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For the Arabic script as used to write the Arabic language, see Arabic alphabet.
Arabic albayancalligraphy.svg
Languages See below
Time period
400 AD to the present
Parent systems
Child systems
inspired the N'Ko alphabet
Direction Right-to-left
ISO 15924 Arab, 160
Unicode alias

The Arabic script is a writing system used for writing several languages of Asia and Africa, such as Arabic, dialects of Mandinka, the Sorani and Luri dialects of Kurdish, Persian, Urdu, Pashto, and others.[1] Even until the 16th century, it was used to write some texts in Spanish.[2] It is the third-most widely used writing system in the world, after Latin and Chinese.[3]

The Arabic script is written from right to left in a cursive style. In most cases the letters transcribe consonants, or consonants and a few vowels, so most Arabic alphabets are abjads.

The script was first used to write texts in Arabic, most notably the Qurʼān, the holy book of Islam. With the spread of Islam, it came to be used to write languages of many language families, leading to the addition of new letters and other symbols, with some versions, such as Kurdish, Uyghur, and old Bosnian being abugidas or true alphabets. It is also the basis for the tradition of Arabic calligraphy.

The Arabic script has the ISO 15924 codes Arab and 160.

Languages written with the Arabic script[edit]

Basic Arabic alphabet
Wikipedia in Arabic script of 5 languages
Worldwide use of the Arabic script
Arabic alphabet world distribution.
Countries where the Arabic script:
 →  is the only official script
 →  is the only official script, but other scripts are recognized for national or regional languages
 →  is official alongside other scripts
 →  is official at a sub-national level (China, India) or is a recognized alternative script (Malaysia)

The Arabic script has been adopted for use in a wide variety of languages besides Arabic, including Persian, Malay and Urdu which are not Semitic. Such adaptations may feature altered or new characters to represent phonemes that do not appear in Arabic phonology. For example, the Arabic language lacks a voiceless bilabial plosive (the [p] sound), so many languages add their own letter to represent [p] in the script, though the specific letter used varies from language to language. These modifications tend to fall into groups: all the Indian and Turkic languages written in the Arabic script tend to use the Persian modified letters, whereas the languages of Indonesia tend to imitate those of Jawi. The modified version of the Arabic script originally devised for use with Persian is known as the Perso-Arabic script by scholars.

In the cases of Kurdish, Kashmiri, and Uyghur writing systems, vowels are mandatory. The Arabic script can therefore be used in both abugida and abjad, although it is often as strongly as erroneously connected to the latter.

Use of the Arabic script in West African languages, especially in the Sahel, developed with the spread of Islam. To a certain degree the style and usage tends to follow those of the Maghreb (for instance the position of the dots in the letters fāʼ and qāf). Additional diacritics have come into use to facilitate writing of sounds not represented in the Arabic language. The term ʻAjamī, which comes from the Arabic root for "foreign," has been applied to Arabic-based orthographies of African languages.

Languages currently written with the Arabic alphabet[edit]

Today Afghanistan, Iran, India, Pakistan and China are the main non-Arabic speaking states using the Arabic alphabet to write one or more official national languages, including Baluchi, Brahui Persian, Pashto, Kurdish Sorani, Urdu, Sindhi, Kashmiri, Punjabi and Uyghur.

An Arabic alphabet is currently used for the following languages:

Middle East and Central Asia[edit]

East Asia[edit]

South Asia[edit]

Southeast Asia[edit]

  • Malay in the Arabic script known as Jawi. In some cases it can be seen in the signboards of shops or market stalls. Particularly in Brunei, Jawi is used in terms of writing or reading for Islamic religious educational programs in primary school, secondary school, college, or even higher educational institutes such as universities. In addition, some television programming uses Jawi, such as announcements, advertisements, news, social programs, or Islamic programs.
  • Cham language in Cambodia[18]


Languages formerly written with the Arabic alphabet[edit]

Speakers of languages that were previously unwritten used Arabic script as a basis to design writing systems for their mother languages. This choice could be influenced by Arabic being their second language, the language of scripture of their faith, or the only written language they came in contact with. Additionally, since most education was once religious, choice of script was determined by the writer's religion; which meant that Muslims would use Arabic script to write whatever language they spoke. This led to Arabic script being the most widely used script during the Middle Ages.

