Urdu (/ˈʊərd/;[10] Urdu: اُردُو, ALA-LC: Urdū) is an Indo-Aryan language spoken chiefly in South Asia.[11][12] It is the official national language and lingua franca of Pakistan.[13] In India, Urdu is an Eighth Schedule language whose status, function, and cultural heritage is recognized by the Constitution of India;[14][15] it has some form of official status in several Indian states.[note 1][13] In Nepal, Urdu is a registered regional dialect.[16]

Standard Urdu
Urdu in Nastaʿlīq script
Pronunciation[ˈʊrduː] (listen)
Native toIndia and Pakistan
RegionHindi-Urdu belt, Deccan, Sindh (specifically Karachi and Hyderabad) since 1947
EthnicityUrdu-speaking people (Muslims of the Hindi-Urdu Belt, the Deccani people and the Muhajir people)[1]
Native speakers
68.62 million[2] (2021)
Total: 230 million (2021)[3]
Early forms
Official status
Official language in


Recognised minority
language in
 South Africa (protected language)[9]
Regulated byNational Language Promotion Department (Pakistan)
National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (India)
Language codes
ISO 639-1ur
ISO 639-2urd
ISO 639-3urd
  Areas in India and Pakistan where Urdu is either official or co-official
  Areas where Urdu is neither official nor co-official
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Urdu has been described as a Persianised standard register of the Hindustani language.[17][18] Urdu and Hindi share a common Indo-Aryan vocabulary base, phonology and syntax, making them mutually intelligible in colloquial speech.[19][20] While formal Urdu draws literary and technical vocabulary from Persian,[21] formal Hindi draws these from Sanskrit.[21]

Urdu was chosen as the language of East India Company rule across northern India in 1837 when the Company chose it to replace Persian, the court language of the Indo-Islamic empires.[22] Religious, social, and political factors arose during the colonial period that advocated for a distinction between Urdu and Hindi, leading to the Hindi–Urdu controversy.[23]

Urdu became a literary language in the 18th century and two similar standard forms came into existence in Delhi and Lucknow; since 1947 a third standard has arisen in Karachi.[24][25] Deccani, an older form used in the south, became a court language of the Deccan Sultanates in the 16th century.[26][25]

According to Nationalencyklopedin's 2010 estimates, Urdu is the 21st most spoken first language in the world, with approximately 66 million who speak it as their native language.[27] According to Ethnologue's 2018 estimates, Urdu is the 11th most widely spoken language in the world,[28] with 170 million total speakers, including those who speak it as a second language.[29]