Pashto alphabet

The Pashto alphabet (پښتو الفبې) is transliterated vis-à-vis Perso-Arabic scriptural denotation with additional glyphs added to accommodate phonemes used in Pashto.


Roshani script[edit]

Excerpt from Khayr al-Bayān, written in Pashto in Nastaʿlīq script in 1651. The book was originally written by Bayazid Pir Roshan in the 16th century

In the 16th century, Bayazid Pir Roshan from Waziristan invented the Roshani script to write Pashto. It had 41 letters:

ā, ’
/ɑ, ʔ/








w, ū, ō
/w, u, o/
h, a, ə
/h, a, ə/
y, ī, ē
/j, i, e/

28 of his letters came from the Arabic alphabet. He introduced 13 new letters into the Pashto alphabet. Most of the new letters he introduced i.e. ګ ,ښ ,ړ ,ډ ,څ ,ټ and ڼ are still written in the same form and are pronounced almost in the same way in modern Pashto. The sound system of the southern dialect of modern Pashto preserves the distinction between all the consonant phonemes of his orthography.

Pir Roshan also introduced the letter ږ (rē with dot below and dot above) to represent /ʒ/, like the ⟨s⟩ in pleasure, for which modern Pashto uses ژ instead. Modern Pashto uses the letter ږ to represent the sound /ʐ/ (northern dialect: /g/), but for that sound, Pir Roshan used a letter looking like ·د (dāl with central dot). His letter ڊ (dāl with dot below) to represent /d͡z/ has been replaced by ځ in modern Pashto. He also used ڛ (sīn with three dots below), an obsolete letter from the medieval Nastaʿlīq script, to denote the letter س (representing /s/) only in the isolated form. The Arabic ligature (lām-alif) was also used. Two of his letters, پ and چ, were borrowed from the Persian alphabet.

1958 congress in Kabul[edit]

In August 1958, Pashtun intellectuals held a congress in Kabul, Afghanistan, with the goal of standardizing the Pashto alphabet. During the congress, a number of standardizations were proposed in the use of the modern Pashto alphabet.[1]


The Pashto alphabet
The Pashto Alphabet
Two of the special Pashto letters: x̌in/ṣ̌in and γ̌ē/ẓ̌e

Pashto is written in the Arabic Naskh. It has several letters which do not appear in any other Arabic script. The letters representing the retroflex consonants /ʈ/, /ɖ/, /ɭ̆/ and /ɳ/ are written like the standard Arabic te, dāl, re and nun with a small circle attached underneath (known as a "panḍak", "ğaṛwanday" or "skəṇay"): ړ, ډ, ټ, and ڼ, respectively. The letters ښ and ږ (x̌īn/ṣ̌īn and ǵe/ẓ̌e) look like sīn (س) and re () respectively with a dot above and beneath.

The letters representing /t͡s/ and /d͡z/ look like a ح with three dots above and an hamza (ء) above; څ and ځ.

Pashto has ی, ې, ۀ, and ۍ for additional vowels and diphthongs as well.

Pashto uses all 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet, and shares 3 letters (چ, پ, and ژ) with Persian and Urdu in the additional letters.


Pashto has 45 letters and 4 diacritic marks. The Southern (S), Central (C) and Northern (N) dialects of Pashto are included.

Name IPA Transliteration Contextual forms Isolated ALA-LC
Latin Unicode
Symbol Examples Final Medial Initial
alep or alif [ɑ] bark ā ـا ـا آ, ا آ, ا ā Ā ā U+0627,
be [b] born b ـب ـبـ بـ ب b B b U+0628
pe [p] peel p ـپ ـپـ پـ پ p P p U+067E
te [t̪] think t ـت ـتـ تـ ت t T t U+062A
ṭe [ʈ] total ـټ ـټـ ټـ ټ U+067C same pronunciation of ط in Modern Standard Arabic
se2 [s] biscuit s ـث ـثـ ثـ ث S s U+062B historically the original Arabic pronunciation lost,

soften like in Farsi or Dari

jīm [d͡ʒ] jug j (or ǰ) ـج ـجـ جـ ج j J j U+062C
če [t͡ʃ] cheese č ـچ ـچـ چـ چ ch Č č U+0686
he2 [h] / [x]3 house h ـح ـحـ حـ ح H h U+062D
xe [x] loch (Scottish) x ـخ ـخـ خـ خ kh X x U+062E
ce [t͡s] / [s] cats ts (or c) ـڅ ـڅـ څـ څ C c U+0685
źim [d͡z] / [z] adze dz (or j) ـځ ـځـ ځـ ځ ż Ź ź U+0681 same pronunciation of ض in Modern Standard Arabic
dāl [d̪] dull d ـد ـد د د d D d U+062F
ḍāl [ɖ] ḍ (or dd) ـډ ـډ ډ ډ U+0689 same pronunciation of doubling دّ in Modern Standard Arabic
zāl2 [z] zoo z ـذ ـذ ذ ذ Z z U+0630 historically the original Arabic pronunciation lost,

