2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Languages

Pronunciation: [ˈʊrd̪uː]
Spoken in: India, Pakistan 
Region: South Asia ( Indian subcontinent)
Total speakers: 130 million native (2007)
270 million total (2007) 
Ranking: 19–21 (native speakers), in a near tie with Italian and Turkish
Language family: Indo-European
    Central zone
     Western Hindi
Writing system: Urdu alphabet ( Nasta'liq script) 
Official status
Official language in: Flag of Pakistan Pakistan ;
Flag of India India ( Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh);
Flag of Fiji Fiji (as Hindustani)
Regulated by: National Language Authority,
National Council for Promotion of Urdu language
Language codes
ISO 639-1: ur
ISO 639-2: urd
ISO 639-3: urd

Urdu ( pronunciation , اردو, trans. Urdū, historically spelled Ordu) is an Indo-Aryan language of the Indo-Iranian branch, belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. It is Pakistan's main language. It developed under Persian and to a lesser degree Arabic and Turkic influence on apabhramshas during the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal Empire (1526–1858 AD) in South Asia.

Urdu is a standardised register of the standard dialect Khariboli. The grammatical description in this article concerns this standard Urdū. In general, the term "Urdū" can encompass dialects of Hindustani other than the standardised versions.

Standard Urdu has approximately the twentieth largest population of native speakers, among all languages. It is the national language of Pakistan as well as one of the 23 official languages of India.

Urdu is often contrasted with Hindi, another standardised form of Hindustani. The main differences between the two are that Standard Urdu is conventionally written in Nastaliq calligraphy style of the Perso-Arabic script and draws vocabulary more heavily from Persian and Arabic than Hindi, while Standard Hindi is conventionally written in Devanāgarī and draws vocabulary from Sanskrit comparatively more heavily. Some linguists nonetheless consider Urdu and Hindi to be two standardized forms of the same language, however others classify them separately due to sociolinguistic differences.

Speakers and geographic distribution

Image:Zaban urdu mualla (1).png
The phrase Zaban-e Urdu-e Mualla ("The language of the exalted camp") written in Nasta'liq script.

There are between 60 and 80 million native speakers of standard Urdu (Khari Boli). According to the SIL Ethnologue (1999 data), Hindi/Urdu is the fifth most spoken language in the world. According to Comrie (1998 data), Hindi-Urdu is the second most spoken language in the world, with thirty million native speakers, after Mandarin and possibly English.

- Because of Urdu's similarity to Hindi, speakers of the two languages can usually understand one another, if both sides refrain from using specialized vocabulary. Indeed, linguists sometimes count them as being part of the same language diasystem. However, Urdu and Hindi are socio-politically different, and people who self-describe as being speakers of Hindi would question their being counted as native speakers of Urdu, and vice-versa.

In Pakistan, Urdu is spoken and understood by a majority of urban dwellers in such cities as Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi/ Islamabad, Abbottabad, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Multan, Peshawar, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Sukkur and Sargodha. Urdu is used as the official language in all provinces of Pakistan. It is also taught as a compulsory language up to high school in both the English and Urdu medium school systems. This has produced millions of Urdu speakers whose mother tongue is one of the regional languages of Pakistan such as Punjabi, Hindku, Sindhi, Pashto, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Balochi, Siraiki, and Brahui. Urdu is the lingua franca of Pakistan and is absorbing many words from regional languages of Pakistan. The regional languages are also being influenced by Urdu vocabulary. There are millions of Pakistanis whose mother tongue is not Urdu but since they have studied in Urdu medium schools they can read and write Urdu but can only speak their mother tongue. Most of the nearly five million Afghan refugees of different ethnic origins (such as Pathan, Tajik, Uzbek, Hazarvi, and Turkmen) who stayed in Pakistan for over twenty-five years have also become fluent in Urdu. A very large number of newspapers are published in Urdu in Pakistan, including the Daily Jang, Nawa-i-Waqt, Millat, among many others (see List of newspapers in Pakistan).

