Urdu alphabet

Urdu alphabet

اردو‌ حروف‌تہجی

Urdu harūf tahajī


Urdu tahajī
Urdu alphabets.jpg
The Urdu alphabet.
LanguagesUrdu, Balti[citation needed], Burushaski[citation needed], 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, depicted with character names.

The Urdu alphabet (Urdu: اردو‌ حروف‌تہجی ‎ simplified script: اردو حروف تہجی Urdu harūf tahajī, or اردو‌تہجی Urdu tahajī) 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. The Urdu alphabet has 39[1] or 40 letters[2] plus digraphs. The Urdu alphabet has no distinct letter cases, is typically written in the calligraphic Nastaliq 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 standard Urdu script is a modified version of the Perso-Arabic script and has its origins in 13th century Iran. It is closely related to the development of the Nastaʻliq style of Perso-Arabic script. Urdu script in its extended form is known as Shahmukhi script and is used for writing other Indo-Aryan languages of North Indian subcontinent like Punjabi and Saraiki as well.

Urdu and Hindi are mutually intelligible as spoken languages, or when written in the Latin alphabet. The most obvious distinction between Hindi and Urdu is the script. Both scripts have religious connotations.


The Urdu script is an abjad script derived from Perso-Arabic script, which is itself a derivative of the Arabic script. The Urdu alphabet was standardized in 2004 by the National Language Authority, which is responsible for standardizing Urdu in Pakistan. According to the National Language Authority[citation needed], Urdu has 58[1] letters of which 39[1] are basic letters while 18[1] are digraphs to represent aspirated consonants made by attaching basic consonant letters with a variant of He called do chashmi he.[1][3][4][2] Tāʼ marbūṭah is also sometimes considered a letter though it is rarely used except for in certain loan words from Arabic.

As an abjad, the Urdu script only shows consonants and long vowels; short vowels can only be inferred by the consonants' relation to each other. While this type of script is convenient in Semitic languages like Arabic and Hebrew, whose consonant roots are the key of the sentence, Urdu is an Indo-European language, which does not have the same luxury, hence necessitating more memorization. Urdu uses the vowels represented as full letters ا و ی ے more often than Arabic; there are fewer short vowels to omit. Also, Hamza ئ and the mada on Alif Mada آ are not omitted. Words in Urdu that differ only by ommitted short vowels are rarer in Urdu than Arabic, but the meanings are often far more divergent than Arabic words with the same root.

Letternames and phonemes[edit]

The number of letters in the Urdu alphabet is more ambiguous than the 26 in the English alphabet, the most commonly quoted numbers are 39[citation needed] and 40[citation needed]. The usual letter forms in Urdu Nastaliq are somewhat more diverse than for most Arabic-derived alphabets [see below].

Letter names and phonemes table:[edit]
number Letter forms [footnote] Sound Name [5][6] [glossary of key words below] Shape [0] [Rasm] Unicode [0] [Rasm]
zwj end
ALA‑LC [7] Hunterian [8] IPA closest sound in English Nastaliq
[footnote 1]
full diacritics [6] Romanizations [6][1] Nastaliq
[6] end mid start ٮ ٮ ا ٮ ی ا ی base dots Letter Letter dots base
1 1 ا ‍ا ا‍ ٮا ا /ɑː/ /ā/
/ʔ/ /–/