soften like in Farsi or Dari

re [r] rain r ـر ـر ر ر r R r U+0631
ṛe4 [ɺ̢] (ɭ̆), [ɻ] ṛ (or rr) ـړ ـړ ړ ړ U+0693 same pronunciation of doubling رّ in Modern Standard Arabic
ze [z] zoo z ـز ـز ز ز z Z z U+0632
že [ʒ] / [d͡z] vision, delusion ž ـژ ـژ ژ ژ zh Ž ž U+0698 similar pronunciation of ذ in Modern Standard Arabic
ẓ̌e (S)
ǵe (C, N)
[ʐ] (S)
[ʝ] (C)
[ɣ] (N)
ẓ̌ (S)
γ̌/ǵ (C)
ğ (N)
ـږ ـږ ږ ږ ẓh (S)
g'h (C)
gh (N)
Ǵ ǵ (or Ẓ̌ ẓ̌) U+0696
sīn [s] biscuit s ـس ـسـ سـ س s S s U+0633
šīn [ʃ] shoot š ـش ـشـ شـ ش sh Š š U+0634
ṣ̌īn (S)
x̌īn (C, N)
[ʂ] (S)
[ç] (C)
[x] (N)
ṣ̌ (S)
x̌ (C)
x (N)
ـښ ـښـ ښـ ښ ṣh (S)
k'h (C)
kh (N)
X̌ x̌ (or Ṣ̌ ṣ̌) U+069A
swād2 [s] surf s ـص ـصـ صـ ص s S s U+0635 historically the original Arabic pronunciation lost,

soften like in Farsi or Dari

zwād2 [z] z ـض ـضـ ضـ ض z Z z U+0636 historically the original Arabic pronunciation lost,

soften like in Farsi or Dari

twe2 [t] t ـط ـطـ طـ ط t T t U+0637 historically the original Arabic pronunciation lost,

soften like in Farsi or Dari

zwe2 [z] z ـظ ـظـ ظـ ظ z Z z U+0638 historically the original Arabic pronunciation lost,

soften like in Farsi or Dari

ayn2 [ɑ] bark a ـع ـعـ عـ ع ʻ nothing U+0639 historically the original Arabic pronunciation lost,

soften like in Farsi or Dari, sounding like a glottal stop instead of guttural

ğayn [ɣ] gh (or γ) ـغ ـغـ غـ غ gh Ğ ğ U+063A
pe or fe2 [f] / [p]5 peel f ـف ـفـ فـ ف f F f U+0641
kap or qāf [q] / [k]6 keep q ـق ـقـ قـ ق q Q q U+0642
kāf [k] keep k ـک ـکـ کـ ک 7 k K k U+06A9
gāf [ɡ] get g ـګ ـګـ ګـ ګ 8 g G g U+06AB
lām [l] lamb l ـل ـلـ لـ ل l L l U+0644
mīm [m] minute m ـم ـمـ مـ م m M m U+0645
nūn [n] near n ـن ـنـ نـ ن n N n U+0646
ṇūn [ɳ] ṇ (or nn) ـڼ ـڼـ ڼـ ڼ U+06BC same pronunciation of doubling نّ in Modern Standard Arabic
wāw [w], [u], [o] watch , boot (General American),

go(General American) [Note: [o]

is not lengthened] 
w, ū, o ـو ـو و و w, ū, o W w, Ū ū, O o U+0648
gərda he
[h], [a] hey ; stuck (Cockney) h, a ـه ـهـ هـ ه h, a H h, A a U+0647
kajīra he
[ə] bird (Received Pronunciation) ə ۀ ۀ 13 ə Ə ə U+06C0
klaka ye
[j], [i] yacht; week (General American) y, ī ـي ـيـ يـ ي y, ī Y y, Ī ī U+064A
pasta ye
[e] eight [Note: [e] is not lengthened] ē ـې ـېـ ېـ ې 9 e E e U+06D0
nārīna ye
[ai], [j]10 guy ay, y ـی ـ ـ ی 9 ay, y Ay ay, Y y U+06CC
x̌əźīna ye
[əi] əi ـۍ ـ ـ ۍ 10 ạy Əi əi U+06CD
fāiliya ye / kaṛa ye
[əi], [j]12 əi, y ـئ ـئـ ئـ ئ 9,12 ạy, y Əi əi, Y y U+0626


