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The Persian alphabet (Persian: الفبای فارسی‎, romanizedAlefbâye fârsi, pronounced [ælefˌbɒːje fɒːɹˈsi]), also known as the Perso-Arabic alphabet, is a writing system used for the Persian language spoken in Iran (Western Persian) and Afghanistan (Dari Persian). The Persian language spoken in Tajikistan (Tajiki Persian) is written in the Tajik alphabet, a modified version of Cyrillic alphabet since the Soviet era.

The Modern Persian script is directly derived and developed from Arabic script. After the Muslim conquest of Persia and the fall of Sasanian Empire in the 7th century, Arabic became the language of government, culture and especially religion in Persia for two centuries, which is known as the "Two Centuries of Silence" in Iran.

The modification of the Pahlavi scripts to the Persian alphabet to write the Persian language was done by the Saffarid dynasty and Samanid dynasty in 9th-century Greater Khorasan.[1][2][3] It is mostly but not exclusively right-to-left; mathematical expressions, numeric dates and numbers bearing units are embedded from left to right. The script is cursive, meaning most letters in a word connect to each other; when they are typed, contemporary word processors automatically join adjacent letter forms.


Example showing the Nastaʿlīq calligraphic style's proportion rules

Below are the 32 letters of the modern Persian alphabet. Since the script is cursive, the appearance of a letter changes depending on its position: isolated, initial (joined on the left), medial (joined on both sides) and final (joined on the right) of a word.[4]

The names of the letter are mostly the ones used in Arabic except for the Persian pronunciation. The only ambiguous name is he, which is used for both ح and ه. For clarification, they are often called ḥâ-ye ḥotti or ḥä-ye jimi (literally "jim-like ḥe" after jim, the name for the letter ج that uses the same base form) and hâ-ye havvaz or hâ-ye do-češm (literally "two-eyed he", after the contextual middle letterform ـهـ), respectively.

Overview tableEdit

# Name
(in Persian)
DIN 31635 IPA Unicode Contextual forms
Final Medial Initial Isolated
0 همزه hamze[5] ʾ Glottal stop[ʔ] U+0621 N/A N/A N/A ء
U+0623 ـأ أ
U+0626 ـئ ـئـ ئـ ئ
U+0624 ـؤ ؤ
1 الف ʾalef â [ɒ] U+0627 ـا ا
2 به be b [b] U+0628 ـب ـبـ بـ ب
3 په pe p [p] U+067E ـپ ـپـ پـ پ
4 ته te t [t] U+062A ـت ـتـ تـ ت
5 ثه s̱e [s] U+062B ـث ـثـ ثـ ث
6 جیم jim j [d͡ʒ] U+062C ـج ـجـ جـ ج
7 چه če č [t͡ʃ] U+0686 ـچ ـچـ چـ چ
8 حه ḥe (ḥâ-ye ḥotti, ḥâ-ye jimi) [h] U+062D ـح ـحـ حـ ح
9 خه xe x [x] U+062E ـخ ـخـ خـ خ
10 دال dâl d [d] U+062F ـد د
11 ذال ẕâl [z] U+0630 ـذ ذ
12 ره re r [ɾ] U+0631 ـر ر
13 زه ze z [z] U+0632 ـز ز
14 ژه že ž [ʒ] U+0698 ـژ ژ
15 سین sin s [s] U+0633 ـس ـسـ سـ س
16 شین šin š [ʃ] U+0634 ـش ـشـ شـ ش
17 صاد ṣâd [s] U+0635 ـص ـصـ صـ ص
18 ضاد zâd z [z] U+0636 ـض ـضـ ضـ ض
19 طا t [t] U+0637 ـط ـطـ طـ ط
20 ظا ẓâ [z] U+0638 ـظ ـظـ ظـ ظ
21 عین ʿayn ʿ [ʔ] U+0639 ـع ـعـ عـ ع
22 غین ġayn ġ [ɣ] U+063A ـغ ـغـ غـ غ
23 فه fe f [f] U+0641 ـف ـفـ فـ ف
24 قاف q̈âf [ɣ] U+0642 ـق ـقـ قـ ق
25 کاف kâf k [k] U+06A9 ـک ـکـ کـ ک
26 گاف gâf g [ɡ] U+06AF ـگ ـگـ گـ گ
27 لام lâm l [l] U+0644 ـل ـلـ لـ ل
28 میم mim m [m] U+0645 ـم ـمـ مـ م
29 نون nun n [n] U+0646 ـن ـنـ نـ ن
30 واو vâv v / ū / ow / (w / aw / ō in Dari) [v] / [uː] / [o] / [ow] / ([w] / [aw] / [oː] in Dari) U+0648 ـو و
31 هه he (hā-ye havvaz, hā-ye do-češm) h [h] U+0647 ـه ـهـ هـ ه
32 یه ye y / ī / á / (ay / ē in Dari) [j] / [i] / [ɒː] / ([aj] / [eː] in Dari) U+06CC ـی ـیـ یـ ی

