Urdu/Alphabet

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Urdu اردو
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Nasta'liq
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The Urdu alphabet is derived from the Persian (Farsi) and the Arabic alphabet, where majority of the letters are borrowed from Arabic while only four alphabets are primarily borrowed from Persian. Very seldom, letters may be borrowed from Sanskrit. Even though the letters actually are inherited from these languages, the names used for these letters differ in some cases, for instance, letters ‘bay’ and ‘tay’ in Urdu are called only ‘baa’ and ‘taa’ in Arabic.

Below is a table of all the Urdu alphabets along with their names and the phonetic pronunciation of their names. It is also specified as to which language the letter is borrowed from and the respective keys to press on a keyboard. For the purposes of following the text in this book, Latin alternatives are provided with the alphabet.

Alphabet Name Phonetic pronunciation Borrowed from Keyboard[1] Voice[2]
ا Aliph pronounced [əlɪf] Arabic J Vowel
ب Bay pronounced [beɪ] Arabic I Labial
پ Pay pronounced [peɪ] Persian Y Labial
ت Tay; with soft ‘t’ pronounced [θeɪ] Arabic U Dental
ٹ Tay; with hard ‘T’ pronounced [teɪ] Sanskrit Shift + U Retroflex
ث Thay; colloquially ‘say’ pronounced [s·eɪ] Arabic Shift + T Dental
ج Jeem pronounced [dʒ·iːm] Arabic O Palatal
چ Chay pronounced [tʃ·eɪ] Persian Shift + O Palatal
ح Hay pronounced [heɪ] Arabic P Aspirated
خ Khay pronounced [xeɪ] Arabic Shift + P Velar
د Daal; with soft ‘d’ pronounced [ðɑːl] Arabic R Dental
ڈ Daal; with hard ‘D’ pronounced [dɑːl] Sanskrit Shift + R Retroflex
ذ Dhaal; colloquially ‘zaal’ pronounced [zɑːl] Arabic Shift + E Aspirated
ر Ray pronounced [reɪ] Arabic D Semi-vowel
ڑ aRay; with very guttural ‘r’ pronounced [areɪ] Sanskrit Shift + D Hard retroflex
ز Zay pronounced [zeɪ] Arabic Shift + S Aspirated
ژ Djay; much like ‘j’ in ‘bonjour’ pronounced [ʒeɪ] Persian Shift + A Aspirated
س Seen pronounced [siːn] Arabic V Dental aspirated
‎‎ش Sheen pronounced [sh·iːn] Arabic B Dental aspirated
ص Suaad pronounced [sʊ̈·ɑːð] Arabic W Velar aspirated
ض Dhuaad; colloquially ‘zuaad’ pronounced [zʊ̈·ɑːð] Arabic Shift + W Velar aspirated
ط Toay'n pronounced [θɔɪŋ] Arabic Q Dental velar
ظ Zoay'n pronounced [zɔɪŋ] Arabic Shift + Q Velar aspirated
ع Ain; guttural ‘a’ pronounced [æn] Arabic M Velar vowel
غ Ghain; hoarse guttural ‘g’ followed by a hollow ‘h’ pronounced [ghæn] Arabic N Strong velar aspirated
ف Fay pronounced [feɪ] Arabic X Aspirated
ق Quaaf; ‘Qu’ is pronounced only as ‘k’ pronounced [gɑːf] Arabic Z Velar
ک Kaaf pronounced [kɑːf] Arabic K Velar
گ Gaaf pronounced [gɑːf] Persian Shift + K Velar
ل Laam pronounced [lɑːm] Arabic G Dental
م Meem pronounced [miːm] Arabic A Labial
ن Noon pronounced [nuːn] Arabic F Palatal
ں Noon ghuna; nasal equivalent of ‘noon’ pronounced [nuːn ghʊ̈nɑː] Arabic Shift + F Palatal nasal
و Vao; as you'd say “wow” pronounced [vaʊ] Arabic S Vowel/semi-vowel
ہ Hay pronounced [heɪ] Arabic H Aspirated
‍‌ء Hamza pronounced [hʌmzɑː] Arabic Shift + H Palatal nasal
ی Chhoti yeh; literally meaning ‘small yeh’ pronounced [yeɪ] Arabic L Vowel
ے Bari yeh; literally meaning ‘big yeh’ pronounced [yeɪ] Arabic C Vowel

  1. The keys as they appear on the keyboard layout for Windows operating systems
  2. The voice describes the characteristics of the sound produced by the letter of the alphabet. It may be Velar, Palatal, Retroflex, Dental, Labial or Aspirated consonants and vowels. Discuss this