ID:14940 Section: Language

Updated:Sunday 12th October 2014

Urdu ?

Urdu Definition

(Wikipedia) - Urdu This article is about Modern Standard Urdu. For other uses, see Urdu (disambiguation). Urdu Pronunciation Native to Native speakersLanguage familyWriting systemSigned forms Official status Official language in Regulated by Language codes ISO 639-1 ISO 639-2 ISO 639-3 Glottolog Linguasphere
Urdu in Perso-Arabic script (Nastaliq style)
IPA:  ( listen)
Pakistan and India
70 million  (2010) Second language: 40 million (1999)
  • Indo-Iranian
    • Indo-Aryan
      • Central Zone (Hindi)
Arabic (Urdu alphabet) Devanagari Indian Urdu Braille (Bharati) Pakistani Urdu Braille
Indian Signing System (ISS) Signed Urdu

 Pakistan  India; in the following states and union territories:

National Language Authority National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language
59-AAF-q (with Hindi, including 58 varieties: 59-AAF-qaa to 59-AAF-qil)
  Areas where Urdu is official or co-official with local language   (Other) areas where only a regional language is official
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This article contains Urdu text. Without proper rendering support, you may see unjoined letters running left to right or other symbols instead of Urdu script.

Urdu (/ˈʊərduː/; Urdu: اُردُو‎ ALA-LC: Urdū; IPA:  ( listen)), or more precisely Modern Standard Urdu, is a standardized register of the Hindustani language. Urdu is historically associated with the Muslims of the region of Hindustan. It is the national language and lingua franca of Pakistan, and an official language of six Indian states and one of the 22 scheduled languages in the Constitution of India. Apart from specialized vocabulary, Urdu is mutually intelligible with Standard Hindi, which is associated with the Hindu community. The Urdu language received recognition and patronage under the British Raj when the British replaced the Persian and local official languages of North Indian states with the Urdu and English language in 1837.

  • 1 Origin of Urdu
  • 2 Speakers and geographic distribution
  • 3 Official status
  • 4 Dialects
  • 5 Comparison with Modern Standard Hindi
  • 6 Vocabulary
    • 6.1 Levels of formality
    • 6.2 Politeness
    • 6.3 Non-secular feature of Urdu in Pakistan
  • 7 Writing system
    • 7.1 Urdu script
    • 7.2 Kaithi script
    • 7.3 Devanagari script
    • 7.4 Roman script
    • 7.5 Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani romanization
    • 7.6 Differences with Persian alphabet
      • 7.6.1 Encoding Urdu in Unicode
    • 7.7 Sample text
      • 7.7.1 Urdu text
      • 7.7.2 Transliteration (ALA-LC)
      • 7.7.3 IPA transcription
      • 7.7.4 Gloss (word-for-word)
      • 7.7.5 Translation (grammatical)
  • 8 Literature
    • 8.1 Prose
      • 8.1.1 Religious
      • 8.1.2 Literary
    • 8.2 Poetry
      • 8.2.1 Terminology
      • 8.2.2 Urdu poetry example
        • Transliteration
        • Translation
  • 9 Phrases
  • 10 Software
  • 11 See also
  • 12 Notes
  • 13 References
  • 14 Further reading
  • 15 External links

Origin of Urdu Main article: History of Hindustani

Urdu formed from Khariboli—a Prakrit, or vernacular, spoken in North India—by adding Persian and Arabic words to it. Contrary to the widely held misconception it is not formed in the camp of the Mughal armies.

But the word Urdu is derived from the same Turkic word ordu (army) that has given English horde. However, Turkish borrowings in Urdu are minimum. The words that Urdu has borrowed from Turkish and Arabic have been borrowed through Farsi and hence are a Persianized version of the original word, for instance the Arabic ''teh marbuta ( ة ) changes to heh ( ه ) or teh ( ت ).

The Mughal Empire''s official language was Persian. With the advent of the British Raj Persian language was replaced by the Hindustani written in the Persian script and this script was used by both Hindus and Muslims. The name Urdu was first used by the poet Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi around 1780.(p18) From the 13th century until the end of the 18th century Urdu was commonly known as Hindi.(p1) The language was also known by various other names such as Hindavi and Dehlavi".(pp21-22) The communal nature of the language lasted until it replaced Persian as the official language in 1837 and was made co-official, along with English. This triggered a Hindu backlash in northwestern India, which argued that the language should be written in the native Devanagari script. Thus a new literary register, called "Hindi", replaced traditional Hindustani as the official language of Bihar in 1881, establishing a sectarian divide of "Urdu" for Muslims and "Hindi" for Hindus, a divide that was formalized with the division of India and Pakistan after independence (though there are Hindu poets who continue to write in Urdu to this day, with post-independence examples including Gopi Chand Narang and Gulzar). At independence, Pakistan established a highly Persianized literary form of Urdu as its national language.

