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Ẓāʾ, or ṱāʾ (ظ), is one of the six letters the Arabic alphabet added to the twenty-two inherited from the Phoenician alphabet (the others being thāʼ, khāʼ, dhāl, ḍād, ġayn). In Arabic it represents a pharyngealized voiced alveolar fricative, voiced dental fricative or velarized voiced dental fricative ([]~[ðˤ]~[ðˠ]). In name and shape, it is a variant of ṭāʼ. Its numerical value is 900 (see Abjad numerals).

The ẓāʼ sound is an emphatic [z] or [ð], pronounced with the center of the tongue depressed. Regional pronunciations vary; it may sound like an emphatic counterpart of either ز or ذ. In few dialects, such as the Lebanese Arabic, it is indistinguishable from the former in sound.[citation needed] Because the Persian pronunciation of this letter is influenced by the Levantine dialect, it too, is indistinguishable in sound.[citation needed]

Ẓāʼ 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.

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

Note: See also ḍād.

When representing this sound in transliteration of Arabic into Hebrew, it is written as ט׳.

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

Character encodings[edit]

Character ظ
Encodings decimal hex
Unicode 1592 U+0638
UTF-8 216 184 D8 B8
Numeric character reference ظ ظ

See also[edit]


  • Hans Wehr, Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart (1952)