[citation needed]
الف الِف alif none ا ا none ا U+0627 none U+0627
[footnote] آ ‍آ آ‍ ٮآ آ الف مدہ الِف مَدّه alif maddah ۤ ۤ آ U+0622 U+06E4
2 2 ب ‍ب ‍ب‍ ب‍ ٮب ٮبا ٮبی با بی b /b/ بے بے ٮ ٮ ب U+0628 U+FBB3 U+066E
3 3 پ ‍پ ‍پ‍ پ‍ ٮپ ٮپا ٮپی پا پی p /p/ پے پے پ U+067E U+FBB9
4 4 ت ‍ت ‍ت‍ ت‍ ٮت ٮتا ٮتی تا تی t /t̪/ تے تے ت U+062A U+FBB6
5 5 ٹ ‍ٹ ‍ٹ‍ ٹ‍ ٮٹ ٮٹا ٮٹی ٹا ٹی t /ʈ/ ٹے ٹے ṭē ٹ U+0679 U+FBC0
6 6 ث ‍ث ‍ث‍ ث‍ ٮث ٮثا ٮثی ثا ثی s /s/ ثے [6] / s̱ē ث U+062B U+FBB6
7 7 ج ‍ج ‍ج‍ ج‍ ٮج ٮجا ٮجی جا جی j /d͡ʒ/ جيم جِيم jīm ح ح ج U+062C U+FBB3 062D
8 8 چ ‍چ ‍چ‍ چ‍ ٮچ ٮچا ٮچی چا چی c ch /t͡ʃ/ چے čē [6] / [6] چ U+0686 U+FBB9
9 9 ح ‍ح ‍ح‍ ح‍ ٮح ٮحا ٮحی حا حی h /ɦ/ بڑی حے بَڑی حے baṛī ħē[6] / baṛī ḥē none none ح U+062D none
10 10 خ ‍خ ‍خ‍ خ‍ ٮخ ٮخا ٮخی خا خی k͟h kh /x/ خے خے [6] / khē[6] / k͟hē خ U+062E U+FBB2
11 د ‍د د‍ ٮد د d /d/ دال dāl none د د none د none
12 ڈ ‍ڈ ڈ‍ ٮڈ ڈ d /ɖ/ ڈال ḍāl ڈ U+FBC0
13 ذ ‍ذ ذ‍ ٮذ ذ z /z/ ذال ẕāl ذ U+FBB2
14 ر ‍ر ر‍ ٮر ر r /r/ رے none ر ر none ر none
15 ڑ ‍ڑ ڑ‍ ٮڑ ڑ r /ɽ/ ڑے ṛē ڑ U+FBC0
16 ز ‍ز ز‍ ٮز ز z /z/ زے ز U+FBB2
17 ژ ‍ژ ژ‍ ٮژ ژ zh zh /ʒ/ ژے zhē ژ U+FBB6
18 س ‍س ‍س‍ س‍ ٮس ٮسا ٮسی سا سی s /s/ سین sīn none س س none س none
19 ش ‍ش ‍ش‍ ش‍ ٮش ٮشا ٮشی شا شی sh sh /ʃ/ شین shīn ش U+FBB6
20 ص ‍ص ‍ص‍ ص‍ ٮص ٮصا ٮصی صا صی s /s/ صاد ṣwād none ص ص none ص none
21 ض ‍ض ‍ض‍ ض‍ ٮض ٮضا ٮضی ضا ضی z /z/ ضاد ẓwād ض U+FBB2
22 ط ‍ط ‍ط‍ ط‍ ٮط ٮطا ٮطی طا طی t /t/ طوے t̤o'ē none ط ط none ط none
23 ظ ‍ظ ‍ظ‍ ظ‍ ٮظ ٮظا ٮظی ظا ظی
z /z/ ظوے z̤o'ē ظ U+FBB2
24 ع ‍ع ‍ع‍ ع‍ ٮع ٮعا ٮعی عا عی ʻ / ‘ / ` / ' / ’ / ʼ
[footnote 3]
/ɑː/ /oː/ /eː/
/ʔ/ /ʕ/ /∅/
عین ‘ain none ع ع none ع none
25 غ ‍غ ‍غ‍ غ‍ ٮغ ٮغا ٮغی غا غی g͟h gh /ɣ/ غین g͟hain غ U+FBB2
26 ف ‍ف ‍ف‍ ف‍ ٮف ٮفا ٮفی فا فی f /f/ فے ڡ ڡ ف U+FBB2
27 ق ‍ق ‍ق‍ ق‍ ٮق ٮقا ٮقی قا قی q /q/ قاف qāf ٯ ٯ ق U+FBB4
28 ک ‍ک ‍ک‍ ک‍ ٮک ٮکا ٮکی کا کی k /k/ کاف kāf none ک ک none ک none
29 گ ‍گ ‍گ‍ گ‍ ٮگ ٮگا ٮگی گا گی g /ɡ/ گاف gāf گ Overline U+203E
30 ل ‍ل ‍ل‍ ل‍ ٮل ٮلا ٮلی لا لی l /l/ لام لام lām none ل ل none ل U+0644 none
31 م ‍م ‍م‍ م‍ ٮم ٮما ٮمی ما می m /m/ میم mīm none م م none م none
32 ن ‍ن ‍ن‍ ن‍ ٮن ٮنا ٮنی نا نی n /n/ /ɲ/
/ɳ/ /ŋ/
نون nūn ں ں ن U+FBB2 U+06BA
33 ں ‍ں ٘ [footnote] ٮں ٘ never
n / ◌̃ / نون غنہ نُونِ غُنّہ nūn g͟hunnah ٘ ــ٘ـ ں U+0658
34 و ‍و و‍ ٮو و v or
w or
/ʋ/ /ʊ/ /uː/ /oː/ /ɔː/ واؤ واؤ wā'o none و و none و none
35 35 ہ ‍ہ ‍ہ‍ ہ‍ ٮہ ٮہا ٮہی ہا ہی h / ā / e /ɦ/ /ɑː/ /e:/ گول ہے گول ہے gol hē ہہہ ہ ہ ہہہ ہ U+06C1
چھوٹی ہے چھوٹی ہے čhōṭī hē [6]
choṭī hē
ه ‍ه ‍ه‍ ه‍ ٮه ٮها ٮهی ها هی چهوٹی هے čhōṭī hē [6] ههه ه ه ههه ه U+0647
36 ھ ‍ھ ‍ھ‍ ھ‍ ٮھ ٮھا ٮھی ھا ھی h /ʰ/ or /ʱ/ دو چشمی ہے دوچَشْمی ہے do-cashmī hē ھھھ ھ ھ ھھھ ھ
دو چشم ه دو چشم ه
38 35 ی ‍ی ‍ی‍ ی‍ ٮی ٮیا ٮیی یا یی y / ī / á /j/ /iː/ /ɑː/ چھوٹی يے چھوٹی يے čhōṭī yē [6] / choṭī yē ی یــیــی ی ی U+06CC U+FBB5
39 ے ‍ے ے‍ ٮے ے ai / e /ɛː/ /eː/ بڑی يے بَڑی يے baṛī yē none ے ے none ے U+06D2 none
37 0 Hamzah ہمزہ ہَمْزه hamzah
ء ء ء ʼ / – / yi
[footnote 2]
/ʔ/ /∅/ ___ ___ __ (hamza on the line) ء ء U+0621
ٴ ٴ ٴ ___ ___ (hamza diacritic) ٴ ــٔـ U+0674 U+0654
ئ ‍ئ ‍ئ‍ ئ‍ ٮئ ٮئا ٮئی ئا ئی ___ ___ yē hamza ٴ
ی ی ٴ
ئـ ـئـ ـئ
U+0626 YEH WITH HAMZA ABOVE High Hamza U+0674 non‑spacing Hamza above U+0654 on dotted circle U+25CC and Tatweel U+0640 U+06CC
Farsi Yeh
___ ___ alif hamza ى ى U+0649
Alef Masksura
ۓ ‍ۓ ۓ‍ ٮۓ ۓ ___ ___ baṛī yē hamza ے ے ۓ U+06D3 U+06D2
ؤ ‍ؤ ؤ‍ ٮؤ ؤ واوِ مَہْمُوز واوِ مَہْمُوز [6] vāv-e mahmūz [6] و و ؤ U+0624 U+0648
ۂ ‍ۂ ‍ۂ‍ ۂ‍ ٮۂ ٮۂا ٮۂی ۂا ۂی ___ ___ __ ہ ہ ۂ U+06C2 U+06C1
ۂ ‍ۂ ‍ۂ‍ ۂ‍ ٮۂ ٮۂا ٮۂی ۂا ۂی
Ta marbuutah
ۃ ‍ۃ ‍ۃ‍ ۃ ٮۃ ۃ ___ ___ teh marbuta goal ‍ہ ـہ ـۃ U+06C3 U+FBB4 U+06C1
ة ‍ة ‍ة‍ ة ٮة ة تاء مرظوطة تَاء مَرْظُوطَة Tāʼ marbūṭah ‍ه ـه ـة U+0629
ت ‍ت ‍ت‍ ت‍ ٮت ٮتا ٮتی تا تی Arabic name: تاء تَاء Tāʼ ٮ ٮ ت U+062A
(see above)

