If you’re a native English speaker, learning Arabic numbers can be tricky. This is because they seem to be spoken “backward” when compared to your mother tongue. For example, in English, the number 21 is spoken as “twenty-one”. While in Arabic, 21 (or ۲۱) is spoken as واحد وعشرين /wahid wa ʻishroon/ or “one and twenty”.
What’s more, in America, you’re taught in school that date is written month/day/year or 6/2/1966. However, once your feet leave American soil, you can find the date written in a number of different ways. Some countries write it as day/month/year as in 2/6/1966 while others will write it as year/month/day (1966/6/2). Certainly, this can be very confusing for any language learners, including those learning Arabic. (And even then, you’ll also have to learn the Hijri date in Arabic.)
With all of this in mind, today we will show you how to write dates in Arabic format. You’ll also learn how to say the date in the Arabic language. In the end, you should be able to read the date in the Arabic calendar with the date in Arabic numbers.
So, let’s get started because you’ve got a date to keep!
As mentioned before, dates are written differently worldwide, in the Arab world, they are written year/month/day. That means March 17, 2023, is written as 2023/3/17.
You may already know that numbers used in the West such as 1, 2, 3, etc., are actually Arabic numbers. Arabic, conversely, uses Eastern Arabic (also sometimes called Arabic-Hindu or Indo–Arabic) numerals like ۱, ۲, and ۳, for example. However, it’s really not a big deal to know their names. What is important is to be able to recognize the equivalents of Arabic numbers to Easter Arabic numbers. Nevertheless, by now, you’ve likely already learned the letters of the Arabic alphabet and Eastern Arabic numbers along with them.
That being said, the date above (March 17, 2023) would be written as ۲۰۲۳/۳/۱۷ in Arabic. We could go on about switching from left to right to left and left to write. However, it’s easier to just remember that the month is always in the middle. For instance, when you use Western numbers, it goes day/month/year (25/12/2023). Then, all you have to do is flip it around when using Eastern Arabic numbers to year/month/day or ۲۰۲۳/۱۲/۲٥. Easy, right?
Since Arabic starts with years, so shall we. You’ll quickly notice that Arabic has a lot of “ands” or what we call “wa” و.
For example, numbers above twenty are read out with the ones place first, followed by “and” and then the tens place. Simply put, 25 would be read as “five and twenty” or in Arabic “خمسة وعشرون” /khamsah wa ʻishroon/. This goes all the way up to 99 (“nine and ninety” or in Arabic “تسعة وتسعون” /tisʻah w tisʻoon/).
Further, when it gets above one hundred, it goes hundreds and ones and tens. The same goes for the thousands, millions and so on. Though and goes in between all of them, it is only the ones and tens that switch places from 20 to 99. Here are some examples:
مئة وثلاثة وعشرون
/miʼah wa thalathah wa ʻishroon/
One hundred and three and twenty
سبعة آلاف وأربعمائة وستة وخمسون
/sabʻat ʼaalaaf wa ʼarbaʻmaaʼah wa sittah wa khamsoon/
Seven thousand and four hundred and six and fifty
So, let’s get back to the date. If you want to say the year then you would say, for example:
ألفان وثلاثة وعشرون
/ʼalfaan wa thalaathah wa ʻishroon/
Two-thousand and three and twenty.
ولدت في عام ألف وتسعمائة وستة وستين.
/Wulidtu fi ‘am ʼalf w tus’maa’ah w sittah w sitteen/
“I was born in 1966” (or “I was born in one-thousand and nine hundred and six and sixty”).
Here’s a relief. Most businesses and governments in the Middle East use the Gregorian calendar. You’ll also notice that the names of the months in Arabic sound very close to those in English. Take a look:
Months of the Year in English and Arabic
However, some countries of the Levant still use the local dialect for the names of their months. These will be handy for those studying dialects of the Levant and for those who wish to travel there.
Months of the Year in English and Levant Arabic
As we mentioned earlier, many Arab countries also use the Hijri calendar, otherwise known as the Muslim calendar. This calendar is a lunar calendar meaning it goes by the wane and wax of the moon. That also means it’s a little different from the Gregorian solar calendar in that it has ten fewer days. Thus, when compared with the Gregorian calendar, the Muslim calendar doesn’t always fall within the same time frame.
What’s more, since it came into use in 622 AD, it’s currently about 579 years behind the Western calendar. As of this writing, the Islamic year is 1444 which will last until July 18, 2023.
Another interesting facet of the Hijri Calendar is the names of the months. While you’ve likely heard of Ramadan, here are the others:
If you’ve learned ordinal numbers, then the days of the week (with the exception of Friday) should be pretty easy. Like the West, the first day of the week is Sunday or الأحد /al'ahad/ Monday is the second day or الإثنين /al'iithnayn/ and so on as shown in the table below:
Days of the Week in English and Arabic
Lucky for you, saying the date in Arabic is pretty easy. So, all you have to do is follow this formula:
Number + “min” + month
For example, New Year’s Day falls on January 1 or الاول من يناير /alawwal min yanayi/.
If your birthday is on November 11, that would be الحادي عشر من نوفمبر /alhadi ‘ashar min nufimbir/.
Okay, so let’s now bring everything we’ve learned together. Read these out loud (unless you’re on the bus or in the library or something):
The day of this writing is February 28, so we’ll start by saying “Today is…” or “…اليوم هو”/“al-yawmu huwa/”
اليوم هو الثامن والعشرون من فبراير
/alyawm hu althaamin wal ‘ishrun min fibrayir/
Today is February 28.
You can also add the day of the week in there like so:
اليوم الثلاثاء الثامن والعشرين من فبراير
/alyawm althulatha' althaamin wal ‘ishrin min fibrayir/
Today is Tuesday, February 28.
Next add the year with “من العام” /min al-ʿām/ (or “in the year”):
اليوم هو الثلاثاء الثامن والعشرين من فبراير سنة ألفين وثلاثة وعشرين
/alyawm hu althulatha' althaamin wal ishrin min fibrayir sanat 'alfayn wathalathah w ‘ishrin/
Today is Tuesday, February 28, 2023.
وصلت إلى الأردن يوم الأربعاء التاسع عشر من تشرين الأول عام ألفين وخمسة.
/wasalatu 'iilaa al'urdun yawm al'arbi’a' altaasi’ ‘ashar min tishrin al'awal ‘am 'alfayn wa khamsah/
I arrived in Jordan on Wednesday, October 19, 2005.
كان عيد استقلال أمريكا يوم الخميس الرابع من يوليو عام ألف وسبعمائة وستة وسبعين
/kan ‘id 'istiqlal 'amrika yawm alkhamis alraabi’ min yulyu ‘am 'alf wasab’umiaa'ah w sittah w sab’een/
America's Independence Day was on Thursday, July 4, 1776.
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