System of Transcription

The system of transcription that is used in this website is a limited version for English-speaking learners. It should be understood that transcriptions should not be too heavily relied upon since they can become a crutch. It is recommended that you train your eye to look at the Persian characters, not at the transcriptions, as you use this site. In addition, dialects and regional preferences can result in different acceptable pronunciations of the same word.

However, we have provided simplified phonetic transcriptions of Persian in most areas of this site. The general conventions for vowels are:

a as in sar سر head
ā as in sār سار starling
e as in ser سر benumbed
u as in sur سور feast
o as in sor

سر slippery
i as in sir سیر garlic

The following two symbols are used:

` (grave accent) = ع eyn
´ (acute accent) = ء hamze

For consonants, to prevent confusion such as can occur between such compounds as [-kh-] and [-k.h-]; e.g., نخود noxod ‘pea’ and نکهت nak.hat ‘fragrance, scent,’ etc., the following set is sometimes used:

چ c ch , as in cahār چهار ‘four’
خ x kh , as in xub خوب ‘good’ (voiceless fricative velar)
ژ ž zh , as in žāle ژاله ‘dew(-drop)’ (pronounced like the [s] in ‘measure,’ ‘pleasure,’ and [g] in ‘beige.’
ش š sh , as in šab شب ‘night’
غ γ gh , as in غار γār ‘cave’ (voiced fricative velar, pronounced very close to the French /r/. In the Tehrani dialect, under the Turkish influence, which is spoken by a large population in Tehran, γ is articulated as q. Occasionally an overcompensation takes place in the Tehrani dialect; such as pronouncing qalam قلم ‘pen’ as γalam
ق q qh , as in quri قوری ‘teapot’ (exclusive to words of Arabic or Turkic/ Mongolian origin.)

This system helps us define such words as نژاد nežād ‘race’ and نزهت nazhat ‘purity, immaculateness’ (From the Arabic nuzha), in which [z] and [h] are both articulated.

With vowels, in Persian there is only one /i/, which is invariably long, so i is used, instead of the /ī/ used by formal linguists. This is also the case with /u/ instead of /ū/. A final [-e] must always be pronounced as [-é] (as in the French fermé ‘closed’). It must never be pronounced with an off-glide as [-ey]). This is the sound which in Persian is orthographically normalized as the terminal silent /h/, written as ﻪ.

Additionally, since there is no pharyngeal sound in Persian, vowels are sometimes transcribed as //in the middle of the word, but initially, as /a, e, o/:



‘life, life span’



The semivowel /y/ is used initially in a syllable—whether it is in the beginning or in the middle of the word—and after any vowel, and when the /i/ is not a vowel; e.g., یاد yād ‘memory,’ نایاب nāyāb ‘unattainable’; پاینده pāyande ‘perpetual,’ رویگر rūygar ‘zink-worker, coppersmith.’ (It is needless to mention that after short vowels, /y/ by default creates a diphthong: /ay/, /ey/, /oy/)

Semitic // and Persian /h/ are both transcribed as /h/ (= glottal fricative).

Semitic /ﻄ/ and Persian /ت/ are both transcribed as /t/ (= voiceless alveolar plosive).

All /ذ/, /ز/, /ض/, /ظ/ are transcribed as /z/ (= voiced alveolar fricative).

All /ث/, /س/, /ص/, are transcribed as /s/ (= voiceless alveolar fricative).

(For more detail, see the section on phonology.)

Some examples:

things, objects plural, ašiyā’ اشیاء
pain, grief, affliction alam اَلم
worship, the act of worshipping parasteš پرستش
a swallow parastū پرستو
inquiry porseš پرسش
anteroom pastu پستو
endurance, tolerance tahammol تحمّل
timid, fearful tarsu ترسو
chin čāne چانه
soil, earth; Earth xāk خاک
hallway dālān دالان
crazy; mad divāne دیوانه
weasel rāsu راسو
set out ravāne روانه
dew(drop) žāle ژاله
general sardār سردار
a thing, and object (sometimes spelled شیئى) šey’ شیء
seek talab طلب
covetousness, greed tama’ طمع
tyranny zolm ظلم
flag, banner alam عَلم
sorrowful, sad γamgin غمگین
pill qors قرص
heart; counterfeit qalb قلب
a loan qarz قرض
effort, endeavor kušeš کوشش
mountain kuh کوه
ladanum lādan لادن
nest lāne لانه
Muhammad; the name of the prophet of Islam mohammad محمّد
ill, sick; patient mariz مریض
teacher mo’allem معلّم
kind, affectionate mehrbān/mehrabān مهربان
lamenting, groaning nālān نالان
groan, lamentation nāle ناله
a ruined and desolate place virāne ویرانه
guidance hedāyat هدایت