Footnotes for letter names and phonemes:[edit]

^nastaliq Forms: Nastaliq Urdu has more forms of some letters than are typically found in Arabic.

^ 1. This may display in a different style if you do not have a Nastaliq font installed. [endnote]

^ 2. Hamza

In Urdu, hamza ء is silent in all its forms except for when it is used as hamza-e-izafat. The main use of hamza ء in Urdu is to indicate a vowel cluster. Sometimes transliterated as "2" in informal Arabic but not in Urdu

In Urdu words, Hamza ء is always attached ئ to a form resembling the Arabic ى alef maksura[citation needed]. Some fonts convert an isolated Hamza in this form to Hamza on the line.

Hamza can be difficult to recognise in Urdu handwriting and fonts designed to replicate it, closely resembling two dots above as featured in ت Té and ق Qaf, whereas in Arabic and Geometric fonts it is more distinct and closely resembles the western form of the numeral 2 two.

^ 3. Ayn ع in its initial عـ and final ـع position is usually silent in pronunciation and is replaced by the sound of its preceding or succeeding vowel. When it appears in the middle of a word there are a few different, similar looking, characters used to represent it in the Latin alphabet: (`) the grave accent, (‘) the left single quotation mark, (') the apostrophe, or the Pacific (ʻ) okina, or it can be pronounced like Arabic hamza (ʼ) and be transliterated as equivalent marks in the reverse direction such as (’) the right single quotation mark.[citation needed] Sometimes transliterated as "3" in informal Arabic but not in Urdu.

^4. Most vowel diacritics are omitted in most Urdu writing, but Urdu writing usually does distinguish alif mad, and include hamza over bari ye, gol he, and wow. For example, alif mad and bare alif in آزادی ("āzādī", ɑ:zɑ:d̪i, freedom[9]) are distinguished in most contexts.

^Z. These excess diacritics do not reflect any significant difference in pronunciation between the letters ذ ز ض ظ all shown as "z" in other systems[citation needed].

^5. Gol He and do-cashmi-he diverged from the Arabic letter he, sometimes choti hey is used too refer to gol hey, while sometimes choti he refers to the Arabic version. The distinction is somewhat artificial, since gol he is an equivalent letter to the Arabic letter, but they have separate unicode characters. Some fonts make the Arabic hé look the same as gol hey or do-cashmi hé.

^6. Tāʼ marbūṭah is also sometimes considered a letter, though it is rarely used except for in certain loan words from Arabic.

^7. Ta mahbuta is regarded as a form of tā, the Arabic version of Urdu té, But it is not pronounced as such, and when replaced with an urdu letter in naturalised loan words it is usually replaced with gol he[citation needed].

^[0.] These are illustrative only, in typing and typesetting the pre-combined characters in column 2 are used. Consonant diacritics are from unicode set "Arabic pedagogical symbols"[10]. U+25CC "DOTTED CIRCLE", U+00A0 NO-BREAK SPACE, and U+0640 "Arabic Tatweel Modifier Letter" are used to show diacritic positions. Tatweel doesn't work in Nastaliq fonts.