There have been attempts to "purify" Urdu and Hindi, by purging Urdu of Sanskrit loan words, and Hindi of Persian loan words, and new vocabulary draws primarily from Persian and Arabic for Urdu and from Sanskrit for Hindi. This has primarily affected academic and literary vocabulary, and both national standards remain heavily influenced by both Persian and Sanskrit. English has exerted a heavy influence on both as a co-official language.

Speakers and geographic distribution See also: Languages of Pakistan and Languages of IndiaThe phrase Zuban-i Urdū-yi Muʿallá ("The language of the exalted camp") written in Nastaʿlīq script.

There are between 60 and 70 million native speakers of Urdu: there were 52 million in India per the 2001 census, some 6% of the population; approximately 10 million in Pakistan or 7.57% per the 1998 census; and several hundred thousand in the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, United States, and Bangladesh (where it is called "Bihari"). However, a knowledge of Urdu allows one to speak with far more people than that, as Hindi-Urdu is the fourth most commonly spoken language in the world, after Mandarin, English, and Spanish. Because of the difficulty in distinguishing between Urdu and Hindi speakers in India and Pakistan, as well as estimating the number of people for whom Urdu is a second language, the estimated number of speakers is uncertain and controversial.

Owing to interaction with other languages, Urdu has become localized wherever it is spoken, including in Pakistan itself. Urdu in Pakistan has undergone changes and has lately incorporated and borrowed many words from Pakistani languages like Pashto, Punjabi, Sindhi and Balti as well as former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) Bengali language, thus allowing speakers of the language in Pakistan to distinguish themselves more easily and giving the language a decidedly Pakistani flavour. Similarly, the Urdu spoken in India can also be distinguished into many dialects like Dakhni (Deccan) of South India, and Khariboli of the Punjab region since recent times. Because of Urdu''s similarity to Hindi, speakers of the two languages can easily understand one another if both sides refrain from using specialized vocabulary. The syntax (grammar), morphology, and the core vocabulary are essentially identical. Thus linguists usually count them as one single language and contend that they are considered as two different languages for socio-political reasons.

In Pakistan Urdu is mostly learned as a second or a third language as nearly 93% of Pakistan''s population has a native language other than Urdu. Despite this, Urdu was chosen as a token of unity and as a lingua franca so as not to give any native Pakistani language preference over the other. Urdu is therefore spoken and understood by the vast majority in some form or another, including a majority of urban dwellers in such cities as Karachi, Lahore, Sialkot, Rawalpindi, Islamabad, Multan, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Quetta, Jhang, Sargodha and Skardu. It is written, spoken and used in all provinces/territories of Pakistan despite the fact that the people from differing provinces may have different indigenous languages, as from the fact that it is the "base language" of the country. For this reason, it is also taught as a compulsory subject up to higher secondary school in both English and Urdu medium school systems. This has produced millions of Urdu speakers from people whose native language is one of the State languages of Pakistan such as Punjabi, Pashto, Sindhi, Balochi, Potwari, Hindko, Pahari, Saraiki, Balti, and Brahui who can read and write only Urdu. It is absorbing many words from the regional languages of Pakistan. This variation of Urdu is sometimes referred to as Pakistani Urdu.

So although most of the population is conversant in Urdu, it is the first language of only an estimated 7% of the population who are mainly Muslim immigrants (known as Muhajir in Pakistan) from different parts of South Asia. The regional languages are also being influenced by Urdu vocabulary. There are millions of Pakistanis whose native language is not Urdu, but because they have studied in Urdu medium schools, they can read and write Urdu along with their native language. Most of the nearly five million Afghan refugees of different ethnic origins (such as Pashtun, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazarvi, and Turkmen) who stayed in Pakistan for over twenty-five years have also become fluent in Urdu. With such a large number of people(s) speaking Urdu, the language has in recent years acquired a peculiar Pakistani flavour further distinguishing it from the Urdu spoken by native speakers and diversifying the language even further.

Autograph and a couplet of Last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah II, dated 29 April 1844

A great number of newspapers are published in Urdu in Pakistan, including the Daily Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Millat, among many others (see List of newspapers in Pakistan#Urdu language Newspapers).

In India, Urdu is spoken in places where there are large Muslim minorities or cities that were bases for Muslim Empires in the past. These include parts of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra (Marathwada), Karnataka and cities namely Lucknow, Delhi, Bareilly, Meerut, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee, Deoband, Moradabad, Azamgarh, Bijnor, Najibabad, Rampur, Aligarh, Allahabad, Gorakhpur, Agra, Kanpur, Badaun, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Mysore, Patna, Gulbarga, Nanded, Malegaon, Bidar, Ajmer, and Ahmedabad. Some Indian schools teach Urdu as a first language and have their own syllabus and exams. Indian madrasahs also teach Arabic as well as Urdu. India has more than 3,000 Urdu publications including 405 daily Urdu newspapers. Newspapers such as Neshat News Urdu,Sahara Urdu, Daily Salar, Hindustan Express, Daily Pasban, Siasat Daily, The Munsif Daily and Inqilab are published and distributed in Bengaluru, Malegaon, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai (see List of newspapers in India).

