Arabic Alphabet – Consonants, Letter Forms and More!
The Arabic alphabet (Arabic: ٱلْأَبْجَدِيَّة ٱلْعَرَبِيَّة, al-ʾabjadīyah al-ʿarabīyah or ٱلْحُرُوف ٱلْعَرَبِيَّة, al-ḥurūf al-ʿarabīyah) or Arabic abjad has been specially codified for writing in Arabic and unlike English, it is written from right to left in a cursive style. The Arabic alphabet contains 28 letters that have contextual letterforms, but more on that later. Today we are going to present everything there is to know about the basic Arabic alphabet in order to help you better understand and write in Arabic. Without any further ado, let’s get into it.
As previously noted, the Arabic alphabet contains a total of 28 letters and most of them look quite similar at a first glance. However, they are distinguished form each other by dots (ʾiʿjām) which placed above or below their central part which is known as “rasm”. The distinguishing dots are considered an integral part of the letter and they represent different sounds.
Take a look at the following Arabic letters ب (b), ت (t) and ث (th) for example. Even though they might have the same basic shape, the position of the dots is different and this changes their entire meaning and sound. In addition, we want to mention that Arabic is cursive both printed and written.
Letters can exhibit up to four distinct forms in Arabic and these forms correspond to an initial, middle, final or isolated position. Even though some letters have different variations, others will sometimes remain exactly the same in all four of the aforementioned forms.
Usually, you will find that letters in the same word are linked together on both sides by horizontal lines. Although, six letters such as “و ,ز ,ر ,ذ ,د” can only be linked to their preceding letter.
Furthermore, some letter combinations will be written in special shapes which are commonly known as “ligatures”. We can take “lām-alif لا“ as an example which is the only mandatory ligature.
The Full Arabic Alphabet
Now that we have presented the consonants and letter forms in Arabic to make it easier for you to understand them, let’s go ahead and take a look at the entire alphabet and check out what are the different forms of words and their meaning in English.
name (Classical pronunciation)
name in Arabic script
|Value in Literary Arabic (IPA)||Closest English equivalent in pronunciation||Contextual forms||Isolated
|1.||1.||1.||1.||ʾalif||أَلِف||ā / ʾ (also â )||various,
including /aː/, ∅[a]
|23.||4.||23.||4.||thāʾ||ثَاء||th (also ṯ )||/θ/||think||ـث||ـثـ||ثـ||ث|
|3.||5.||3.||5.||jīm||جِيم||j (also ǧ )||/d͡ʒ/[b][c]||gem||ـج||ـجـ||جـ||ج|
|8.||6.||8.||6.||ḥāʾ||حَاء||ḥ (also ḩ )||/ħ/||no equivalent (“guttural” h, may be approximated as heart)||ـح||ـحـ||حـ||ح|
|24.||7.||24.||7.||khāʾ||خَاء||kh (also ḫ, ḵ, ẖ )||/x/||Scottish loch||ـخ||ـخـ||خـ||خ|
|25.||9.||25.||9.||dhāl||ذَال||dh (also ḏ )||/ð/||that||ـذ||ذ|
|20.||10.||20.||10.||rāʾ||رَاء||r||/r/||No English equivalent, Spanish rolled r as in perro||ـر||ر|
|7.||11.||7.||11.||zāy / zayn||زَاي||z||/z/||zebra||ـز||ز|
|21.||13.||28.||25.||shīn||شِين||sh (also š )||/ʃ/||shin||ـش||ـشـ||شـ||ش|
|18.||14.||15.||18.||ṣād||صَاد||ṣ (also ş )||/sˤ/||no equivalent (can be approximated with sauce, but with the throat constricted)||ـص||ـصـ||صـ||ص|
|26.||15.||18.||19.||ḍād||ضَاد||ḍ (also ḑ )||/dˤ/||no equivalent (can be approximated with dawn, but with the throat constricted)||ـض||ـضـ||ضـ||ض|
|9.||16.||9.||12.||ṭāʾ||طَاء||ṭ (also ţ )||/tˤ/||no equivalent (can be approximated with stall, but with the throat constricted)||ـط||ـطـ||طـ||ط|
|27.||17.||26.||13.||ẓāʾ||ظَاء||ẓ (also z̧ )||/ðˤ/||no equivalent (can be approximated with father, but with the throat constricted)||ـظ||ـظـ||ظـ||ظ|
|16.||18.||16.||20.||ʿayn||عَيْن||ʿ||/ʕ/||no equivalent (“guttural” voiced h; similar to ḥāʾ above)||ـع||ـعـ||عـ||ع|
|28.||19.||27.||21.||ghayn||غَيْن||gh (also ġ, ḡ )||/ɣ/[b]||no equivalent Spanish higo||ـغ||ـغـ||غـ||غ|
|19.||21.||19.||23.||qāf||قَاف||q||/q/[b]||no equivalent (similar to caught, but pronounced further back in the mouth.)||ـق||ـقـ||قـ||ق[d]|
|6.||27.||6.||27.||wāw||وَاو||w / ū / ∅||/w/, /uː/, ∅[b]||wet, pool||ـو||و|
|10.||28.||10.||28.||yāʾ||يَاء||y / ī||/j/, /iː/[b]||yacht, meet||ـي||ـيـ||يـ||ي[d]|
What better way to study a new language other than learning some interesting fun facts that you can share over the dinner table with your friends and family members? Nonetheless, here are the top five fun facts about the Arabic language.
- Arabic letters form words by connecting them together;
- Arabic Letters’ writing has three forms: initial, medial, and final i.e. different in shape according to their position;
- Arabic structure is different in Alphabet from any other Language;
- Letters in the initial and medial positions are mostly the same in shape;
- You can find the correct pronunciation in Arabic just from the spelling of the word which is considered a no-trouble-trick of Arabic pronunciation.