تھا
Rekhta ke tumhinustād nahīn ho Ghālib
Kahte hain agle zamāne men ko'ī Mīr bhī thā
You are not the only master of Rekhta*, Ghalib
They say that in the past there also was someone named Mir.

*Rekhta was the name for the Urdu/Hindi language in Ghalib's days, when the distinction had not yet been made.


Urdu developed as local Indo-Aryan dialects came under the influence of the Muslim courts that ruled South Asia from the early thirteenth century. Its Indo-Aryan vocabulary has been enriched by borrowings from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, English and other Indian languages.

The official language of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and their successor states, as well as the cultured language of poetry and literature, was Persian, while the language of religion was Arabic. Most of the Sultans and nobility in the Sultanate period were Turks from Central Asia who spoke Turkic as their mother tongue. The Mughals were also from Central Asia, they spoke Turkish as their first language; however the Mughals later adopted Persian. Persian became the preferred language of the Muslim elite of north India before the Mughals entered the scene. Babur's mother tongue was a Turkic language and he wrote exclusively in Turkish. His son and successor Humayun also spoke and wrote in this Turkic language. Muzaffar Alam, a noted scholar of Mughal and Indo-Persian history, suggests that Persian became the lingua franca of the empire under Akbar for various political and social factors due to its non-sectarian and fluid nature.[50] The influence of these languages on Indian apabhraṃśas led to a vernacular that is the ancestor of today's Urdu. Dialects of this vernacular are spoken today in cities in Pakistan and in some places throughout northern India. Cities with a particularly strong tradition of Urdu Delhi, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Karachi and Lahore,

Urdu and Hindi

Because of their identical grammar and nearly identical core vocabularies, most linguists do not distinguish between Urdu and Hindi as separate languages — at least not in reference to the informal spoken registers. For them, ordinary informal Urdu and Hindi can be seen as variants of the same language (Hindustani) with the difference being that Urdu is supplemented with a Perso-Arabic vocabulary and Hindi a Sanskritic vocabulary. Additionally, there is the convention of Urdu being written in Persio-Arabic script, and Hindi in Devanagari. The standard, "proper" grammars of both languages are based on Khariboli grammar — the dialect of the Delhi region. So, with respect to grammar, the languages are mutually intelligible when spoken, and can be thought of as two written variants of the same language.

Hindustani is the name often given to this language as it developed over hundreds of years throughout India (which formerly included what is now Pakistan). In the same way that the core vocabulary of English evolved from Old English (Anglo-Saxon) but includes a large number of words borrowed from French and other languages (whose pronunciations often changed naturally so as to become easier for speakers of English to pronounce), what may be called Hindustani can be said to have evolved from Sanskrit while borrowing many Persian and Arabic words over the years, and changing the pronunciations (and often even the meanings) of those words. This usually made the words easier for Hindustani speakers to pronounce and also more pleasant than the coarse original sounds. Therefore, Hindustani is the language as it evolved organically just like many other languages in the world.

Linguistically speaking, Standard Hindi is a form of colloquial Hindustani, with lesser use of Persian and Arabic loanwords, while inheriting its formal vocabulary from Sanskrit; Standard Urdu is also a form of Hindustani, de-Sanskritised, with a significant part of its formal vocabulary consisting of loanwords from Persian and Arabic. The difference, thus is in the vocabulary, and not the structure of the language.

The difference is also sociolinguistic: When people speak Hindustani (i.e., when they are speaking colloquially) speakers who are Muslims will usually say that they are speaking Urdu, and those who are Hindus will typically say that they are speaking Hindi, even though they are speaking essentially the same language.

The two standardised registers of Hindustani — Urdu and Hindi — have become so entrenched as separate languages that often nationalists, both Muslim and Hindu, claim that Urdu and Hindi have always been separate languages. There have been some observations that the "fully standardized" Hindi register is artificial enough to make it partially incomprehensible to many people classified as Hindi speakers.[51][52]


The Daily Jang/daily waqt was the first Urdu newspaper to be typeset digitally in Nasta’liq by computer. There are efforts underway to develop more sophisticated and user-friendly Urdu support on computers and the Internet. Nowadays, nearly all Urdu newspapers, magazines, journals, and periodicals are composed on computers via various Urdu software programmes, the most widespread of which is InPage Desktop Publishing package. Microsoft has included Urdu language support in all new versions of Windows and both Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 are available in Urdu through Language Interface Pack[53] support.

