Arabic Language Blog

(2) Arabic Diacritics (Al-Tashkeel الـتـشـكـيـــل ) Posted by on Jul 25, 2011 in Arabic Language, Grammar, Pronunciation, Vocabulary

  • The Harakaat الحركات which literally means “motions” are the short vowel marks but Tashkeel refers to other vowel or consonant diacritics..

* Fathah  ـَ /

               The Fatha فتحة is a small diagonal line placed above a letter and represents a short /a/. The word Fatha itself means “opening” and refers to the opening of the mouth when any letter with this mark; e.g. كَـتـَبَ /kataba/ = to write.

* Kasrah /  ـِ 

                 A similar diagonal line below a letter is called a Kasrah كسرة and refers to a short /i/. The word kasrah literally means “breaking”; e.g. مـِـن /min/ = from.

* Dammah / ـُ /

              The Dammah ضمّة is a small curl-like diacritic placed above a letter to represent a short /u/ or /o/; e.g. كـُـتـُـب /kotob/ = books. If the dammah is written with a following (و) /waw/, it designates a long /u:/ = /oo/  (as in the English word “blue”); e.g. بـُـومة /boomah/ = an owl. However, if the و /waw/ is pronounced as  diphthong /aw/, a fatha should be written on the preceding consonant to avoid mispronunciation; e.g. يـَوم  /yawm/ = day.

* Sukoon /  ـْ /   

                The Sukoon السُـكون is a circle-shaped diacritic placed above a letter. It indicates that the consonant to which it is attached is not followed by a vowel. The sukoon is a necessary symbol for writing consonant-vowel-consonant syllables which are very common in Arabic; e.g. مَدَدْ /madad/ = supply or support or aid. The sukoon may also be used to help represent a diphthong. A Fatha followed by the letter ى /yaa/ with a sukoon over the yaa indicates the diphthong /ay/ e.g. بـَـيـْت / bayt/ = home and the same with the other diphthong و /aw/ like in يـَـوْم  /yawm/ = day.

Note : The harakaat or vowel points serve two purposes:

(1) They serve as a phonetical guide. They indicate the presence of short vowels (fatha, kasra, or damma) or their absence (sukoon).

(2) At the last letter of a word, the vowel point reflects the inflection case or conjugation mood.

    – For nouns, The damma is for the nominative, fatha for the accusative, and kasra for the genitive.

   – For verbs, the damma is for the imperfective, fatha for the perfective, and the sukoon is for verbs in the imperative or jussive moods.

* Hamza / ئ ؤ إ أ and stand alone ء /

            The Hamza indicates a glottal stop accompanied by any of the above harakaat (fatha, kasra, damma or sukoon); e.g. أحمد = ‘Ahmad , إسلام  = ‘Islam , سؤال  = question and هدوء  = quietness    

* Maddah / آ /

                The Maddah مدّة is a tiled-like diacritic (like the shadow of a bird flying) which can appear only on top of an alif  / آ / and indicates a glottal stop (Hamza) followed by another alif representing the long /a:/ or /aa/ ;e.g.   قـُرآن  /Qur’aan/ = قرءان  .

* Dagger Alif /  ـٰ /

                 The superscript or dagger alif الألف الخنجرية  is written as a short vertical stroke on top of a consonant. It indicates a long alif /a:/ or /aa/ sound but the alif  is normally not written. The dagger alif occurs only in a few words, but these words include some very common ones; e.g. الله  /Allaah/ and هـٰـذا /haatha/ = this and لـٰـكـِن /laakin/ = but.

 * Tanween / ـٌ   ـٍ   ـً  

            The three vowel diacritics may be doubled at the end of a word to indicate that the vowel is followed by the consonant /n/. These may or may not be considered harakaat and are known as Tanween (تنوين ) or Nunation. The signs from left to right indicate /un/ or /on/ and /in/ and /an/. These symbols are used as non-pausal grammatical indefinite case endings in literary or classical Arabic.

* Shaddah /  ـّ /

               The Shaddah شدّة  or Tashdeed تشديد is a diacritic shaped like a small written Latin “w“. It is used to indicate germination (consonant doubling or extra length), which is phonemic in Arabic. It is written above the consonant which is to be doubled. It is the only harakah that is sometimes used used in ordinary spelling to avoid ambiguity; e.g. مدرَسة /madrasah/ = school  vs. مدرّسة  /modarrisah/ = teacher (f.)


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Peace سلام  /Salam/  

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About the Author: Fisal

Well, I was born near the city of Rasheed or Rosetta, Egypt. Yes, the city where the Rosetta Stone was discovered. It is a small city on the north of Egypt where the Nile meets the Mediterranean. I am a Teacher of EFL.


  1. Deborah:

    As-salaamu Alaykum!

    Thank you very much for this explanation of the Arabic diacritics. Got a lot more insight into these now- Very helpful!

    • Fisal:

      @Deborah Wa Alykom Assalaam,
      You are very welcome, Deborah. We are happy that you are happy with the blogs.
      Happy Learning Arabic 🙂

  2. Aaiza:

    As salamu alaykum
    Learnt alot from it… where can I get the examples of that for my practice?
    Jazakallahu Khairan

  3. Niaz:

    Assalaamu Alaikum.
    JazakAllah khairan for these information and your effort to help others to learn Arabic.