Arabic has a root-pattern morphology made of bare consonants fitted into a discontinuous pattern to form words.

Words are written in horizontal lines from right to left, numerals are written from left to right. Most letters change form depending on whether they appear at the beginning, middle or end of a word, or on their own. Letters that can be joined are always joined in both hand-written and printed Arabic. The only exceptions to this rule are crossword puzzles and signs in which the script is written vertically.

Abjads, or consonant alphabets, represent consonants only, or consonants plus some vowels.


'alifاـا' / ālong unrounded low central back vowel'a' as in 'father'
Bā'ببــبــبbvoiced bilabial stop'b' as in 'bed'
Tā'تتــتــتtvoiced aspirated stop't' as in 'tent'
Thā'ثثــثــثthvoiceless interdental fricative'th' as in 'think'
Jīmججــجــجjvoiced palatal affricate'j' as in 'jam'
Ḥā'ححــحــحvoiceless pharyngeal constricted fricativeonly in Arabic; a constricted English 'h'
Khā'خخــخــخkhvoiceless velar fricative'ch' as in German 'Bach'
Dālدـدdvoiced dental stop'd' as in 'deer' (approx.)
Dhālذـذdhvoiced interdental fricative'th' as in 'there'
Rā'رـرrvoiced dental trill'r' as in 'run' (approx.)
Zāyزـزzvoiced dental sibilant'z' as in 'zoo' (approx.)
Sīnسســســسsvoiceless dental sibilant's' as in 'sit'
Shīnششــشــشshvoiceless palatal sibilant'sh' as in 'shut'
Ṣādصصــصــصvoiceless post-dental sibilant emphaticthe counterpart of Sῑn; all the 'emphatics' are pronounced with the back of the tongue slightly raised
Ḍādضضــضــضvoiced post-dental emphatic stopthe counterpart of Dāl
Ṭā'ططــطــطvoiceless post-dental emphatic stopthe counterpart of Tā'
Ẓā'ظظــظــظvoiced post-interdental emphatic fricativethe counterpart of Dhāl
caynععــعــعcvoiced pharyngeal fricativepurely Arabic -- a constriction of the throat and an expulsion of the breath with the vocal cords vibrating
Ghaynغغــغــغghvoiced uvular fricativeclose to a French 'r' as in 'Paris' -- like a gentle gargling
Fā'ففــفــفflabio-dental voiceless fricative'f' as in 'free'
Qāfققــقــقqvoiceless unaspirated uvular stop'k' in the back of the throat; compare 'cough' with 'calf'
Kāfككــكــكkvoiceless aspirated palatal or velar stop'k' as in 'king'
Lāmللــلــلlvoiced dental lateral'l' as in 'lift'
Mīmممــمــمmvoiced bilabial nasal'm' as in 'moon'
Nūnننــنــنnvoiced dental nasal'n' as in 'net'
Hā'ههــهــهhvoiceless glottal fricative'h' as in 'house'
Wāwوـوwvoiced bilabial glide'w' as in 'wonder'
Yā'ييــيــيyvoiced palatal glide'y' as in 'yellow'
Hamzaء'voiceless glottal stopnot a phoneme in English but found in some exclamations -- e.g. 'oh-oh'


dammaــُــu (short)
sukunــْــNo sound
shaddaــّــDoubled or emphatic vowel sound
tanwin il-fathــَــ-an (end of the word only)
tanwin il-kasrــٍــ-in (end of the word only)
tanwin i-dammــٌــ-un (end of the word only)

Nearly all Arabic words consist of a three-consonant root slotted into a pattern of vowels and helper consonants. The root gives the word its base meaning, while the pattern modifies this meaning in a systematic and predictable way. This idea is so cool that you'd think it came from a constructed language.

patternpattern meaningresult
m--a-aplace nameمكتبةmaktaba (library)
-aa-i-active participleكاتبkaatib(writer)
ma--uu- passive participle مكتوبmaktuub (written)
-a-a-abasic verbكتبkataba (to write)
a--a-acausative verbأكتبaktaba (to dictate)
-i-aa-nounكتابkitaab (book)
-u-u- plural nounكتبkutub (books)


Components of a ligature for "Allah"