Outside South Asia, it is spoken by large numbers of migrant South Asian workers in the major urban centres of the Persian Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. Urdu is also spoken by large numbers of immigrants and their children in the major urban centres of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Germany, Norway, and Australia. Along with Arabic, Urdu is among the immigrant languages with the most speakers in Catalonia, leading to fears of linguistic ghettos.

Official statusA trilingual signboard in the UAEA multilingual New Delhi railway station board

Urdu is the national and one of the two official languages of Pakistan, along with English, and is spoken and understood throughout the country, whereas the state-by-state languages (languages spoken throughout various regions) are the provincial languages. Only 8% of Pakistanis have Urdu as their native language, but Urdu is understood all over Pakistan. It is used in education, literature, office and court business. It holds in itself a repository of the cultural and social heritage of the country. Although English is used in most elite circles, and Punjabi has a plurality of native speakers, Urdu is the lingua franca and national language of Pakistan.

Urdu is also one of the officially recognized languages in India and has official language status in the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana, Jammu and Kashmir and the national capital, New Delhi.

In Jammu and Kashmir, section 145 of the Kashmir Constitution provides: "The official language of the State shall be Urdu but the English language shall unless the Legislature by law otherwise provides, continue to be used for all the official purposes of the State for which it was being used immediately before the commencement of the Constitution."

The importance of Urdu in the Muslim world is visible in the Islamic Holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, where most informational signage is written in Arabic, English and Urdu, and sometimes in other languages.


Urdu has a few recognised dialects, including Dakhni, Rekhta, and Modern Vernacular Urdu (based on the Khariboli dialect of the Delhi region). Dakhni (also known as Dakani, Deccani, Desia, Mirgan) is spoken in Deccan region of southern India. It is distinct by its mixture of vocabulary from Marathi and Konkani, as well as some vocabulary from Arabic, Persian and Turkish that are not found in the standard dialect of Urdu. Dakhini is widely spoken in all parts of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Urdu is read and written as in other parts of India. A number of daily newspapers and several monthly magazines in Urdu are published in these states. In terms of pronunciation, the easiest way to recognize a native speaker is their pronunciation of the letter "qāf" (ق) as "ḵẖe" (خ).

The Pakistani variant of the language becomes increasingly divergent from the Indian dialects and forms of Urdu, as it has absorbed many loan words, proverbs and phonetics from Pakistan''s indigenous languages such as Pashto, Punjabi, Balochi and Sindhi. Furthermore, due to the region''s history, the Urdu dialect of Pakistan draws heavily from the Persian and Arabic languages, and the intonation and pronunciation are more formal compared with corresponding Indian dialects.

In addition, Rekhta (or Rekhti), the language of Urdu poetry, is sometimes counted as a separate dialect, one famously used by several poets of high acclaim in the bulk of their work. These included Mirza Ghalib, Mir Taqi Mir and Muhammad Iqbal.

Urdu spoken in Indian state of Odisha is different from Urdu spoken in other areas; it is a mixture of Oriya and Bihari.

Comparison with Modern Standard HindiUrdu and Hindi on a road sign in India.See also: Hindi–Urdu controversy, Hindustani phonology and Hindustani grammar

Standard Urdu is often contrasted with Standard Hindi. Apart from religious associations, the differences are largely restricted to the standard forms: Standard Urdu is conventionally written in the Nastaliq style of the Persian alphabet and relies heavily on Persian and Arabic as a source for technical and literary vocabulary, whereas Standard Hindi is conventionally written in Devanāgarī and draws on Sanskrit. However, both have large numbers of Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit words, and most linguists consider them to be two standardized forms of the same language, and consider the differences to be sociolinguistic, though a few classify them separately. Old Urdu dictionaries also contain majority of the Sanskrit words now present in Hindi. Mutual intelligibility decreases in literary and specialized contexts that rely on educated vocabulary. Further, it is quite easy in a longer conversation to distinguish differences in vocabulary and pronunciation of some Urdu phonemes. Due to religious nationalism since the partition of British India and continued communal tensions, native speakers of both Hindi and Urdu frequently assert them to be distinct languages, despite the numerous similarities between the two in a colloquial setting.

The barrier created between the Hindi and Urdu is eroding: Hindi-speakers are comfortable with using Persian-Arabic borrowed words and Urdu-speakers are also comfortable with using Sanskrit terminology.

Vocabulary See also: Hindustani etymology

The language''s Indo-Aryan base has been enriched by borrowing from Persian and Arabic. There are also a smaller number of borrowings from Chagatai, Portuguese, and more recently English. Many of the words of Arabic origin have been adopted through Persian and have different pronunciations and nuances of meaning and usage than they do in Arabic.

