Skip to content

Our guide to writing Arabic in the Latin script

At times it helps to write Arabic words in the Latin alphabet, especially for pronunciation details that are poorly rendered by Arabic script. Indeed, some Lebanese and other Arabs still text like this.

We avoid writing too much Arabic in Latin script — because it distracts you from truly reading Arabic and associating new sounds with their Arabic letters — which is the point of the our Arabic Alphabet Course.

Because some letters have several pronunciations, the most common spoken dialect pronunciation is listed first, followed by more the formal Fusha pronunciation. The dialect or العامية pronunciation will be followed by (ع) while the Classical or الفصحى pronunciation will be followed by (ف). When the pronunciation is the same, they will be unmarked.

This is our system, but others have chosen different ways of using latin script for Arabic. If you are interested in the story of how Arabic has been written differently.

Note: you can view this on your mobile, but it is much easier to read on larger screen.

The Arabic letters that are straightforward in Latin script

The following Arabic letters in our system are replaced by standard latin letters. Some of the more unsual letters tend to be replaced by combinations of letters.

Name & romanisation
Letter
Romanisation
Alternatives
Pronunciation
أَلِف هَمْزة
alif hamza
أَ
أُ
a
u
Coming soon!
إِ
i
بَاء
baa
ب
b
p
The p sound is used in foreign words like باريس, or Paris.
تَاء
taa
ت
t
ثَاء
thaa
ث
s (ع)
t (ع)
th (ف)
جِيم
jiim
ج
j
g
dj
خَاء
khaa
خ
kh
5/7'
دَال
daal
د
d
ذَال
dhaal
ذ
z (ع)
dh (ف)
th
رَاء
raa
ر
r
زَاي
zaay
ز
z
سِين
seen
س
s
شِين
shiin
ش
sh
ch
غَيْنْ
ghayn
غ
gh
g
3'
فَاء
faa
ف
f
كَاف
kaaf
ك
k
g
لاَم
laam
ل
l
مِيم
meem
م
m
نُون
noon
ن
n
هَاء
haa
ه
h
a/e/ah/eh/é
تاء مربوطة
taa marbuTa
ة
eh (ع)
a
t
e/at/et/é

The long vowels

Note the ‘long’ vowels are shown by a doubling or the letter, so ‘a’ becomes ‘aa’, ‘o’ becomes ‘oo’ etc. 

Name & romanisation
Letter
Romanisation
Alternatives
Pronunciation
أَلِف
alif
aa
a/e/è
وَاو
waaw
w
oo
o/ou/u
يَاء
yaa
y
ii
i/ee/ ei/ai/a/é

The emphatics

The emphatics have capitals to show the stronger, ‘emphatic’ version of familiar lower-case letters.

Name & romanisation
Letter
Romanisation
Alternatives
Pronunciation
صَاد
Saad
ص
S
s/9
ضَاد
Daad
ض
D
d/9’
طَاء
Taa
ط
T
t/6
ظَاء
DHaa
ظ
z (ع)
DH (ف)
th/6’

The ‘numbered’ letters

The following four letters have numbers representing them, which look somewhat like their Arabic letters. This practice developed with early mobile phones technology. For more, see here (Coming soon).

Name & romanisation
Letter
Romanisation
Alternatives
Pronunciation
عَيْن
3ayn
ع
3
قَاف
qaaf
ق
q
2
8/9/2/g
حَاء
7aa
ح
7
هَمْزة
hamza
ء
2
وَاو هَمْزة
waaw hamza
ؤ
2
يَاء هَمْزة
yaa hamza
ئ
2

The main short vowel markings

These short vowel markings come above and below the main letters and are not always written outside of childrens’ books, religious texts, or educations work like ours.

Name & romanisation
Letter
Romanisation
Alternatives
Pronunciation
فَتْحَة
fatHa
َ
a
ضَمَّة
Damma
ُ
ou
u/o
كَسْرَة
kasra
ِ
i
e
سُكُون
sokoon
ْ
n/a

Other useful letters/combinations

This misallaneous bunch are often used often, though الف مقصورة is a little less common.

Name & romanisation
Letter
Romanisation
Alternatives
Pronunciation
أداة التعريف
adaat el ta3riif
ال
el (ع)
al (ف)
a
الف مقصورة
alif maqSoora
ى
a
شَدَّة
shadda
ّ
rr
tt
etc.

The common prepositions + definte article

These prespositions are often merged with the work they precede, somtimes creating the following romanisations.

Name & romanisation
Letter
Romanisation
Alternatives
Pronunciation
ال + ع = عال
bil
ب + ال + بال
3al
3al

The rarer ones

These are here for the sake of completeness but are rarely used in Levantine Arabic, but are more common in Classical Arabic or الفصحى.

Name & romanisation
Letter
Romanisation
Alternatives
Pronunciation
أَلِف مَدَّة
alif madda
آ
aaa
تنوين الفتحة
tanwiin elfat7a
ً
an
تنوين الكسر
tanwiin elkasr
ٌ
in
تنوين الضم
tanwiin elDaam
ٍ
oun