Abjad numerals

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The Abjad numerals are a decimal numeral system which was used in the Arabic-speaking world prior to the use of the Hindu-Arabic numerals from the 8th century, and in parallel with the latter until Modern times. In the Abjad system, the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet are assigned numerical values, based on the Abjadi order.

For example, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, alif, is used to represent 1; the second letter, bāʼ, is used to represent 2, etc. Individual letters also represented 10's and 100's: yāʼ for 10, kāf for 20, qāf for 100, etc.

The word "abjad" (أبجد ʾabǧad) itself derives from the beginning of the order of the letters in the proto-Canaanite alphabet, Phoenician, Aramaic alphabet and Hebrew. The Old Arabic alphabet, thought to be derived from Aramaic by way of the Nabateans, also followed this pattern: aleph, beth, gimel, and daleth. These older alphabets contained only 22 letters, stopping at taw (= 400 in the Abjad system). The Arabic numerical system continues at this point with unique Arabic letters not found in the older versions: ṯāʼ = 500, etc. In modern Arabic, the word ʾabǧad means "alphabet" in general.

Abjadi order

The Abjad order of the Arabic alphabet (or two slightly variant orders) was devised by matching an Arabic letter of the fully consonant-dotted 28-letter Arabic alphabet to each of the 22 letters of the Aramaic alphabet (in their old Phoenician alphabetic order) — leaving six remaining Arabic letters at the end. The Abjadi order is not a simple historically-continuous preservation of the earlier north Semitic alphabetic order, since it contains a position corresponding to the Aramaic letter samekh/semkat ס‎, yet no letter of the Arabic alphabet historically derives from ס‎. Loss of samekh was compensated by the split of shin ס‎ into two independent Arabic letters, ש and ש.

The most common Abjad sequence is:
ש
ש transliteration" class="Unicode" style="white-space:normal; text-decoration: none">ʼ b ǧ d h w z ḥ ṭ y k l m n s ʻ f ṣ q r š t ṯ ḫ ḏ ḍ ẓ ġ
This is commonly vocalized as follows:
*ש transliteration" class="Unicode" style="white-space:normal; text-decoration: none">ʼabǧad hawwaz ḥuṭṭī kalaman saʻfaṣ qarašat ṯaḫaḏ ḍaẓaġ.
Another vocalization is:
*ש transliteration" class="Unicode" style="white-space:normal; text-decoration: none">ʼabuǧadin hawazin ḥuṭiya kalman saʻfaṣ qurišat ṯaḫuḏ ḍaẓuġ


Another Abjad sequence (probably older, now mainly confined to the Maghreb), is:
ש
ש transliteration" class="Unicode" style="white-space:normal; text-decoration: none">ʼ b ǧ d h w z ḥ ṭ y k l m n ṣ ʻ f ḍ q r s t ṯ ḫ ḏ ẓ ġ š


which can be vocalized as:
*ש transliteration" class="Unicode" style="white-space:normal; text-decoration: none">ʼabuǧadin hawazin ḥuṭiya kalman ṣaʻfaḍ qurisat ṯaḫuḏ ẓaġuš


Modern dictionaries etc. never use any of the above orders to order things alphabetically; instead, this newer order (with letters partially grouped together by similarity of Arabic cursive shape) is used:
ש
ש transliteration" class="Unicode" style="white-space:normal; text-decoration: none">ʼ b t ṯ ǧ ḥ ḫ d ḏ r z s š ṣ ḍ ṭ ẓ ʻ ġ f q k l m n h w y

Uses of the Abjad system

In early Islamic times, these numbers were used by mathematicians. In modern Arabic, they are primarily used for numbering small quantities, such as items in a list. They are also used to assign numerical values to Arabic words for purposes of numerology.

Example: The common Islamic phrase بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم bi-smi-llaahi r-rahmaani r-rahiim ("in the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate" – see Basmala) would have a nominal value of 786 (from a letter-by-letter cumulative value of 2+60+40 + 1+30+30+5 + 1+30+200+8+40+50 + 1+30+200+8+10+40), where the word "Allah" (God) alone has the value 66.

