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Urdu facts for kids

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Urdu example.svg
Urdu in Nastaʿlīq script
Pronunciation [ˈʊrd̪u]
Region South Asia (native to the Hindi-Urdu Belt)
Ethnicity None
Native speakers 50.7 million in India
16 million in Pakistan  (2007 and 2017)
Language family
Writing system
  • Urdu alphabet
  • Urdu Braille
Official status
Official language in

 Pakistan (national and official)
 India (official as per the 8th Schedule of the Constitution and in the following states/union territories)


Secondary Official:

 Nepal (Registered Regional Language)
Recognised minority language in  United Arab Emirates
Linguasphere 59-AAF-q
Urdu official-language areas.png
     Areas where Urdu is either official or co-official      Areas where Urdu is neither official nor co-official

Urdu or Lashkari, is an Indo-Aryan language. It is the national language of Pakistan. It is spoken in Pakistan and India in the states of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. When spoken, it sounds the same as Hindi.


Urdu was believed to have developed in 11th century in the Delhi Sultanate, Urdu is evolved from Apabramsa of Shauraseni Prakrit, Urdu is a major form of Hindustani, The origin of the name Urdu is the Chagatai language's word for army, urdu. Basic Urdu is spoken the same as present-day Hindi, but Hindi uses the traditional Devanagari script (from Sanskrit), whereas Urdu uses the Persio-Arabic alphabet and relies heavily on Persian vocabulary. The poet Ghulam Hamadani Mushafi coined the term Urdu for this language in 1780. However, this began to alienate the two major cultures in India/Pakistan, the Muslims and Hindus. Hindus began to speak and write Hindi, whereas Muslims would begin to speak Urdu. This also lead to a need to "cleanse" Urdu of all its Sanskrit words and lead Hindi speakers to want to be rid of Persian words that remained in their language. in 1882 Arya Samaj argued that, Urdu should written in the Devanagari script, which started the controversy named, Hindi-Urdu controversy, and makes a divide of Urdu language, Urdu for Muslims, and Hindi for Hindus.

Relations to Persian


The letters in Urdu are derived from the Persian/Farsi alphabet, which is derived from the Arabic alphabet. The additional letters that are found in Urdu include ٹ ,ڈ ,ڑ (ṫ, ḋ, ṙ). To make the alphabet more enriched two letters were created for sounds ه (h) and ی (y). By adding these letters to the existing Persian letters the Urdu alphabet became more suitable for the people of North India and Pakistan.


Urdu is written right to left like Farsi script. Urdu is also written in the Nasta’ liq style of Persian Calligraphy. Nastaliq style is a cursive script invented by Mīr ʿAlī of Tabrīz, a very famous calligrapher during the Timurid period (1402–1502).

Levels of formality

Lashkari Zaban in Nastaliq script
Lashkari Zabān ("Battalionese language") title in Nastaliq script


Urdu in its less formalized register has been called a rekhta (ریختہ, ), meaning "rough mixture". The more formal register of Urdu is sometimes called zabān-e-Urdu-e-mo'alla (زبان اردو معلہ [zəbaːn eː ʊrd̪uː eː moəllaː]), the "Language of Camp and Court."

In local translation, it is called Lashkari Zabān (لشکری زبان [lʌʃkɜ:i: zɑ:bɑ:n]) meaning "military language" or "military tongue" or "Hordish language". This can be shortened to Lashkari.

The etymology of the word used in the Urdu language for the most part decides how nice or well done 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 first word is ad derivative from Adam (آدم) Arabic mean from Adam and it can be used for both man and woman in place of human being. Second word مرد mard refers to a gender or can be used for manly hood as well.

If a word is of Persian or Arabic origin, the level of speech is thought to be more formal. If Persian or Arabic grammar constructs, such as the izafat, are used in Urdu, the level of speech is also thought more formal and correct. If a word is inherited from Sanskrit, the level of speech is thought more colloquial and personal. The reason perhaps is the Moghuls (Turks ) influence over India deeming Sanskrit to be a lesser language than Persian or Urdu itself. For the longest time Persian was also official language of Moghul occupied territories.


Urdu is supposed to be a well formed language; many of words are used in it to show respect and politeness. This emphasis on politeness, which comes from the vocabulary, is known as Aadab ( Courteous ) and to sometimes as takalluf (Formal) in Urdu. These words are mostly used when addressing elders, or people with whom one is not met yet. Just like French Vous and Tu. Upon studying French and other forms of Language similar formal language construct are present. The whole grammatical layout appears to be almost identical to French language structure. The rules to form sentences and structuring them are identical


Two very respected poets who are not only celebrated in the Indian subcontinent but are famous in many other communities worldwide are Mirza Ghalib and Sir Mohammad Iqbal. 

Mirza Ghalib

Ghalib (1797-1869) is famous for his classic satire and sarcasm as seen in the following verse;

(Latin/Roma alphabet):

Umer bhar hum yun hee ghalati kartey rahen Ghalib

Dhool ch-herey pei thee aur hum aaina saaf karte rahe


O Ghalib (himself) all my life I kept making the same mistakes over and over,

I was busy cleaning the mirror while the dirt was on my face. 

Sir Mohammad Iqbal

Iqbal (1877-1938) was a poet, and an active politician. He focused his poetry on bringing out the plight of the suffering Muslim community. In his poetry he very boldly highlighted the missing virtues and values in the morally corrupt society. Despite much opposition in the beginning, he ended up leaving a huge impact. He is also called the “Poet of the East” and the “Poet of Islam”. His work is displayed in the following verse;

(Latin/Roma Alphabet):     

Aapne bhe khafa mujh sei beganey bhe na khush

Mein zeher -e-halahal ku kabhi keh na saka qand


I could not keep happy either my loved ones nor the strangers,

as I could never call a piece of poison a piece of candy.  

Iqbal is considered by many an inspirational poet. He played a large role in the Pakistan Movement, with many claiming that he was the one to spark it.

Common Words/Phrases in Urdu

English Urdu (Pronunciation through Latin Alphabet)
good acha
Bad Bura


Happy Khush
Sad Odaas

(Peace Be Upon You- from Arabic)

How are you? Aap kaisey hein?
I am fine mein sahin hu
Okay Acha


Can you speak English? 

(When you speak to a man)

Aap angreezi bool saktein hein?
Can you speak English?

(When speaking to a female)

Aap angreezi bol sakteen hein?
The weather is good today. Aaj mausam ach ha hei.
Where is the airport ?     hawai adda kidr hei?

Other sources

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