Introduction to Arabic Alphabet: 16

Remember how the "ay" meaning "what" looked? This is "il shaay", which you learnt means "the tea".

The Arabic letter J looks like the English letter J but backwards. Only it is a cross between a capital J and a lowercase j. It has the stroke across the top of a capital J, and also the dot of the lowercase j. The dot goes INSIDE the J rather than on top.

ﺞ ﺝ

You may have heard some people say there was no J sound in Arabic. Actually there is no J sound in the EGYPTIAN dialect, but the other dialects all have a normal English J sound. For example the Hajj means the famous pilgrimage to Mecca. Jihad means crusade (in any sense of the word) or literally "The Struggle". So there is definately a J in Arabic, and this is it.

In Egypt the J is pronounced like the letter G instead. So they say "Hagg" and "Gihad". There is no letter G in Arabic. So all those G sounds you learned in Egyptian Arabic are spelt with a J. For example Gamal (meaning Camel) is spelt "Jamal" with a J, and pronounced "Jamal" outside Egypt. In English we obviously borrowed the Egyptian pronounciation.

Unfortunately the J only looks like a J when it is at the end of a word, or when the previous letter can’t link to it. Because when it is in the middle of a word, the bottom is chopped off. The dot is still there below the letter though. So with the bottom chopped off, it looks like this:

Much harder to recognise as a J. At the start of a word, it doesn’t have that bit in the bottom right connecting it to the previous word, so it looks like this:

Now it looks a bit like a squashed J, with a dot under it. Although to me J looks more like a wave breaking when it is not at the end of a word.

So here is the word "Jamal" (Which Egyptians pronounce Gamal) meaning Camel:


And the very similar word "Jamyl" (Gamyl) meaning beautiful:


If you remove the dot from the J it stops being a J, and starts being a very breathy H. With no dot it is the H described as breathing on your glasses. It is the H in MaHmoud. In English it is often written as a capital H. It is different from the ordinary English h and different from the KH sound from European languages. Here are four H’s in a row:

ﺣﺤﺢ ﺡ

What is this word?


  1. In the transcription, you will have a double "j".
  2. This means "my brother".
  3. This is two words, the name of an American corporation (and you have already encountered the second part of that name).
  4. This is the word for "market".
  5. Watch out for the double "l".
  6. The American spelling is "Ghana".
  7. This word is "manager" in Egyptian Arabic.
  8. This is the word for she, similar to the English "hey ya!"
  9. This is the Egyptian Arabic word for Egypt. 
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