Classical Arabic

Abjadīyah أبجدية — (consonant-based) alphabet

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alifا‎ـا‎‎ـا‎ا‎ʔʾAnext letter disconnected. has many functions
bāʾبـب‎ـبـ‎بـ‎bboat with dot at bottom
tāʾتـت‎ـتـ‎تـ‎ttwo on a boat
thāʾثـث‎ـثـ‎ثـ‎θthvthree on a boat
ḥāʾح‎ـح‎ـحـ‎حـ‎ħHhollow jug. as if reacting to hot food or warming up your hands (voiceless pharyngeal fricative)
khāʾخ‎ـخ‎ـخـ‎خـ‎χkhxscratched jug. throat scraping sound like Scottish ‘loch’, German ‘Bach’, French ‘lettre’
dālدـد‎ـد‎دdnext letter disconnected.
dhālذ‎ـذ‎ـذ‎ذ‎ðdh*this, that. next letter disconnected.
rāʾر‎ـر‎ـر‎ر‎rtrilled like in Spanish or Italian. descends below the line (unlike dāl د). next letter disconnected.
zāyز‎ـز‎ـز‎ز‎zbuzz of mosquito. descends below the line (unlike dhāl ذ). next letter disconnected.
ṭāʾط‎ـط‎ـطـ‎طـ‎Tcrisp. non-sulcal fricative.
ẓāʾظ‎ـظ‎ـظـ‎ظـ‎ðˤZblender. this, that, but with emphasis
ʿaynع‎ـع‎ـعـ‎عـ‎ʕʿEresembles view inside throat. open wide and say ‘aww’ as if for your doctor, relaxing the back of your tongue until it resonates in your windpipe (voiced version of ح)
ghaynغ‎ـغـغـ‎غـʁghggargling sound like French or German r
fāʾف‎ـف‎ـفـ‎فـ‎fFAQ (1 dot = 1st consonant).
qāfق‎ـق‎ـقـ‎قـ‎qFAQ (2 dots = 2nd consonant). voiceless uvular plosive like a k, but further back in the throat, almost as if choking
lāmل‎ـل‎ـلـ‎لـ‎lclear l as in most world languages, but see special case below
mīmم‎ـم‎ـمـ‎مـ‎mmasquerade mask, microphone
nūnن‎ـن‎ـنـ‎نـ‎nclock with dot at top shows noon
hāʾه‎ـه‎ـهـ‎هـ‎hlike regular English h
wāwو‎ـو‎ـو‎و‎wwow! next letter disconnected.
yāʾي‎‎ـي‎ـيـ‎يـ‎jyyay! (in final location, often appears undotted, especially in Egypt, creating ambiguity with the vowel ‘alif maqṣūrah’)

Special cases

alif maddahءا‎  ءاʔaaā'AQurʾānic spelling
alif maddahآ‎  آʔaaā|Modern spelling
alif maqṣūrahى‎ـى‎  aaáY 
hamzat al-waṣl ii{ 
tāʾ marbūṭahة‎ـة‎  h, tpnormally like h ه, but when combined with other word becomes t ت
lām + alifلا‎ـلا‎ـلا‎لا‎ lām and alif combine together in this special way
lāmل‎ـل‎ـلـ‎لـ‎pronounced as dark l only in the word Allāh الله


ta + alif maqṣūrah
nun + mim
lam + ya
lam + alif maqṣūrah
lam + mim

Double consonants

The Shaddah is a w-shaped diacritic placed above a double consonant. Normally, diacritics are not written in Arabic, but the Shaddah can be useful to tell certain words apart.

  • Madrasah مدرسة — school
  • Mudarrisah مدرّسة — female teacher

In the IPA and ALA-LC transcriptions, write the consonant twice. In Buckwalter transliteration, use a ~.

See also