Urdu: transliteration of Arabic words


Senior Member
Is there any set of canonical rules on how to transliterate Arabic words into Urdu?

My impression is that, in general, letters of similar shape are preferred, even if they don't sound the same in both languages.
For example, to transliterate إِلٰى (the Arabic demonstrative pronoun), one would perhaps write اِلی in Urdu, even if that would not result in an iilaa sound if read independently in Urdu.

Is my impression correct?
More generally, are literate Urdu speakers expected to know the Arabic value of some letters, and switch contexts accordingly?
  • marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    I can't understand the question.

    Instead, let me elicit some clarity on some points.

    اِلیٰ Urdu Lughat is the Urdu word, I'm not sure about your Arabic spelling, perhaps someone would like to check it, I don't speak Arabic. But since your interest lies in the shapes of letters, I think I should say إﻟﲐ is better. If you are interested, please check it out and let me know as well.

    As can be heard in the dictionary, there's no iilaa sound in Urdu.

    After some little search for the words and some streamlining on your part, I hope I can help you out with the questions. Who knows it can be a nice topic.

    The last question. While it's obvious that an illiterate speaker of a language hardly knows to read, just singling out this distinction is a strange way to start a discussion.
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    OK, not to diverge too much, because I don't know much Arabic either:
    • إِلٰى is an Arabic preposition, meaning "to, upto, until"
    • the final letter ى is called "Alif maqsura", and it is a version of ا that occurs at the end of words
    • the little vertical sign ◌ٰ is called "Alif qasira" (dagger Alif), and it is, or was, used traditionally in Arabic to indicate a long "aa" (alif) sound where the letters don't denote it.
    Up until your answer @marrish , I did not know that the "alif maqsura" and the "alif qasira" existed both, as a concept, in Urdu too. So thanks!

    One note of interest on this: if I type "ilii" in some Urdu typing helper such as Google Input Tools, it gives me this word: الی
    That word is parsed as: "Arabic Alif" - "Arabic Lam" - "Arabic Farsi Yeh"

    Then, if I go to the lughat and paste that word in the search box, it yields إِلٰى
    Which is parsed as "Alif with hamza below" - "kasra" - "Arabic Lam" - "Arabic superscript Alif" - "Alif maqsura"

    Which means that the Lughat, (and you :)) are able to switch between those 2 different values of the externally identical sign "ى", and that transition, I would assume, is obvious to any competent Urdu reader. Not to me, unfortunately :(.


    Senior Member
    All of the above said about اِلیٰ , it was a very bad example, because the word happens to exist verbatim in Urdu.

    Other transformations that I know occur often, for letters that I don't believe exist in Urdu:

    ي (Arabic letter Yeh) is spelled in Urdu as ی . Ali (proper name, and "sublime)
    علي -> علی

    ة (ta marbuta ) is spelled in Urdu as ہ . (Medina, the city)
    مدينة -> مدینہ

    The "tanwin" (nunnation) ـٌ , ـٍ , ـً are double diacritics that, in Arabic words, I believe marks them as undetermined or adverbial.
    For example, یوم (day), exists in both Urdu and Arabic. In Arabic, "one day", "some day" would be يَوْمًا

    اِبتداء (beginning) exists both in Arabic an Urdu. According to Platts, "firstly, originally" would be something like إبتِداءً
    Is that proper Urdu? Or are the tanwin modernly transliterated in some other way?


    Double-voweled diacritics can also be used in Urdu. No transliteration problem here.
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    Senior Member
    So, my question has been obscured by my lack of knowledge of Urdu, but it is still valid, I think.
    Let me rephrase it:

    For those (relatively few) Arabic characters that do not have a clear Urdu counterpart, and in the context of transliteration from Arabic as a foreign language (that is, not words from Arabic that were adopted into Urdu), is there a set of standard transformations to apply?

    I listed a few cases in the examples above. And I would think such a "canonical" table of character transformations would exist, given, say, the importance of prayer in Arabic for many Urdu speakers.

    I will do my own research, but please, if anybody knows more common transliterations, or some authoritative source on the subject, please post it.


    Senior Member
    I just found a tah marbuta with tanween ( ةً ) transliterated as "تں", which seems to make sense:

    بَلِّغْ سَلَامِي رَوْضَةً --> بلغ سلامی روضتں

    The phrase means "convey my greetings to the grave" (where the revered prophet rests)
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