^Shapes: Skeleton characters that do not appear in the alphabet are "DOTLESS BEH" U+066E, "DOTLESS QAF" U+066F, and "DOTLESS FEH" U+06A1. These are not used in Urdu but we're used historically in [rasm | very early] versions of Arabic writing[citation needed].

The Urdu alphabet isolated forms in 3 styles
Nastaliq [footnote 1]  ے ی و ھ ہ ن ں م ل گ ک ق ف غ ع ظ ط ض ص ش س ژ ز ڑ ر ذ ڈ د خ ح چ ج ث ٹ ت پ ب آ ا ئ ء
simplified [footnote 2] ء ئ ا آ ب پ ت ٹ ث ج چ ح خ د ڈ ذ ر ڑ ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ ل م ن ں ہ ھ و ی ے
Naskh [footnote 3] ء ئ ا آ ب پ ت ٹ ث ج چ ح خ د ڈ ذ ر ڑ ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ ل م ن ں ہ ھ و ی ے
The Urdu alphabet isolated forms in 17 fonts
Noto Nastaliq Urdu
Urdu in 17 fonts 2020-03-23 1941 .png
Urdu Typesetting
Noto Naskh Arabic
Markazi Text
Noto Sans Arabic
Baloo Bhaijaan
El Messiri
Noto Kufi Arabic
Reem Kufi


^Footnote 1. These styles may display in different styles, depending on which fonts you have installed on your device. Compare to the image, the first two lines of the image are in Nastaliq fonts: "Noto Nastaliq Urdu" from Google's Noto fonts collection and "Urdu Typesetting" from Microsoft.

^Footnote 2. Simplified geometric font styles are rarely used for Urdu, they are more commonly used for other languages such as Arabic and Farsi, but many of these fonts support the full Urdu alphabet, such as "Baloo Bhaijaan" (yellow font in the image) which was specifically designed for Urdu by the India-based typeface foundry Ek Type, and Microsoft's "Tahoma".

^[Footnote 3. Naskh styles are usually not a first choice for Urdu publishing, but Naskh fonts are often used where a more characteristic Urdu font is unavailable. Naskh fonts have been available much longer than Nastaliq fonts, and Naskh fonts than work better than Nastaliq fonts where display sized or processing power are limited, such as on mobile phones or older computers.[citation needed]

words from letter names[edit]

^[back to table of letters]

Letter(s) Word other uses
Urdu IPA transliteration          translation          Urdu
pronunciation translation
ی چھوٹی یے čhōṭī yē چھوٹی tʃʰoːʈi [11] choti small / minor /
junior [11][12]
چھوٹی آنت small intestine
ہ چھوٹی ہے čhōṭī hē [[ ]]
گول ہـے gōl hē گول goːl [13] gōl round / spherical / vague / silly / obese [13] گول گپے gol gappay panipuri
ھ دوچَشْمی ہے dō-čašmī hē دوچَشْمی do-cashmī دو چشمی دوربین binoculars
دوربین Telescope
دو 2 / two [[ ]]
چَشْمی [[ ]]
چشم /tʃəʃm/ [14] the eye / hope / expectation [14] [[ ]]
ح بَڑی حے baṛī ħē بَڑی bəɽi [15] baṛī /
big / elder [15] بڑی آنت large intestine
ے بَڑی يـے baṛī yē [[ ]]
ں نُونِ غُنّہ nūn-e ğunnah غُنّہ ɣʊnnɑ [16] ğunnah / g͟hunnah nasal sound
or twang [16]
[[ ]]
آ الِف مَدّه alif maddah مَدّه maddah [[ ]]
ؤ واوِ مَہْمُوز vāv-e mahmūz مَہْمُوز mæhmuːz [17] mahmūz defective / improper [17] [[ ]]
ا آ ب پ ت ٹ ث ب ج چ خ ح د ڈ ذ ر ڑ ز ژ س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ک گ ل م ن ں و ہ ھ ی ے ء _____ [[ ]]
حَرْف /hərf/ [18] "letter of the alphabet" / handwriting / statement / blame / stigma [18] [[ ]]
حُرُوف /hʊruːf/ [19] letters (plural) [19] [[ ]]
_____ [[ ]]
اشْكال [[ ]]
اِسْم [[ ]]
_____ [[ ]]

The two He's[edit]

He has two variants: gol he ("round he") and do-cashmī he ("two-eyed he").

Gol he ( ہ}} is the primary letter for the "h" ( /ɦ/}} sound but word-finally is pronounced as a long "a" or "e" ( /ɑː/ or /e:/}}.

Do-cashmī he ( ھ}}, which is written as a looped medial or initial hāʾ, is used to orthographically produce aspiration and breathy voice and sometimes to write Arabic words.