Letters that do not link to a following letterEdit

Seven letters (و, ژ, ز, ر, ذ, د, ا) do not connect to the following letter, unlike the rest of the letters of the alphabet. The seven letters have the same form in isolated and initial position and a second form in medial and final position. For example, when the letter ا alef is at the beginning of a word such as اینجا injâ ("here"), the same form is used as in an isolated alef. In the case of امروز emruz ("today"), the letter ر re takes the final form and the letter و vâv takes the isolated form, but they are in the middle of the word, and ز also has its isolated form, but it occurs at the end of the word.


Persian script has adopted a subset of Arabic diacritics: zebar /æ/ (fatḥah in Arabic), zir /e/ (kasrah in Arabic), and piš /o/ or /o/ (ḍammah in Arabic, pronounced zamme in Western Persian), tanwīne nasb /æn/ and šaddah (gemination). Other Arabic diacritics may be seen in Arabic loanwords in Persian.

Short vowelsEdit

Of the four Arabic short vowels, the Persian language has adopted the following three. The last one, sukūn, has not been adopted.

Short vowels
(fully vocalized text)
(in Persian)
Trans. Value
zebar/zibar a Ir. /æ/; D. /a/
zer/zir e /e/
peš/piš o /o/

In Iranian Persian, none of these short vowels may be the initial or final grapheme in an isolated word, although they may appear in the final position as an inflection, when the word is part of a noun group. In a word that starts with a vowel, the first grapheme is a silent alef which carries the short vowel, e.g. اُمید (omid, meaning "hope"). In a word that ends with a vowel, letters ع‎, ه‎ and و respectively become the proxy letters for zebar, zir and piš, e.g. نو (now, meaning "new") or بسته (bast-e, meaning "package").

Tanvin (nunation)Edit

Nunation (Persian: تنوین‎, tanvin) is the addition of one of three vowel diacritics to a noun or adjective to indicate that the word ends in an alveolar nasal sound without the addition of the letter nun.

(fully vocalized text)
(in Persian)
َاً، ـاً، ءً
تنوین نَصْبْ Tanvine nasb
تنوین جَرّ Tanvine jarr Never used in the Persian language.

Taught in Islamic nations to

complement Quran education.

تنوین رَفْعْ Tanvine rafʔ


Symbol Name
(in Persian)
تشدید tašdid

Other charactersEdit

The following are not actual letters but different orthographical shapes for letters, a ligature in the case of the lâm alef. As to (hamza), it has only one graphic since it is never tied to a preceding or following letter. However, it is sometimes 'seated' on a vâv, ye or alef, and in that case, the seat behaves like an ordinary vâv, ye or alef respectively. Technically, hamza is not a letter but a diacritic.

Name Pronunciation IPA Unicode Final Medial Initial Stand-alone Notes
alef madde â [ɒ] U+0622 ـآ آ آ The final form is very rare and is freely replaced with ordinary alef.
he ye -eye or -eyeh [eje] U+06C0 ـۀ ۀ Validity of this form depends on region and dialect. Some may use the three-letter ـه‌ای combination instead.
lām alef [lɒ] U+0644 (lām) and U+0627 (alef) ـلا لا
kašida U+0640 ـ This is the medial character which connects other characters

Although at first glance, they may seem similar, there are many differences in the way the different languages use the alphabets. For example, similar words are written differently in Persian and Arabic, as they are used differently.

