Arabic Dialects

Arabic (العربية al-ʿarabiyyah) is a name applied to a group of languages and/or dialects of Central Semitic, thus related to and classified alongside other Semitic languages such as Hebrew and the Neo-Aramaic languages. Spoken Arabic varieties have more speakers than any other group in the Semitic language family. They are spoken by more than 230 million people as a first language, most of who live in the Middle East and North Africa. Literary Arabic is the official language of 26 states, and the liturgical language of Islam since it is the language of the Qur’an, the Islamic Holy Book. Arabic has many different, geographically distributed spoken varieties, some of which are mutually unintelligible. Modern Standard Arabic (also called Literary Arabic) is widely taught in schools, universities, and used in workplaces, government and the media.Modern Standard Arabic derives from Classical Arabic, the only surviving member of the Old North Arabian dialect group, attested in Pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions dating back to the 4th century. Classical Arabic has also been a literary language and the liturgical language of Islam since its inception in the 7th century.

Arabic has lent many words to other languages of the Islamic world, like Malay/Indonesian, Turkish, Urdu and Persian. During the Middle Ages, literary Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. As a result, many European languages have also borrowed many words from it. Arabic influence is seen in Mediterranean languages, particularly Spanish, Portuguese, and Sicilian, owing to both the proximity of European and Arab civilizations and 700 years of Arab rule in some parts of the Iberian peninsula (see Al-Andalus).Arabic has also borrowed words from many languages, including Hebrew, Greek, Persian and Syriac in early centuries, Turkish in medieval times and contemporary European languages in modern times. Arabic is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an abjad script, and is written from right-to-left.

Egyptian Arabic

Egyptian Arabic, spoken by around 80 million in Egypt. It is one of the most understood varieties of Arabic, due in large part to the widespread distribution of Egyptian films and television shows throughout the Arabic speaking world. Closely related varieties are also spoken in Sudan.

Maghrebi Arabic

Maghrebi Arabic includes Moroccan Arabic, Algerian Arabic, Saharan Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, and Libyan Arabic, and is spoken by around 75 million North Africans in Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Niger, and western Egypt; it is often difficult for speakers of Middle Eastern Arabic varieties to understand. The Berber influence in these dialects varies in degree.

Mesopotamian Arabic

Iraqi Arabic, spoken by about 29 million people in Iraq, eastern Syria and western Iran. North Mesopotamian Arabic, spoken by around 7 million people in northern Iraq, northern Syria, northern Iran and southern Turkey.

Levantine Arabic

Levantine Arabic includes North Levantine Arabic, South Levantine Arabic, and Cypriot Arabic. It is spoken by almost 35 million people in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, The Palestinian territories, Israel, Cyprus, and Turkey.

Gulf Arabic

Gulf Arabic (Khaliji Arabic), spoken by around 4 million people[15] in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Sultanate of Oman, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran


Other varieties include:

  • Yemeni Arabic, spoken in Yemen, southern Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, and Somalia.
  • Sudanese Arabic (19 million speakers), spoken in Sudan
  • Najdi Arabic (9.9 million speakers), spoken in Nejd, central Saudi Arabia
  • Hejazi Arabic (6 million speakers), spoken in Hejaz, western Saudi Arabia and Eritrea
  • Hassaniya Arabic (2,8 million speakers), spoken in Mauritania, some parts of Mali and Western Sahara
  • Bahrani Arabic (310,000 speakers), spoken by Bahrani Shia in Bahrain, where it exhibits some differences from Bahraini Arabic. It is also spoken to a lesser extent in Oman.
  • Judeo-Arabic dialects
  • Central Asian Arabic, spoken in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan, is highly endangered
  • Maltese, spoken on the Mediterranean island of Malta, is the only one to have established itself as a fully separate language, with independent literary norms. In the course of its history the language has adopted numerous loanwords, phonetic and phonological features, and even some grammatical patterns, from Italian, Sicilian, and English. It is also the only Semitic tongue written in the Latin alphabet.
  • Andalusi Arabic, spoken in Spain until 15th century, now extinct.
  • Siculo Arabic, spoken on Sicily, South Italy until 14th century, developed into Maltese language.
  • The Muslim Hui people in China had knowledge of archaic forms of Arabic. The Hui of Yunnan (Burmaese called themPanthays) were reported to be fluent in Arabic.During the Panthay Rebellion, Arabic replaced Chinese as official language of the rebel kingdom. In Tianjin, Hui could speak an old, archaic form of Arabic, when they met Arab Muslims in recent times, it was found out that Old Arabic and Modern Arabic were very different, so Modern Arabic is now being taught to Hui.

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