The Arabic alphabet is the script used for writing several languages of Asia and Africa, such as Arabic, Persian, and Urdu. After the Latin alphabet, it is the second-most widely used alphabet around the world.

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 other languages, even outside of the Semitic family to which Arabic belongs. Examples of non-Semitic languages written with the Arabic alphabet include Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Baloch, Malay, Hausa (in West Africa), Mandinka, Swahili (in East Africa), Balti, Brahui, Panjabi (in Pakistan), Kashmiri, Sindhi (in India and Pakistan), Uyghur (in China), Kazakh (in China), Kyrgyz (in China), Azerbaijani (in Iran), Kurdish (in Iraq and Iran) and the language of the former Ottoman Empire. In order to accommodate the needs of these other languages, new letters and other symbols were added to the original 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, Nastaʿlīq, Shahmukhi, Ruq'ah, Thuluth, Kufic, Sini and Hijazi.





There are two collating orders for the Arabic alphabet. The original abjadī order (أبجدي) 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 abjadī order is used for numbering. In the hijāʼī order (هجائي), similarly-shaped letters are grouped together (see below). The hijāʼī order is used wherever lists of names and words are sorted, as in phonebooks, classroom lists, and dictionaries.

Primary letters

The Arabic alphabet has 28 basic letters. Adaptations of the Arabic script for other languages, such as the Malay Arabic script, have additional letters. 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 directly connected to the letter that immediately follows. 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. These forms are called:

* Initial: at the beginning of a word; or in the middle of a word, after a non-connecting letter.
* Medial: between two connecting letters (non-connecting letters lack a medial form).
* Final: at the end of a word following a connecting letter.
* Isolated: at the end of a word following a non-connecting letter; or used independently.

Some letters look almost the same in all four forms, while others show considerable variation. In addition, some letter combinations are written as ligatures (special shapes), including lām-ʼalif.[2]

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 have neither an initial nor a medial form: they are not connected to the letter following them.


The Arabic alphabet is an "impure" abjad. Long vowels are written, but short ones are not, so the reader must be familiar with the language to understand the missing vowels. However, in editions of the Qurʼan and in didactic works, vocalization marks are used, including the sukūn for vowel omission and the šadda for consonant gemination (consonant doubling).

Short vowels
Further information: Arabic diacritics

In everyday use handwriting, general publications, and street signs short vowels are generally not written in Arabic. Prints of Qurʼan cannot be adorned by the religious institutes that reviews them unless short vowels are properly marked, and it is generally preferred and customary to mark them whenever Qurʼan is cited in print. Children's books and school books for little children and Arabic language teaching in general have diacritics to varying degrees of observation. These are known as vocalized texts.The Arabic writing system can not be considered complete without the diacritical marking of short vowels as they are an essential part of it in its developed state, conveying information not coded in any other way. Just like dotted letters, diacritical marking were a later addition to writing system. Short vowels are occasionally marked where the word would otherwise be ambiguous and could not be resolved simply from context, or simply wherever they are 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.

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.

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