In India, Urdu is spoken in places where there are large Muslim minorities or cities which were bases for Muslim Empires in the past. These include parts of Uttar Pradesh (namely Lucknow), Delhi, Kashmir, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mysore, Patna, Ajmer, and Ahmedabad. Some Indian schools teach Urdu as a first language and have their own syllabus and exams. Indian madrasahs also teach Arabic as well as Urdu. India has more than 29 daily Urdu newspapers. Newspapers such as Sahara Urdu Daily Salar, Hindustan Express, Daily Pasban, Siasat Daily, Munsif Daily and Inqilab are published and distributed in Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad, and Mumbai (see List of newspapers in India).

Outside South Asia, it is spoken by large numbers of migrant South Asian workers in the major urban centers of the Persian Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia. Urdu is also spoken by large numbers of immigrants and their children in the major urban centers of the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Norway and Australia.

Countries with large numbers of native Urdu speakers:

From this list it becomes apparent that the largest relative concentration of native Urdu speakers isn't found in South Asia at all, but in minor Arab states (United Arab Emirates, Bahrain) where they exceed 10% of the total population. This is due to the large number of Pakistani and Indian migrants.

Official status

Urdu is the national language of Pakistan and is spoken and understood throughout the country. It shares official language status with English. It is used in education, literature, office and court business, media, and in religious institutions. It holds in itself a repository of the cultural and social heritage of the country. Although English is used in most elite circles, and Punjabi has a plurality of native speakers, Urdu is the lingua franca in Pakistan.

Urdu is also one of the officially recognized languages in India and has official language status in the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, and Uttar Pradesh, and the national capital, Delhi. While the government school system in most other states emphasizes Standard Hindi, at universities in cities such as Lucknow, Aligarh and Hyderabad, Urdu is spoken, learned, and regarded as a language of prestige.

Yet, in much of the Persian Gulf states both the speakers of Urdu, who are imported to do the actual physical labour and menial work, and the language they speak and the script are considered to be inferior to the Arabic language and its similar script in much the same way the English have belittled the speakers of English from Ireland and Scotland.

Classification and related languages

Urdu is a member of the Indo-Aryan family of languages (i.e., those languages descending from Sanskrit), which is in turn a branch of the Indo-Iranian group (which comprises the Indo-Aryan and the Iranian branches), which itself is a member of the Indo-European linguistic family. Urdu (along with Hindi) is considered to be a part of a dialect continuum which extends across eastern Iran, Afghanistan and modern Pakistan—right into eastern India. These idioms all have similar grammatical structures and share a large portion of their vocabulary. Punjabi, for instance, is very similar to Urdu; Punjabi written in the Shahmukhi script can be understood by speakers of Urdu with little difficulty, but spoken Punjabi has a very different phonology (pronunciation system) and can be harder to understand for Urdu speakers.


Urdu has four recognised dialects: Dakhini, Pinjari, Rekhta, and Modern Vernacular Urdu (based on the Khariboli dialect of the Delhi region). Sociolinguists also consider Urdu itself one of the four major variants of the Hindi-Urdu dialect continuum.

Modern Vernacular Urdu is the form of the language that is least widespread and is spoken around Delhi and Lucknow while the Pakistani variant of the language spoken in Karachi and Lahore; it becomes increasingly divergent from the original form of Urdu as it loses some of the complicated Persian and Arabic vocabulary used in everyday terms.

Dakhini (also known as Dakani, Deccani, Desia, Mirgan) is spoken in Deccan region of southern India. It is distinct by its mixture of vocabulary from Marathi and Telugu language, as well as some vocabulary from Arabic, Persian and Turkish that are not found in the standard dialect of Urdu. In terms of pronunciation, the easiest way to recognize a native speaker is their pronunciation of the letter "qāf" (ﻕ) as "kh" (ﺥ). Dakhini is widely spoken in all parts of Karnatka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Urdu is read and written as in other parts of India. A number of daily newspapers and several monthly magazines in Urdu are published in these states.