Levels of formality

Urdu in its less formalised register has been referred to as a rek̤h̤tah (ریختہ, ), meaning "rough mixture". The more formal register of Urdu is sometimes referred to as zabān-i Urdū-yi muʿallá (زبانِ اُردُوئے معلّٰى ), the "Language of the Exalted Camp", referring to the Imperial army.

The etymology of the word used in the Urdu language for the most part decides how polite or refined one''s speech is. For example, Urdu speakers would distinguish between پانی pānī and آب āb, both meaning "water"; the former is used colloquially and has older Indic origins, whereas the latter is used formally and poetically, being of Persian origin.

If a word is of Persian or Arabic origin, the level of speech is considered to be more formal and grand. Similarly, if Persian or Arabic grammar constructs, such as the izafat, are used in Urdu, the level of speech is also considered more formal and grand. If a word is inherited from Sanskrit, the level of speech is considered more colloquial and personal. This distinction is similar to the division in English between words of Latin, French and Old English origins.


Urdu syntax and vocabulary reflect a three tiered system of politeness called ādāb. Due to its emphasis on politeness and propriety, Urdu has always been considered an elevated, somewhat aristocratic, language in South Asia. It continues to conjure a subtle, polished affect in South Asian linguistic and literary sensibilities and thus continues to be preferred for song-writing and poetry, even by non-native speakers.

Any verb can be conjugated as per three or four different tiers of politeness. For example, the verb to speak in Urdu is bolnā (بولنا) and the verb to sit is baiṭhnā (بیٹھنا). The imperatives "speak!" and "sit!" can thus be conjugated five different ways, each marking subtle variation in politeness and propriety. These permutations exclude a host of auxiliary verbs and expressions that can be added to these verbs to add even greater degree of subtle variation. For extremely polite, formal or ceremonial situations, nearly all commonly used verbs have equivalent Persian/Arabic synonyms (last row below).

Disparaging/Extremely casual bol! !تُو] بول] [तू] बोल! [tū] baiṭh! !تُو] بیٹھ] [तू] बैठ!
Casual and intimate [tum] bolo. تُم] بولو۔] [तुम] बोलो [tum] baiṭho. تُم] بیٹھو۔] [तुम] बैठो
Polite and intimate[note 2] [āp] bolo. آپ] بولو۔] [आप] बोलो [āp] baiṭho. آپ] بیٹھو۔] [आप] बैठो
Formal yet intimate [āp] boleṉ. آپ] بولیں۔] [आप] बोलें [āp] baiṭheṉ. آپ] بیٹھیں۔] [आप] बैठें
Polite and formal [āp] boli''e. آپ] بولئے۔] [आप] बोलिए [āp] baiṭhi''e. آپ] بیٹھئے۔] [आप] बैठिए
Ceremonial / Extremely formal (Persian) [āp] farmā''iye. آپ] فرمائیے۔] [आप] फ़रमाइये [āp] tas̱ẖrīf rakhi''e. ‏[آپ] تشریف رکھئے۔ [आप] तशरीफ़ रखिए

Similarly, nouns are also marked for politeness and formality. For example, us kī wālidah, "his mother" is a politer way of saying us kī ammī. Us kī wālidah-yi muḥtarmah is an even more polite reference, whereas saying us kī māṉ would be construed as derogatory. None of these forms are slang or shortenings, and all are encountered in writing.

Expressions are also marked for politeness. For example, the expression "no" could be nah, nahīṉ, nahīṉ jī or jī nahīṉ in order of politeness. Similarly, "yes" can be hāṉ, jī, hāṉ jī or jī hāṉ in order of politeness.

Non-secular feature of Urdu in Pakistan

In the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, use of certain Urdu words is reserved for Muslims only. Shaheed (شہید) is essentially meant to be used for Muslim martyrs and marḥūm (مرحوم) "late" (literally "in position of mercy") is only used before Muslim names. In contrast, the word for "late" used with a non-Muslim is ānjahānī (آنجہانی), a Persian coinage that means the deceased person belongs to the other world. If someone refers to a deceased Muslim as ānjahānī, that person is likely to be rebuked.[citation needed]

There are no such taboos in secular India. Shaheed (شہید/शहीद} is used to refer to all honourable martyrs regardless of religion or cause.[48][49] Similarly, marḥūm is used freely in the Urdu press to refer to any deceased person. The neologism ānjahānī has no communal or religious connotations.

