Pashto alphabet

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Excerpt from Khayr ul-Bayān, written in Pashto in Nastaliq in 1651

The Pashto / Pukhto alphabet (پښتو الفبې or پښتو الپبې – Eastern dialect [lesser majority, standardized, official national language of Afghanistan]: pux̌to alifbe [pukh'hto / pukhhto alifbe]; Western dialect [majority spoken in Pakistan]: paṣ̌to alipbe [pash'hto/ paschto alipbe]) is a modified form of the Persian alphabet known as Perso-Arabic, which is itself a derivative of the Arabic alphabet, with letters added to accommodate phonemes used in Pashto that are not found in either Arabic or Persian.

The Pashto alphabet was invented by Pir Roshan during the mid 16th century.


The Pashto alphabet

Pashto is written in the Arabic Naskh.

The Pashto Alphabet
Two of the special Pashto letters: x̌in/ṣ̌in and γ̌ē/ẓ̌e

The Pashto alphabet has several letters which do not appear in any other Arabic script.

The letters representing the retroflex consonants /ʈ /, /ɖ /, / / and /ɳ / are written like the standard Arabic te, dāl, re and nun with a "panḍak", "ğaṛwanday" or also called "skəṇay" attached underneath, which looks like a small circle: ړ, ډ, ټ, and ڼ, respectively. The letters ښ and ږ (x̌īn/ṣ̌īn and ǵe/ẓ̌e) look like sīn (س) and re () respectively with a dot above and beneath.

The letters representing t͡s and d͡z look like a ح with three dots above and an hamza (ء) above; څ and ځ, and are also specific to Pashto in modern times.

Pashto has ی, ې, ۀ, and ۍ for additional vowels and diphthongs as well.

Pashto uses all 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet, and shares 3 letters (چ, پ, and ژ) with Persian and Urdu in the additional letters.


Pashto has 45 letters and 4 diacritic marks. The Southern (S), Central (C) and Northern (N) dialects of Pashto are included.