In addition, Rekhta (or Rekhti), the language of Urdu poetry, is sometimes counted as a separate dialect.


Bilabial Labio-
Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n
Plosive p



Fricative f s z ʃ x ɣ ɦ
Tap or Flap ɾ (ɽ)
Approximant ʋ l j

Levels of formality

Urdu in its less formalised register has been referred to as a rekhta (ریختہ, [reːxt̪aː]), meaning "rough mixture". The more formal register of Urdu is sometimes referred to as zabān-e-Urdu-e-mo'alla (زبانِ اردوِ معلہ, [zəba:n e: ʊrd̪uː eː moəllaː]), the "Language of Camp and Court".

The etymology of the word used in the Urdu language for the most part decides how polite or refined your speech is. For example, Urdu speakers would distinguish between پانی pānī and آب āb, both meaning "water" for example, or between آدمی ādmi and مرد mard, meaning "man". The former in each set is used colloquially and has older Hindustani origins, while the latter is used formally and poetically, being of Persian origin.

If a word is of Persian or Arabic origin, the level of speech is considered to be more formal and grand. Similarly, if Persian or Arabic grammar constructs, such as the izafat, are used in Urdu, the level of speech is also considered more formal and grand. If a word is inherited from Sanskrit, the level of speech is considered more colloquial and personal.

That distinction has likenesses with the division between words from a French or Old English origin while speaking English.


Urdu is supposed to be a subtle and polished language; a host of words are used in it to show respect and politeness. This emphasis on politeness, which is reflected in the vocabulary, is known as ādāb and to some extent as takalluf in Urdu. These words are generally used when addressing elders, or people with whom one is not acquainted. For example, the English pronoun 'you' can be translated into three words in Urdu the singular forms tu (informal, extremely intimate, or derogatory) and tum (informal and showing intimacy called "apna pan" in Urdu) and the plural form āp (formal and respectful). Similarly, verbs, for example, "come," can be translated with degrees of formality in three ways:

  1. آ‏ئے āiye/[aːɪje] or آ‏ئیں āen/[aːẽː] (formal and respectful)
  2. آ‏و āo/[aːo] (informal and intimate with less degree)
  3. آ ā/[aː] (extremely informal, intimate and potentially derogatory).


Urdu has a vocabulary rich in words with Indian and Middle Eastern origins. The borrowings are dominated by words from Persian and Arabic. There are also a small number of borrowings from Turkish, Portuguese, and more recently English. Many of the words of Arabic origin have different nuances of meaning and usage than they do in Arabic.

Writing system

The Urdu Nasta’liq alphabet, with names in the Devanāgarī and Latin alphabets
The Urdu Nasta’liq alphabet, with names in the Devanāgarī and Latin alphabets

Nowadays, Urdu is generally written right-to left in an extension of the Persian alphabet, which is itself an extension of the Arabic alphabet. Urdu is associated with the Nasta’liq style of Arabic calligraphy, whereas Arabic is generally written in the modernized Naskh style. Nasta’liq is notoriously difficult to typeset, so Urdu newspapers were hand-written by masters of calligraphy, known as katib or khush-navees, until the late 1980s.

Historically, Urdu was also written in the Kaithi script. A highly-Persianized and technical form of Urdu was the lingua franca of the law courts of the British administration in Bengal, Bihar, and the North-West Provinces & Oudh. Until the late 19th century, all proceedings and court transactions in this register of Urdu was written officially in the Persian script. In 1880, Sir Ashley Eden, the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal abolished the use of the Persian alphabet in the law courts of Bengal and Bihar and ordered the exclusive use of Kaithi, a popular script used for both Urdu and Hindi Kaithi's association with Urdu and Hindi was ultimately eliminated by the political contest between these languages and their scripts, in which the Persian script was definitively linked to Urdu.

