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Urdu alphabet

Urdu alphabet
اردو تہجی
Example of writing in the Urdu alphabet: Urdu
Languages Urdu, Balti, Burushaski, others
Parent systems

U+0600 to U+06FF
U+0750 to U+077F
U+FB50 to U+FDFF

U+FE70 to U+FEFF

The Urdu alphabet is the right-to-left alphabet used for the Urdu language. It is a modification of the Persian alphabet, which is itself a derivative of the Arabic alphabet. With 38 letters and no distinct letter cases, the Urdu alphabet is typically written in the calligraphic Nastaʿlīq script, whereas Arabic is more commonly in the Naskh style. Usually, bare transliterations of Urdu into Roman letters (called Roman Urdu) omit many phonemic elements that have no equivalent in English or other languages commonly written in the Latin script. The National Language Authority of Pakistan has developed a number of systems with specific notations to signify non-English sounds, but these can only be properly read by someone already familiar with the loan letters.[citation needed]


The Urdu language emerged as a distinct register of Hindustani well before the Partition of India. It is distinguished most by its extensive Persian influences (Persian having been the official language of the Mughal government and the most prominent lingua franca of the Indian subcontinent for several centuries before the solidification of British colonial rule during the 19th century). The standard Urdu script is a modified version of the Perso-Arabic script, expanded to accommodate the phonology of Hindustani.

Despite the invention of the Urdu typewriter in 1911, Urdu newspapers continued to publish prints of handwritten scripts by calligraphers known as katibs or khush-navees until the late 1980s. The Pakistani national newspaper Daily Jang was the first Urdu newspaper to use Nastaʿlīq computer-based composition. There are efforts under way to develop more sophisticated and user-friendly Urdu support on computers and the internet. Nowadays, nearly all Urdu newspapers, magazines, journals, and periodicals are composed on computers with Urdu software programs.

Apart from being more or less Persianate, Urdu and Hindi are mutually intelligible.

Countries where Urdu language has been spoken

Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Botswana, Burma, Canada, France, Fiji, Germany, Guyana, India, Kenya, Malaysia, Malawi, Mauritius, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Tajikistan, the UAE,USA, the UK, Uganda, Uzbekistan, and Zambia.[1]


Main article: Nastaʿlīq script

The Nastaʿlīq calligraphic writing style began as a Persian mixture of scripts Naskh and Ta'liq. After the Mughal conquest, Nasta'liq became the preferred writing style for Urdu. It is the dominant style in Pakistan, and many Urdu writers elsewhere in the world use it. Nastaʿlīq is more cursive and flowing than its Naskh counterpart.


The Urdu alphabet, with names in the Devanagari and Latin alphabets

A list of the letters of the Urdu alphabet and their pronunciation is given below. Urdu contains many historical spellings from Arabic and Persian, and therefore has many irregularities. The Arabic letters yaa and haa both have two variants in Urdu: one of the yaa variants is used at the ends of words for the sound [eː], and one of the haa variants is used to indicate the aspirated consonants. The retroflex consonants needed to be added as well; this was accomplished by placing a small t̤oʾe ـ﯀ـ above the corresponding dental consonants. Several letters which represent distinct consonants in Arabic are conflated in Persian, and this has carried over to Urdu. This is the list of the Urdu letters, giving the consonant pronunciation. Some of these letters also represent vowel sounds.

No. Name Transcription IPA Contextual forms Isolated
Final Medial Initial
1 alif ā, ʾ, – /ɑː, ʔ, ∅/ ا ا
2 be b /b/ ب
3 pe p /p/ پ
4 te t /t̪/ ت
5 ṭe /ʈ/ ٹ
6 s̱e /s/ ث
7 jīm j /d͡ʒ/ ج
8 ce c /t͡ʃ/ چ
9 baṛī ḥe /h, ɦ/ ح
10 k̲h̲e k̲h̲ /x/ خ
11 dāl d /d̪/ ـﺪ ـﺪ د د
12 ḍāl /ɖ/ ـڈ ـڈ ڈ ڈ
13 ẕāl /z/ ـذ ـذ ذ ذ
14 re r /r/ ـر ـر ر ر
15 ṛe /ɽ/ ـڑ ـڑ ڑ ڑ
16 ze z /z/ ـز ـز ز ز
17 z̲h̲e z̲h̲ /ʒ/ ـژ ـژ ژ ژ
18 sīn s /s/ ـس ـسـ سـ س
19 s̲h̲īn s̲h̲ /ʃ/ ـش ـشـ شـ ش
20 ṣwād /s/ ـص ـصـ صـ ص
21 ẓwād /z/ ـض ـضـ ضـ ض
22 t̤oʾe /t̪/ ـط ـطـ طـ ط
23 z̤oʾe /z/ ـظ ـظـ ظـ ظ
24 ʿain ā, o, e, ʿ, /ɑː, oː, eː, ʔ, ʕ, Ø/ ـع ـعـ عـ ع
25 g͟hain g͟h /ɣ/ ـغ ـغـ غـ غ
26 fe f /f/ ـف ـفـ فـ ف
27 qāf q /q/ ـق ـقـ قـ ق
28 kāf k /k/ ـك ـكـ كـ ك
29 gāf g /ɡ/ ـگ ـگـ گـ گ
30 lām l /l/ ـل ـلـ لـ ل
31 mīm m /m/ ـم ـمـ مـ م
32 nūn n /n, ɲ, ɳ, ŋ/ ـن ـنـ نـ ن
33 wāʾo w, v, ū, o, au /ʋ, uː, oː, ɔː/ ـو ـو و و
34 choṭī he h /h, ɦ/ or /Ø/ ـہ ـہـ ہـ ہ
35 do-cas̲h̲mī he h /ʰ/ or /ʱ/ ـھ ـھـ ھـ ھ
36 hamzah ʾ, – /ʔ/, /Ø/ ء  ء  ء ء
37 choṭī ye y, ī /j, iː/ ـی ـیـ یـ ی
38 baṛī ye ai or e /ɛː, eː/ ـے ـیـ یـ ے