Gol He and do-cashmi-he diverged from the Arabic letter he, sometimes choti hey is used too refer to gol hey, while sometimes choti he refers to the Arabic version. The distinction is somewhat artificial, since gol he is an equivalent letter to the Arabic letter, but they have separate unicode characters. Some fonts make the Arabic he look the same as gol hey or do-cashmi he.

depictions of hey[edit]
He in very different fonts Nastaliq (N), Arial (A), and Tahoma (T) [footnote]
Letter name
and unicode
Isolated Form Final Form Middle Form Initial Form
گول ہے
Gol he
ہ ہ ہ ‍ہ ـہ ـہ ‍ہ‍ ـہـ ـہـ ہ‍ ہـ ہـ
Gol hey isolated 2020-04-01.png
Gol hey end 2020-04-01.png
Gol hey mid 2020-04-01.png
Gol hey start 2020-04-01.png
دو چشمی ہے
Do-cashmī he
ھ ھ ہ ‍ھ ـھ ـہ ‍ھ‍ ـھـ ـہـ ھ‍ ھـ ہـ
Do cashmi hey isoated 2020-04-01 11am.png
Do cashmi hey end 2020-04-01 11am.png
Do cashmi hey mid 2020-04-01 11am.png
Do cashmi hey start 2020-04-01 11am.png
Arabic Letter Heh
ه ه ه ‍ه ـه ـه ‍ه‍ ـهـ ـهـ ه‍ هـ هـ
Ha isolated 2020-04-01 11am.png
Ha end 2020-04-01 11am.png
Ha mid 2020-04-01 11am.png
Ha start 2020-04-01 11am.png

Footnotes: ^

  • This may display in different fonts to those listed if you do not have Arial, Tahoma, and a Nastaliq font installed.
  • Nasta'liq is the style used for almost everything written in Urdu, from official documents to web memes. This will only display in Nastaliq if you have a Nastaliq font installed on your system, such as Urdu Typesetting (on Windows), Google's Noto Nastaliq Urdu,[23] or SIL International's Awami Nastaliq.[24]
  • Arial is a font commonly used for Arabic, but it also includes the Urdu letters.
  • Tahoma has an extensive and distinctive Arabic character set, particularly for Hey.

Aspirated and breathy voiced consonants[edit]

Table of digraphs:[edit]
corresponding single-letter consonants "aspirated" consonants, " breathy voiced" consonants, and other digraphs [2][7][6][25][26][27][28]
Urdu Letter Devanagari IPA[ə] Urdu Digraphs Urdu Name(s) [6][26] Romanised name(s) Devanagari [25][6] Hindi name [28] ALA‑LC [7] IPA[ə]  
ھ (none) ʱ / ʰ (below) دوچَشْمی ہے [6] dō‑čašmī hē (none)     h ʱ / ʰ
ب بھ بھے bhē bh bʱ
پ پھ پھے [6] phē [6] ph [27]
ت تھ [6] تھے [6] thē th ʰ [27]
ٹ ٹھ ٹھے [6] ṭhē [6] ṭh ʈʰ
ج جھ جھے jhē jh d͡ʒʱ
چ چھ [6] چھے [6] čhē / chē / chhē ch t͡ʃʰ
د دھ دھے [6] dhē [6] dh ʱ [27]
ڈ ڈھ ڈھے ḍhē ḍh ɖʱ
ڑ ड़ ڑھ ڑھے ṛhē ढ़ ṛh ɽʱ
ک کھ کھے khē kh kʰ
گ گھ [6] گھے [6] ghē [6] gh ɡʱ
ن نھ न्ह
[citation needed]
nh nʱ
م مھ म्ह
[citation needed]
mh mʱ
ل لھ [27] ल्ह
[citation needed]
lʱ [27]
ل ا لا لام الِف [6] lām alif ला [6] la

Footnote: . The Devanagari equivalents all add a schwa { [footnote] dō‑čašmī hē ھ ھ [footnote] [[ ]]

^Hindi aspirated consonants: see aspirated consonants.


^Naskh - Arial

^Hindi IPA ə - The Devanagari Hindi equivalents all add a schwa ə vowel to the ⅠPA.

^ Arabic ⅠPA - The ⅠPA pronunciation of the letter in Classical and Modern Standard Arabic.

^ Arabic Letter - There are a lot of differences between Arabic and Urdu writing even when there is a direct one to one correspondence between the letters, some of these differences are reflected in different unicode characters - ك ک and ي ی - while sometimes the differences are only reflected in font choice and hand writing styles.

^ Arabic spelling - The spelling for the Urdu phoneme in Classical and Modern Standard Arabic.

^ Arabic dotless nun - Arabic does sometimes use a dotless nun ں historically in the rasm script, but this is just a different way to write nun ن not historically or phonetically equivalent to Urdu nūn-e ğunnah. The Rasm script omits dots from all other letters (e.g. ٮ ڡ ٯ- qaf, fa, and ba/ta/tha) rendering many letters indistinguishable.

^ Arabic nasal vowel - Nasalized vowels occur in Classical Arabic but not in contemporary speech or Modern Standard Arabic. There is no orthographic way to denote the nasalization, but it is systematically taught as part of the essential rules of tajwid, used to read the Qur'an. Nasalization occurs in recitation, usually when nūn is followed by a yā’ ـني at the end of a word.[citation needed]

^Letters that can be consonants or vowels - This is the IPA for ye ی and wow و as consonants, for their vowel pronunciations, see vowel table below. The Urdu and Arabic ی and و can be a consonant or vowel depending on context like English Y.

