Persian alphabet

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For other scripts that have been used to write the Persian language, see Persian language#Orthography.

The Persian alphabet (الفبای فارسی alefbā-ye fārsi) is a writing system based on the Arabic script. Originally used exclusively for the Arabic language, the Arabic alphabet was adapted to the Persian language, adding four letters: پ [p], چ [t͡ʃ], ژ [ʒ], and گ [ɡ]. Many languages that use the Arabic script add other letters. Besides the Persian alphabet itself, the Arabic script has been applied to the Urdu alphabet, Sindhi alphabet, Saraiki alphabet, Kurdish alphabet, Lurish (Luri), Ottoman Turkish alphabet, Balochi alphabet, Punjabi Shahmukhi script, Kashmiri, Tatar, Azeri, and several others.

In order to represent non-Arabic sounds, new letters were created by adding dots, lines, and other shapes to existing letters. For example, the retroflex sounds of Urdu are represented orthographically by adding a small ط above their non-retroflex counterparts: د [d̪] and ڈ [ɖ]. The voiceless retroflex fricative [ʂ] of Pashto is represented in writing by adding a dot above and below the س [s] letter, resulting in ښ. The close back rounded vowel [u] of Kurdish is written by writing two [u], resulting in ﻭﻭ.

The Arabic script is abjad and is exclusively written cursively. That is, the majority of letters in a word connect to each other. This is also implemented on computers. Whenever the Arabic script is typed, the computer connects the letters to each other. Unconnected letters are not widely accepted. In Arabic, as in Arabic, words are written from right to left while numbers are written from left to right.

A characteristic feature of this script, possibly tracing back to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, is that vowels are underrepresented. For example, in Classical Arabic, of the six vowels, the three short ones are normally entirely omitted (although certain diacritics are added to indicate them in special circumstances, notably in the Qur'an), while the three long ones are represented ambiguously by certain consonants. Only Kashmiri, Uyghur, Kyrgyz (in China), Kazakh (in China), Kurdish and (formerly) Bosnian, of the many languages using adaptations of this script, regularly indicate all vowels.


Example showing the Nastaʿlīq calligraphic style's proportion rules.

Below are the 32 letters of the modern Persian alphabet. Since the script is cursive, the appearance of a letter changes depending on its position: isolated, initial (joined on the left), medial (joined on both sides), and final (joined on the right) of a word.

The names of the letter are mostly the ones used in Arabic, except for the Persian pronunciation. The only ambiguous name is he, which is used for both and ه. For clarification, these are often called ḥe-ye jimi (literally "jim-like ḥe" after jim, the name for the letter ج that uses the same base form) and he-ye do-češm (literally "two-eyed he", after the contextual middle letterform ), respectively.

# Name DIN 31635 IPA Contextual forms
Final Medial Initial Isolated
1 Hamza [1] ʾ [ʔ] ـئ ـأ ـؤ ـئـ ئـ ء أ
2 ʾalef ā [ɒ] ـا آ / ا
3 be b [b] ـب ـبـ ب
4 pe p [p] ـپ ـپـ پ
5 te t [t] ـت ـتـ
6 s̱e [s] ـث ـثـ
7 jim j [d͡ʒ] ـجـ
8 che č [t͡ʃ] ـچـ
9 ḥe(-ye jimi) [h] ـحـ
10 khe x [x] ـخـ
11 dāl d [d] ـد
12 ẕāl [z] ـذ
13 re r [ɾ] ـر
14 ze z [z] ـز
15 že ž [ʒ] ـژ ژ
16 sin s [s] ـس ـسـ
17 šin š [ʃ] ـش ـشـ
18 ṣād [s] ـص ـصـ
19 z̤ād [z] ـض ـضـ ﺿ
20 ṭā [t] ـط ـطـ
21 ẓā [z] ـظ ـظـ
22 ʿeyn ʿ [ʔ] ـع ـعـ
23 ġeyn ġ [ɣ] / [ɢ] ـغ ـغـ
24 fe f [f] ـف ـفـ
25 qāf q [ɢ] / [ɣ] / [q] (in some dialects) ـق ـقـ
26 kāf k [k] ـک ـکـ کـ ک
27 gāf g [ɡ] ـگ ـگـ گ
28 lām l [l] ـل ـلـ
29 mim m [m] ـم ـمـ
30 nun n [n] ـن ـنـ
31 vāv v / ū / ow [v] / [uː] / [o] / [ow] / [oː] (in Dari) ـو و
32 he(-ye do-češm) h [h] ـه ـهـ هـ
33 ye y / ī / á [j] / [i] / [ɒː] / [eː] (in Dari) ـیـ
Letters which do not link to a following letter

Seven letters – و, ژ, , , , , – do not connect to a following letter as the rest of the letters of the alphabet do. These seven letters have the same form in isolated and initial position, and a second form in medial and final position. For example, when the letter ا "alef" is at the beginning of a word such as اینجا "injā" (here), the same form is used as in an isolated "alef". In the case of امروز "emruz" (today), the letter "re" takes the final form and the letter و "vāv" takes the isolated form, though they are in the middle of the word, and also has its isolated form, though it occurs at the end of the word.