See also


  1. ^ a b Linguistic Lineage for Urdu - Ethnologue
  2. ^ "Urdu (اُردو)". Omniglot. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  3. ^ "A Historical Perspective of Urdu". National Council for Promotion of Urdu language. Retrieved 2007-06-15. 
  4. ^ "Urdu language". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  5. ^ a b "Urdu". Random House Unabridged Dictionary. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  6. ^ a b "Hindustani language". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  7. ^ Hindi By Yamuna Kachru
  8. ^ The private lives of English words By Louis G. Heller, Alexander Humez, Malcah Dror page 197
  9. ^
  10. ^ Dehkhoda Loghatnameh
  11. ^ "Urdu and Hindi". Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  12. ^ Ghalib, 1797-1869: In 2vols .Vol.1, Life and Letters, By Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, Ghalib, Asad-Allāh Ḫān Mīrzā Ġālib, Ralph Russell, Khurshidul Islam. Published by Allen & Unwin, 1969
  13. ^ [1]
  14. ^ "Hindi language". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  15. ^ "Bringing Order to Linguistic Diversity: Language Planning in the British Raj". Language in India. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  16. ^ "A Brief Hindi - Urdu FAQ". sikmirza. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  17. ^ "Hindi/Urdu Language Instruction". University of California, Davis. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  18. ^ a b "Ethnologue Report for Hindi". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  19. ^ The Annual of Urdu studies, number 11, 1996, “Some notes on Hindi and Urdu, pp.204
  20. ^ "Urdu and it's Contribution to Secular Values". South Asian Voice. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  21. ^ "Most Widely Spoken Languages". Saint Ignatius. Retrieved 2007-06-23. 
  22. ^ "The World's 10 most influential Languages". Language Today. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  23. ^ "The Range of Hindi and Urdu". Columbia University. Retrieved 2008-05-20. 
  24. ^ "About Hindi-Urdu". North Carolina State University. Retrieved 2009–08–09. 
  25. ^ "Hindi-Urdu Flagship Program". University of Texas at Austin. Retrieved 2009–08–09. 
  26. ^ India Travelite: Holy Places - Ajmer
  27. ^ [2]
  28. ^ "Abstract of speakers’ strength of languages and mother tongues – 2001". Government of India. Retrieved 2008-05-10. 
  29. ^ "Ethnologue Report for Pakistan". SIL Ethnologue. Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  30. ^ Only refers to Pakistanis with Urdu as first language, i.e people who do not additionally speak the State languages of Pakistan including Punjabi, Sindhi,Saraiki, Pashto and Balochi as mother tongues- See Muhajir
  31. ^
  32. ^ Ethnologue Report for Bangladesh
  33. ^ Ethnologue Report for Saudi Arabia
  34. ^ Canada:The most common non-official mother tongues, 1971, 2001 and 2006
  35. ^ Statistics Norway
  36. ^ Pakistan Link: Desi Salsa in Barcelona
  37. ^ Demographics of Sweden
  38. ^ Ethnologue Report for Urdu
  39. ^ It should be noted that in the lower courts in Pakistan, despite the proceedings taking place in Urdu, the documents are in English whilst in the higher courts, ie the High Courts and the Supreme Court, both documents and proceedings are in English.
  40. ^ Zia, Khaver (1999), "A Survey of Standardisation in Urdu". 4th Symposium on Multilingual Information Processing, (MLIT-4), Yangon, Myanmar. CICC, Japan
  41. ^ see Urdu at Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia
  42. ^ "Urdu in Bihar". Language in India. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  43. ^ "About Urdu". Afroz Taj (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  44. ^ "Urdu". The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. Retrieved 2008-02-26. 
  45. ^ King, 1994.
  46. ^ Ahmad, R., 2006.
  47. ^ The News, Karachi, Pakistan: Roman Urdu by Habib R Sulemani
  48. ^ Government of Pakistan, National Language Authority (Cabinet Division) [].
  49. ^ Columbia University: Ghazal 36, Verse 11
  50. ^ Alam, Muzaffar. "The Pursuit of Persian: Language in Mughal Politics." In Modern Asian Studies, vol. 32, no. 2. (May, 1998), pp. 317–349.
  51. ^ Gerald B. Kelley, Edward C. Dimock, Bhadriraju Krishnamurti (1992), Dimensions of sociolinguistics in South Asia: papers in memory of Gerald B. Kelley, Oxford & IBH Pub. Co., ISBN 8120405730,, "... policy of Sanskritization resulted in a variety of Hindi which was far removed from everyday usage and became almost incomprehensible to the common man ..." 
  52. ^ Maria Misra (2007), Vishnu's crowded temple: India since the Great Rebellion, Allan Lane,, "... This linguistic cleansing not only destroyed Hindustani, but in its hyper-purist form rendered Hindi itself incomprehensible to the less well-educated and ..." 
  53. ^
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  • "A Desertful of Roses", a site about Ghalib's Urdu ghazals by Dr. Frances W. Pritchett, Professor of Modern Indic Languages at Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
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News web colaction by Maifnaz]

  • Rai, Amrit. 1984. A house divided: The origin and development of Hindi-Hindustani. Delhi: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-561643-X.
  • Snell, Rupert Teach yourself Hindi: A complete guide for beginners. Lincolnwood, IL: NTC

External links

Urdu edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Urdu Translation Services


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