Somali (af Soomaali / اَف صَومالي˜)

Somali is a member of the Lowland East Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. It is spoken mainly in Somalia, and also in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen, and in (the Republic of) Somaliland, an unrecognised de facto sovereign state between Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia. It is an offical language in Somali and in the Somali Region of Ethiopia, a major national language in Djibouti, and a recognised minority language in Kenya. There are a total of about 21.8 million Somali speakers, including about 7.8 million in Somali.

Somali at a glance

  • Native name: Af-Soomaali, 𐒖𐒍 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘, اَف صَومالي˜ [æ̀f sɔ̀ːmɑ́ːlì]
  • Language family: Afro-Asiatic, Cushitic, Lowland East Cushitic, Macro-Somali, Somali languages, Somali
  • Number of speakers: c. 21.8 million
  • Spoken in: Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Yemen and Somaliland
  • First written: 13th century AD
  • Writing systems: Latin (official), Arabic, Osmanya, Kaddare and Borama scripts
  • Status: An official language in Somali and the Somali Region of Ethiopia. Recognised minority language in Kenya


Written Somali

Somali has been written with a number of different scripts, including the Arabic script, the Latin alphabet, and the Borama / Gadabuursi, Osmanya and Kaddare alphabets. The current official script for Somali is the Latin alphabet.


Latin alphabet for Somali

In 1961 both the Latin and Osmanya scripts were adopted for use in Somalia, but in 1969 there was a coup, with one of its stated aims the resolution of the debate over the country's writing system. The Latin alphabet was finally adopted in 1972 and at the same time Somali was made the sole official language of Somalia. Shire Jama Ahmed (Shire Jaamac Axmed / شيري جامع أحمد‎) is credited with the invention of this spelling system, and his system was chosen from among eighteen competing new orthographies.

Latin alphabet for Somali

Hear how to pronounce Somali:


Sample text

Aadanaha dhammaantiis wuxuu dhashaa isagoo xor ah kana siman xagga sharafta iyo xuquuqada Waxaa Alle (Ilaah) siiyay aqoon iyo wacyi, waana in qof la arkaa qofka kale ula dhaqmaa si walaaltinimo ah.

Hear recording of this text by Abdisalam Farah


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)


Arabic script for Somali - Wadaad's writing (وَداد)

The Arabic script was first introduced in the 13th century by Sheikh Yusuf al-Kowneyn to aid Koranic teaching. In the 19th century Sheikh Uways al-Barawi improved the writing of Somali with the Arabic script and based it on the Maay dialect of Southern Somalia. A Somali linguists, Muuse Xaaji Ismaaciil Galaal, radically altered the spelling conventions for Somali written with the Arabic script and introduced a set of new symbols for the vowels in the 1950s.

Wadaad's writing (Arabic script for Somali)


Download alphabet charts for Somali

Sample text

Sample text in Somali in the Arabic script


Sample videos in Somali

Information about Somali | Osmanya alphabet | Borama / Gadabuursi alphabet | Kaddare alphabet | Phrases | Numbers | Tower of Babel | Learning materials


Information about the Somali language and alphabets

Somali lessons

Somali phrases

Online Somali dictionaries

Online Somali radio and news

Somalinet - a Somali portal (in Somali & English)

Cushitic languages

Afaan-Oromo, Afar, Awngi, Beja, Blin, Daasanach, Gawwada, Hadiyya, Iraqw, Sidama, Somali, Waata, Xamtanga

Languages written with the Arabic script

Adamaua Fulfulde, Afrikaans, Arabic (Algerian), Arabic (Bedawi), Arabic (Chadian), Arabic (Egyptian), Arabic (Gulf), Arabic (Hassaniya), Arabic (Hejazi), Arabic (Lebanese), Arabic (Libyan), Arabic (Modern Standard), Arabic (Moroccan), Arabic (Najdi), Arabic (Syrian), Arabic (Tunisian), Arwi, Äynu, Azeri, Balanta-Ganja, Balti, Baluchi, Beja, Belarusian, Bosnian, Brahui, Chagatai, Chechen, Chittagonian, Comorian, Crimean Tatar, Dargwa, Dari, Dhatki, Dogri, Domari, Gawar Bati, Gilaki, Hausa, Hazaragi, Hindko, Indus Kohistani, Kabyle, Kalkoti, Karakalpak, Kashmiri, Kazakh, Khowar, Khorasani Turkic, Khwarezmian, Konkani, Kumzari, Kurdish, Kyrgyz, Lezgi, Luri, Maguindanao, Malay, Malay (Terengganu), Mandinka, Marwari, Mazandarani, Mogholi, Morisco, Mozarabic, Munji, Noakhailla, 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, Wanetsi, Wolof, Xiao'erjing, Yidgha

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 20.06.23


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