Despite no longer being used as the standard order of the alphabet, the Abjadi order is still used in things such as lists and outlines where a ordinal system of designating points of information or questions other than numbers is required. In other words, whereas a list in English might call its first point "A" its next point "B", its next point "C", then "D", then "E" and so on down to "Z", even today a list in Arabic would typically call its first point "ש‎", then "ש‎", then "ש‎", "ש‎", "ש‎" and so on down to "ש‎", rather than "ש‎", "ש‎", "ש‎", "ש‎", "ש‎", and so on down to "ש‎", as the modern order might suggest.

Letter values

ā/' ا1y/ī ي10q ق100
b ب2k ك20r ر200
j ج3l ل30sh ش300
d د4m م40t ت400
h ه5n ن50th ث500
w/ū و6s س60kh خ600
z ز7` ع70dh ذ700
H ح8f ف80D ض800
T ط9S ص90Z ظ900 | || || || || gh غ|| 1000


(A few of the numerical values would be different when the alternative order of the abjad is used — see Abjadi order above.)

Similar systems

The Hebrew numerals are equivalent to the Abjadi numerals up to 400. The Greek numerals differ from the Abjadi ones from 90 upwards because in the Greek alphabet there is no equivalent for ṣād (ص). (The counting system using the Hebrew alphabet is known as Gematria and figures highly in Kabalistic texts and numerology. The Greek Language also has a similar historic system of letters-as-numbers called isopsephy.)

See also

External links

Arabic abjad

Unicode range U+0600 to U+06FF
U+0750 to U+077F
U+FB50 to U+FDFF
U+FE70 to U+FEFF
ISO 15924 Arab (#160)

Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.
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Alif (Arabic: , pronounced ʾalif) is the first letter of the Arabic alphabet.
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Bet, Beth, or Vet is the second letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Taw or Tav is the twenty-second and last letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Gimel is the third letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Dalet (
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Resh is the twentieth letter of many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Zayin (also spelled Zain or Zayn) is the seventh letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Shin (also spelled Šin or Sheen) is the twenty-first letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Tsade (also spelled Ṣādē or Tzadi or Sadhe or Tzaddik) is the eighteenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Pe is the seventeenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Qoph or Qop (In Hebrew: Kuf) is the nineteenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Kaph (also spelled Kap or Kaf) is the eleventh letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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Lamed or Lamedh is the twelfth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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MEM is a three-letter abbreviation with multiple meanings, as described below:
  • Maximum entropy method
  • IATA airport code for Memphis International Airport
  • β-Methoxyethoxymethyl ether, a protecting group in chemistry

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Nun is the fourteenth letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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He is the fifth letter of many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician , Aramaic, Hebrew
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Waw (
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Yodh (also spelled Yud or Yod) is the tenth letter of many Semitic alphabets, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew
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%,
T also represented Z,
ayin also represented gh %,
S also represented D,
t also represented ş.
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ṣdʾm ḥsyn, which is meaningless to an untrained reader.
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ḥarakāt (حركات — the singular is ḥaraka حركة) are the diacritic marks used to represent vowel sounds.
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Hamza (ء) is a letter in the Arabic alphabet, representing the glottal stop [ʔ].
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The Eastern Arabic numerals (also called Arabic-Indic numerals, Arabic Eastern Numerals) are the symbols (glyphs) used to represent the Hindu-Arabic numeral system in conjunction with the Arabic alphabet in Egypt, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India, and also in
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numeral system (or system of numeration) is a framework where a set of numbers are represented by numerals in a consistent manner. It can be seen as the context that allows the numeral "11" to be interpreted as the binary numeral for three
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Hindu-Arabic numeral system (also called Algorism) is a positional decimal numeral system documented from the 9th century.

The symbols (glyphs) used to represent the system are in principle independent of the system itself.
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Arabic numerals, known formally as Hindu-Arabic numerals, and also as Indian numerals, Hindu numerals, Western Arabic numerals, European numerals, or Western numerals, are the most common symbolic representation of numbers around the world.
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