More recently in India, Urdū speakers have adopted Devanagari for publishing Urdu periodicals and have innovated new strategies to mark Urdū in Devanagari as distinct from Hindi in Devanagari The popular Urdū monthly magazine, महकता आंचल (Mahakta Anchal), is published in Delhi in Devanagari in order to target the generation of Muslim boys and girls who do not know the Persian script. Such publishers have introduced new orthographic features into Devanagari for the purpose of representing Urdū sounds. One example is the use of अ (Devanagari a) with vowel signs to mimic contexts of ع ( ‘ain). To Urdū publishers, the use of Devanagari gives them a greater audience, but helps them to preserve the distinct identity of Urdū when written in Devanagari.

The Daily Jang was the first Urdu newspaper to be typeset digitally in Nasta’liq by computer. There are efforts underway to develop more sophisticated and user-friendly Urdu support on computers and the Internet. Nowadays, nearly all Urdu newspapers, magazines, journals, and periodicals are composed on computers via various Urdu software programs.

A list of the Urdu alphabet and pronunciation is given below. Urdu contains many historical spellings from Arabic and Persian, and therefore has many irregularities. The Arabic letters yaa and haa are split into two in Urdu: one of the yaa variants is used at the ends of words for the sound [i], and one of the haa variants is used to indicate the aspirated consonants. The retroflex consonants needed to be added as well; this was accomplished by placing a superscript ط (to'e) above the corresponding dental consonants. Several letters which represent distinct consonants in Arabic are conflated in Persian, and this has carried over to Urdu.

Letter Name of letter Phonemic representation (in IPA)
ا alif /ɪ/,/ʊ/,/ɘ/,/ɑ/ depending on diacritical marks
ب be /b/
پ pe /p/
ت te /t̪/
ٹ ṭe /ʈ/
ث se /s/
ج jīm /dʒ/
چ ce /tʃ/
ح baṛī he /h/
خ khe /x/
د dāl dental /d̪/
ڈ ḍāl retroflex /ɖ/
ذ zāl /z/
ر re dental /rʃ/
ڑ ṛe retroflex /ɽ/
ز ze /z/
ژ zhe /ʒ/
س sīn /s/
ش shīn /ʃ/
ص su'ād /s/
ض zu'ād /z/
ط to'e /t/ dental
ظ zo'e /z/
ع ‘ain /ɑ/ after a consonant; otherwise /ʔ/, /ə/, or silent.
غ ghain /ɣ/
ف fe /f/
ق qāf /q/
ک kāf /k/
گ gāf /g/
ل lām /l/
م mīm /m/
ن nūn /n/ or a nasal vowel
و vā'o /v/, /u/, /ʊ/, /o/, /ow/
ہ, ﮩ, ﮨ choṭī he /ɑ/ at the end of a word, otherwise /h/ or silent
ھ do cashmī he indicates that the preceding consonant is aspirated (/pʰ/, /t̪ʰ/, /ʈʰ/, /tʃʰ/, /kʰ/) or murmured (/bʱ/, /d̪ʱ/, /ɖʱ/, /dʒʱ/, /gʱ/).
ء hamzah /ʔ/ or silent
ی choṭī ye /j/, /i/, /e/, /ɛ/
ے baṛī ye /eː/


Urdu is occasionally also written in the Roman script. Roman Urdu has been used since the days of the British Raj, partly as a result of the availability and low cost of Roman movable type for printing presses. The use of Roman Urdu was common in contexts such as product labels. Today it is regaining popularity among users of text-messaging and Internet services and is developing its own style and conventions. Habib R. Sulemani says, "The younger generation of Urdu-speaking people around the world are using Romanised Urdu on the Internet and it has become essential for them, because they use the Internet and English is its language. A person from Islamabad chats with another in Delhi on the Internet only in Roman Urdū. They both speak the same language but with different scripts. Moreover, the younger generation of those who are from the English medium schools or settled in the west, can speak Urdu but can’t write it in the traditional Arabic script and thus Roman Urdu is a blessing for such a population."

