Sun and Moon Letters

Sun and Moon Letters

The Arabic alphabet contains 28 letters. These letters are divided in two groups, 14 sun letters ( al-ḥurūfu š-šamsīyaالحروف الشمسية ) and 14 moon letters ( al-ḥurūfu l-qamarīyaالحروف القمرية ).

Sun letters – حروف الشمسية

Sun LettersWhen a word starts with one of the sun letters and is preceded by the definite article ‘ al- ال ‘, the letter lām ‘ ل ‘ assimilates into the following consonant.

For example: ‘ the lesson ‘ ‘ الدرس ‘ is not pronounced ‘ al-dars ‘ but ‘ ad-dars ‘. The word starts with a sun letter ‘ d ‘. Therefor the ‘ l ‘ of the definite article assimilates into ‘ d ‘.

These are the 14 sun letters: ت، ث، د، ذ، ر، ز، س، ش، ص، ض، ط، ظ، ل، ن .

Examples:
Englishالعربية
the translationالترجمة
at-tarjama
the snakeالثعبان
aṯ-ṯu‘bān
the worldالدنيا
ad-dunyā
the armالذراع
aḏ-ḏirā‘
the manالرجل
ar-rajul
the visitالزيارة
az-ziyāra
the carالسيارة
as-sayyāra
the sunالشمس
aš-šams
the friendالصديق
aṣ-ṣadīq
the guestالضيف
aḍ-ḍaif
the doctorالطبيب
aṭ-ṭabīb
the envelopeالظرف
aẓ-ẓarf
the gameاللعب
al-la‘b
the lightالنور
an-nūr

Moon letters – حروف القمرية

Moon LettersWhen a word starts with one of the moon letters and is preceded by the definite article ‘ (’a)l- ال ‘, the letter lām ( ل ) does NOT assimilate into the following consonant.

For example: ‘ the government ‘ ‘ الحكومة ‘ is pronounced ‘ al-ḥukūma ‘ and NOTaḥ-ḥukūma ‘. The word starts with a moon letter ‘ ḥ ‘. Therefor the ‘ l ‘ of the definite article does not assimilate into ‘ ḥ ‘.

These are the 14 moon letters: أ، ب، ج، ح، خ، ع، غ، ف، ق، ك، م، ه، و، ي .

Examples:
Englishالعربية
the brotherالأخ
al-ak
the doorالباب
al-bāb
the universityالجامعة
al-jāmi‘a
the freedomالحرية
al-ḥurriya
the dangerالخطر
al-ḵaṭar
the eyeالعين
al-‘ain
the roomالغرفة
al-ḡurfa
the brushالفرشة
al-furša
the heartالقلب
al-qalb
the dogالكلب
al-kalb
the cityالمدينة
al-madīna
the goalالهدف
al-hadaf
the roseالوردة
al-warda
the handاليد
al-yad

Vocalization

Sun letters: the šadda ( ــّـ ) on the first consonant of the word indicates assimilation of the lām.

Moon letters: the first consonant of a word is preceded by the definite article with a sukūn ( ــْـ ) on the lām.

Examples (vocalized):
Sun lettersMoon letters
the sunالشَّمْسthe moonالْقَمَر
aš-šamsal-qamar
the snowالثَّلْجthe rainالْمَطَر
aṯ-ṯaljal-maṭar
the companyالشَّرِكَةthe partyالْحِزْب
aš-šarikaal-ḥizb