Writing system Main articles: Urdu alphabet and Urdu braille Further information: Hindustani orthographyThe Urdu Nastaʿliq alphabet, with names in the Devanāgarī and Latin alphabetsUrdu script

Urdu is written right-to left in an extension of the Persian alphabet, which is itself an extension of the Arabic alphabet. Urdu is associated with the Nastaʿlīq style of Persian calligraphy, whereas Arabic is generally written in the Naskh or Ruq''ah styles. Nasta’liq is notoriously difficult to typeset, so Urdu newspapers were hand-written by masters of calligraphy, known as katib or khush-navees, until the late 1980s.[citation needed] One handwritten Urdu newspaper, The Musalman, is still published daily in Chennai.[50]

Kaithi script

Urdu was also written in the Kaithi script. A highly Persianized and technical form of Urdu was the lingua franca of the law courts of the British administration in Bengal, Bihar, and the North-West Provinces & Oudh. Until the late 19th century, all proceedings and court transactions in this register of Urdu were written officially in the Persian script. In 1880, Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal abolished the use of the Persian alphabet in the law courts of Bengal and Bihar and ordered the exclusive use of Kaithi, a popular script used for both Urdu and Hindi.[51] Kaithi''s association with Urdu and Hindi was ultimately eliminated by the political contest between these languages and their scripts, in which the Persian script was definitively linked to Urdu.

Devanagari script

More recently in India, Urdu speakers have adopted Devanagari for publishing Urdu periodicals and have innovated new strategies to mark Urdū in Devanagari as distinct from Hindi in Devanagari. Such publishers have introduced new orthographic features into Devanagari for the purpose of representing the Perso-Arabic etymology of Urdu words. One example is the use of अ (Devanagari a) with vowel signs to mimic contexts of ع (‘ain), in violation of Hindi orthographic rules. For Urdu publishers, the use of Devanagari gives them a greater audience, whereas the orthographic changes help them preserve a distinct identity of Urdu.[52]

Roman script Main article: Roman Urdu

Urdu is occasionally written in the Roman script. Roman Urdu has been used since the days of the British Raj, partly as a result of the availability and low cost of Roman movable type for printing presses. The use of Roman Urdu was common in contexts such as product labels. Today it is regaining popularity among users of text-messaging and Internet services and is developing its own style and conventions. Habib R. Sulemani says,

"The younger generation of Urdu-speaking people around the world, especially Pakistan, are using Romanised Urdu on the Internet and it has become essential for them, because they use the Internet and English is its language. Typically, in that sense, a person from Islamabad in Pakistan may chat with another in Delhi in India on the Internet only in Roman Urdū. They both speak the same language but would have different scripts. Moreover, the younger generation of those who are from the English medium schools or settled in the west, can speak Urdu but can’t write it in the traditional Arabic script and thus Roman Urdu is a blessing for such a population."[53]

Roman Urdu holds significance among the Christians of Pakistan and North India. Urdū was the dominant native language among Christians of Karachi and Lahore in present-day Pakistan and Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh Rajasthan in India, during the early part of the 19th and 20th century, and is still used by Christians in these places. Pakistani and Indian Christians often used the Roman script for writing Urdū. Thus Roman Urdū was a common way of writing among Pakistani and Indian Christians in these areas up to the 1960s. The Bible Society of India publishes Roman Urdū Bibles that enjoyed sale late into the 1960s (though they are still published today). Church songbooks are also common in Roman Urdū. However, the usage of Roman Urdū is declining with the wider use of Hindi and English in these states.

Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani romanization Main article: Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani Romanization

Uddin and Begum Urdu-Hindustani Romanization is another system for Hindustani. It was proposed by Syed Fasih Uddin (late) and Quader Unissa Begum (late). As such is adopted by The First International Urdu Conference (Chicago) 1992, as "The Modern International Standard Letters of Alphabet for URDU-(HINDUSTANI) - The INDIAN Language script for the purposes of hand written communication, dictionary references, published material and Computerized Linguistic Communications (CLC)".

There are significant advantages to this transcription system:

  • It provides a standard that is based on the original works undertaken at the Fort William College, Calcutta, India (established 1800), under John Borthwick Gilchrist (1789–1841), which has become the de facto standard for Hindustani during the late 1800.
  • There is a one-to-one representation for each of the original Urdu-Hindustani characters.
  • Vowel sounds are written rather than being assumed as they are in the Urdu alphabet.
  • Unlike Gilchrist’s alphabet, which used many special non-ASCII characters, the proposed alphabet only utilizes ASCII.
  • Because it is ASCII based, more resources and tools are available.
  • Liberate Urdu–Hindustani language to be written and communicated utilizing all of the available standards and free us from Unicode conversion drudgery.
  • Urdu–Hindustani with this character set fully utilizes paper and electronic print media.
Differences with Persian alphabet Main article: Persian and Urdu