Persian scripts has adopted a subset of Arabic diacritics which consists of zabar /æ/ (fatḥah in Arabic), zir /e/ (kasrah in Arabic), and pesh /o/ or /o/ (ḍammah in Arabic, pronounced as zamme in Persian), sukūn, tanwīn nasb /æn/ and tashdid (gemination). Other Arabic diacritics may be seen in Arabic words in a Persian text by the virtue of being of Arabic origin.

Other characters[edit]

The following are not actual letters but different orthographical shapes for letters, and in the case of the lām alef, a ligature. As to hamze, it has only a single graphic, since it is never tied to a preceding or following letter. However, it is sometimes 'seated' on a vāv, ye or alef, and in that case the seat behaves like an ordinary vāv, ye or alef respectively. Technically, hamze is not a letter but a diacritic.

Name Transliteration IPA Final Medial Initial Stand-alone
alef madde ā [ɒ]
he ye -eye or -eyeh [eje] ۀ
lām alef [lɒ]

Although at first glance they may seem similar, there are many differences in the way the different languages use the alphabets. For example, similar words are written differently in Persian and Arabic, as they are used differently.

Novel letters[edit]

The main Persian letters are ا, ب, پ, ت, ج, چ, خ, د, ر, ز, ژ, س, ش, ف, ك, گ, ل, م, ن, و, ه, ی and other letters that came into it from Arabic literature. The Persian alphabet adds four letters to the Arabic alphabet, [p], [ɡ], [t͡ʃ] (ch in chair), [ʒ] (s in measure):

Sound Shape Unicode name
[p] پ pe
[t͡ʃ] (ch) چ che
[ʒ] (zh) ژ zhe
[ɡ] گ gaf

Changes from the Arabic writing system[edit]

The following is a list of differences between the Arabic writing system and the Persian writing system:

  1. A hamze (ء) is neither written above an alef (ا) to denote a zabar or piš nor below to denote a zir.
  2. The final kâf is typically written without a flourish, while in Arabic it would be .
  3. The Arabic letter tāʾ marbūṭa (ة), unless used in a direct Arabic quotation, is usually changed to a te (ت) or he ه,in accordance with its actual pronunciation. (Tāʾ marbūṭa, used only in feminine nouns, is basically a combined form of "he" and the dots of "te", standing for "t" that, in certain regular contexts, lenites to "h". Since Persian does not maintain the distinction---and has not even got any gender differences---tāʾ marbūṭa is not necessary and is only kept to maintain fidelity to the original Arabic spelling).
  4. Two dots are removed in the final ye (ی). Arabic differentiates the final yāʾ with the two dots and the alif maqsura (except in Egyptian Arabic), which is written like a final yāʾ without two dots. Because Persian drops the two dots in the final ye, the alif maqsura cannot be differentiated from the normal final ye. For example, the name Mûsâ (Moses) is written موسی. In the final letter in Musâ, Persian does not differentiate between ye or an alif maqsura.
  5. The letters pe (پ), che (چ), že (ژ), and gâf (گ) are added because Arabic lacks these phonemes, yet they occur in the Persian language.
  6. Arabic letter waw (و) is used as vâv for [v], because Arabic has no [v] and standard Iranian Persian has [w] only within the diphthong [ow].
  7. In the Arabic alphabet hāʾ () comes before wāw (و), however in the Persian alphabet, he () comes after vâv (و).

Word boundaries[edit]

Typically words are separated from each other by a space. Certain morphemes (such as the plural ending '-hâ') are written without a space. When writing on a computer, they are separated from the word using the zero-width non-joiner.

Languages using the Arabic script[edit]

Current use

Former use
A number of languages have used the Arabic script before, but have since changed.

Arguments and discussions on use of Arabic[edit]

In almost all countries which use Arabic script, there have been discussions between parties about replacing it, often raising the concept of romanization. For example:

Relation to Islamic culture[edit]

Arabic script in some Islamic countries is being promoted and defended as a sign of Islamic culture. People and governments in some Islamic countries have an interest in this script because of its relation to Islam and because it has been utilised to write the Qur'an. Therefore the concept of Arabic script and Romanization in these countries is not a politically or socially neutral subject.[citation needed]

Other Arabic alphabets[edit]

There are many Arabic-derived alphabets which were not influenced by the Arabic script, including Jawi (used for Malay), Sorabe (Malagasy), and many alphabets used in Northern Africa. These alphabets used other innovations for writing such common sounds as [p] and [ɡ], instead of the Arabic letters پ and گ, although the Jawi script does use the same symbol for [t͡ʃ] (چ‎).

See also[edit]