Romanization of Persian

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Romanization of Persian or Latinization of Persian is the representation of the Persian language (Farsi, Dari and Tajik) with the Latin script. Several different romanization schemes exist, each with its own set of rules driven by its own set of ideological goals.

Romanization paradigms

Because the Perso-Arabic script is an abjad writing system (with a consonant-heavy inventory of letters), many distinct words in standard Persian can have identical spellings, with widely varying pronunciations that differ in their (unwritten) vowel sounds. Thus a romanization paradigm can follow either transliteration (which mirrors spelling and orthography) or transcription (which mirrors pronunciation and phonology).

The Latin script plays in Iran the role of a second script. For the proof of this assertion it is sufficient to take a look at the city and street signs or the Internet addresses in all countries. On the other hand, experience has shown that efforts to teach millions of Iranian young people abroad in reading and writing Persian mostly prove to be unsuccessful, due to the lack of daily contact with the Persian script. It seems that a way out of this dilemma has been found; and that is the use of the Latin script parallel to the Persian script.


Transliteration (in the strict sense) attempts to be a complete representation of the original writing, so that an informed reader should be able to reconstruct the original spelling of unknown transliterated words. Transliterations of Persian are used to represent individual Persian words or short quotations, in scholarly texts in English or other languages that do not use the Arabic alphabet.

A transliteration will still have separate representations for different consonants of the Persian alphabet that are pronounced identically in Persian. Therefore, transliterations of Persian are often based on transliterations of Arabic.[1] The representation of the vowels of the Perso-Arabic alphabet is also complex, and transliterations are based on the written form.

Transliterations commonly used in the English-speaking world include BGN/PCGN romanization and ALA-LC Romanization.

Non-academic English-language quotation of Persian words usually uses a simplification of one of the strict transliteration schemes (typically omitting diacritical marks) and/or unsystematic choices of spellings meant to guide English speakers using English spelling rules towards an approximation of the Persian sounds.


Transcriptions of Persian attempt to straightforwardly represent Persian phonology in the Latin script, without requiring a close or reversible correspondence with the Perso-Arabic script, and also without requiring a close correspondence to English phonetic values of Roman letters.

Main romanization schemes

Comparison table

Unicode Persian
IPA DMG (1969) ALA-LC (1997) BGN/PCGN (1958) EI (1960) EI (2012) UN (1967) UN (2012)
U+0627 ا ʔ, ∅[a] ʾ, —[b] ’, —[b] ʾ
U+0628 ب b b
U+067E پ p p
U+062A ت t t
U+062B ث s t͟h s
U+062C ج ǧ j j d͟j j j
U+0686 چ č ch ch č č ch č
U+062D ح h ḩ/ḥ[c] h
U+062E خ x kh kh k͟h kh x
U+062F د d d
U+0630 ذ z d͟h z
U+0631 ر r r
U+0632 ز z z
U+0698 ژ ʒ ž zh zh z͟h ž zh ž
U+0633 س s s
U+0634 ش ʃ š sh sh s͟h š sh š
U+0635 ص s ş/ṣ[c] ş s
U+0636 ض z ż ż z
U+0637 ط t ţ/ṭ[c] ţ t
U+0638 ظ z z̧/ẓ[c] z
U+0639 ع ʿ [b] ʿ ʿ
U+063A غ ɢ~ɣ ġ gh gh g͟h gh q
U+0641 ف f f
U+0642 ق ɢ~ɣ q q
U+06A9 ک k k
U+06AF گ ɡ g
U+0644 ل l l
U+0645 م m m
U+0646 ن n n
U+0648 و v~w[a][d] v v, w[e] v
U+0647 ه h[a] h h h[f] h h h[f] h[f]
U+0629 ة ∅, t h[g] t[h] h[g]
U+06CC ی j[a] y
U+0621 ء ʔ, ∅ ʾ ʾ
U+0624 ؤ ʔ, ∅ ʾ ʾ
U+0626 ئ ʔ, ∅ ʾ ʾ
Unicode Final Medial Initial Isolated IPA DMG (1969) ALA-LC (1997) BGN/PCGN (1958) EI (2012) UN (1967) UN (2012)
U+064E ◌َ ◌َ اَ ◌َ æ a a a a a a
U+064F ◌ُ ◌ُ اُ ◌ُ o o o o u o o
U+0648 U+064F ◌ﻮَ ◌ﻮَ ◌وَ o[j] o o o u o o
U+0650 ◌ِ ◌ِ اِ ◌ِ e e i e e e e
U+064E U+0627 ◌َا ◌َا أ ◌َا ɑː~ɒː ā ā ā ā ā ā
U+0622 ◌ﺂ ◌ﺂ آ ◌آ ɑː~ɒː ā, ʾā[k] ā, ’ā[k] ā ā ā ā
U+064E U+06CC ◌َﯽ ◌َی ɑː~ɒː ā á á ā á ā
U+06CC U+0670 ◌ﯽٰ ◌یٰ ɑː~ɒː ā á á ā ā ā
U+064F U+0648 ◌ُﻮ ◌ُﻮ اُو ◌ُو uː, oː[e] ū ū ū u, ō[e] ū u
U+0650 U+06CC ◌ِﯽ ◌ِﯿ اِﯾ ◌ِی iː, eː[e] ī ī ī i, ē[e] ī i
U+064E U+0648 ◌َﻮ ◌َﻮ اَو ◌َو ow~aw[e] au aw ow ow, aw[e] ow ow
U+064E U+06CC ◌َﯽ ◌َﯿ اَﯾ ◌َی ej~aj[e] ai ay ey ey, ay[e] ey ey
U+064E U+06CC ◌ﯽ ◌ی –e, –je –e, –ye –i, –yi –e, –ye –e, –ye –e, –ye –e, –ye
U+06C0 ◌ﮥ ◌ﮤ –je –ye –’i –ye –ye –ye –ye