The Persian alphabet has been extended for Urdu with additional letters ٹ ,ڈ ,ڑ (ṫ, ḋ, ṙ). In order to make the language suitable for the people of South Asia (mainly Pakistan & North India), two letters ه (h) and ی (y) were split into two letters each, to add dimensions in use. ه (h) is used independently, as any other letter, in words such as ہم (ham—we) and باہم (bāham—mutual). As an extended use, a variant of ه (h), ھ (ḣ) is used to denote uniquely defined phonetics of South Asian origin: here it is referred to as dō-čašmī hē (two-eyed h). Examples of such words are دهڑکن (dḣaṙkan—heartbeat) and بھارت (Bḣārat—India). Similarly, ی is used in two vowel forms: Čōṫī yē (ی—small y) and Baṙī yē (ے—big y). "Small y" denotes the vowel sound similar to "ea" in the English word "heat", as in the word ساتھی (sātḣī—companion) and is also used for the Urdu semi-vowel "y", as in word یار (yār—friend). "Big y" gives the sound similar to "a" in the word "late" (full vowel sound — not like a diphthong), as in the word کے (kē—of). However, in the written form, both "big y" and "small y" are the same when the vowel falls in the middle of a word and the letters need to be joined according to the rules of Urdu grammar. "Big y" is also used for the sound "a" as in the English word "apple", as in the word مے (mẹ̱—wine). Similarly the letter و is used to denote the vowel sound "oo" as in the word "food", as in لوٹ (lūṫ—loot); "o" similar to the sound in the word "vote", as in دو (dō—two), and is also used as a consonant "w" similar to that in the word "war", as in وظیفہ (waẓīfah—stipend). It is also used to represent the "au" sound as in the word "caught", as in کون (kọ̱—who). و is silent in many words of Persian origin such as خواب (dream) and خواہش (desire). It has a diminutive sound similar to "ou" in "would" and "could", as in the words خود (self) and خوش (happy). The vowel/accent marks (اعراب) mainly support the core Arabic vowels. Non-Arabic vowels such as -o- in mor مور- (peacock) and the -e- as in Estonia (ایسٹونیا) are referred as مجہول (alien/ignorant phonetics) and hence are not supported by the vowel/accent marks (اعراب). A description of these vowel marks and the word formation in Urdu can be found at the ukindia.com website.[54]

Encoding Urdu in Unicode

Like other writing systems derived from the Arabic script, Urdu uses the 0600–06FF Unicode range.[55] Certain glyphs in this range appear visually similar (or identical when presented using particular fonts) even though the underlying encoding is different. This presents problems for information storage and retrieval. For example, the University of Chicago''s electronic copy of John Shakespear''s "A Dictionary, Hindustani, and English"[56] includes the word ''بهارت'' (India). Searching for the string "بھارت" returns no results, whereas querying with the (identical-looking in many fonts) string "بهارت" returns the correct entry.[57] This is because the medial form of the Urdu letter do chashmi he (U+06BE) — used to form aspirate digraphs in Urdu — is visually identical in its medial form to the Arabic letter hāʾ (U+0647; phonetic value /h/). In Urdu, the /h/ phoneme is represented by the character U+06C1, called gol he (round he), or chhoti he (small he).

Confusable glyphs in Urdu and Arabic script Characters in Urdu Characters in Arabic
ہ (U+06C1), ھ (U+06BE) ه (U+0647)
ی (U+06CC) ى (U+0649), ي (U+064A)
ک (U+06A9) ك (U+0643)

In 2003, the Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing (CRULP)[58] — a research organization affiliated with Pakistan''s National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences — produced a proposal for mapping from the 1-byte UZT encoding of Urdu characters to the Unicode standard.[59] This proposal suggests a preferred Unicode glyph for each character in the Urdu alphabet.

Sample text

The following is a sample text in Urdu, of the Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (by the United Nations):

Urdu textدفعہ ۱: تمام انسان آزاد اور حقوق و عزت کے اعتبار سے برابر پیدا ہوئے ہیں۔ انہیں ضمیر اور عقل ودیعت ہوئی ہے۔ اس لئے انہیں ایک دوسرے کے ساتھ بھائ چارے کا سلوک کرنا چاہئے۔

Transliteration (ALA-LC)Dafʿah 1: Tamām insān āzād aur ḥuqūq o-ʿizzat ke iʿtibār se barābar paidā hūʾe haiṉ. Unheṉ ẓamīr aur ʿaql wadīʿat hūʾī hai. Is liʾe unheṉ ek dūsre ke sāth bhāʾī chāre kā sulūk karnā chāhiʾe.IPA transcriptiond̪əfɑ eːk: t̪əmɑːm ɪnsɑːn ɑːzɑːd̪ ɔːr hʊquːq oː-ɪzzət̪ keː eːt̪ɪbɑːr seː bərɑːbər pɛːd̪ɑ ɦueː ɦɛ̃ː. ʊnɦẽː zəmiːr ɔːr əql ʋəd̪iːət̪ hui hɛː. ɪs lieː ʊnɦẽː eːk d̪uːsreː keː sɑːt̪ʰ bʱaːi t͡ʃɑːreː kɑ sʊluːk kərnɑ t͡ʃɑːɦie.Gloss (word-for-word)Article 1: All humans free[,] and rights and dignity *(''s) consideration from equal born are. Them to conscience and intellect endowed is. This for, they one another *(''s) with brotherhood *(''s) treatment do should.Translation (grammatical)Article 1: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience. Therefore, they should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Note: *(''s) represents a possessive case that, when written, is preceded by the possessor and followed by the possessed, unlike the English "of".

