Arabic (اَلْعَرَبِيَّةُ, al-ʿarabiyyah [al ʕaraˈbijːa] (listen); عَرَبِيّ, ʿarabī [ˈʕarabiː] (listen) or [ʕaraˈbij]) (sometimes arguably, the Arabic languages) is a Semitic language spoken primarily across the Arab world.[12] Having emerged in the 1st century, it is named after the Arab people; the term "Arab" was initially used to describe those living in the Arabian Peninsula, as perceived by geographers from ancient Greece.[13]

al-ʿarabiyyah in written Arabic (Naskh script)
Pronunciation/ˈʕarabiː/, /alʕaraˈbijːa/
Native toCountries of the Arab League, minorities in neighboring countries and some parts of Asia, Africa, Europe
EthnicityArabs and several peoples of the MENA region (as a result of language shift)
Speakers360 million native speakers of all varieties (2022)[1]
270 million L2 users of Modern Standard Arabic (2022)[2]
Early form
Standard forms
Signed Arabic (different national forms)
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Regulated by
Language codes
ISO 639-1ar
ISO 639-2ara
ISO 639-3ara – inclusive code
Individual codes:
arq  Algerian Arabic
aao  Algerian Saharan Arabic
xaa  Andalusian Arabic
bbz  Babalia Creole Arabic
abv  Baharna Arabic
shu  Chadian Arabic
acy  Cypriot Arabic
adf  Dhofari Arabic
avl  Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic
arz  Egyptian Arabic
afb  Gulf Arabic
ayh  Hadrami Arabic
mey  Hassaniya Arabic
acw  Hijazi Arabic
ayl  Libyan Arabic
acm  Mesopotamian Arabic
ary  Moroccan Arabic
ars  Najdi Arabic
apc  Levantine Arabic
ayp  North Mesopotamian Arabic
acx  Omani Arabic
aec  Saidi Arabic
ayn  Sanaani Arabic
ssh  Shihhi Arabic
sqr  Siculo Arabic
arb  Standard Arabic
apd  Sudanese Arabic
pga  Sudanese Creole Arabic
acq  Taizzi-Adeni Arabic
abh  Tajiki Arabic
majority language (dark blue); minority language (light blue)
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Since the 7th century, Arabic has been characterized by diglossia, with an opposition between a standard prestige language—i.e., Literary Arabic: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or Classical Arabic[lower-alpha 1]—and diverse vernacular varieties, which serve as mother tongues.[15] Colloquial dialects vary significantly from MSA, impeding mutual intelligibility.[16][17][18] MSA is only acquired through formal education and is not spoken natively. It is the language of literature, official documents, and formal written media. In spoken form, MSA is used in formal contexts, news bulletins and for prayers.[19] This variety is the lingua franca of the Arab world and the liturgical language of Islam.[20] It is an official language of 26 states and 1 disputed territory, the third most after English and French.[21] It is also one of six official languages of the United Nations.[22]

Spoken varieties are the usual medium of communication in all other domains. They are not standardized and vary significantly, some of them being mutually unintelligible.[23] The International Organization for Standardization assigns language codes to 33 varieties of Arabic, including MSA.[24][25] Arabic vernaculars do not descend from MSA or Classical Arabic.[26][27] Combined, Arabic dialects have 362 million native speakers,[1] while MSA is spoken by 274 million L2 speakers,[2] making it the sixth most spoken language in the world.[28]

Arabic is traditionally written with the Arabic alphabet, a right-to-left abjad. This alphabet is the official script for MSA. Colloquial varieties were traditionally not written; however, with the emergence of social media, the amount of written dialects has significantly increased online. Besides the Arabic alphabet, dialects are also often written in Latin from left to right or in Hebrew characters (in Israel)[3] with no standardized orthography. Maltese and Hassaniya are the only varieties officially written in a Latin alphabet.[29][lower-alpha 2]

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