^W and V. In Arabic و says W. For the sound V, letters from related alphabets are often used ڤ ڥ or the Arabic letter ف (which normally says "F", as it does in Urdu).

comparison to neighbouring languages[edit]


The Urdu language has a total of 10 vowels: 3 short, 5 long and 2 diphthongal. Like in its parent Arabic alphabet, Urdu vowels are represented using a combination of digraphs and diacritics. Alif, Wāʾo, Ye, He and their variants are used to represent vowels.

Vowel chart[edit]

Urdu does not have standalone vowel letters as a characteristic of abjads called mater lectionis. Short vowels (a, i, u), which do not occur word-finally, are represented by optional diacritics (zabar, zer, pesh) upon the preceding consonant or a placeholder consonant (alif, ain, or hamza) if the syllable begins with the vowel, and long vowels by consonants alif, ain, ye, and wa'o, with disambiguating diacritics, some of which are optional (zabar, zer, pesh), whereas some are not (madd, hamza). This is a table of Urdu vowels:

Romanization IPA Final Middle Initial
a /ə/ N/A ـَ اَ
ā /aː/ ـَا ؛ ـَی ؛ ـَہ ـَا آ
i /ɪ/ N/A ــِـ اِ
ī /iː/ ـِى ـِيـ اِی
e /eː/ ـے‬ ـيـ اے
ai /ɛː/ ـَے‬ ـَيـ اَے
u /ʊ/ N/A ـُ اُ
ū /uː/ ـُو اُو
o /oː/ ـو او
au /ɔː/ ـَو اَو


Alif, the first letter of the Urdu alphabet, is a glottal stop consonant but is exclusively used as a vowel except in the syllable-initial position where it alone rather functions as a placeholder for syllable-initial short vowels, for example, اب ab, اسم ism, اڑ uṛ. As a vowel, it represents the long "a" (/ɑː/), for example, بھاگنا bhāgnā but when it follows another alif it takes the form of a tilde-like diacritic called madd on top of that alif, for example, آپ āp.


Wāʾo is used, as a consonant/semivowel, for "w" (/w/) and its allophonic development, the labiodental approximant (/ʋ/), and, as a vowel, for long "u" (/uː/), long "o" (/oː/) and the monophthongized diphthong "au" (/ɔː/). However, when preceded by a k͟he (خ), wāʾo sometimes renders the short "u" (/ʊ/), for example, in خود k͟hud.

Ye and Bari ye[edit]

Ye has a variant called baṛī ye ("greater ye") for which the regular Perso-Arabic ye (ی) is called choṭī ye ("lesser ye"), which is used, as a consonant/semivowel, for "y" (/j/) and, as a vowel, for long "i" (/iː/), long "e" (/eː/) and the monophthongized diphthong "ai" (/ɛː/).

Baṛī ye (ے) is however used to render the word-final long "e" and "ai" especially to distinguish prepositions and other single syllable words. Baṛī ye is never used as a consonant.

Letter's name Nastaliq Tahoma
بڑی يے
Baṛī yē
  ‍ے   [none] ے ‍ے [none] ے
چھوٹی يے  
Chotī yē
‍ی   ‍ی‍ ی‍ ی ‍ی ‍ی‍ ی‍ ی
Arabic Yāʾ
‍ي ‍ي‍ ي‍ ي ‍ي ‍ي‍ ي‍ ي

Nasal Nun[edit]

Vowel nasalization is indicated by placing a nūn (ن) after the vowel and removing the supralinear dot ( ں , always in word-final position) or placing a V-shaped or U-shaped diacritic called maghnoona or ulta jazm on top (ن٘). This is known as nūn g͟hunnā or nūn-e-g͟hunnā ("nūn of nasalization"). For example, the nasalized form of the word ہَے (hai, /ɦɛː/) is written ہَیں (ha͠i, /ɦɛ̃ː/). Word-medially it is also present for the homorganic nasalization in digraphs with velar and retroflex consonants, such as in ٹان٘گ (ṭāṅg, /ʈɑːŋɡ/) or گھن٘ٹہ (ghaṇṭā, /ɡʱəɳʈɑː/), where the maghnoona or ulta jazm is often ignored unless disambiguation is necessary (as with Arabic-script diacritics in general).

Position Urdu Transcription / Transliteration IPA spelling for Hindi equivalent Translation
Nasta'lyq Arial font [A]
Orthography ں ں / ◌̃ / (diacritic on a vowel) e.g. /ɛ̃ː/ /æ̃:/ ँ ं
مَیں مَیں maiṉ ma͠i /mæ̃:/ [51] /mɛ̃ː/ मैं I (first person singular pronoun) or egotism [51]
میں میں mẽ /mẽ:/ में in / within / among / between / at [51]
ہَیں ہَیں ha͠i /ɦɛ̃ː/ /hæ̃:/ [example needed] "are" (auxiliary verb) [52]
form [M]
کن٘ول کن٘ول kaṉwal [citation needed] /kə̃vəl/ [53] [example needed] Lotus flower [53]
گھن٘ٹہ گھن٘ٹہ ghaṇṭā ɡʱəɳʈɑː घंटा ghanta ritual bell,[54] hour,[54] clock,[54] slang for penis,[54] or vague non-specific expletive[55]
ٹان٘گ ٹان٘گ ṭāṅg /ʈɑːŋɡ/ टांग the leg[56]
پن٘جابی پن٘جابی Punjabi

Urdu: [pəndʒɑ:bi] [57]
Punjabi: [pənˈdʒaːbːi]

Punjabi: ਪੰਜਾਬੀ
Hindi: पंजाबी

^[A] Arial is a popular font for writing Arabic, it is included for readers who are not familiar with the letters in the Nasta'liq style.
^[M] For the medial form, the maghnoona or ulta jazm is often ignored unless disambiguation is necessary.

