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This article is about the letter. For other uses, see Hamza (disambiguation). For the name transliterated by the same spelling, see Hamza (name).
Not to be confused with ع (‘ayn), which has a similar looking initial form.

Hamza (Arabic: همزة‎, hamzah) (ء) is a letter in the Arabic alphabet, representing the glottal stop [ʔ]. Hamza is not one of the 28 "full" letters, and owes its existence to historical inconsistencies in the standard writing system. It is derived from the Arabic letter ‘ayn. In the Phoenician and Aramaic alphabets, from which the Arabic alphabet is descended, the glottal stop was expressed by aleph (Phoenician aleph.svg), continued by alifAlif-individua-cropt.svg ) in the Arabic alphabet. However, alif was used to express both a glottal stop and a long vowel /aː/. To indicate that a glottal stop, and not a mere vowel, was intended, hamza was added diacritically to alif. In modern orthography, under certain circumstances, hamza may also appear on the line, as if it were a full letter, independent of an alif. In Unicode it is at the codepoint U+0621 and named 'ARABIC LETTER HAMZA'.


Hamzah is a noun from the verb هَمَزَ hamaz-a meaning ‘to prick, goad, drive’ or ‘to provide (a letter or word) with hamzah’.[1]

Hamzat waṣl[edit]

The hamza letter on its own always represents hamzat qaṭ‘ (همزة قطع); that is, a phonemic glottal stop. Compared to this, hamzat waṣl or hamzat al-waṣl (همزة الوصل) is a non-phonemic glottal stop produced automatically at the beginning of an utterance. Although it can be written as alif carrying a waṣlah sign ٱ, it is usually indicated by a regular alif without a hamza. It occurs, for example, in the definite article al-, ism, ibn, imperative verbs and the perfective aspect of verb forms VII to X, but is not pronounced following a vowel: (e.g. al-baytu l-kabīru for written البيت الكبير). It occurs only at the beginning of a word following a preposition or the definite article.


The hamza can be written alone, as if it was a letter, or with a carrier, in which case it becomes a diacritic:

  • Alone: (only one isolated form):
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ء (none) (none) (none)
  • By itself as a high hamza (not used in Arabic language; only one isolated form, but actually used in medial and final positions where it will be non joining), after any Arabic letter (if that letter has an initial or medial form, these forms will be changed to isolated or final forms respectively):
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ٴ (none) (none) (none)
  • Combined with a letter:
  • Above or below an alif:
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: أ ـأ ـأ أ
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: إ ـإ ـإ إ
  • Above a wāw:
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ؤ ـؤ ـؤ ؤ
  • Above a dotless yā’, also called hamzah ‘alá nabrah / yā’ hamzah. Joined medially and finally in Arabic, other languages written in Arabic-based script may have it initially as well (or it may take its isolated or initial shape, even in Arabic, after a non-joining letter in the same word):
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ئ ـئ ـئـ ئـ
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ݬ ـݬ ـݬ ݬ


  • Initial hamza is always placed over or under an alif, or sometimes over a dotless yā’. Otherwise, surrounding vowels determine the seat of the hamza – but, preceding long vowels or diphthongs are ignored (as are final short vowels).
  • i- over u- over a- if there are two conflicting vowels that "count"; on the line if there are none.
  • As a special case, ā’a, ū’a and aw’a require hamza on the line, instead of over an alif as one would expect from rule #1. (See III.1b below.)
  • Two adjacent alifs are never allowed. If the rules call for this, replace the combination by a single alif-maddah.

Detailed description[edit]

  • Logically, hamza is just like any other letter, but it may be written in different ways. It has no effect on the way other letters are written. In particular, surrounding long vowels are written just as they always are, regardless of the "seat" of the hamza—even if this results in the appearance of two consecutive wāws or yā’s.
  • Hamza can be written in four ways: on its own ("on the line") or over an alif, wāw, or yā’, called the "seat" of the hamza. When written over yā’, the dots that would normally be written underneath are omitted.
  • When, according to the rules below, a hamza with an alif seat would occur before an alif which represents the vowel ā, a single alif is instead written with the maddah symbol over it.
  • The rules for hamza depend on whether it occurs as the initial, middle, or final letter (not sound) in a word. (Thus, final short inflectional vowels do not count, but when -an is written as alif + nunation, it does count and the hamza is considered medial.)