  1. ^ a b c d Used as a vowel as well.
  2. ^ a b c Hamza and ayn are not transliterated at the beginning of words.
  3. ^ a b c d The dot below may be used instead of cedilla.
  4. ^ At the beginning of words the combination ⟨خو⟩ was pronounced /xw/ or /xʷ/ in Classical Persian. In modern varieties the glide /ʷ/ has been lost, though the spelling has not been changed. It may be still heard in Dari as a relict pronunciation. The combination /xʷa/ was changed to /xo/ (see below).
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i In Dari.
  6. ^ a b c Not transliterated at the end of words.
  7. ^ a b In the combination ⟨یة⟩ at the end of words.
  8. ^ When used instead of ⟨ت⟩ at the end of words.
  9. ^ Diacritical signs (harakat) are rarely written.
  10. ^ After ⟨خ⟩ from the earlier /xʷa/. Often transliterated as xwa or xva. For example, خور /xor/ "sun" was /xʷar/ in Classical Persian.
  11. ^ a b After vowels.

Pre-Islamic period

In the pre-Islamic period Old and Middle Persian employed various scripts including Old Persian cuneiform, Pahlavi and Avestan scripts. For each period there are established transcriptions and transliterations by prominent linguists.[5][9][10][11][12]

IPA Old Persian[i][ii] Middle Persian
p p
f f
b b
β~ʋ~w β β/w
t t t, t̰
θ θ/ϑ
d d
ð (δ) δ
θr ç/ϑʳ θʳ/ϑʳ
s s
z z
ʃ š š, š́, ṣ̌
ʒ ž
c~tʃ c/č
ɟ~dʒ j/ǰ
k k
x x x, x́
g g g, ġ
ɣ ɣ/γ
h h
m m m, m̨
ŋ ŋ, ŋʷ
ŋʲ ŋ́
n n n, ń, ṇ
r r
l l
w~ʋ~v v w v
j y y, ẏ
a a
ã ą, ą̇
ə ə
e (e) e
i i
o (o) o
u u
ɑː~ɒː å/ā̊
ə ə̄
əː ē


  1. ^ a b c Slash signifies equal variants.
  2. ^ There exist some differences in transcription of Old Persian preferred by different scholars:
    • ā = â
    • ī, ū = i, u
    • x = kh, ḵ, ḥ, ḫ
    • c/č = ǩ
    • j/ǰ = ǧ
    • θ = ϑ, þ, th, ṯ, ṭ
    • ç = tr, θʳ, ϑʳ, ṙ, s͜s, s̀
    • f = p̱
    • y, v = j, w.

Other romanization schemes

Bahá'í Persian romanization

Bahá'ís use a system standardized by Shoghi Effendi, which he initiated in a general letter on March 12, 1923.[13] The Bahá'í transliteration scheme was based on a standard adopted by the Tenth International Congress of Orientalists which took place in Geneva in September 1894. Shoghi Effendi changed some details of the Congress's system, most notably in the use of digraphs in certain cases (e.g. sh instead of š), and in incorporating the solar letters when writing the definite article al- (Arabic: ال) according to pronunciation (e.g. ar-Rahim, as-Saddiq, instead of al-Rahim, al-Saddiq).