In the 20th century, the Arabic script was generally replaced by the Latin alphabet in the Balkans,[dubious ] parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia, while in the Soviet Union, after a brief period of Latinisation,[32] use of Cyrillic was mandated. Turkey changed to the Latin alphabet in 1928 as part of an internal Westernizing revolution. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many of the Turkic languages of the ex-USSR attempted to follow Turkey's lead and convert to a Turkish-style Latin alphabet. However, renewed use of the Arabic alphabet has occurred to a limited extent in Tajikistan, whose language's close resemblance to Persian allows direct use of publications from Iran.[33]

Most languages of the Iranian languages family continue to use Arabic script, as well as the Indo-Aryan languages of Pakistan and of Muslim populations in India, but the Bengali language of Bangladesh is written in the Bengali alphabet.



Central Asia[edit]

Southeast Asia[edit]

Middle East[edit]

Special letters[edit]

Writing systems
Alphabet #Chars Languages Region Derived from Comment
Arabic alphabet 28 Arabic North Africa, West Asia Abjad
Arebica 30 Bosnian Southeastern Europe Perso-Arabic latest stage with full vowel marking
Arwi alphabet Tamil Southern India, Sri Lanka
Belarusian Arabic alphabet 32 Belarusian Eastern Europe 15th/16th century
Berber Arabic alphabet(s) various Berber languages North Africa
Chagatai alphabet(s) Chagatai Central Asia Perso-Arabic
Galal alphabet 32 Somali Horn of Africa
Jawi script 40 Malay and others Malaysia
Kazakh Arabic alphabet Kazakh Central Asia, China Perso-Arabic/Chagatai since 11th century, now official only in China
Khowar alphabet Khowar South Asia
Kyrgyz Arabic alphabet Kyrgyz Perso-Arabic now official only in China
Nasta'liq script Urdu and others Perso-Arabic
Pashto alphabet 45 Pashto Afghanistan and Pakistan Perso-Arabic
Pegon alphabet Javanese, Sundanese Indonesia
Persian alphabet 32 Persian
Saraiki alphabet 44 Saraiki Pakistan Perso-Arabic
Shahmukhi script Punjabi Pakistan Perso-Arabic
Sindhi alphabet 52 Sindhi Pakistan Perso-Arabic
Sorabe alphabet Malagasy Madagascar
Soranî alphabet 33 Kurdish Vowels are mandatory, i.e. abugida
İske imlâ alphabet 35 Tatar Perso-Arabic/Chagatai before 1920
Ottoman Turkish alphabet Ottoman Turkish Ottoman Empire Perso-Arabic Official until 1928
Uyghur Arabic alphabet Uyghur China, Central Asia Perso-Arabic/Chagatai Vowels are mandatory, i.e. abugida
Wolofal script Wolof West Africa
Xiao'erjing Sinitic languages China, Central Asia Perso-Arabic
Yaña imlâ alphabet 29 Tatar Perso-Arabic/Chagatai 1920–1927


