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Ghayn

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Ghayn

The Arabic letter غ (Arabic: غينghayn or ġayn) is the nineteenth letter of the Arabic alphabet, one of the six letters not in the twenty-two akin to the Phoenician alphabet (the others being thāʼ, khāʼ, dhāl, ḍād, ẓāʼ). It is the twenty-second letter in the new Persian alphabet. It represents the sound /ɣ/ or /ʁ/. In Persian language it represents [ɣ]~[ɢ]. In name and shape, it is a variant of ʻayn (ع). Its numerical value is 1000 (see Abjad numerals).

A voiced velar fricative /ɣ/ or a voiced uvular fricative /ʁ/ (usually reconstructed for Proto-Semitic) merged with ʻayin in most languages except for Arabic, Ugaritic, and older varieties of the Canaanite languages. Canaanite languages and Hebrew later also merged it with ʻayin, and this merger was complete in Tiberian Hebrew. The South Arabian alphabet retained a symbol for ġ, .

The letter ghayn (غ) is sometimes used to represent the voiced velar plosive /ɡ/ in loan words and names in Arabic and is then often pronounced /ɡ/, not /ɣ/, such as the word for Bulgaria (بلغاريا). Other letters, such as ج, ق, ک/ك (also گ, ݣ, ݢ, ڨ, ڠ, instead of the original Arabic letters), can be used to transcribe /ɡ/ in loan words and names, depending on whether the local variety of Arabic in the country has the phoneme /ɡ/, which letter represents it if it does, and on whether it is customary in the country to use that letter to transcribe /ɡ/. For instance, in Egypt, where ج is pronounced as [ɡ] in all situations, even when speaking Modern Standard Arabic (except in certain contexts, such as reciting the Qur'an), ج is used to transcribe foreign [ɡ] in virtually all contexts. In many cases غ is pronounced in loan words as expected—/ɣ/, not /ɡ/—even though the original language had /ɡ/.

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

In English, the letter غ in Arabic names is usually transliterated as ‹gh›, ‹ġ›, or simply ‹g›, e.g. بغداد Baghdād 'Baghdad', or غزة Ghazzah 'Gaza', the latter of which does not render the sound [ɣ]~[ʁ] accurately. The closest equivalent sound known to most English speakers is the Parisian French "r" [ʁ].

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

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: غ ـغ ـغـ غـ
Proto-Semitic Akkadian Arabic Canaanite Hebrew Aramaic South Arabian Geʻez
ġ - غ gh ġ, ʻ ע ʻ ע ʻ ġ ʻ

Origins of ghayn

Ghayn is believed to have come from the following hieroglyph


that depicts two twisted fibers. This coincidentally superficially resembles the IPA symbol [ɣ] upside down. [ɣ] is conventionally used for the sound of ghayn.

Character encodings

Character غ
Unicode name ARABIC LETTER GHAIN
Encodings decimal hex
Unicode 1594 U+063A
UTF-8 216 186 D8 BA
Numeric character reference غ غ

See also

  • Arabic phonology
  • Ghayn, the corresponding letter in the Cyrillic orthographies for several Central Asian languages
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