Arabic chat alphabet

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The Arabic chat alphabet, also known as Arabish, Araby (Arabic: عربي, ʿArabī), Arabizi[1] (عربيزي, ʿArabīzī), Mu'arrab (معرب, Muʿarrab), and Franco-Arabic,[2] is an alphabet used to communicate in Arabic over the Internet or for sending messages via cellular phones. It is a character encoding of Arabic to the Latin script and the Arabic numerals. It differs from more formal and academic Arabic transliteration systems, as it avoids diacritics by freely using digits and multigraphs for letters that do not exist in the basic Latin script (ASCII).[3]

The Arabic chat alphabet is used to communicate in Arabic over the Internet or for sending messages via cellular phones when the Arabic alphabet is unavailable or difficult to use for technical reasons.[4] Arabish is most commonly used by youth in the Arab world in very informal settings, such as when communicating with friends or other young people.[3]

Because of its widespread use, including in public advertisements by large multinational companies, large players in the online industry like Google and Microsoft have introduced tools that convert text written in Arabish to Arabic. Add-ons for Mozilla Firefox and Chrome also exist. The Arabic chat alphabet is never used in formal settings and is rarely, if ever, used for long communications.[4]


During the last decades of the 20th century, Western text-based communication technologies, such as mobile phone text messaging, the World Wide Web, email, bulletin board systems, IRC, and instant messaging became increasingly prevalent in the Arab world. Most of these technologies originally permitted the use of the Latin script only, and some still lack support for displaying Arabic script. As a result, Arabic-speaking users frequently transliterate Arabic text into Latin script when using these technologies to communicate.

To handle those Arabic letters that do not have an approximate phonetic equivalent in the Latin script, numerals and other characters were appropriated. For example, the numeral "3" is used to represent the Arabic letter ⟨ع⟩ (ʿayn)—note the choice of a visually similar character, with the numeral resembling a mirrored version of the Arabic letter. Many users of mobile phones and computers use Arabish even though their system is capable of displaying Arabic script. This may be due to a lack of an appropriate keyboard layout for Arabic, or because users are already more familiar with the QWERTY keyboard layout.

Online communication systems, such as IRC, bulletin board systems, and blogs, are often run on systems or over protocols which do not support code pages or alternate character sets. Thus, the Arabic chat alphabet has become commonplace. It can be seen even in domain names, like Qal3ah.

Conservative Muslims, as well as Pan-Arabists and some Arab-nationalists, have viewed Arabish as a detrimental form of Westernization. Arabish emerged amid a growing trend among Arab youth, especially in Lebanon and Jordan, to incorporate English into Arabic as a form of slang. Arabish is used to replace Arabic script, and this has raised concerns regarding the preservation of the quality of the language.[2]

Comparison table[edit]

Because of the informal nature of this system, there is no single "correct" or "official" usage. There may be some overlap in the way various letters are transliterated.

Most of the characters in the system make use of the Latin character (as used in English and French) that best approximates phonetically the Arabic letter that one would otherwise use (for example, ب corresponds to b). Regional variations in the pronunciation of an Arabic letter can also produce some variation in its transliteration (e.g. might be transliterated as j by a speaker of the Levantine dialect, or as g by a speaker of the Egyptian dialect).

Those letters that do not have a close phonetic approximation in the Latin script are often expressed using numerals or other characters, so that the numeral graphically approximates the Arabic letter that one would otherwise use (e.g. ع is represented using the numeral 3 because the latter looks like a horizontal reflection of the former).

Since many letters are distinguished from others solely by a dot above or below the main portion of the character, the transliterations of these letters frequently use the same letter or number with an apostrophe added before or after (e.g. '3 is used to represent غ).

Letters Arabic chat alphabet IPA
ء أ ؤ إ ئ آ‎ 2 ʔ
ا a e è [1] æ(ː) a(ː) ɑ(ː) ɛ(ː) ɐ
ب b p b p
ت t t t͡s
ث s th s θ
ج j dj g ʒ d͡ʒ ɟ ɟ͡ʝ ɡ
ح 7 ħ ʜ
خ kh 7' 5 x χ
د d d
ذ z th dh z ð
ر r ɾ r
ز z z
س s s
ش sh ch [1] ʃ
ص s 9
ض d dh 9' d̪ˤ d̪ˠ
ط t 6 t̪ˤ t̪ˠ
ظ z th dh 6' ðˤ ðˠ
ع 3 ʕ ʢ
غ gh 3' ɣ ʁ
ف f v f v
ق 2 g 8 9 q ʔ ɡ ɢ q
ك k g k ɡ
ل l l ɫ
م m m
ن n n
ه h a e ah eh é [1] h, /a e/
ة a e eh at et é [1] /a e at et/
و w o ou oo u w o(ː) u(ː)
ي ى‎ [2] y i ee ei ai a é [1] j i(ː) e(ː), /a/
Additional letters Arabic chat alphabet IPA
پ p p
چ [3] j tsh ch tch ʒ t͡ʃ
ڜ [4] ch tch t͡ʃ
ڤ ڥ [5] v v
ڨ گ ݣ [5] g ɡ
^1 é, è, ch, and dj are most likely to be used in regions where French is the primary non-Arabic language. dj is especially used in Algerian Arabic.
^2 Mainly in the Nile Valley, the final form is always ى (without dots), representing both final /i/ and /a/. It is the more traditional way of spelling the letter for both cases.
^3 In Iraq, and sometimes in the Persian Gulf, this may be used to transcribe /t͡ʃ/. However, it is most often transcribed as if it were تش. In Egypt, it is instead used for transcribing /ʒ/ (which can be a reduction of /d͡ʒ/).
^4 Only used in Morocco to transliterate Spanish /t͡ʃ/.
^5 Depending on the region, different letters may be used for the same phoneme.


