A Guide to Persian - The Persian alphabet

What's the Persian alphabet like?

Have a go at spelling out your name and perhaps your address in Persian. Here's the alphabet and how to pronounce it.

Download mp3 - right click and choose 'save target as'

What's significant about the Persian alphabet?

  • There are 32 letters in the alphabet and script, written from right to left. Most letters must be connected one to another.
    Calligraphy is a much appreciated art and there are 20 different types of lettering for the alphabet

  • Vowels

    In the Persian script, vowels that are referred to as ‘short vowels’ (a, e, o) aren’t written.
    For example, bad in English has three letters but only two in Persian:  بد [bad] and man is  من [man] (2 letters)

    Only the long vowels (i, u, a) are written, for example, bar in English has three letters, as has its Persian translation:
     بار [bâr] and  دید [did]

  • Pronunciation

    Words in English are generally used separately, whereas words in Persian are very often connected to one and other. For example, man is  مرد [mard], good is  خوب [khob], but a good man is  مردِ خوب [mard e khob]

  • What a difference a dot makes

    Complexities mainly lie in the placement of dots in the alphabet, for example, they can be above, below or inside the letter:
     س is pronounced [se], but with the dots,  ش is pronounced [sh]
      ب is pronounced [be], but with the dots,  پ is pronounced [pe]
     ح is pronounced [he], but with the dots,  چ is pronounced [ch]
     ط is pronounced [te], but with a dot,  ظ is pronounced [ze]

    Here are some examples of words which have 1, 2 or 3 dots, including the different sounds and meanings:
     نور [nour], light but with dots:  تور [tour], net
     بور [bour], blond but with dots:  شور [shoor], salty

  • Email and website conventions

    When giving an email or website address, the conventions are:
    @  @ [at], at
    .  نقطه [noghteh], dot
    /  ممیز [momayez], forward slash
    -  خط فاصله [khateh fâseleh], dash

Persepolis, Iran © HR. Rahmani, fotolia.com

Facts about Persian

10 things to know about the Persian language

Azadi Tower, Tehran © Dartus, fotolia.com

Persian key phrases

Get started with 20 audio phrases

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.