Abjad numerals

The Abjad numerals (Arabic: حِسَاب الْجُمَّلḥisāb al-jummal) are a decimal numeral system in which the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet are assigned numerical values. They have been used in the Arabic-speaking world since before the eighth century when Arabic numerals were adopted. In modern Arabic, the word ʾabjadīyah (أبجدية) means 'alphabet' in general.

In the Abjad system, the first letter of the Arabic alphabet, ʾalif, is used to represent 1; the second letter, bāʾ, is used to represent 2, etc. Individual letters also represent 10s and 100s: yāʾ for 10, kāf for 20, qāf for 100, etc.

The word ʾabjad (أبجد) itself derives from the first four letters (A-B-J-D) in the Semitic alphabet, including the Phoenician alphabet, Aramaic alphabet, Hebrew alphabet and other scripts for Semitic languages. These older alphabets contained only 22 letters, stopping at taw, numerically equivalent to 400. The Arabic Abjad system continues at this point with letters not found in other alphabets: thāʾ= 500, etc.

Abjad order

The Abjad order of the Arabic alphabet has two slightly different variants. The Abjad order is not a simple historical continuation of the earlier north Semitic alphabetic order, since it has a position corresponding to the Aramaic letter samekh / semkat ס, yet no letter of the Arabic alphabet historically derives from that letter. Loss of samekh was compensated for by the split of shin ש into two independent Arabic letters, ش (shīn) and (sīn), which moved up to take the place of samekh.

The most common Abjad sequence, read from right to left, is:

غ ظ ض ذ خ ث ت ش ر ق ص ف ع س ن م ل ك ي ط ح ز و ه د ج ب أ
gh dh kh th t sh r f ʿ s n m l k y z w h d j b ʾ

This is commonly vocalized as follows:

  • abjad hawwaz ḥuṭṭī kalaman saʻfaṣ qarashat thakhadh ḍaẓagh.

Another vocalization is:

  • abujadin hawazin ḥuṭiya kalman saʻfaṣ qurishat thakhudh ḍaẓugh

Another Abjad sequence (probably older, now mainly confined to the Maghreb), is:[1]

ش غ ظ ذ خ ث ت س ر ق ض ف ع ص ن م ل ك ي ط ح ز و ه د ج ب أ
sh gh dh kh th t s r f ʿ n m l k y z w h d j b ʾ

which can be vocalized as:

  • abujadin hawazin ḥuṭiya kalman ṣaʻfaḍ qurisat thakhudh ẓaghush

Another vocalization is:

  • abajd hawazin ḥuṭīyin kalamnin ṣaʻfaḍin qurisat thakhudh ẓughshin

Modern dictionaries and other reference books do not use the Abjad order to sort alphabetically; instead, the newer hijāʼī (هجائي) order, which partially groups letters together by similarity of shape, is used:

ي و ه ن م ل ك ق ف غ ع ظ ط ض ص ش س ز ر ذ د خ ح ج ث ت ب أ
y w h n m l k f gh ʿ sh s z r dh d kh j th t b ʾ

Another kind of alfabaʼī order used to be widely used in the Maghreb until recently, when it was replaced by the Mashriqi order:[1]

ي و ه ش س ق ف غ ع ض ص ن م ل ك ظ ط ز ر ذ د خ ح ج ث ت ب أ
y w h sh s f gh ʿ n m l k z r dh d kh j th t b ʾ

Persian dictionaries use a slightly different order, in which و comes before ه instead of after it.

Other Languages
العربية: حساب الجمل
Boarisch: Abdschad
brezhoneg: Niveradur arabek
Esperanto: Abjad-numeraloj
فارسی: حساب جمل
Bahasa Indonesia: Sistem bilangan abjad
Bahasa Melayu: Angka Abjad
Nederlands: Abjadcijfers
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਅਬਜਦ ਗਿਣਤੀ
português: Numerais abjad
русский: Абджадия
тоҷикӣ: Абҷад