Novel lettersEdit

The Persian alphabet has four extra letters that are not in the Arabic alphabet: /p/, /ɡ/, /t͡ʃ/ (ch in chair), /ʒ/ (s in measure).

Sound Shape Unicode name Unicode code point
/p/ پ pe U+067E
/t͡ʃ/ (ch) چ če U+0686
/ʒ/ (zh) ژ že U+0698
/ɡ/ گ gâf U+06AF

Deviations from the Arabic scriptEdit

The shapes of the Persian digits four (۴), five (۵), and six (۶) are different from the shapes used in Arabic and the other numbers have different codepoints.[6]

Name Persian Unicode Arabic Unicode
0 ۰ U+06F0 ٠ U+0660
1 ۱ U+06F1 ١ U+0661
2 ۲ U+06F2 ٢ U+0662
3 ۳ U+06F3 ٣ U+0663
4 ۴ U+06F4 ٤ U+0664
5 ۵ U+06F5 ٥ U+0665
6 ۶ U+06F6 ٦ U+0666
7 ۷ U+06F7 ٧ U+0667
8 ۸ U+06F8 ٨ U+0668
9 ۹ U+06F9 ٩ U+0669
ye ی U+06CC ي U+064A
kāf ک U+06A9 ك U+0643

Word boundariesEdit

Typically, words are separated from each other by a space. Certain morphemes (such as the plural ending '-hâ'), however, are written without a space. On a computer, they are separated from the word using the zero-width non-joiner.

Persian alphabet in TajikistanEdit

As part of the "russification" of Central Asia, the Cyrillic script was introduced in the late 1930s.[7][8][9][10][11] The alphabet remained Cyrillic until the end of the 1980s with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In 1989, with the growth in Tajik nationalism, a law was enacted declaring Tajik the state language. In addition, the law officially equated Tajik with Persian, placing the word Farsi (the endonym for the Persian language) after Tajik. The law also called for a gradual reintroduction of the Perso-Arabic alphabet.[12][13][14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23]

The Persian alphabet was introduced into education and public life, although the banning of the Islamic Renaissance Party in 1993 slowed down the adoption. In 1999, the word Farsi was removed from the state-language law, reverting the name to simply Tajik.[1] As of 2004 the de facto standard in use is the Tajik Cyrillic alphabet,[2] and as of 1996 only a very small part of the population can read the Persian alphabet.[3]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Ira M. Lapidus (2012). Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 256–. ISBN 978-0-521-51441-5.
  2. ^ Ira M. Lapidus (2002). A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge University Press. pp. 127–. ISBN 978-0-521-77933-3.
  3. ^ Persian (Fārsī / فارسی), omniglot
  4. ^ "ویژگى‌هاى خطّ فارسى". Academy of Persian Language and Literature.
  5. ^ "??" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-09-05.
  6. ^ "Unicode Characters in the 'Number, Decimal Digit' Category".
  7. ^ ed. Hämmerle 2008, p. 76.
  8. ^ Cavendish 2006, p. 656.
  9. ^ Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001, p. 125.
  10. ^ ed. Buyers 2003, p. 132.
  11. ^ Borjian 2005.
  12. ^ ed. Ehteshami 2002, p. 219.
  13. ^ ed. Malik 1996, p. 274.
  14. ^ Banuazizi & Weiner 1994, p. 33.
  15. ^ Westerlund & Svanberg 1999, p. 186.
  16. ^ ed. Gillespie & Henry 1995, p. 172.
  17. ^ Badan 2001, p. 137.
  18. ^ Winrow 1995, p. 47.
  19. ^ Parsons 1993, p. 8.
  20. ^ RFE/RL, inc, RFE/RL Research Institute 1990, p. 22.
  21. ^ Middle East Institute (Washington, D.C.) 1990, p. 10.
  22. ^ Ochsenwald & Fisher 2010, p. 416.
  23. ^ Gall 2009, p. 785.

External linksEdit