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Summary of the Arabic Writing System

Here is a handy summary of the entire Arabic writing system, divided into an alphabet chart, letters that stand for borrowed sounds, other letter-like characters, and diacritics (marks used in combination with letters).

Alphabet Chart

All the letters of the alphabet in the order in which they are recited:

Name

Transcription

[IPA]

Final

Medial

Initial

Independent

’alif

aa [ɛː, ɑː]

ـا

ـا

ا

ا

baa’

b [b]

ـب

ـبـ

بـ

ب

taa’

t [t]

ـت

ـتـ

تـ

ت

thaa’

th [θ]

ـث

ـثـ

ثـ

ث

jiim

j [d͡ʒ]

ـج

ـجـ

جـ

ج

ḥaa’

[ħ]

ـح

ـحـ

حـ

ح

khaa’

kh[x]

ـخ

ـخـ

خـ

خ

daal

d [d]

ـد

ـد

د

د

dhaal

dh [ð]

ـذ

ـذ

ذ

ذ

raa’

r [r]

ـر

ـر

ر

ر

zaay

z [z]

ـز

ـز

ز

ز

siin

s [s]

ـس

ـسـ

سـ

س

shiin

sh [ʃ]

ـش

ـشـ

شـ

ش

ṣaad

[sˤ]

ـص

ـصـ

صـ

ص

ḍaad

[dˤ]

ـض

ـضـ

ضـ

ض

ṭaa’

[tˤ]

ـط

ـطـ

طـ

ط

ḍhaa’

ḍh [ðˤ]

ـظ

ـظـ

ظـ

ظ

ʕayn

ʕ [ʕ]

ـع

ـعـ

عـ

ع

ghayn

gh [ɣ]

ـغ

ـغـ

غـ

غ

faa’

f [f]

ـف

ـفـ

فـ

ف

qaaf

q [q]

ـق

ـقـ

قـ

ق

kaaf

k [k]

ـك

ـكـ

كـ

ك

laam

l [l]

ـل

ـلـ

لـ

ل

miim

m [m]

ـم

ـمـ

مـ

م

nuun

n [n]

ـن

ـنـ

نـ

ن

haa’

h [h]

ـه

ـهـ

هـ

ه

waaw

w, uu [w, uː]

ـو

ـو

و

و

yaa’

y, ii [j, iː]

ـي

ـيـ

يـ

ي

Letters whose initial and medial forms appear in gray are non-connectors. That is, they do not connect to their left. For these letters, the initial form is identical to the independent form, while the medial form is identical to the final form.

Borrowed Sounds

Common additional letters used to represent borrowed sounds. These are commonly used in loanwords, foreign names, and names of companies.

Name

Transcription

[IPA]

Final

Medial

Initial

Independent

paa’

p [p]

ـپـ

ـپـ

پـ

پ

zhiim

zh [ʒ]

ـچـ

ـچـ

چـ

چ

vaa’

v [v]

ـڤـ

ـڤـ

ڤـ

ڤ

Additional Letter-Like Characters

The following elements work like letters but aren't included in the alphabet.

Name

Tran-
scription

Shapes

Remarks

hamza

ء أ إ

ئ ؤ

The glottal stop. Can be written independently or over a “seat”, which can be ’alif, waaw or dotless yaa’. The seat itself is not pronounced. Initial hamza is always written over an ’alif, except in cases when it is written with ’alif madda.

taa’ marbuuṭa

-a, -at

ة ـة

Written as a haa’ with two dots. Occurs only word-finally. The t is only pronounced when a suffix indicated by a diacritic is added or when the word is the first term of an ’iḍaafa phrase (possessive phrase).

’alif maqṣuura

-aa

ى ـى

Written as a yaa’ without dots. Occurs only word-finally.

’alif madda

’aa

آ ـآ

This represents a hamza followed by the long aa sound.

laam ’alif


لا ـلا

Used instead of the expected لـا. The ’alif in this ligature can have any of the values of a normal ’alif and can carry a hamza: لازم laazim ‘must’, الاسم ’al-ism ‘the name’, and الأمّ ’al-’umm ‘the mother’.

Diacritics

Diacritics are symbols used in combination with letters (such as accent marks in the Roman alphabet).

Name

Shapes

Remarks

fatḥa

ــَــ

Indicates an a vowel after the letter it is written on.

kasra

ــِــ

Indicates an i vowel after the letter it is written on.

ḍamma

ــُــ

Indicates an u vowel after the letter it is written on.

sukuun

ــْــ

Explicitly indicates no vowel after the letter it is written on.

shadda

ــّــ

Indicates that the consonant it is written on is doubled.

tanwiin il-fatḥ

tanwiin il-kasr

tanwiin iḍ-ḍamm

ــَــ ــٍــ ــٌــ


ـًا ىً ـةً

These occur only word-finally in formal Arabic and are pronounced -an, -in, and -un, respectively. In practice, tanwiin il-fatḥ is only written in combination with a final ’alif, ’alif maqṣuura or taa’ marbuuṭa.