Roman Urdū also holds significance among the Christians of North India. Urdū was the dominant native language among Christians of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan in the early part of 1900s and is still used by some people in these Indian states. Indian Christians often used the Roman script for writing Urdū. Thus Roman Urdū was a common way of writing among Indian Christians in these states up to the 1960s. The Bible Society of India publishes Roman Urdū Bibles which enjoyed sale late into the 1960s (though they are still published today). Church songbooks are also common in Roman Urdū. However, the usage of Roman Urdū is declining with the wider use of Hindi and English in these states. The major Hindi-Urdu South Asian film industries, Bollywood and Lollywood, are also noteworthy for their use of Roman Urdū for their movie titles.

Usually, bare transliterations of Urdu into Roman letters omit many phonemic elements that have no equivalent in English or other languages commonly written in the Latin alphabet. It should be noted that a comprehensive system has emerged with specific notations to signify non-English sounds, but it can only be properly read by someone already familiar with Urdu, Persian, or Arabic for letters such as:ژ خ غ ط ص or ق and Hindi for letters such as ڑ. This script may be found on the Internet, and it allows people who understand the language but without knowledge of their written forms to communicate with each other.


English Urdu Transliteration Notes
Hello السلام علیکم assalāmu ‘alaikum lit. "Peace be upon you." (from Arabic)
Hello و علیکم السلام wa'alaikum assalām lit. "And upon you, peace." Response to assalāmu ‘alaikum (from Arabic)
Hello (آداب (عرض ہے ādāb (arz hai) lit. "Regards (are expressed)", a very formal secular greeting
Good Bye خدا حافظ khudā hāfiz lit. "May God be your Guardian" (from Persian). Standard and commonly used by Muslims and non-Muslims, or al vida formally spoken all over
yes ہاں n casual
yes جی formal
yes جی ہاں jī hān confident formal
no نا casual
no نہیں، جی نہیں nahīn, jī nahīn formal;jī nahīn is considered more formal
please مہربانی meharbānī
thank you شکریہ shukrīā
Please come in تشریف لائیے tashrīf laīe lit. "Bring your honour"
Please have a seat تشریف رکھیئے tashrīf rakhīe lit. "Place your honour"
I am happy to meet you اپ سے مل کر خوشی ہوئی āp se mil kar khushī hūye lit. "Having met you happiness happened"
Do you speak English? کیا اپ انگریزی بولتے ہیں؟ kya āp angrezī bolte hain? lit. "Do you speak English?"
I do not speak Urdu. میں اردو نہیں بولتا/بولتی main urdū nahīn boltā/boltī boltā is masculine, boltī is feminine
My name is ... میرا نام ۔۔۔ ہے merā nām .... hai
Which way to Lahore? لاھور کس طرف ہے؟ lāhaur kis taraf hai?
Where is Lucknow? لکھنئو کہاں ہے؟ lakhnau kahān hai
Urdu is a good language. اردو اچھی زبان ہے urdū achchhī zabān hai


Urdu has only become a literary language in recent centuries, as Persian and Arabic were formerly the idioms of choice for "elevated" subjects. However, despite its late development, Urdu literature boasts some world-recognised artists and a considerable corpus.



Urdu holds the largest collection of works on Islamic literature and Sharia after Arabic and Persian. These include translations and interpretation of Qur'an, commentary on Hadith, Fiqh, history, spirituality, Sufism and metaphysics. A great number of classical texts from Arabic and Persian, have also been translated into Urdu. Relatively inexpensive publishing, combined with the use of Urdu as a lingua franca among Muslims of South Asia, has meant that Islam-related works in Urdu far outnumber such works in any other South Asian language. Popular Islamic books, originally written in Urdu, include Qasas-ul-Anbia, Fazail-e-Amal, Bahishti Zewar the Bahar-e-Shariat.


Secular prose includes all categories of widely known fiction and non-fiction work, separable into genres.

The dāstān, or tale, a traditional story which may have many characters and complex plotting. This has now fallen into disuse.