Literature Main article: Urdu literature

Urdu has become a literary language only in recent centuries, as Persian was formerly the idiom of choice for the Muslim courts of North India. However, despite its relatively late development, Urdu literature boasts of some world-recognised artists and a considerable corpus.

Prose Religious

Urdu holds the largest collection of works on Islamic literature and Sharia. These include translations and interpretation of the Qur''an as well as commentary on Hadith, Fiqh, history, spirituality, Sufism and metaphysics. A great number of classical texts from Arabic and Persian have also been translated into Urdu. Relatively inexpensive publishing, combined with the use of Urdu as a lingua franca among Muslims of South Asia, has meant that Islam-related works in Urdu far outnumber such works in any other South Asian language. Popular Islamic books are also written in Urdu.

It is interesting to note that a treatise on Astrology was penned in Urdu by Pandit Roop Chand Joshi in the eighteenth century. The book, known as Lal Kitab, is widely popular in North India among astrologers and was written at a time when Urdu was very much spoken in the Brahmin families of that region.


Secular prose includes all categories of widely known fiction and non-fiction work, separable into genres. The dāstān, or tale, a traditional story that may have many characters and complex plotting. This has now fallen into disuse.

The afsāna or short story is probably the best-known genre of Urdu fiction. The best-known afsāna writers, or afsāna nigār, in Urdu are Munshi Premchand, Saadat Hasan Manto, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Krishan Chander, Qurratulain Hyder (Qurat-ul-Ain Haider), Ismat Chughtai, Ghulam Abbas, and Ahmad Nadeem Qasimi. Towards the end of last century Paigham Afaqui''s novel Makaan appeared with a reviving force for Urdu novel resulting into writing of novels getting a boost in Urdu literature and a number of writers like Ghazanfer, Abdus Samad, Sarwat Khan and Musharraf Alam Zauqi have taken the move forward. Munshi Premchand, became known as a pioneer in the afsāna, though some contend that his were not technically the first as Sir Ross Masood had already written many short stories in Urdu. Novels form a genre of their own, in the tradition of the English novel. Other genres include saférnāma (travel story), mazmoon (essay), sarguzisht (account/narrative), inshaeya (satirical essay), murasela (editorial), and khud navvisht (autobiography).

Poetry Main article: Urdu poetry Further information: Urdu poetsMir Taqi Mir (1723–1810) (Urdu: میر تقی میر‎) was the leading Urdu poet of the 18th century in the courts of Mughal Empire and Nawabs of AwadhAn illustrated manuscript of one of Amir Khusrau''s (1253–1325 CE) Persian poemsAllama Muhammad Iqbal, the national poet of Pakistan

Urdu has been one of the premier languages of poetry in South Asia for two centuries, and has developed a rich tradition in a variety of poetic genres. The Ghazal in Urdu represents the most popular form of subjective music and poetry, whereas the Nazm exemplifies the objective kind, often reserved for narrative, descriptive, didactic or satirical purposes. Under the broad head of the Nazm we may also include the classical forms of poems known by specific names such as Masnavi (a long narrative poem in rhyming couplets on any theme: romantic, religious, or didactic), Marsia (an elegy traditionally meant to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Husayn ibn Ali, grandson of Muhammad, and his comrades of the Karbala fame), or Qasida (a panegyric written in praise of a king or a nobleman), for all these poems have a single presiding subject, logically developed and concluded. {However, these poetic species have an old world aura about their subject and style, and are different from the modern Nazm, supposed to have come into vogue in the later part of the nineteenth century. Probably the most widely recited, and memorised genre of contemporary Urdu poetry is nāt—panegyric poetry written in praise of the Prophet Muhammad. Nāt can be of any formal category, but is most commonly in the ghazal form. The language used in Urdu nāt ranges from the intensely colloquial to a highly Persified formal language. The great early 20th century scholar Ala Hazrat, Imam Ahmed Raza Khan Barelvi, who wrote many of the most well known nāts in Urdu (the collection of his poetic work is Hadaiq-e-Baqhshish), epitomised this range in a ghazal of nine stanzas (bayt) in which every stanza contains half a line each of Arabic, Persian, formal Urdu, and colloquial Hindi.

Another important genre of Urdu prose are the poems commemorating the martyrdom of Husayn ibn Ali at the Battle of Karbala, called noha (نوحہ) and marsia. Anees and Dabeer are famous in this regard.


