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Phonemic representationðˤ~zˤ, dˤ
Position in alphabet27
Numerical value900
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician
Writing systemArabic script
Language of originArabic language
Phonetic usageðˤ~,
  • ظ
This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

Ẓāʾ, or ḏ̣āʾ (ظ), is one of the six letters the Arabic alphabet added to the twenty-two inherited from the Phoenician alphabet (the others being ṯāʾ, ḫāʾ, ḏāl, ḍād, ġayn). In name and shape, it is a variant of ṭāʾ. Its numerical value is 900 (see Abjad numerals).

Ẓāʾ ظَاءْ does not change its shape depending on its position in the word:

Position in word Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ظ ـظ ـظـ ظـ


The main pronunciations of written ظ in Arabic dialects.

In Classical Arabic, it represents a velarized voiced dental fricative [ðˠ], and in Modern Standard Arabic, it can also be a pharyngealized voiced dental [ðˤ] or alveolar [] fricative.

In most Arabic vernaculars ظ ẓādʾ and ض ḍād merged quite early.[1] The outcome depends on the dialect. In those varieties (such as Egyptian, Levantine and Hejazi), where the dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ are merged with the dental stops /t/ and /d/, ẓādʾ is pronounced /dˤ/ or /zˤ/ depending on the word; e.g. ظِل is pronounced /dˤilː/ but ظاهِر is pronounced /zˤaːhir/, In loanwords from Classical Arabic ẓādʾ is often /zˤ/, e.g. Egyptian ʿaẓīm (< Classical عظيم ʿaḏ̣īm) "great".[1][2][3]

In the varieties (such as Bedouin and Iraqi), where the dental fricatives are preserved, both ḍād and ẓādʾ are pronounced /ðˤ/.[1][2][4][5] However, there are dialects in South Arabia and in Mauritania where both the letters are kept different but not consistently.[1]

A "de-emphaticized" pronunciation of both letters in the form of the plain /z/ entered into other non-Arabic languages such as Persian, Urdu, Turkish.[1] However, there do exist Arabic borrowings into Ibero-Romance languages as well as Hausa and Malay, where ḍād and ẓādʾ are differentiated.[1]


Ẓādʾ is the rarest phoneme of the Arabic language. Out of 2,967 triliteral roots listed by Hans Wehr in his 1952 dictionary, only 42 (1.4%) contain ظ.[6]

In other Semitic languages[edit]

In some reconstructions of Proto-Semitic phonology, there is an emphatic interdental fricative, ([θˤ] or [ðˤ]), featuring as the direct ancestor of Arabic ẓādʾ, while it merged with in most other Semitic languages, although the South Arabian alphabet retained a symbol for .

In relation with Hebrew[edit]

Often, words that have ظ ẓāʾ, ص ṣād, and ض ḍād in Arabic have cognates with צ tsadi in Hebrew.

  • ظ ẓāʾ: the word for "thirst" in Classical Arabic is ظمأ ẓamaʾ and צמא tsama in Hebrew.
  • ص ṣād: the word for "Egypt" in Classical Arabic is مصر miṣr and מצרים mitsrayim in Hebrew.
  • ض ḍād: the word for "egg" in Classical Arabic is بيضة bayḍah and ביצה betsah in Hebrew.

When representing this sound in transliteration of Arabic into Hebrew, it is written as ט׳ tet and a geresh or with a normal ז zayin.

Character encodings[edit]

Character information
Preview ظ
Encodings decimal hex
Unicode 1592 U+0638
UTF-8 216 184 D8 B8
Numeric character reference &#1592; &#x638;

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Versteegh, Kees (1999). "Loanwords from Arabic and the merger of ḍ/ḏ̣". In Arazi, Albert; Sadan, Joseph; Wasserstein, David J. (eds.). Compilation and Creation in Adab and Luġa: Studies in Memory of Naphtali Kinberg (1948–1997). pp. 273–286. ISBN 9781575060453.
  2. ^ a b Versteegh, Kees (2000). "Treatise on the pronunciation of the ḍād". In Kinberg, Leah; Versteegh, Kees (eds.). Studies in the Linguistic Structure of Classical Arabic. Brill. pp. 197–199. ISBN 9004117652.
  3. ^ Retsö, Jan (2012). "Classical Arabic". In Weninger, Stefan (ed.). The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 785–786. ISBN 978-3-11-025158-6.
  4. ^ Ferguson, Charles (1959). "The Arabic koine". Language. 35 (4): 630. doi:10.2307/410601. JSTOR 410601.
  5. ^ Ferguson, Charles Albert (1997) [1959]. "The Arabic koine". In Belnap, R. Kirk; Haeri, Niloofar (eds.). Structuralist studies in Arabic linguistics: Charles A. Ferguson's papers, 1954–1994. Brill. pp. 67–68. ISBN 9004105115.
  6. ^ Wehr, Hans (1952). Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart.[page needed]