Open main menu

Wikipedia β

The Urdū Perso-Arabic alphabet, with names in the Devanāgarī and Roman Urdū alphabets

Roman Urdu is the name used for the Urdu language written with the Roman script.

According to the Urdu scholar Habib R. Sulemani: "Roman Urdu is strongly opposed by the traditional Arabic script lovers. Despite this opposition it is still used by most on the internet and computers due to limitations of most technologies as they do not have the Urdu script. Although, this script is under development and thus the net users are using the Roman script in their own ways. Popular websites like Jang Group have devised their own schemes for Roman Urdu. This is of great advantage for those who are not able to read the Arabic script. MSN, Yahoo and some desi-chat-rooms are working as laboratories for the evolving new script and language (Roman Urdu)."[1]

Roman Urdu is often used by multinational corporation like Unilever or Pepsi to save money and resources on printing and advertising while marketing their products in both India and Pakistan.

Although the idea of romanizing Urdu had been suggested several times, it was General Ayub Khan who most seriously suggested adopting the Roman script for Urdu and all Pakistani languages during his rule of the country.[2][3][4] The suggestion was inspired to an extent by Atatürk's adoption of Roman for Turkish in Turkey.


Sample textsEdit

Zabu'r 23 Dáúd ká MazmúrEdit

Roman UrduEdit

1Khudáwand merá chaupán hai; mujhe kamí na hogí.
2Wuh mujhe harí harí charágáhon men bithátá hai: Wuh mijhe ráhat ke chashmon ke pás le játá hai.
3Wuh merí ján ko bahál kartá hai: Wuh mujhe apne nám kí khátir sadáqat kí ráhon par le chaltá hai.
4Balki khwáh maut ke sáye kí wádí men se merá guzar ho, Main kisí balá se nahín darúngá; kyúnknki tú mere sáth hai: Tere 'asá aur terí láthí se mujhe tasallí hai.
5Tú mere dushmanon ke rúbarú mere áge dastarkhwán bichhátá hai: Tú ne mere sir par tel malá hai, merá piyála labrez hotá hai.
6Yaqínan bhalái aur rahmat 'umr bhar mere sáth sáth rahengí: Aur main hamesha Khudáwand ke ghar men sukúnat karúngá.[5]

(Kita'b I Muqaddas: Zabu'r 23 az Dáúd)

Nastaʿlīq (Perso-Arabic) ScriptEdit

خداوند میرا چوپان ہے؛ مجھے کمی نہ ہوگی
وہ مجھے ہری ہری چراگاہوں میں بٹھاتا ہے: وہ مجھے راحت کے چشموں کے پاس لے جاتا ہے۔
وہ میری جان بحال کرتا ہے: وہ مجھے اپنے نام کی خاطر صداقت کی راہوں پر لے چلتا ہے۔
بلکہ خواہ موت کے سایے کی وادی میں سے میرا گزر ہو، میں کسی بلا سے نہیں ڈروں گا؛
کیونکہ تو میرے ساتھ ہے: تیرے عصا اور تیری لاٹھی سے مجھے تسلی ہے۔
تو میرے دشمنین کے روبرو میرے آگے دسترخوان بچھاتا ہے: تو نے میرے سر پر تیل ملا ہے، میرا پیالہ لبریز ہوتا ہے۔
یقیناً بھلائ اور رحمت عمر بھر میرے ساتھ ساتھ رہیں گی: اور میں ہمیشہ خداوند کے گھر میں سکونت کروں گا۔

(کتاب مقدس کے زبور ۲۳ از داؤد)

Devanāgarī scriptEdit

ख़ुदावन्द मेरा चौपान है; मुझे कमी ना होगी।
वह मुझे हरी हरी चिरागाहों में बिठाता है: वह मुझे राहत के चश्मों के पास ले जाता है।
वह मेरी जान बहाल करता है: वह मुझे अपने नाम सदाक़त की राहों पर की चलाता है।
बलके ख़्वाह मौत के साये की वादी में से मेरा गुज़र हो, मैं किसी बला से नहीं ड़रूंगा; क्योंकि तू मेरे साथ है: तेरे अला और तेरी लाठी से मुझे तसल्ली है।
तू मेरे दुश्मनों के रूबरू मेरे आगे दस्तरख़्वान बिछाता है: तू ने मेरे सर पर तेल मला है, मेरा पियाला लब्रेज़ होता है।
यक़ीनन भलाई और रेहमत उमर भर मेरे साथ साथ रहेंगी: और मैं हमेशा ख़ुदावन्द के घर में सकूनत करूंगा।

