The Arabic script evolved from the Nabataean Aramaic script. It has been used since the 4th century AD, but the earliest document, an inscription in Arabic, Syriac and Greek, dates from 512 AD. The Aramaic language has fewer consonants than Arabic, so during the 7th century new Arabic letters were created by adding dots to existing letters in order to avoid ambiguities. Further diacritics indicating short vowels were introduced, but are only generally used to ensure the Qur'an was read aloud without mistakes.
There are two main types of written Arabic:
Each Arabic speaking country or region also has its own variety of colloquial spoken Arabic. These colloquial varieties of Arabic appear in written form in some poetry, cartoons and comics, plays and personal letters. There are also translations of the bible into most varieties of colloquial Arabic.
The transliteration of consonants used above is the ISO version of 1984. There are various other ways of transliterating Arabic.
This chart shows how the letters change in different positions
Hear how to pronounce the Arabic letters:
When chatting online some Arabic speakers write in the Latin alphabet use the following letters:
These numerals are those used when writing Arabic and are written from left to right. In Arabic they are known as "Indian numbers" (أرقام هندية / arqa-m hindiyyah). The term 'Arabic numerals' is also used to refer to 1, 2, 3, etc.
Arabic is a Semitic language with about 221 million speakers in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Palestinian West Bank & Gaza, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
There are over 30 different varieties of colloquial Arabic which include:
For a full list of all varieties of colloquial Arabic click here (format: Excel, 20K).
Yūladu jamī'u n-nāsi aḥrāran mutasāwīna fī l-karāmati wa-l-ḥuqūq. Wa-qad wuhibū 'aqlan wa-ḍamīran wa-'alayhim an yu'āmila ba'ḍuhum ba'ḍan bi-rūḥi l-ikhā'.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Online Arabic lessons
How to read handwritten Arabic
Akkadian, Amharic, Arabic (Algerian), Arabic (Egyptian), Arabic (Hassaniya), Arabic (Lebanese), Arabic (Modern Standard), Arabic (Moroccan), Arabic (Syrian), Aramaic, Argobba, Assyrian / Neo-Assyrian, Canaanite, Chaha, Chaldean Neo-Aramaic, Ge'ez, Hadhramautic, Harari, Hebrew, Himyaritic, Jewish Neo-Aramaic, Maltese, Mandaic, Nabataean, Neo-Mandaic, Phoenician, Punic, Qatabanic, Sabaean, Sabaic, Silt'e, Syriac, Tigre, Tigrinya, Turoyo, Ugaritic, Western Neo-Aramaic
Adamaua Fulfulde, Afrikaans, Arabic (Algerian), Arabic (Egyptian), Arabic (Hassaniya), Arabic (Lebanese), Arabic (Modern Standard), Arabic (Moroccan), Arabic (Syrian), Arabic (Tunisian), Arwi, Äynu, Azeri, Balanta-Ganja, Balti, Baluchi, Beja, Belarusian, Bosnian, Brahui, Chagatai, Chechen, Comorian, Crimean Tatar, Dargwa, Dari, Dogri, Domari, Gilaki, Hausa, Hazaragi, Indus Kohistani, Kabyle, Kalkoti, Karakalpak, Kashmiri, Kazakh, Khowar, Khorasani Turkic, Konkani, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Lezgi, Luri, Malay, Mandinka, Marwari, Mandekan, Mazandarani, Morisco, Mozarabic, Nubi, Ormuri, Palula, Parkari Koli, Pashto, Persian/Farsi, Punjabi, Qashqai, Rajasthani, Rohingya, Salar, Saraiki, Sawi, Serer, Shabaki, Shina, Shughni, Sindhi, Somali, Tatar, Tausūg, Tawallammat Tamajaq, Tayart Tamajeq, Torwali, Turkish, Urdu, Uyghur, Uzbek, Wakhi, Wolof, Xiao'erjing
Ancient Berber, Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Manichaean, Nabataean, Pahlavi, Parthian, Phoenician, Paleo-Hebrew, Proto-Sinaitic / Proto-Canaanite, Psalter, Punic, Sabaean, Samaritan, Sogdian, South Arabian, Syriac, Tifinagh, Ugaritic
Page last modified: 14.09.21
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