Name IPA Transliteration Contextual forms Isolated ALA-LC
Latin Unicode
Symbol Examples Final Medial Initial
alep or alef [ɑ] bark ā ـا ـا آ, ا آ, ا ā Ā ā U+0627,
be [b] born b ـب ـبـ بـ ب b B b U+0628
pe [p] peel p ـپ ـپـ پـ پ p P p U+067E
te [t̪] think t ـت ـتـ تـ ت t T t U+062A
ṭe [ʈ] latte (Italian) ـټ ـټـ ټـ ټ U+067C
se2 [s] biscuit s ـث ـثـ ثـ ث S s U+062B
jīm [d͡ʒ] jar j (or ǰ) ـج ـجـ جـ ج j J j U+062C
če [t͡ʃ] cheese č ـچ ـچـ چـ چ ch Č č U+0686
he2 [h] / [x]3 house h ـح ـحـ حـ ح H h U+062D
xe [x] loch (Scottish) x ـخ ـخـ خـ خ kh X x U+062E
ce [t͡s] / [s] cats ts (or c) ـڅ ـڅـ څـ څ C c U+0685
źim [d͡z] / [z] adze dz (or j) ـځ ـځـ ځـ ځ ż Ź ź U+0681
dāl [d̪] d ـد ـد د د d D d U+062F
ḍāl [ɖ] ḍ (or dd) ـډ ـډ ډ ډ U+0689
zāl2 [z] zoo z ـذ ـذ ذ ذ Z z U+0630
re [r] rain r ـر ـر ر ر r R r U+0631
ṛe4 [ɺ̢] (, ɭ̆), [ɻ] ṛ (or rr) ـړ ـړ ړ ړ U+0693
ze [z] zoo z ـز ـز ز ز z Z z U+0632
že [ʒ] / [d͡z] vision, delusion ž ـژ ـژ ژ ژ zh Ž ž U+0698
ẓ̌e (S)
ǵe (C, N)
[ʐ] (S)
[ʝ] (C)
[ɡ] (N)
ẓ̌ (S)
γ̌/ǵ (C)
g (N)
ـږ ـږ ږ ږ ẓh (S)
g'h (C)
g (N)
Ǵ ǵ (or Ẓ̌ ẓ̌) U+0696
sīn [s] biscuit s ـس ـسـ سـ س s S s U+0633
šīn [ʃ] shoo š ـش ـشـ شـ ش sh Š š U+0634
ṣ̌īn (S)
x̌īn (C, N)
[ʂ] (S)
[ç] (C)
[x] (N)
ṣ̌ (S)
x̌ (C)
x (N)
ـښ ـښـ ښـ ښ ṣh (S)
k'h (C)
kh (N)
X̌ x̌ (or Ṣ̌ ṣ̌) U+069A
swād2 [s] biscuit s ـص ـصـ صـ ص S s U+0635
zwād2 [z] zoe z ـض ـضـ ضـ ض Z z, U+0636
twe2 [t̪] t ـط ـطـ طـ ط t T t U+0637
zwe2 [z] zoo z ـظ ـظـ ظـ ظ z Z z U+0638
ayn2 [ɑ] bark a ـع ـعـ عـ ع ʻ nothing U+0639
ğayn [ɣ] gh (or γ) ـغ ـغـ غـ غ gh Ğ ğ U+063A
pe or fe2 [f] / [p]5 peel f ـف ـفـ فـ ف f F f U+0641
kap or qāf [q] / [k]6 keep q ـق ـقـ قـ ق q Q q U+0642
kāf [k] keep k ـک ـکـ کـ ک 7 k K k U+06A9
gāf [ɡ] get g ـګ ـګـ ګـ ګ 8 g G g U+06AB
lām [l] lamb l ـل ـلـ لـ ل l L l U+0644
mīm [m] minute m ـم ـمـ مـ م m M m U+0645
nūn [n] near n ـن ـنـ نـ ن n N n U+0646
ṇūn [ɳ] ṇ (or nn) ـڼ ـڼـ ڼـ ڼ U+06BC
wāw [w], [u], [o] watch , boot (General American) , go(General American) [Note: [o]
is not lengthened]   
w, ū, o ـو ـو و و w, ū, o W w, Ū ū, O o U+0648
gərda he
[h], [a] hey  ; stuck (Cockney) h, a ـه ـهـ هـ ه h, a H h, A a U+0647
kajīra he
[ə] bird (Received Pronunciation) ə ۀ ۀ 13 ə Ə ə U+06C0
klaka ye
[j], [i] yacht; week (General American) y, ī ـي ـيـ يـ ي y, ī Y y, Ī ī U+064A
pasta ye
[e] eight [Note: [e] is not lengthened] ē ـې ـېـ ېـ ې 9 e E e U+06D0
nārīna ye
[ai], [j]10 guy ay, y ـی ـ ـ ی 9 ay, y Ay ay, Y y U+06CC
x̌əźīna ye
[əi] əi ـۍ ـ ـ ۍ 10 ạy Əi əi U+06CD
fāiliya ye / kaṛa ye
[əi], [j]12 əi, y ـئ ـئـ ئـ ئ 9,12 ạy, y Əi əi, Y y U+0626