  • ^1 In the beginning of a word, آ (alif with madda) represents the long vowel /ɑ/ in words borrowed from other languages (e.g. آغا āğā, a title).[2] In the beginning of a word, the alphabet ا (alif) represents the consonant /a/, e.g. اسپهaspa, "mare".[3] In the middle or end of a word, ا represents the long vowel /ɑ/ which is following a consonant (e.g. کال – kāl, "year"; and نيا – nyā, "grandmother").[4][5] In the beginning of a word, the alphabet Alif can also be used with a diactric mark [often not written] e.g. اِ (alif with a zer) as in اِسلامIslām, "Islam (the religion)".[6]
  • ^2 Ten letters, ق ف ع ظ ط ض ص ح ﺫ ث, appear only in loanwords which of Arabic origin through Persian borrowings. Eight of these, ع ظ ط ض ص ح ﺫ ث, represent no additional phonemes of Pashto, and their pronunciation is replaced with other phonemes.
  • ^3 ح /h/ tends to be omitted in pronunciation when at the end of a word, e.g. اصلاح is always pronounced as [isˡlɑ].
  • ^4 The letter ړ represents /ɺ̢/ if it is not at the final position of a syllable; if it is final, it represents /ɻ/.
  • ^5 The phoneme /f/ ف occurs only in loanwords. It tends to be replaced with /p/ پ.
  • ^6 The phoneme /q/ ق occurs only in loanwords. It tends to be replaced with /k/ ک.
  • ^7 It is also common to write the letter ک as ك.
  • ^8 It is also common to write the letter ګ as گ.
  • ^9 In informal texts, ی as well as ې, ۍ and ئ are sometimes replaced by the letter ے, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In some official texts, edited till to the middle of the 20th century, the ے corresponds only to ې, while ۍ and ئ (if only the grammatical use of the latter is not lacked) are used as in official typing nowadays.
  • ^10 ی represents /ai/ when it is following a consonant (e.g. لرګی – largay, "wood"), and represents /j/ when it is following a vowel (e.g. دوی – duy, "they").
  • ^11 The letter ئ represents /j/ after a vowel, e.g. جدائي – judāyī, "separation".
  • ^12 It is also common to write with the hamza over the right side of the letter – ٸ.
  • ^13 The letter ۀ is only represented at the end of a word, e.g. تېرۀ – terə, "sharp". The vowel /ə/ when present between consonants is unrepresented by the ۀ alphabet, e.g. ننوتل – nənawatəl, "to enter".
  • ^14 Pashtuns tend to omit or not pronounce the letter غ and some words, e.g. consider the following words; دغه = دا، دغوی = دوی، دغه هومره = دومره، دغلته = دلته، هغلته = هلته، دغه سی = داسی

Historical letters now in disuse[edit]

The superscribed element of the letter ځ in earlier varieties was not hamza-shaped, but was very similar to little kāf of the letter ك.[7] Such shape of the upper element of the letter is hard to find in modern fonts.

Since the time of Bayazid Pir Roshan, ڊ (dāl with subscript dot) was used for /d͡z/, which was still used in the Diwan of Mirza written in 1690 CE,[1] but this sign was later replaced by ځ.

Another rare glyph for /d͡z/ is ج֗, a ج with the same dot above.

Diacritic marks[edit]

The Pashto diacritic marks: zwarakay, pēš, zēr, and zwar

The four diacritic marks are:

Diacritic Unicode Name Translit. IPA Latin
َ U+064E zwar a [a] a
ٙ U+0659 zwarakay ə [ə] ə
ِ U+0650 zer i [i] i
ُ U+064F peš u [u] u


  • The diacritic marks are not considered separate letters. Their use is optional and are usually not written; they are only occasionally used to distinguish between two words which would otherwise appear similar.
  • In Arabic loanwords, the tanwin fatha (ً) can be used, e.g. مَثَلاً – masalan, "for example".

"Ye" letters[edit]

"Ye"-letters in Pashto alphabet
Letter Pashto name Unicode name Transliteration IPA Position in a word Example
ي klaka ye ARABIC LETTER YEH y, ī [j], [i] can appear anywhere يم
yəm ('I am')
ې pasta ye ARABIC LETTER E e [e] middle or end يې
ye ('you (sing.) are')
when following a consonant
[ai] end ستوری
storay ('star')
when following a vowel
[j] end دوى
duy ('they')
ۍ x̌əźīna ye2 ARABIC LETTER YEH WITH TAIL əi [əi] end وړۍ
waṛəi ('wool')
ئ fāiliya ye3 ARABIC LETTER YEH WITH HAMZA ABOVE əi [əi] end يئ
yəi ('you (plur.) are')
y [j] middle جدائي
judāyī ('separation')


  • ^1 If ى follows a consonant in a word, it indicates the word is masculine singular and in the direct case.
  • ^2 ۍ always indicates the word it occurs in is feminine.
  • ^3 If ئ occurs at the end of a verb, it indicates the verb is in second person plural form. Note, that sometimes the grammatical ئ was lacked either in the typing as in the alphabet and replaced with the ۍ.

See also[edit]



  • Awde & Sarwan (2002). "Pashto dictionary & phrasebook", page 24.

External links[edit]