Vowel Diacritics[edit]

Urdu uses the same subset of diacritics used in Arabic based on Persian conventions. Urdu also uses Persian names of the diacritics instead of Arabic names. Commonly used diacritics are zabar (Arabic fatḥah), zer (Arabic kasrah), pesh (Arabic dammah) which are used to clarify the pronunciation of vowels, as shown above. Jazam (ـْـ , Arabic sukun) is used to indicate a consonant cluster and tashdid (ـّـ, Arabic shaddah) is used to indicate a gemination, although it is never used for verbs, which require double consonants to be spelled out separately. Other diacritics include khari zabar (Arabic dagger alif), do zabar (Arabic fathatan) which are found in some common Arabic loan words. Other Arabic diacritics are also sometimes used though very rarely in loan words from Arabic. Zer-e-izafat and hamzah-e-izafat are described in the next section.

Other than common diacritics, Urdu also has special diacritics, which are often found only in dictionaries for the clarification of irregular pronunciation. These diacritics include kasrah-e-majhool, fathah-e-majhool, dammah-e-majhool, maghnoona, ulta jazam, alif-e-wavi and some other very rare diacritics. Among these, only maghnoona is used commonly in dictionaries and has a Unicode representation at U+0658. Other diacritics are only rarely written in printed form, mainly in some advanced dictionaries.[58]


Iẓāfat is a syntactical construction of two nouns, where the first component is a determined noun, and the second is a determiner. This construction was borrowed from Persian. A short vowel "i" is used to connect these two words, and when pronouncing the newly-formed word the short vowel is connected to the first word. If the first word ends in a consonant or an ʿain (ع), it may be written as zer ( ِ) at the end of the first word, but usually is not written at all. If the first word ends in choṭī he (ہ) or ye (ی or ے) then hamzā (ء) is used above the last letter (ۂ or ئ or ۓ). If the first word ends in a long vowel (ا or و), then baṛī ye (ے) with hamzā on top (ئے) is added at the end of the first word.[59]

Forms Example Transliteration Meaning
ــِ شیرِ پنجاب sher-e Punjāb the lion of Punjab
ئ ولئ کامل walī-ye kāmil perfect saint
ئے روئے زمین -ye zamīn the surface of the Earth
صدائے بلند sadā-ye buland a high voice

Romanization standards and systems[edit]

Bibles in Roman Urdu, such as this one published by the Bible Society of India, are used by many Christians from the Indian subcontinent.

There are several romanization standards for writing Urdu with the Latin alphabet, though they are not very popular because most fall short of representing the Urdu language properly. Instead of standard romanization schemes, people on Internet, mobile phones and media often use a non-standard form of romanization which tries to mimic English orthography. The problem with this kind of romanization is that it can only be read by native speakers, and even for them with great difficulty. Among standardized romanization schemes, the most accurate is ALA-LC romanization, which is also supported by National Language Authority. Other romanization schemes are often rejected because either they are unable to represent sounds in Urdu properly, or they often do not take regard of Urdu orthography, and favor pronunciation over orthography.[60]

Roman Urdu also holds significance among the Christians of Pakistan and North India. Urdu was the dominant native language among Christians of Karachi and Lahore in present-day Pakistan and Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh Rajasthan in India, during the early part of the 19th and 20th century, and is still used by Christians in these places. Pakistani and Indian Christians often used the Roman script for writing Urdu. Thus Roman Urdu was a common way of writing among Pakistani and Indian Christians in these areas up to the 1960s. The Bible Society of India publishes Roman Urdū Bibles that enjoyed sale late into the 1960s (though they are still published today). Church songbooks are also common in Roman Urdu. However, the usage of Roman Urdu is declining with the wider use of Hindi and English in these states.

Computers and the Urdu alphabet[edit]

In the early days of computers, Urdu was not properly represented on any code page. One of the earliest code pages to represent Urdu was IBM Code Page 868 which dates back to 1990.[61] Other early code pages which represented Urdu alphabets were Windows-1256 and MacArabic encoding both of which date back to the mid 1990s. In Unicode, Urdu is represented inside the Arabic block. Another code page for Urdu, which is used in India, is Perso-Arabic Script Code for Information Interchange. In Pakistan, the 8-bit code page which is developed by National Language Authority is called Urdu Zabta Takhti (اردو ضابطہ تختی) (UZT) [62] which represents Urdu in its most complete form including some of its specialized diacritics, though UZT is not designed to coexist with the Latin alphabet.