The afsāna, or short story, probably the best-known genre of Urdu fiction. The best-known afsāna writers, or afsāna nigār, in Urdu are Saadat Hasan Manto, Qurratulain Hyder (Qurat-ul-Ain Haider), Munshi Premchand, Ismat Chughtai, Krishan Chander, Ghulam Abbas, Banu Qudsia and Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi. Munshi Premchand, became known as a pioneer in the afsāna, though some contend that his were not technically the first as Sir Ross Masood had already written many short stories in Urdu.

Novels form a genre of their own, in the tradition of the English novel.

Other genres include saférnāma (travel story), mazmoon (essay), sarguzisht(account/narrative), inshaeya(satirical essay), murasela(editorial), and khud navvisht (autobiography).


Mirza Ghalib (1796–1869), a respected poet of Urdu.
Mirza Ghalib (1796–1869), a respected poet of Urdu.

Urdu has been the premier language of poetry in South Asia for two centuries, and has developed a rich tradition in a variety of poetic genres. The 'Ghazal' in Urdu represents the most popular form of subjective poetry, while the ' Nazm' exemplifies the objective kind, often reserved for narrative, descriptive, didactic or satirical purposes. Under the broad head of the Nazm we may also include the classical forms of poems known by specific names such as ' Masnavi' (a long narrative poem in rhyming couplets on any theme: romantic, religious, or didactic), ' Marsia' (an elegy traditionally meant to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain Alla hiss salam, grandson of Prophet Muhammad Sal lal laho allaha wa allahe wa sallam, and his comrades of the Karbala fame), or 'Qasida' (a panegyric written in praise of a king or a nobleman), for all these poems have a single presiding subject, logically developed and concluded. However, these poetic species have an old world aura about their subject and style, and are different from the modern Nazm, supposed to have come into vogue in the later part of the nineteenth century.

Urdu poetry forms itself with following basic ingredients:

  • Bait
  • Bait-ul-Ghazal
  • Beher
  • Diwan (دیوان)
  • Husn-E-Matla
  • Kalam (کلام)
  • Kulyat (کلیات)
  • Maqta
  • Matla
  • Mavra
  • Misra
  • Mushaira
  • Qaafiyaa
  • Radif
  • Sher
  • Shayar
  • Shayari
  • Tah-Tul-Lafz
  • Takhallus
  • Tarannum
  • Triveni

The major genres of poetry found in Urdu are:

  • Doha (دوہا)
  • Fard
  • Geet (گیت)
  • Ghazal (غزل), as practiced by many poets in the Arab tradition. Mir, Ghalib, Daagh, Jaun and Nasir Kazmi are well-known composers of ghazal.
  • Hamd (حمد)
  • Hazal
  • Hijv
  • Kafi
  • Madah
  • Manqabat
  • Marsia (مرثیہ)
  • Masnavi (مثنوی)
  • Munajat
  • Musaddas (مسدس)
  • Mukhammas
  • Naat (نعت)
  • Nazm (نظم), Faiz and Rashid are known as great poets of this form.
  • Noha (نوحہ)
  • Qasida (قصیدہ)
  • Qat'ã (قطعہ)
  • Qawwali
  • Rubai (a.k.a. Rubayyat or Rubaiyat) (رباعیات)
  • Salam
  • Sehra (سہرا)
  • Shehr a'ashob
  • Soz (سوز)
  • Wasokht

Foreign forms such as the sonnet, azad nazm or( Free verse) and haiku have also been used by some modern Urdu poets.

Probably the most widely recited, and memorised genre of contemporary Urdu poetry is nāt—panegyric poetry written in praise of the Prophet Muhammad Sal lal laho allaha wa allahe wa sallam. Nāt can be of any formal category, but is most commonly in the ghazal form. The language used in Urdu nāt ranges from the intensely colloquial to a highly Persianised formal language. The great early twentieth century scholar Imam Ahmad Raza Khan, who wrote many of the most well known nāts in Urdu, epitomised this range in a ghazal of nine stanzas (bayt) in which every stanza contains half a line each of Arabic, Persian, formal Urdu, and colloquial Hindi. The same poet composed a salām—a poem of greeting to the Prophet Muhammad Sal lal laho allaha wa allahe wa sallam, derived from the unorthodox practice of qiyam, or standing, during the mawlid, or celebration of the birth of the Prophet—Mustafā Jān-e Rahmat, which, due to being recited on Fridays in some Urdu speaking mosques throughout the world, is probably the more frequently recited Urdu poems of the modern era.

