A long vowel in Arabic is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a lengthening of the short vowel. It is exactly like the short one, but held longer in pronunciation. This is usually accomplished in English by using a double letter just like in the words “loop” and deep”. There are three long vowels: ā, ū, and ī written medially as ‘alif ا, wāw و and yā’ ي, respectively. Occasionally, ā is written using a yā’ without dots (ى) rather than an alif. This always happens at the end of a word and is called ’alif maqsūra as in على (alā) which means “on”.

– ā: (long a) is pronounced like a short “a” in ordinary environments but held for a much longer duration, some say “twice as much time”.
– ū: (long a) is pronounced like a short “u” but held for a much longer duration, like “oo” of “moon”.
– ī: (long i) Similar to the “ea” in “beat”. In velar environments the quality is significantly “clouded”-rather like “ea” in “peal”.

Long vowels in Arabic
(unvocalised text)
Name Trans. Value
(implied fatḥa) ʾalif ā /aː/
(implied fatḥa) ʾalif maqṣūra (Arabic) ā / aỳ /a/
(implied ḍamma) wāw ū / uw /uː/
(implied kasra) yāʾ ī / iy /iː/

Diphthongs in Arabic:
Diphthongs in Arabic are vowel sounds consisting of two parts, a short vowel and a consonant. the diphthongs “ay” and “aw” are written ـَ ي as in “بيت” [baitun] a “house”, and ـَ و as in “خوف” [khaufun] arabic name for “Fear”.

Long vowels and diphthongs ـَا ـُو ـِي ـَو ـَي
Transliteration aA uw iy Aw ay
Transcription /ā/ (long a) /ū/ (long u) /ī/ (long i) /aw/ /ay/
Vowels in Arabic: Long Vowels and Diphthongs

9 thoughts on “Vowels in Arabic: Long Vowels and Diphthongs

  • April 13, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Nice job,site looks professional and the information is valuable but wanted to highlight that there are additionally short vowels which are the diacritics(altashkeel) we use in Arabic. I’m an Arabic research in the field of speech and language pathology. Jazzak allah kear

  • April 13, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Sorry but have not seen the other part of your discussion, please do accept my apologies

  • April 13, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    No apology is necessary Majid,
    your comments are more than welcome. Actually, I need to add a link to the previous post regarding the short vowels and I’d like also to invite you to joint SoftArabic as a contributor. If interested, please register here. I will update your role later.

    Salamu 3alaykom

  • October 30, 2010 at 12:19 am

    What language is my last name and please explain as much as you can if possible. Details please. I am trying to research my last name and who I am related to. Thank you, Stephanie Aymami

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  • May 29, 2012 at 5:40 pm

    Selams to you all.

    I can undertstand Alif maqsurah. But in some words, there is a dagger Alif above a waw saaakin, And we still read as a long alif. Why there is a waw there. For example in the word: Salaah ( sad, lam (long with a dagger Alif), waw and teh marbuutah.

    Why waw?

    Shukran lekum :))

  • June 8, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    Salam Alejandro,
    I hope it’s not too late for my answer. At first I didn’t know how to address your question, but after talking to an Arabic teacher, it was all clear to me that you were referring to the “waw” as in the Arabic word “Salaah”, “Zakaah”, etc.
    You’re only going to see that “waw” in Qur’an and some old books that use a specific Arabic Writing Style called “Ar-rassm al-Utmaani” or “al-khat al-Utmaani”. Back in the days and early version of the Qur’an, there were many writing styles among them the “Utmaani” style, these styles didn’t use “Shakl” and “Tanqiit” (Vowels & dots). people were able to understand Arabic that way. but now a day, things are little bit different.
    I hope I was able to answer your question.
    Salam :)

  • June 7, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Hello and thank you for providing this forum. Your explanation of Arabic dipthongs is what I expected but I keep wondering about a third dipthong, namely what in English is ‘I’. This is indicated as aI, the IPA symbol, in dictionaries. I’ve only been studying Arabic for a short time, but I’ve sometimes come across this sound. Perhaps it is some local variation of speech. What do you think?

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