Nabataean alphabet

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LanguagesNabataean language
Time period
2nd century BC to 4th century AD
Parent systems
Child systems
Arabic alphabet
ISO 15924Nbat, 159
Unicode alias
Final Accepted Script Proposal
Example in Nabataean alphabet

The Nabataean alphabet is an abjad (consonantal alphabet) that was used by the Nabataeans in the second century BC.[2][3] Important inscriptions are found in Petra (now in Jordan), the Sinai Peninsula (now part of Egypt), and other archaeological sites including Avdat (now in Israel) and Mada'in Saleh in Saudi Arabia.

Coin of Aretas IV and Shaqilath
Nabataean Kingdom, Aretas IV and Shaqilath, 9 b. C. - 40 a. D., AE18. On the reverse, an example of Nabataean script: names of Aretas IV (1st line) and Shaqilath (2nd and 3rd line).[4][5]


The alphabet is descended from the Aramaic alphabet. In turn, a cursive form of Nabataean developed into the Arabic alphabet from the 4th century,[3] which is why Nabataean's letterforms are intermediate between the more northerly Semitic scripts (such as the Aramaic-derived Hebrew) and those of Arabic.

Tablet with the Nabataean alphabet on it.

Comparison with related scripts[edit]

As compared to other Aramaic-derived scripts, Nabataean developed more loops and ligatures, likely to increase speed of writing. The ligatures seem to have not been standardized and varied across places and time. There were no spaces between words. Numerals in Nabataean script were built from characters of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 20, and 100.

Nabatean Name Arabic
01 aleph.svg ʾĀlap̄/ʾAlif ء ا ܐ א
02 bet.svg Beth/Ba بـ ب ܒ ב
03 gimel.svg Gamal/Jim جـ ج ܓ ג
04 dal.svg Dalath/Dal ܕ ד
05 ha.svg Heh هـ ه ܗ ה
06 waw.svg Waw ܘ ו
07 zayn.svg Zain ܙ ז
08 ha.svg Ha/Heth حـ ح ܚ ח
09 taa.svg Teth ܛ ט
10 yaa.svg Yodh/Ya يـ ي ܝ י
11 kaf.svg Kaph كـ ك ܟ כ / ך
12 lam.svg Lamadh/Lam لـ ل ܠ ל
13 meem.svg Mim مـ م ܡ מ / ם
14 noon.svg Nun نـ ن ܢ נ / ן
15 sin.svg Simkath سـ س ܣ ס
16 ein.svg 'E/Ain عـ ـعـ ع ܥ ע
17 fa.svg Pe/Fa فـ ف ܦ פ / ף
18 sad.svg Ṣāḏē/Ṣad صـ ص ܨ צ / ץ
19 qaf.svg Qoph قـ ﻕ ܩ ק
20 ra.svg Resh/Ra ܪ ר
21 shin.svg Šin/Sin شـ ش ܫ ש
22 ta.svg Taw/Ta تـ ﺕ ܬ ת
  • Note that the Syriac and Arabic alphabets are always cursive and that some of their letters look different in medial or initial position.
  • See Aramaic alphabet § Letters for a more detailed comparison of letterforms.


The Nabataean alphabet (U+10880–U+108AF) was added to the Unicode Standard in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0.

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1088x 𐢀 𐢁 𐢂 𐢃 𐢄 𐢅 𐢆 𐢇 𐢈 𐢉 𐢊 𐢋 𐢌 𐢍 𐢎 𐢏
U+1089x 𐢐 𐢑 𐢒 𐢓 𐢔 𐢕 𐢖 𐢗 𐢘 𐢙 𐢚 𐢛 𐢜 𐢝 𐢞
U+108Ax 𐢧 𐢨 𐢩 𐢪 𐢫 𐢬 𐢭 𐢮 𐢯
1.^ As of Unicode version 13.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Himelfarb, Elizabeth J. "First Alphabet Found in Egypt", Archaeology 53, Issue 1 (Jan./Feb. 2000): 21.
  2. ^ Everson, Michael (2010-12-09). "N3969: Proposal for encoding the Nabataean script in the SMP of the UCS" (PDF). Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2.
  3. ^ a b Omniglot.
  4. ^ Yaʻaḳov Meshorer, "Nabataean coins", Ahva Co-op Press, 1975; 114.
  5. ^ Numista