Another important genre of Urdu prose are the poems commemorating the martyrdom of Imam Hussain Allah hiss salam and Battle of Karbala, called noha (نوحہ) and marsia. Anees and Dabeer are famous in this regard. Indian film industry has long history of Urdu Poetry in the songs, in fact, popularity and succsess is some time song dependant. The quality of language and expression is much higher than Hindi language.


Ash'ār (اشعار) (Couplet). It consists of two lines, Misra (مصرعہ); first line is called Misra-e-oola (مصرع اولی) and the second is called 'Misra-e-sānī' (مصرعہ ثانی). Each verse embodies a single thought or subject (sing) She'r (شعر).

Urdu poetry example

As in Ghalib's famous couplet where he compares himself to his great predecessor, the master poet Mir:

ریختا کے تمہی استاد نہیں ہو غالب
کہتے ہیں اگلے زمانے میں کوئی میر بھی تھا

Rekhta ke tumhin ustād nahīn ho Ghālib
Kahte hain agle zamāne mein ko'ī Mīr bhī thā

You are not the only master of poetry O'Ghalib,
They say, in the past; was also someone Mir


Urdu developed as local Indo-Aryan dialects came under the influence of the Muslim courts that ruled South Asia from the early thirteenth century. Its Indic vocabulary has been enriched by borrowings from Arabic, Persian, Turkish, English and other Indian languages.

The official language of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal Empire, and their successor states, as well as the cultured language of poetry and literature, was Persian, while the language of religion was Arabic. Most of the Sultans and nobility in the Sultanate period were Persianised Turks from Central Asia who spoke Turkic as their mother tongue. The Mughals were also from Persianized Central Asia, but spoke Turkish as their first language; however the Mughals later adopted Persian. Persian became the preferred language of the Muslim elite of north India before the Mughals entered the scene. Babur's mother tongue was Turkish and he wrote exclusively in Turkish. His son and successor Humayun also spoke and wrote in Turkish. Muzaffar Alam, a noted scholar of Mughal and Indo-Persian history, suggests that Persian became the lingua franca of the empire under Akbar for various political and social factors due to its non-sectarian and fluid nature. The influence of these languages on Indian apabhramshas led to a vernacular that is the ancestor of today's Urdu. Dialects of this vernacular are spoken today in cities and villages throughout Pakistan and northern India. Cities with a particularly strong tradition of Urdu include Delhi, Hyderabad, Karachi, Lucknow and Lahore.

The name Urdu

The term Urdu came into use when Shah Jahan built the Red Fort in Delhi. The word Urdu itself comes from a Turkic word ordu, "tent" or "army", from which English also gets the word " horde". Hence Urdu is sometimes called "Lashkarī zabān" or the language of the army. Furthermore, armies of India often contained soldiers with various native tongues. Hence, Urdu was the chosen language to address the soldiers as it abridged several languages.

Wherever Muslim soldiers and officials settled, they carried Urdu with them. Urdu enjoyed commanding status in the literary courts of late Muslim rulers and Nawabs, and flourished under their patronage, partially displacing Persian as the language of elite in the then Indian society.

Urdu continued as one of many languages in Northwest India. In 1947, Urdu was established as the national language of Pakistan in the hope that this move would unite and homogenise the various ethnic groups of the new nation. Urdu suddenly went from a language of a minority to the language of the majority. It also became the official language of some of the various states of India. Today, Urdu is taught throughout Pakistani schools and spoken in government positions, and it is also common in much of Northern India. Urdu's sister language, Hindi, is the official language of India.