Egyptian Arabic[edit]

Egyptian Arabic انا رايح الجامعه الساعه 3 العصر الجو عامل ايه النهارده فى إسكندرية؟
Araby transcription ana raye7 el gam3a el sa3a 3 el 3asr. el gaw 3amel eh elnaharda f eskendereya?
IPA [ʔænæˈrɑˑjeħ elˈɡæmʕæ (ʔe)sˈsæˑʕæ tæˈlæˑtæ lˈʕɑsˤɾ] [elˈɡæwwe ˈʕæˑmel ˈe(ˑhe)nnɑˈhɑɾdɑ feskendeˈɾejjæ]
English I'm going to college at 3pm. How is the weather today in Alexandria?

North Levantine Arabic[edit]

North Levantine Arabic كيف صحتك، شو عمتعمل؟
Araby transcription kif/keef sa7tak, chou/shu 3am ta3mil?
ALA-LC kīf ṣaḥtak, shū ʻam taʻmil?
IPA [kiːf ˈsˤɑħtak ʃuː ʕam ˈtaʕmɪl]
English How is your health, what are you doing?

Maghrebian Arabic[edit]

Moroccan Arabic كيف داير في القراية؟
Araby transcription kif dayer fi l9rya?
English How are you doing with your studies?

Gulf Arabic[edit]

Gulf Arabic كيفك؟ وش بتسوي اليوم؟
Araby transcription kaifk? wsh btswi el youm?
English How are you? What are you going to do today?

Iraqi Arabic[edit]

  • As with all Arabic dialects, every geographical area has a slightly different dialect.
Iraqi Arabic يابه شلونك؟ شدتسوي مادتسوي اليوم؟
Araby transcription yaba shlonak? shdassowee ma dassowee ilyom?
English How are you, man? What are you up to today?

Sudanese Arabic[edit]

  • This is the form of Colloquial Arabic spoken in Sudan.
Sudanese Arabic ولاي مشتاق ليك شديد يا زول كيفك إنتا؟ انا الحمدلله اكنت داير امشي المحل داك فوق النيل، المكان قريب من بيتك. حاستناك في الكبري.
Araby transcription wallay moshtag leakk shadid ya zol kefak inta? ana alhamdolillah konta dayir amshi le al ma7al dak fog al nil, al makan garib men betak. 7astanak fi al kubri.
English Oh, God, I missed you a lot, man! How are you? Thank God. So I want to go to that one place over the Nile, the place near your very house! I'll wait for you at the bridge.

Chadian Arabic[edit]

Chadian Arabic بوه ياخي، إتَ عفة؟ ولله سمح انا ماشي للسوبرمارشة ديك بي وسط نجامينا لو تدور تمشي يعني، تعال معاي يلا ياخي
Araby transcription boh yakhi, inta afé? . wallah semeh, ana maché lê supermarché dik bi ousut n'djamena lô tidoura tamshi yani, ta'al maa'ai yalla yakhi
English Oh, hey, my brother. How are you? Good. I am going to that supermarket, so if you want to come, hurry and come with me, my brother!

Other dialects[edit]

The chat alphabet is also used in Modern Standard Arabic when Arabic speakers of different dialects communicate each other.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ghanem, Renad (20 April 2011). "'Arabizi is destroying the Arabic language'". Arab News. 
  2. ^ a b Al-Fawaz, Nadia (26 December 2014). "Purists alarmed at increasing popularity of Franco-Arabic". Arab News. 
  3. ^ a b Palfreyman, David; Muhamed, Al Khalil (2007). ""A Funky Language for Teenz to Use": Representing Gulf Arabic in Instant Messaging". In Danet, Brenda; Herring, Susan C. The Multilingual Internet: Language, Culture, and Communication Online. Oxford University Press. pp. 43–64. 
  4. ^ a b Yaghan, M. (2008). "Araby: A Contemporary Style of Arabic Slang". Design Issues 24(2): 39-52.