As̱ẖʿār (اشعار, verse, couplets): It consists of two hemistiches (lines) called Miṣraʿ (مصرع); first hemistich (line) is called مصرعِ اولٰى (Miṣraʿ-i ūlá) and the second is called (مصرعِ ثانی) (Miṣraʿ-i s̱ānī). Each verse embodies a single thought or subject (singular) شِعر s̱ẖiʿr.

In the Urdu poetic tradition, most poets use a pen name called the taḵẖalluṣ. This can be either a part of a poet''s given name or something else adopted as an identity. The traditional convention in identifying Urdu poets is to mention the taḵẖalluṣ at the end of the name. Thus Ghalib, whose official name and title was Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan, is referred to formally as Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib, or in common parlance as just Mirza Ghalib. Because the taḵẖalluṣ can be a part of their actual name, some poets end up having that part of their name repeated, such as Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

The word taḵẖalluṣ is derived from Arabic, meaning "ending". This is because in the ghazal form, the poet would usually incorporate his or her pen name into the final couplet (maqt̤aʿ) of each poem as a type of "signature".

Urdu poetry example

This is Ghalib''s famous couplet in which he compares himself to his great predecessor, the master poet Mir:[60]

          ریختہ کے تمہی استاد نہیں ہو غاؔلب           ؎
کہتے ہیں اگلے زمانہ میں کوئی میرؔ بهی تها
TransliterationReḵẖtah ke tumhī ustād nahīṉ ho G̱ẖālib Kahte haiṉ agle zamānih meṉ ko''ī Mīr bhī thāTranslationYou are not the only master of Rekhta,[note 3] Ghalib (They) say that in the past there also was someone (named) Mir.Phrases English Urdu Transliteration Notes
(Hello) Peace be upon you. السلامُ علیکم۔ Assalām-u-Alaikum. lit. "Peace be upon you." (from Arabic). Often shortened to ''Salām''.
(Reply to Salam) Peace be upon you, too. وَعلیکُم السلام۔ Wa-Alaikumussalām. lit. "And upon you, peace." Response to assalāmu alaikum.
Hello. آداب (عَرض ہے)۔ ādāb (arz hai). lit. "Regards (are expressed).", a very formal secular greeting.
Goodbye. خُدا حافِظ، اللّٰہ حافِظ۔ Khuda Hāfiz, Allah Hāfiz. lit. "May God be your Guardian". "Khuda" from Persian for "God", "Allah" from Arabic for "God".
Yes. ہاں۔ hāⁿ. casual.
Yes جی۔ jī. formal.
Yes. جی ہاں۔ jī hāⁿ. confident formal.
No. نَہ۔ nā. rare.
No. نَہیں nahīⁿ informal.
No. نَہیں، جی نَہیں۔ nahīⁿ, jī nahīⁿ. casual; jī nahīⁿ is formal.
Please آپ کی) مَہَربانی۔) (āp kī) meherbānī. lit. "(Your) kindness" Also used for "thank you".
Thank you. شُکرِیَہ۔ shukriyā. from Arabic shukran.
Please, come in. تَشریف لائیے۔ tashrīf la''iyē. lit. "(Please) bring your honour".
Please, have a seat. تَشریف رکهِئے۔ tashrīf rakhi''ē. lit. "(Please) place your honour".
I am happy to meet you. آپ سے مِل کر خوشی ہوئی۔ āp sē mil kar khushī hū''ī. lit. "(I) felt happiness (after) meeting you".
Do you speak English? کیا آپ انگریزی بولتے/بولتی ہیں؟ kyā āp angrēzī bōltē/boltī haiⁿ? "bōltē" is for a male addressee, "bōltī" is for female.
I do not speak Urdu. میں اردو نہیں بولتا/بولتی۔ maiⁿ urdū nahīⁿ boltā/boltī. boltā is for masculine speaker, boltī is for feminine.
My name is __ . میرا نام ۔۔۔ ہے۔ merā nām __ hai.
Which way to Karachi? کراچی کس طرف/ اور ہے؟ Karachi kis taraf/ōr hai?[note 4] lit. "Which direction is Karachi (in)?"
Where is Lucknow? لکھنؤ کہاں ہے؟ lakhnau kahāⁿ hai?
Urdu is a good language. اردو اچّهی زبان ہے۔ urdū achhī zabān hai.

The Daily Jang was the first Urdu newspaper to be typeset digitally in Nasta’liq by computer. There are efforts underway to develop more sophisticated and user-friendly Urdu support on computers and the Internet. Nowadays, nearly all Urdu newspapers, magazines, journals, and periodicals are composed on computers via various Urdu software programmes, the most widespread of which is InPage Desktop Publishing package. Microsoft has included Urdu language support in all new versions of Windows and both Windows Vista and Microsoft Office 2007 are available in Urdu through Language Interface Pack[61] support. Most Linux Desktop distributions allow the easy installation of Urdu support and translations as well.[62]

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