Vowels in Urdu are represented by letters that are also considered consonants. Many vowel sounds can be represented by one letter. Confusion can arise, but context is usually enough to figure out the correct sound.

Vowel chart

This is a list of Urdu vowels found in the initial, medial, and final positions.

Romanization Pronunciation Final Medial Initial
a /ə/ 30px 30px 30px
ā /aː/ 30px 30px 30px
i /ɪ/ 30px 30px 30px
ī /iː/ 30px 30px 30px
u /ʊ/ 30px 30px 30px
ū /uː/ 30px 30px 30px
ē /eː/ 30px 30px 30px
ai /ɛː/ 30px 30px 30px
ō /oː/ 30px 30px 30px
au /ɔː/ 30px 30px 30px


Alif is the first letter of the Urdu alphabet, and it is used exclusively as a vowel. At the beginning of a word, alif can be used to represent any of the short vowels, e.g. اب ab, اسم ism, اردو urdū, آپ āp.


Wao is used to render the vowels "ū", "ō", "u" and "au" ([uː], [oː], [ʊ] and [ɔː] respectively), and it is also used to render the labiodental approximant, [ʋ].


Ye is divided into two variants: choti ye and baṛi ye.

Choti ye (ی) is written in all forms exactly as in Persian. It is used for the long vowel "ī" and the consonant "y".

Baṛi ye (ے) is used to render the vowels "e" and "ai" (/eː/ and /ɛː/ respectively). Baṛi ye is distinguished in writing from choti ye only when it comes at the end of a word.


Urdu has several available diacritics, especially used for vowels. However, the diacritics for the short vowels are often omitted in practice.

Short vowels

Short vowels ("a", "i", "u") are represented by marks above and below a consonant.

Vowel Name Transcription IPA
اَ zabar a /ə/
اِ zer i /ɪ/
اُ pesh o /ʊ/

Long vowels

Long vowels ("aa", "oo") are represented by marks above alif and wao, respectively.

Vowel Name Transcription IPA
آ madd aa /a:/
وٗ ulta pesh oo /uː/

Additional Diacritics

These other diacritics are seen less often in day-to-day Urdu.

Symbol Name Example Purpose
ّ tashdeed اچّھا Doubles the consonant that the sign is over. In this case, the چ is doubled.
ۡ jazm ارۡدو Means there is no vowel separating the consonants. Similar to the halant character in Hindi.
ْ sukun ارْدو Same purpose as jazm
اً tanwin فوراً Mostly occurs in Arabic loan words. Gives an '-an' sound at the end of a word

Special forms

Noon Ghunna

Noon ghunna is used to indicate nasalization in words. It is almost identical to noon, missing the dot in the center. This is only apparent, however, when it is at the end of the word. In medial form, it will appear the same as noon.


Urdu Transcription Meaning
میں Maiṉ I
کنواں Kunwāṉ water well

Kāf or Gāf with Alif or Lām

Both kāf (ک) and gāf (گ) take different forms when they combine with alif (ا)or lām (ل).[clarification needed]

Letters Conjunct
ک + ا کا
گ + ا گا
ک + ل کل
گ + ل گل


Similar to Arabic and Persian, lām and alif form a special conjunct when lām precedes alif.

ل + ا = لا

Use of specific letters

Retroflex letters

Retroflex consonants were not present in the Persian alphabet, and therefore had to be created specifically for Urdu. This was accomplished by placing a superscript t̤oʾe ـ﯀ـ above the corresponding dental consonants.

Perso-Arabic dental consonant Derived retroflex consonant Name IPA
ت ٹ Ṭe [ʈ]
د ڈ Ḍāl [ɖ]
ر ڑ Ṛe [ɽ]

Do chashmi hey

The letter do chashmi hey (ھ) is used in native Hindustānī words, for aspiration of certain consonants. The aspirated consonants are sometimes classified as separate letters, although it takes two characters to represent them.

Letter Transcription IPA
بھا bhā [bʱɑː]
پھا phā [pʰɑː]
تھا thā [t̪ʰɑː]
ٹھا ṭhā [ʈʰɑː]
جھا jhā [d͡ʒʱɑː]
چھا chā [t͡ʃʰɑː]
دھا dhā [dʱɑː]
ڈھا ḍhā [ɖʱɑː]
ڑھا ṛhā [ɽʱɑː]
کھا khā [kʰɑː]
گھا ghā [ɡʱɑː]

Romanization standards and systems

There are several Romanization standards for writing Urdu among them the most prominent are Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani Romanization , ALA-LC romanization and ArabTeX .

See also


External links