Number: Zero (صِفْر)

This is the beginning of my series on numbers. It would be easy to rush through all the number 1-10 like many guides, but I want to break each number down and try to give them a little more context. Below you will see the number rendered as a word and as a character.

Zero صِفْر Sifr

Zero ٠ Sifr

Notice that the character for ٠ is a dot in the middle of the line, not at the bottom like a standard period.

The direction of numbers in Arabic

As we get further along it will be important to keep in mind that numbers in Arabic are written from left-to-right direction and pronounced accordion to a set of rules in spoken Arabic [1]. This confused me enormously for a long time. Until you start saying larger numbers aloud it will confuse you also, but take a look at the example below.

1034 ١٠٣٤ 'alf wa arba wa tela-teen

Notice how you say the ٤ before the ٣? In standard Arabic a number is read from the right to the left, least significant numbers to the most significant. However, the English speaking world has influenced spoken Arabic and that rule now only applies to digits in the 10’s. [2]


[1] Arabic Student: Large Numbers

[2] Quora: Why are numbers written left to right?