A detailed introduction to the Bahá'í Persian romanization can usually be found at the back of a Bahá'í scripture.

ASCII Internet romanizations

It is common to write Persian language with only the Latin alphabet (as opposed to the Persian alphabet) especially in online chat, social networks, emails and SMS. It has developed and spread due to a former lack of software supporting the Persian alphabet, and/or due to a lack of knowledge about the software that was available. Although Persian writing is supported in recent operating systems, there are still many cases where the Persian alphabet is unavailable and there is a need for an alternative way to write Persian with the basic Latin alphabet. This way of writing is sometimes called Fingilish or Pingilish (a portmanteau of Farsi or Persian and English). In most cases this is an ad hoc simplification of the scientific systems listed above (such as ALA-LC or BGN/PCGN), but ignoring any special letters or diacritical signs.

Tajik Latin alphabet

The Tajik language or Tajik Persian is a variety of the Persian language. It was written in Tajik SSR in a standardized Latin script from 1926 until the late 1930s, when the script was officially changed to Cyrillic. However, Tajik phonology differs slightly from that of Persian in Iran. As the result of these two factors romanization schemes of the Tajik Cyrillic script follow rather different principles.[14]

The Tajik alphabet in Latin (1928-1940)[15]
A a B ʙ C c Ç ç D d E e F f G g Ƣ ƣ H h I i Ī ī
/a/ /b/ /tʃ/ /dʒ/ /d/ /e/ /f/ /ɡ/ /ʁ/ /h/ /i/ /ˈi/
J j K k L l M m N n O o P p Q q R r S s Ş ş T t
/j/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /o/ /p/ /q/ /ɾ/ /s/ /ʃ/ /t/
U u Ū ū V v X x Z z Ƶ ƶ '
/u/ /ɵ/ /v/ /χ/ /z/ /ʒ/ /ʔ/


UniPers (Persian: پارسى جهانى‎, Pârsiye Jahâni) is a devised Latin alphabet for Persian. It focuses on making Persian easier to read, as opposed to the Perso-Arabic script. There are a lot of spelling rules and exceptions one must memorize in the Perso-Arabic script, and the UniPers Latin alphabet contains a simpler and a more consistent orthography. UniPers intends to make Persian language and culture readily available to all individuals regardless of education level, background, race, etc.[16]

Sample script
Tamâme afrâde bašar âzâd be donyâ miâyand va az lehâze heysiyato hoquq bâ ham barâbarand. Hame dârâye aqlo vejdân mibâšand va bâyad nesbat be yekdigar bâ ruhe barâdari raftâr konand.

See also


  1. ^ Joachim, Martin D. (1993). Languages of the world: cataloging issues and problems. New York: Haworth Press. p. 137. ISBN 1560245204.
  2. ^ a b Pedersen, Thomas T. "Persian (Farsi)" (PDF). Transliteration of Non-Roman Scripts.
  3. ^ "Persian" (PDF). The Library of Congress.
  4. ^ "Romanization system for Persian (Dari and Farsi). BGN/PCGN 1958 System" (PDF).
  5. ^ a b "Transliteration". Encyclopædia Iranica.
  6. ^ a b "Persian" (PDF). UNGEGN.
  7. ^ Toponymic Guidelines for map and other editors – Revised edition 1998. Working Paper No. 41. Submitted by the Islamic Republic of Iran. UNGEGN, 20th session. New York, 17–28 January 2000.
  8. ^ New Persian Romanization System. E/CONF.101/118/Rev.1*. Tenth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. New York, 31 July – 9 August 2012.
  9. ^ Bartholomae, Christian (1904). Altiranisches Wörterbuch. Strassburg. p. XXIII.
  10. ^ Kent, Roland G. (1950). Old Persian. New Heaven, Connecticut. pp. 12–13.
  11. ^ MacKenzie, D. N. (1971). "Transcription". A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary. London.
  12. ^ Hoffmann, Karl; Forssman, Bernhard (1996). Avestische Laut- und Flexionslehre. Innsbruck. pp. 41–44. ISBN 3-85124-652-7.
  13. ^ Effendi, Shoghi (1974). Bahá'í Administration. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 43. ISBN 0-87743-166-3.
  14. ^ Pedersen, Thomas T. "Tajik" (PDF). Transliteration of Non-Roman Scripts.
  15. ^ Perry, John R. (2005). A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar. Brill. pp. 34–35.
  16. ^ "UniPers". UniPers: A 21st Century Alphabet for the Persian Language.

External links

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