Ẓāʾ, or ḏ̣āʾ (ظ), is one of the six letters the Arabic alphabet added to the twenty-two inherited from the Phoenician alphabet (the others being ṯāʾ, ḫāʾ, ḏāl, ḍād, ġayn). In Classical Arabic, it represents a velarized voiced dental fricative [ðˠ], and in Modern Standard Arabic, it can also be a pharyngealized, [ðˤ] voiced dental fricative or voiced alveolar fricative [zˤ]. In name and shape, it is a variant of ṭāʾ. Its numerical value is 900 (see Abjad numerals).
Ẓāʾ does not change its shape depending on its position in the word:
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
|Phonemic representation||ðˤ~zˤ, dˤ|
|Position in alphabet||27|
|Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician|
|Writing system||Arabic script|
|Language of origin||Arabic language|
In Classical Arabic, it represents a velarized voiced dental fricative [ðˠ], and in Modern Standard Arabic, it can also be a pharyngealized, [ðˤ] voiced dental fricative or voiced alveolar fricative [zˤ].
In most Arabic vernaculars ظ ẓāʾ and ض ḍād have been merged quite early. The outcome depends on the dialect. In those varieties (such as Egyptian, Levantine and Hejazi), where the dental fricatives /θ/, /ð/ are merged with the dental stops /t/, /d/, ẓāʾ is pronounced /dˤ/ or /zˤ/ depending on the word; e.g. ظِل is pronounced /dˤilː/ but ظاهِر is pronounced /zˤaːhir/, In loanwords from Classical Arabic ẓāʾ is often /zˤ/, e.g. Egyptian ʿaẓīm (< Classical عظيم ʿaḏ̣īm) "great".
Ẓāʾ is the rarest phoneme of the Arabic language. Out of 2,967 triliteral roots listed by Hans Wehr in his 1952 dictionary, only 42 (1.4%) contain ظ.
In other Semitic languages
In some reconstructions of Proto-Semitic phonology, there is an emphatic interdental fricative, ṱ ([θˤ] or [ðˤ]), featuring as the direct ancestor of Arabic ẓāʾ, while it merged with ṣ in most other Semitic languages, although the South Arabian alphabet retained a symbol for ẓ.
Writing in the Hebrew alphabet
When representing this sound in transliteration of Arabic into Hebrew, it is written as ט׳.
|Unicode name||ARABIC LETTER ZAH|
|UTF-8||216 184||D8 B8|
|Numeric character reference||ظ||ظ|