  • ^1 In the beginning of a word, آ (alif with madda) represents the long vowel /ɑ/ in words borrowed from other languages (e.g. آغاāğā, a title).[1] In the beginning of a word, the alphabet ا (alif) represents the consonant /a/, e.g. اسپهaspa, "mare".[2] In the middle or end of a word, ا represents the long vowel /ɑ/ which is following a consonant (e.g. کال – kāl, "year"; and نيا – nyā, "grandmother").[3][4] In the beginning of a word, the alphabet Alif can also be used with a diactric mark [often not written] e.g. اِ (alif with a zer) as in اِسلامIslām, "Islam (the religion)".[5]
  • ^2 Ten letters, ق ف ع ظ ط ض ص ح ﺫ ث, appear only in loanwords which of Arabic origin through Persian borrowings. Eight of these, ع ظ ط ض ص ح ﺫ ث, represent no additional phonemes of Pashto, and their pronunciation is replaced with other phonemes.
  • ^3 ح /h/ tends to be omitted in pronunciation when at the end of a word, e.g. اصلاح is always pronounced as [isˡlɑ].
  • ^4 The letter ړ represents /ɺ̢/ if it is not at the final position of a syllable; if it is final, it represents /ɻ/.
  • ^5 The phoneme /f/ ف occurs only in loanwords. It tends to be replaced with /p/ پ.
  • ^6 The phoneme /q/ ق occurs only in loanwords. It tends to be replaced with /k/ ک.
  • ^7 It is also common to write the letter ک as ك.
  • ^8 It is also common to write the letter ګ as گ.
  • ^9 In informal texts, ی as well as ې, ۍ and ئ are sometimes replaced by the letter ے, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In some official texts, edited till to the middle of the 20th century, the ے corresponds only to ې, while ۍ and ئ (if only the grammatical use of the latter is not lacked) are used as in official typing nowadays.
  • ^10 ی represents /ai/ when it is following a consonant (e.g. لرګی – largay, "wood"), and represents /j/ when it is following a vowel (e.g. دوی – duy, "they").
  • ^11 The letter ئ represents /j/ after a vowel, e.g. جدائي – judāyī, "separation".
  • ^12 It is also common to write with the hamza over the right side of the letter – ٸ.
  • ^13 The letter ۀ is only represented at the end of a word, e.g. تېرۀ – terə, "sharp". The vowel /ə/ when present between consonants is unrepresented by the ۀ alphabet, e.g. ننوتل – nənawatəl, "to enter".

Historical letters now in disuse

The superscribed element of the letter ځ in earlier varieties was not hamza-shaped, but was very similar to little kāf of the letter ك.[6] Such shape of the upper element of the letter is hard to find in modern fonts.

In the earliest known Pashto manuscript written in 1651 CE,[7] ڊ (dāl with subscript dot) was used for /t͡s/ and /d͡z/, which was still used in the Diwan of Mirza written in 1690 CE, but this sign was soon replaced by څ, which was first attested in 1696–7 CE. څ is now used for only /t͡s/.

Another rare glyph for /d͡z/ is ج֗, a ج with the same dot above.

Diacritic marks

The Pashto diacritic marks: zwarakay, pēš, zēr, and zwar

The four diacritic marks are:

Diacritic Unicode Name Translit. IPA Latin
َ U+064E zwar a [a] a
ٙ U+0659 zwarakay ə [ə] ə
ِ U+0650 zer i [i] i
ُ U+064F peš u [u] u


  • The diacritic marks are not considered separate letters. Their use is optional and are usually not written; they are only occasionally used to distinguish between two words which would otherwise appear similar.
  • In Arabic loanwords, the tanwin fatha (ً) can be used, e.g. مَثَلاً – masalan, "for example".

"Ye" letters

"Ye"-letters in Pashto alphabet
Letter Name Transliteration IPA Position in a word Example
ي klaka ye y, ī [j], [i] can appear anywhere يم
yəm ('I am')
ې pasta ye e [e] middle or end يې
ye ('you (sing.) are')
ی nārīna ye1 ay
when following a consonant
[ai] end ستوری
storay ('star')
when following a vowel
[j] end دوى
duy ('they')
ۍ x̌əźīna ye2 əi [əi] end وړۍ
waṛəi ('wool')
ئ fāiliya ye3 əi [əi] end يئ
yəi ('you (plur.) are')
y [j] middle جدائي
judāyī ('separation')


  • ^1 If ى follows a consonant in a word, it indicates the word is masculine singular and in the direct case.
  • ^2 ۍ always indicates the word it occurs in is feminine.
  • ^3 If ئ occurs at the end of a verb, it indicates the verb is in second person plural form. Note, that sometimes the grammatical ئ was lacked either in the typing as in the alphabet and replaced with the ۍ.

See also


  1. ^ Pashto-English Dictionary
  2. ^ Pashto-English Dictionary
  3. ^ Pashto-English Dictionary
  4. ^ Pashto-English Dictionary
  5. ^ mohammedanisme in Dutch and Flemish-Pashto Dictionary
  6. ^ Ivanov, Vladimir; Novgorodova, Irina. "L2/01-316. Arabic Letter Final/Isolated Kaf Sign" (PDF). Unicode, Inc. 
  7. ^ D. N. MacKenzie, "A Standard Pashto",


  • Awde & Sarwan (2002). "Pashto dictionary & phrasebook", page 24.

External links

  • Pashto phonetic keyboard
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