Urdu and Hindi

Because of their identical grammar and nearly identical core vocabularies, most linguists do not distinguish between Hindi and Urdu as separate languages—at least not in reference to the informal spoken registers. For them, ordinary informal Urdu and Hindi can be seen as variants of the same language ( Hindustani) with the difference being that Urdu is supplemented with a Perso-Arabic vocabulary and Hindi a Sanskritic vocabulary. Additionally, there is the convention of Urdu being written in Perso-Arabic script, and Hindi in Devanagari. The standard, "proper" grammars of both languages are based on Khariboli grammar — the dialect of the Delhi region. So, with respect to grammar, the languages are mutually intelligible when spoken, and can be thought of two written variants the same language.

Hindustani is the name often given to this language as it developed over hundreds of years throughout India (which formerly included what is now Pakistan). In the same way that the core vocabulary of English evolved from Old English (Anglo-Saxon) but includes a large number of words borrowed from French and other languages (whose pronunciations often changed naturally so as to become easier for speakers of English to pronounce), what may be called Hindustani can be said to have evolved from Sanskrit while borrowing many Persian and Arabic words over the years, and changing the pronunciations (and often even the meanings) of those words to make them easier for Hindustani speakers to pronounce. Therefore, Hindustani is the language as it evolved organically.

Linguistically speaking, Standard Hindi is a form of colloquial Hindustani, with lesser use of Persian and Arabic loanwords, while inheriting its formal vocabulary from Sanskrit; Standard Urdu is also a form of Hindustani, de-Sanskritised, with its a significant part of formal vocabulary consisting of loanwords from Persian and Arabic. The difference, thus is in the vocabulary, and not the structure of the language.

The difference is also sociolinguistic: When people speak Hindustani (i.e., when they are speaking colloquially) speakers who are Muslims will usually say that they are speaking Urdu, and those who are Hindus will typically say that they are speaking Hindi, even though they are speaking essentially the same language.

The two standardised registers of Hindustani — Hindi and Urdu — have become so entrenched as separate languages that often nationalists, both Muslim and Hindu, claim that Hindi and Urdu have always been separate languages. However, there are unifying forces. For example, it is said that Indian Bollywood films are made in "Hindi", but the language used in most of them is Urdu. The dialogue is frequently developed in English and later translated to an intentionally neutral Hindustani which can be easily understood by speakers of most North Indian languages, both in India and in Pakistan.

Also see Hindi.

Urdu and Bollywood

The part of the Indian film industry based in Mumbai is often called Bollywood (بالی وڈ). The language used in Bollywood movies uses a vocabulary that could be understood by Urdu and Hindi speakers alike. The film industry wants to reach the largest possible audience, and it cannot do that if the vocabulary is too one-sidedly Sanskritized or Persianized. This rule is broken only for song lyrics, which use elevated, poetic language. Often, this means using poetic Urdu words (of Arabic and Persian origin) or poetic Hindi words (of Sanskrit origin). A few films, like Jodha Akbar, Umrao Jaan, Pakeezah, Heer Raanjha and Mughal-e-azam, have used vocabulary that leans more towards Urdu, as they depict places and times when Urdu would have been used..

From the 1950s through the 1970s, Bollywood films displayed the name of the film in Hindi, Urdu, and Roman scripts. Most Bollywood films today present film titles in the Roman alphabet along with the Devanagari script, however sometimes Nasta`liq scripts are used as well.


  • Urdu Dictionary English to Urdu Dictionary
  • Urdu to English Dictionary Urdu to English Dictionary
  • English to Urdu to English dictionary
  • English to Urdu to English dictionary
  • English to Urdu to English dictionary
Retrieved from " http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urdu"
The Schools Wikipedia is sponsored by SOS Children , and consists of a hand selection from the English Wikipedia articles with only minor deletions (see www.wikipedia.org for details of authors and sources). The articles are available under the GNU Free Documentation License. See also our Disclaimer.