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Title: Ẓāʾ  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Ḍād, Tsade, Ghayn, Ancient North Arabian, Northwest Semitic languages
Collection: Arabic Letters
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


ðˤ, zˤ
Position in alphabet 27
Numerical value -
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

Ẓāʾ, or ḏ̣āʾ (ظ), is one of the six letters the Arabic alphabet added to the twenty-two inherited from the Phoenician alphabet (the others being ṯāʾ, ḫāʾ, ḏāl, ḍād, ġayn). In name and shape, it is a variant of ṭāʾ. Its numerical value is 900 (see Abjad numerals).


  • Pronunciation 1
  • Statistics 2
  • In other Semitic languages 3
  • Writing in the Arabic alphabet 4
  • Writing in the Hebrew alphabet 5
  • Character encodings 6
  • See also 7
  • References 8


In Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic it represents a pharyngealized or velarized voiced dental fricative [ðˤ] or [ðˠ]. It is acceptable to pronounce it as a pharyngealized or velarized voiced alveolar fricative [] or [].

In most Arabic vernaculars ظ ẓāʾ and ض ḍād have been merged quite early.[1] The outcome depends on the dialect. In those varieties (such as Egyptian and Levantine), where the dental fricatives /θ, ð/ are merged with the dental stops /t, d/, both ḍād and ẓāʾ are pronounced /dˤ/; in the varieties (such as Bedouin and Iraqi), where the dental fricatives are preserved, both the letters are pronounced /ðˤ/.[1][2][3][4] However, there are dialects in South Arabia and in Mauritania where both the letters are kept different.[1] In loanwords from Classical Arabic ẓāʾ is often /zˤ/, e.g. Egyptian ʿaẓīm (< Classical عظيم ʿaḏ̣īm) "great".[1][2]

"De-emphaticized" pronunciation of the both letters in the form of the plain /z/ entered into other non-Arabic languages such as Persian, Urdu, Turkish.[1] However, there do exist Arabic borrowings into Ibero-Romance languages as well as Hausa and Malay, where ḍād and ẓāʾ are differentiated.[1]


Ẓāʾ is the rarest phoneme of the Arabic language. Out of 2,967 triliteral roots listed by Hans Wehr in his 1952 dictionary, only 42 (1.4%) contain ظ.[5]

In other Semitic languages

In some reconstructions of Proto-Semitic phonology, there is an emphatic interdental fricative, ([θˤ] or [ðˤ]), featuring as the direct ancestor of Arabic ẓāʾ, while it merged with in most other Semitic languages, although the South Arabian alphabet retained a symbol for .

Writing in the Arabic alphabet

Ẓāʾ is written in several ways depending in its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ظ ـظ ـظـ ظـ

Writing in the Hebrew alphabet

When representing this sound in transliteration of Arabic into Hebrew, it is written as ט׳.

Character encodings

Character ظ
Encodings decimal hex
Unicode 1592 U+0638
UTF-8 216 184 D8 B8
Numeric character reference ظ ظ

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f Versteegh, Kees (1999). "Loanwords from Arabic and the merfer of ḍ/ḏ̣". In Arazi, Albert; Sadan, Joseph; Wasserstein, David J. Compilation and Creation in Adab and Luġa: Studies in Memory of Naphtali Kinberg (1948–1997). pp. 273–286. 
  2. ^ a b Versteegh, Kees (2000). "ḍād"Treatise on the pronunciation of the . In Kinberg, Leah; Versteegh, Kees. Studies in the Linguistic Structure of Classical Arabic. Brill. pp. 197–199.  
  3. ^ Ferguson, Charles (1959). "The Arabic koine". Language 35 (4): 630.  
  4. ^ Ferguson, Charles Albert (1997) [1959]. "The Arabic koine". In Belnap, R. Kirk; Haeri, Niloofar. Structuralist studies in Arabic linguistics: Charles A. Ferguson's papers, 1954–1994. Brill. pp. 67–68.  
  5. ^ Wehr, Hans (1952). Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart. 
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