Transliteration and texting in Arabic – Why so many numbers?

Asma Wahba


Asma Wahba

Transliteration and texting in Arabic – Why so many numbers?

Something that completely boggled my mind when I was living in Jordan and first began texting in Arabic was the fact that there exists an entire system for writing colloquial Arabic with Latin script plus a few numbers.

Rather than use the Arabic alphabet, it's a very common way to write for Arabic-speakers to communicate on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

All of the Latin letters pretty much represent the sound that they normally do in English, but here is a list of what Arabic sound each specific number represents:

2 – ء

(Note that this number can sometimes represent words originally spelled with a qaf, but because the hamza/glottal stop pronunciation is favored in colloquial Arabic, the 2 is very often subbed in for this letter. See my post on letter changes in colloquial Arabic.)

3 – ع

5 — خ

6 — ط

7 — ح

8 — ق

The following are some example words/phrases to get you started reading Arabic written in the Latin alphabet.

Remember that spelling is flexible.

The Arabic version and translations/explanations are written at the bottom of the post.

1. Kul 3am wa ente bi5ayr

(Hint: Look at the Allah expressions/holiday greetings post to remember what this phrase means)

2. 6ayyeb, bashufak bukra

3. Alf mabrouk 7abibi!

4. Meshta2alek kteer

5. 7elu jismik, shu ismik?

6. Bidak buza wa la esh?

7. 3la rasi 7abibti

8. Bidde aru7 3lsou8 hal2, bidik teeji ma3i?

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Arabic script, translations, and explanations

كل عام وأنتي بخير

This is a way to wish someone well on a holiday or their birthday. You’ll see it all over facebook at the end of Ramadan.

طيب بكرة, بشوفك

Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow.



شاف, يشوف

to see



ألف مبروك حبيبي

You can say this after someone graduates, gets married, gets engaged, etc…any time that someone deserves a congratulations.


A thousand




my dear (this is a very common term among men AND women and in this case the person addressed is male)

مشتقلك كتير

“I miss you a lot.”


a lot (جدا)

مشتاق, مشتاقة

literally ‘someone who misses.’ Add the ta marbuta if you’re a girl.

Note that the ‘lik’ is actually a separate word (the preposition ‘l’ combined with the appropriate possessive pronoun depending on who the speaker is missing) but gets squished together with meshta2. So if you were a man and wanted to say “I miss her,” you would say:

حلو جسمك, شو اسمك؟

This is my all-time favorite stupid pick-up line. It means ‘Sweet bod, what’s your name?’ and it rhymes!


sweet, nice, cute



Of course, you hear the ‘ik’ on the end of ‘jism’ and ‘ism’ here because the speaker is talking to a woman.

بدك بوظة ولا ايش؟

Do you want ice cream or what?


ice cream, usually pronounced ‘buza’ in colloquial



but only in instances where the listener has to choose between two options. e.g. Do you want milk or water?

صح ولا لا؟

Are you ready or what?

Am I right, or what?

على راسي حبيبتي

This literally means: “On my head, dear (female).” What it actually means is something more to the effect of, “I’ll gladly do that for you, dear.” A similar phrase that means essentially the same thing is:

على عيني الأثنين
بدي أروح على السوق هلا, بدك تيجي معي؟

I’m going to the market now, do you want to come with me?

راح ,يروح) على)

to go (to)


the market (often pronounced su’ without the qaf)


colloquial way to say now


colloquial version of the verb جاء, to come. Sounds slightly different but is very similar to the original word.

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