I. If the hamza is initial:

  • If the following letter is a short vowel: fatḥah (a) (as in أفراد afrād) or ḍammah (u) (as in أصول uṣūl), the hamza is written over a place-holding alif; kasrah (i) (as in إسلام islām) the hamza is written under a place-holding alif. This is called "hamza on a wall."
  • If the letter following the hamza is an alif itself: (as in آكل ākul) alif maddah will occur.

II. If the hamza is final:

  • If a short vowel precedes: the hamza is written over the letter (alif, wāw, or yā’) corresponding to the short vowel.
  • Otherwise: the hamza is written on the line (as in شيء shay’  "thing").

III. If the hamza is medial:

  • If a long vowel or diphthong precedes, the seat of the hamza is determined mostly by what follows:
  • If i or u follows, the hamza is written over yā’ or wāw, accordingly.
  • Otherwise, the hamza would be written on the line. If a yā’ precedes, however, this would conflict with the stroke joining the yā’ to the following letter, so the hamza is written over yā’. (as in جئت)
  • Otherwise, both preceding and following vowels have an effect on the hamza.
  • If there is only one vowel (or two of the same kind), that vowel determines the seat (alif, wāw, or yā’).
  • If there are two conflicting vowels, i takes precedence over u, u over a, so mi’ah 'hundred' is written مئة, with hamza over the yā’.
  • Alif-maddah will occur if appropriate.

Not surprisingly given the complexity of these rules, there is some disagreement.

  • Barron’s 201 Arabic Verbs follows these rules exactly (although the sequence ū’ū does not occur; see below).
  • John Mace’s Teach Yourself Arabic Verbs and Essential Grammar presents alternative forms in almost all cases when hamza is followed by a long ū. The motivation appears to be to avoid two wāws in a row. Generally, the choice is between the form following the rules here, or an alternative form using hamza over yā’ in all cases. Example forms are mas’ūl, yajī’ūna, yashā’ūna. Exceptions:
  • In the sequence ū’ū; e.g., yasū’ūna, the alternatives are hamza on the line, or hamza over yā’, when the rules here would call for hamza over wāw. Perhaps the resulting sequence of three wāws would be especially repugnant?
  • In the sequence yaqra’ūna, the alternative form has hamza over alif, not yā’.
  • The forms yabṭu’ūna, ya’ūbu have no alternative form. (But note yaqra’ūna with the same sequence of vowels.)
  • Haywood and Nahmad’s A new Arabic Grammar of the Written Language does not write the paradigms out in full, but in general agrees with John Mace’s book, including the alternative forms—and sometimes lists a third alternative where the entire sequence ’ū is written as a single hamza over wāw instead of as two letters.
  • Al-Kitaab fii Taʿallum... presents paradigms with hamza written the same way throughout, regardless of what the rules above say. Thus yabda’ūna with hamza only over alif, yajī’ūna with hamza only over yā’, yaqra’īna with hamza only over alif, although this is not allowed in any of the previous three books. (This appears to be an over-generalization on the part of the al-Kitaab writers.)

Overview tables[edit]

The letter ط stands for any consonant. Not every possible combination exist in Arabic.

