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Shi‘a ("followers" or "partisans") as an Islamic term traces its etymology to the very first century of Islam.
The singular/adjective form of Shi‘ah (Arabic: شيعة) is Shi‘i (Arabic: شيعي). The apostrophe frequently used (e.g. Shi'a) is technically incorrect, since the Arabic letter is the ayin (ع), standardly represented with a grave accent (`), left half-circle (ʿ), or turned comma (‘). The apostrophe represents the hamza, which has a noted difference in pronunciation. The final Arabic letter is the ta' marbuta, which also causes difficulty in transliteration. It is often pronounced as a soft /h/ (e.g. Shi‘ah), but in a construct state, and in more classical Arabic, it is pronounced as a /t/ (e.g. Shi‘at ‘Ali). The ta' marbuta is frequently dropped in transliteration (e.g. Shia).
Due to the complexities of Arabic, there are approximately 30 possible transliterations of شيعة. For technical accuracy Shi‘ah is the preferred form. Using the Arabic chat alphabet, the transliteration is Shi3a.