(किताब-ए मुक़द्दस के ज़ुबूर २३ अज़ दाऊद)

Roman Urdu amongst ChristiansEdit

Roman Urdu Bibles are used by many Christians from the South Asian subcontinent

Urdu was the dominant native language among Christians of Karachi, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan in the 20th century and is still used today by some people in these Pakistani and Indian states. Pakistani and Indian Christians often used the Roman script for writing Urdu. Thus Roman Urdu was a common way of writing among the Christians in these states up to the 1960s. The Bible Society of India publishes Roman Urdu Bibles, which enjoyed sale late into the 1960s (though they are still published today). Church songbooks are also common in Roman Urdu. However, the usage of Roman Urdu in Christian contexts is declining in India with the wider use of Hindi and English in the states.

Roman Urdu and film industryEdit

The Devanāgarī script in Bollywood film titles is used mostly by Hindi speakers while the Perso-Arabic script is used primarily by Urdu speakers. The language used in Bollywood films is Hindi, but can be understood by Urdu speakers alike. Since a significant number of Indians cannot read the Devanāgarī script as India has a diverse linguistic landscape and some people do not speak Hindi, English, which is written in the Latin alphabet, often becomes the way to communicate among Indians who speak different languages. For these reasons, the Roman script is used for most Bollywood film titles, alongside usual Hindi script and occasionally Urdu script, although instances of Urdu script used in Hindi films is becoming increasingly rare.

The similar circumstances are also applied with Pakistan's Lollywood filming industry, where, along with the Urdu name or title of the movie, a Roman Urdu title is always provided for viewers.

Roman Urdu on the InternetEdit

Roman Urdu used on Internet is non standard and has very irregular spellings. Users who use Roman Urdu on Internet try to imitate English orthography. In most cases they are unaware of the fact that English spellings are not often phonetic.

Romanization standards and systemsEdit

There are several Romanization standards for writing Urdu among them the most prominent are Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani Romanization, ALA-LC romanization and ArabTeX.

The Hamari Boli InitiativeEdit

Initiated in 2011, the Hamari Boli Initiative is a full-scale open-source Language planning initiative aimed at Hindustani (Hindi-Urdu) Script, Style, Status & Lexical reform and modernization. One of primary stated objectives of Hamari Boli is to relieve Hindustani of the crippling Devanagari-Nastaliq Digraphia by way of Romanization[6]


There are two main problems with Roman Urdu schemes which exists. Either they are not reversible to Urdu script or they don't allow pronouncing the Urdu words properly. Another shortcoming is that a lot of Roman Urdu schemes confuse the Urdu letter 'Choti He' which has the sound of voiceless glottal fricative with 'Do Chasham He' which is used as a digraph for aspirated consonants in Urdu script. The digraphs "Sh" for letter Shin and "Zh" for letter Zhe also cause problems as they could be interpreted as the letter Sin and 'Choti He' or letter Ze and 'Choti He' respectively. Most Roman Urdu schemes also do not take much consideration of Urdu orthography and the spelling system.


In Pakistan Roman Urdu is promoted by the Liberal, Secular and Westernized sections of the society as an alternate to the Perso-Arabic Script which Urdu uses. In contrast, the adoption of Roman Urdu has stiff opposition from the Conservative classes which see Perso-Arabic Script as the heritage of Indo-Islamic Civilization which Pakistan inherited from the Mughal and other past Islamic empires.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The News International, September 8, 2003, [1]
  2. ^ Paving new paths to romanise Urdu script, Mushir Anwar, Dawn (newspaper), Nov 27, 2008
  3. ^ The Urdu-English Controversy in Pakistan, Tariq Rahman, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Feb., 1997), pp. 177-207
  4. ^ The Language Movement: An Outline Archived 2012-11-19 at the Wayback Machine., Rafiqul Islam
  5. ^ World Bible Translation Center (pdf file)
  6. ^ The News International - Dec 29, 2011 -- "Hamari Boli (our language) is perhaps one of the very first serious undertakings to explore, develop and encourage the growth of Roman script in the use of Urdu/Hindi language"


  • Dua, Hans R. (1994b). Urdu. In Asher (Ed.) (pp. 4863–4864).
  • Insha, Ibn e. (2002) Urdu Ki Aakhri Kitab. New Delhi: Kitab Wala. ISBN 81-85738-57-2.
  • B.S.I. Kita'b I Muqaddas. Bangalore: The Bible Society of India, 1994. ISBN 81-221-3230-8.

External linksEdit