Intervocalic (between vowels)
first second
i u a ī ū ā
i ṭiʾiṭ ṭiʾuṭ ṭiʾaṭ ṭiʾīṭ ṭiʾūṭ ṭiʾāṭ
طِئِط طِئُط طِئَط طِئِيط طِئُوط طِئَاط
u ṭuʾiṭ ṭuʾuṭ ṭuʾaṭ ṭuʾīṭ ṭuʾūṭ ṭuʾāṭ
طُئِط طُؤُط طُؤَط طُئِيط طُءُوط طُؤَاط
a ṭaʾiṭ ṭaʾuṭ ṭaʾaṭ ṭaʾīṭ ṭaʾūṭ ṭaʾāṭ
طَئِط طَؤُط طَأَط طَئِيط طَءُوط طَآط
ī ṭīʾiṭ ṭīʾuṭ ṭīʾaṭ ṭīʾīṭ ṭīʾūṭ ṭīʾāṭ
طِيئِط طِيئُط طِيئَط طِيئِيط طِيئُوط طِيئَاط
ū ṭūʾiṭ ṭūʾuṭ ṭūʾaṭ ṭūʾīṭ ṭūʾūṭ ṭūʾāṭ
طُوءِط طُوءُط طُوءَط طُوءِيط طُوءُوط طُوءَاط
ā ṭāʾiṭ ṭāʾuṭ ṭāʾaṭ ṭāʾīṭ ṭāʾūṭ ṭāʾāṭ
طَائِط طَاؤُط طَاءَط طَائِيط طَاءُوط طَاءَاط
ay ṭayʾiṭ ṭayʾuṭ ṭayʾaṭ ṭayʾīṭ ṭayʾūṭ ṭayʾāṭ
طَيْئِط طَيْئُط طَيْئَط طَيْئِيط طَيْئُوط طَيْئَاط
aw ṭawʾiṭ ṭawʾuṭ ṭawʾaṭ ṭawʾīṭ ṭawʾūṭ ṭawʾāṭ
طَوْئِط طَوْؤُط طَوْأَط طَوْئِيط طَوْءُوط طَوْآط
طَوْءِط طَوْءُط طَوْءَط طَوْءِيط طَوْءُوط طَوْءَاط
Other cases
condition vowel
i u a ī ū ā
#_VC ʾiṭ ʾuṭ ʾaṭ ʾīṭ ʾūṭ ʾāṭ
إِط أُط أَط إِيط أُوط آط
C_VC ṭʾiṭ ṭʾuṭ ṭʾaṭ ṭʾīṭ ṭʾūṭ ṭʾāṭ
طْئِط طْؤُط طْأَط طْئِيط طْءُوط طْآط
CV_C ṭiʾṭ ṭuʾṭ ṭaʾṭ ṭīʾṭ ṭūʾṭ ṭāʾṭ
طِئْط طُؤْط طَأْط طِيئْط طُوءْط طَاءْط
CV_# ṭiʾ ṭuʾ ṭaʾ ṭīʾ ṭūʾ ṭāʾ
طِئ طُؤ طَأ طِيء طُوء طَاء
طِء طُء طَء طِيء طُوء طَاء

Hamza in other Arabic-based scripts[edit]

Urdu / Shahmukhi script[edit]

In Urdu script, hamza does not occur at the initial position over alif since alif is not used as a glottal stop in Urdu. In the middle position if hamza is surrounded by vowels then it indicates a diphthong between the two vowels. In the middle position if hamza is surrounded by only one vowel then it takes the sound of that vowel. At the final position hamza is either silent or it produces a glottal sound as in Arabic.

In Urdu in most cases hamza is used to represent a diphthong between two vowels. It rarely acts like the Arabic hamza, usually only in a few loanwords from Arabic.

Hamza is also added at the last letter of the first word of ezāfe compound to represent -e- if the first word ends with yeh or with he or over bari yeh if is added at the end of the first word of the ezāfe compound.

In Urdu hamza is always written on the line in the middle position unless in waw if that letter is preceded by a non-joiner letter, in which case it is seated above waw. Hamza is also seated when written above bari yeh. In final form Hamza is written in its full form. In ezāfe, hamza is seated above he, yeh or bari yeh of the first word to represent the -e- of ezāfe compound.

Latin representations[edit]

There are different ways to represent hamza in Latin transliteration:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wehr, Hans (1994). "همز hamaza". In Cowan, J. M. The Hans Wehr Dictionary of Modern Arabic (4th ed.). Otto Harrassowitz KG. ISBN 978-0-87950-003-0. 

External links[edit]