As of Unicode 7.0, the following ranges encode Arabic characters:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mahinnaz Mirdehghan. 2010. Persian, Urdu, and Pashto: A comparative orthographic analysis. Writing Systems Research Vol. 2, No. 1, 9–23.
  2. ^ "Exposición Virtual. Biblioteca Nacional de España". Bne.es. Retrieved 2012-04-06. 
  3. ^ "Arabic Alphabet". Encyclopaedia Britannica online. Archived from the original on 26 April 2015. Retrieved 2015-05-16. 
  4. ^ "Sayad Zahoor Shah Hashmii". baask.com. 
  5. ^ Language Protection Academy
  6. ^ "Dictionary of the Bakhtiari dialect of Chahar-lang". google.com.eg. 
  7. ^ Bakhtiari Language Video
  8. ^ "Ethnologue". Ethnologue. 
  9. ^ "Pakistan should mind all of its languages!". tribune.com.pk. 
  10. ^ "Ethnologue". Ethnologue. 
  11. ^ "Ethnologue". Ethnologue. 
  12. ^ Khadim. "Balti to English". khadimskardu1.blogspot.com. 
  13. ^ "The Bible in Brahui". Worldscriptures.org. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  14. ^ "HUNZA DEVELOPMENT FORUM". hisamullahbeg.blogspot.com. 
  15. ^ "ScriptSource". scriptsource.org. 
  16. ^ "Rohingya Language Book A-Z". Scribd. 
  17. ^ "written with Arabic script". scriptsource.org. 
  18. ^ urangCam. "Bông Sứ". naipaleikaohkabuak.blogspot.com. 
  19. ^ Zribi, I., Boujelbane, R., Masmoudi, A., Ellouze, M., Belguith, L., & Habash, N. (2014). A Conventional Orthography for Tunisian Arabic. In Proceedings of the Language Resources and Evaluation Conference (LREC), Reykjavik, Iceland.
  20. ^ Brustad, K. (2000). The syntax of spoken Arabic: A comparative study of Moroccan, Egyptian, Syrian, and Kuwaiti dialects. Georgetown University Press.
  21. ^ "The Coptic Studies' Corner". stshenouda.com. 
  22. ^ "--The Cradle of Nubian Civilisation--". thenubian.net. 
  23. ^ language lessons
  24. ^ "ScriptSource". scriptsource.org. 
  25. ^ "ScriptSource". scriptsource.org. 
  26. ^ "Lost Language — Bostonia Summer 2009". bu.edu. 
  27. ^ "ScriptSource". scriptsource.org. 
  28. ^ "ScriptSource". scriptsource.org. 
  29. ^ Ibn Sayyid manuscript
  30. ^ Muhammad Arabic letter
  31. ^ "Charno Letter". Muslims In America. Retrieved August 5, 2013. 
  32. ^ Alphabet Transitions – The Latin Script: A New Chronology – Symbol of a New Azerbaijan, by Tamam Bayatly
  33. ^ Tajik Language: Farsi or Not Farsi? by Sukhail Siddikzoda, reporter, Tajikistan.
  34. ^ [1][dead link]
  35. ^ p. 20, Samuel Noel Kramer. 1986. In the World of Sumer: An Autobiography. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
  36. ^ J. Blau. 2000. Hebrew written in Arabic characters: An instance of radical change in tradition. (In Hebrew, with English summary). In Heritage and Innovation in Judaeo-Arabic Culture: Proceedings of the Sixth Conference of the Society For Judaeo-Arabic Studies, p. 27-31. Ramat Gan.

External links[edit]

Media related to Arabic script at Wikimedia Commons

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_script — Please support Wikipedia.
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Mon, 23 Nov 2015 07:00:00 -0800

Based on the catalogue edited by A.G. Ellis from 1894, Early Arabic Printed Books from the British Library consists of texts in Arabic script as well as translations into European and Asian languages. The collection demonstrates Europe's fascination ...

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Wed, 25 Nov 2015 21:01:18 -0800

Visitors from South Asia and the Middle East are served by a string of restaurants on and around Lecong Avenue, including Best of India Curry Palace, Lotus Indian and some named only in Arabic script. We visit one of the smaller malls – the multilevel ...

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Mon, 23 Nov 2015 17:30:00 -0800

"Islam used to represent, as you previously mentioned, Africa's main religion, and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North ...

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Mon, 23 Nov 2015 20:52:30 -0800

It brought a white board scrawled with Arabic script to serve as an off-camera cue card for the public official charged with reciting the condemned man's alleged crimes. The hooded executioner raised and lowered his sword repeatedly so that crews could ...

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Tue, 24 Nov 2015 03:05:50 -0800

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Mon, 02 Nov 2015 15:31:08 -0800

It was decided that the Latin alphabet was more suitable for the Turkish language than the more difficult Arabic. Demir said they will go to court to sue against “violation of the constitution and revolutionary legislation” because of the introduction ...

Washington Post

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Fri, 20 Nov 2015 09:59:20 -0800

They brought a white board scrawled with Arabic script to serve as an off-camera cue card for the public official charged with reciting the condemned man's alleged crimes. The hooded executioner raised and lowered his sword repeatedly so that crews ...


Wed, 18 Nov 2015 17:13:48 -0800

Words promising, "What is to come will be worse and more bitter," then appear in both French and Arabic script. "I want every New Yorker to know that their security is our absolute highest priority," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement Wednesday ...

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