Perso-Arabic letter forms

Ian James
© March 2011

'Arabic letters' in Arabic

The Arabic script emerged in the Arabian Peninsula, and became very widely known with the spread of Islam and the Arabic language of that religion. Also, wherever muslims found themselves, they often wrote the local language in variations of the script. For example, Persian, Turkish, Hindi (as Urdu), Pashto, Uyghur, Malay, etc etc have used versions of the Arabic script.

Main letter forms

This shows the method of writing the main forms, with representative examples of each. The Arabic scripts are almost fully cursive, with breaks between words and after a few of the letter forms. Because of this, the method of connection for each letter must vary due to position within a word. For each example here, the isolated, initial, medial and final forms are given, along with the IPA representation of the sound commonly associated with it.

Other consonantal letters and sounds are obtained by using various diacritics (usually dots) with the basic letter forms shown here. Vowels are also represented with diacritics above or below the consonants. See also Mattias Persson’s comprehensive chart of letters currently used across the Islamic world.

Common ligatures

In printed books, many shortcuts and aesthetic alterations derived from handwriting are retained. Here are the most common ligature forms, again shown with representative examples of each.

Arabic sigil


All material on this page © Ian James.
Last modified Mar.4,2011