Why is ع written as 3?

As the title says, I was doing a lesson a few minutes ago and came across syllables like rub3, 3a, 3us. It seems to be pronounced kind of like a raspy h, kind of similar to the r in many Portuguese words (rua, cachorro, et cetera).

But, if anyone knows the reason, I was wondering why is it transliterated as a 3? I did some cursory research and found that other characters are transliterated as numbers as well. ح can be 7, خ can be kh, 5 or 7', and ق can be g, q, 2, 8, or 9.

There must be some reason, maybe the phonetic sound was difficult to describe. The information I've seen says that the numbers are mostly used in Internet chat Arabic, not necessarily MSA.

If anyone could explain why these number characters are what they are, I'd appreciate the info! Thank you in advance

July 4, 2019


i read the 3 is used for transliteraton as tge sounds doesn’t exist in english

Valerei posted this a few days ago

Arabic 'Ayn' ع || How to pronounce

the letter ع (A'yn / Ain / Ayin)

July 4, 2019

Thank you for the link to this video! I have pretty much no experience with Arabic. I couldn't figure out how to pronounce a 3. To me, it's more distracting than just to have the "a" sound spelled out. I'm sure there's an international phonetic alphabet sign that would make it easier for people to figure out than how to pronounce "3as"

July 11, 2019

Hello I am an Arab, and I tell you that there are no such numbers in our language, but some people invented them to be like symbols among them. We have only Arabic letters only: " أ ، ب، ت ، ث ، ج ، ح ،خ ، د ،ذ ، ر ، ز ،س ، ش ، ص ، ض ، ط ، ظ ، ع ، غ ، ف ، ق ، ك ، ل ، م ، ن ، ه ، و ، ى " just these .  

July 4, 2019

Thanks for your response! Do you think the numbers are included in the course because the letter's sound is hard to describe?

July 5, 2019

I think it’s purely just because those sounds don’t exist in English and the Arabs adopted the numbers for sounds. As far as I know it was a natural occurrence.

July 4, 2019

I can tell you that the 3 is inspired from the shape, it is the mirror shape of ع. The 5 is supposed to represent the first letter of the word خمسة . The g and 9 look like ق in some fonts, also in some kind of Arabic pronunciation, this letter is pronounced like a hard g (like in the word get). The 2 looks like a mirrored ء . And the 7 looks like a turned initial حـ . I think the 8 usually stands for the letter غ , it looks maybe like an incomplete 8, but not sure for this one. Also I think they use 6 for ط

That way, transliteration using numbers would be intuitive and easy to memorize.

July 6, 2019

That number really throws me, I don't know what to do with a number in the middle of a word in the Latin alphabet. I feel like it would actually be easier to read if they just left it untranslated, like ع‎urb, yaع‎iyy

July 12, 2019
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