Encoding Urdu in Unicode[edit]

Like other writing systems derived from the Arabic script, Urdu uses the 0600–06FF Unicode range.[63] Certain glyphs in this range appear visually similar (or identical when presented using particular fonts) even though the underlying encoding is different. This presents problems for information storage and retrieval. For example, the University of Chicago's electronic copy of John Shakespear's "A Dictionary, Hindustani, and English"[64] includes the word 'بهارت' (India). Searching for the string "بھارت" returns no results, whereas querying with the (identical-looking in many fonts) string "بهارت" returns the correct entry.[65] This is because the medial form of the Urdu letter do chashmi he (U+06BE)—used to form aspirate digraphs in Urdu—is visually identical in its medial form to the Arabic letter hāʾ (U+0647; phonetic value /h/). In Urdu, the /h/ phoneme is represented by the character U+06C1, called gol he (round he), or chhoti he (small he).

Confusable glyphs in Urdu and Arabic script
Characters in Urdu Characters in Arabic
ہ (U+06C1), ھ (U+06BE) ه (U+0647)
ی (U+06CC) ى (U+0649), ي (U+064A)
ک (U+06A9) ك (U+0643)

In 2003, the Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing (CRULP)[66]—a research organisation affiliated with Pakistan's National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences—produced a proposal for mapping from the 1-byte UZT encoding of Urdu characters to the Unicode standard.[67] This proposal suggests a preferred Unicode glyph for each character in the Urdu alphabet.


The Daily Jang was the first Urdu newspaper to be typeset digitally in Nastaʻliq by computer. There are efforts underway to develop more sophisticated and user-friendly Urdu support on computers and on the Internet. Nowadays, nearly all Urdu newspapers, magazines, journals and periodicals are composed on computers via various Urdu software programmes, the most widespread of which is InPage Desktop Publishing package. Microsoft has included Urdu language support in all new versions of Windows and both Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 are available in Urdu through Language Interface Pack[68] support. Most Linux Desktop distributions allow the easy installation of Urdu support and translations as well.[69] Apple implemented the Urdu language keyboard across Mobile devices in its iOS 8 update in September 2014.[70]

Computing and Typesetting[edit]

Despite the invention of the Urdu typewriter in 1911[citation needed], Urdu newspapers continued to publish prints of handwritten scripts by calligraphers known as katibs or khush-navees until the late 1980s[citation needed]. The Pakistani national newspaper Daily Jang was the first Urdu newspaper to use Nastaliq 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.


The Urdu keyboard is usually available on all major platforms such as Android, iOS and Windows however they can vary for instance Android and iOS devices usually use the phonetics keyboard whereas Windows machines use the UZT machines, although the Phonetics version is also available for Windows. MacOS machines use the same Phonetics keyboard as iOS devices.


As of April 2020, iOS and MacOS are the only platforms to use the Nastaliq font as standard for the Urdu language.

Use of Urdu keyboard layout for other languages[edit]

Windows 10 uses the Urdu keyboard for the Arabic script versions of Punjabi and Sindhi languages, despite the Urdu keyboard missing several Sindhi letters (ڪ ڳ ڱ ڦ ٺ ٻ ڀ ڊ ڍ ڌ ڏ ڇ ڄ ڃ ي ڻ ۽ ۾ and the Urdu versions of ٹ ڑ which in Sindhi are written as (ٿ ڙ(see below).[citation needed] See also: Urdu keyboard

Geographic distribution[edit]

In addition to Pakistan, the Urdu language is official in five states of India: Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh[citation needed].

Other than the Indian subcontinent, the Urdu script is also used by Pakistan's large diaspora, including in the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and other places.[71]

Many Urdu speakers living outside of Pakistan use the Latin alphabet to write Urdu do to limited availability of software for writing Urdu[citation needed].

Distinction from Hindi[edit]

There are conflicting points of view about the division between Hindi and Urdu. (Main article: Hindi Urdu controversy.)

Some people hold the view that the distinction is old and intrinsic to the languages. The Urdu language emerged as a distinct register of Hindustani well before the Partition of India[citation needed]. It is distinguished most by its extensive Persian influences[citation needed]. This stands to reason: Persian was the official language of the Mughal government and the most prominent lingua franca of the Indian subcontinent for several centuries before the rise of the Maratha Empire in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Others claim that the difference is recent, and artificial, and more related to extrinsic cultural factors than it is too the language(s) themselves. The two languages are often collectively referred to as " Hindustani", but generally only by outsiders, and term is regarded by some sources as outdated[citation needed].

Urdu and Hindi, an official federal language of India, are different registers of the same language, and thus they are mutually intelligible and can use each other's script to write the other's language. Usage of script generally signifies the user's faith: Muslims generally use the Urdu (Perso-Arabic) script, while Hindus use the Devanagari script[citation needed].

In addition to Pakistan, the Urdu script[citation needed] is official in five states of India with a substantial percentage of Hindustani-speaking Muslims: Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh.


^Note: Some of the Nastaliq text on this page will probably show in a different style if you do not have a Nastaliq font installed. If this نستعلیق and this نستعلیق looks like these four نستعلیق نستعلیق نستعلیق نستعلیق then you are probably seeing it written in a modern Arabic style.

See also[edit]


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External links[edit]