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Punjabi (ਪੰਜਾਬੀ / پنجابی)

Punjabi is an Indo-Aryan language spoken by about 130 million people mainly in West Punjab in Pakistan and in East Punjab in India. There are also significant numbers of Punjabi speakers in the UK, Canada, the UAE, the USA, Saudi Arabia and Australia. Punjabi descended from the Shauraseni language of medieval northern India and became a distinct language during the 11th century.

In India Punjabi is written with the Gurmukhi (ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ) alphabet, while in Pakistan it is written with a version of the Urdu alphabet known as Shahmukhi (شاہ مکھی). The written standard for Punjabi in both India and Pakistan is known as Majhi (ਮਾਝੀ/ ماجھ), which is named after the Majha region of Punjab.

Punjabi at a glance

  • Native name: ਪੰਜਾਬੀ / پنجابی [pʌnˈdʒɑːbi]
  • Alternative names: Panjabi
  • Linguistic affliation: Indo-European, Indo-Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Central
  • Number of speakers: c. 130 million
  • Spoken in: India, Pakistan, the UK, USA, UAE, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Australia
  • First written: 16th century
  • Writing system: Gurmukhi and Shahmukhi scripts
  • Status: official status in the Indian states of Punjab, Chandigarh, Haryana, and Delhi; secondary officially recognized language in Himachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, and West Bengal; and in the Pakistani provinces of Punjab, Azad Kashmir, Islamabad Capital Territory, Rajasthan, and Uttarakhand

Punjabi is one of India's 22 official languages and it is the first official language in East Punjab. In Pakistan Punjabi is the second most widely-spoken language but has no official status.

Gurmukhi script (ਗੁਰਮੁਖੀ)

The Gurmukhi alphabet developed from the Landa alphabet and was standardised during the 16th century by Guru Angad Dev Ji, the second Sikh guru. The name Gurmukhi means "from the mouth of the Guru" and comes from the Old Punjabi word guramukhī.

Notable Features

  • Type of writing system: syllabic alphabet
  • Direction of writing: left to right in horizontal lines
  • Used to write: Punjabi
  • Consonants have an inherent vowel. Diacritics, which can appear above, below, before or after the consonant they belong to, are used to change the inherent vowel.
  • When they appear at the beginning of a syllable, vowels are written as independent letters.
  • When certain consonants occur together, special conjunct symbols are used which combine the essential parts of each letter.
  • Punjabi is a tonal language with three tones: a deep-rising tone, a high-falling tone and a mid tone. The letters ঘ (gha), ঝ (jha), ঢ (ḍha), ধ (dha) and ভ (bha) have a a deep-rising tone when in initial position, and when in medial position when they are pronounced are unaspirated voiceless stops. When in final position they are pronounced with a high-falling tone. Other letters are pronounced with the mid tone.

Vowels and Vowel diacritics (Laga Matra)

Gurmukhi vowels

Consonants (Vianjans)

Gurmukhi consonants

Other symbols

Other Gurmukhi symbols


Gurmukhi numerals

More numbers in Punjabi

(شاہ مکھی) Shahmukhi alphabet

The Shahmukhi alphabet is a version of the Urdu alphabet used to write Punjabi in Pakistan. It is normally written in Nastaʿlīq style and has been used since the second half of the 20th century. The name Shahmukhi means "from the King's mouth" The chart below shows the Shahmuki script with Gurmukhi equivalents

Notable Features

  • Type of writing system: alphabet
  • Direction of writing: right to left in horizontal lines
  • Used to write: Punjabi
  • The sounds ñ (ਞ), ng (ਙ), ṇ (ਣ) and nh (ੰ/ં) are all written with ں (noon ghunna). In initial and medial positions they are written with ن.
  • ے (bari ye) is only found in the final position, when writing the sounds e (ਏ) or æ (ਐ), and in initial and medial positions, it takes the form of ي.
  • Short vowels are written with: َ (ਅ), ُ (ਉ), ِ (ਇ): a, u, i.

The chart below shows the Shahmuki script with Gurmukhi equivalents

Shahmukhi script

Sample text in Punjabi (Gurmukhi alphabet)

Sample text in Punjabi (Gurmukhi alphabet)

Sample text in Punjabi (Shahmukhi alphabet)

Sample text in Punjabi (Arabic alphabet)


Sārā manukhkhī parivār āpaṇī mahimā, śān ate hakkāṃ de pakhkhoṃ janama toṃ hī āzād hai ate sute sippa sāre lok barābar han. Unhāṃ sabhanā nūṃ tarak ate zamīr dī saugāt silī hoī hai ate unhāṃ nūṃ bharātarībhāv dī bhāvanā rakhadiāṃ āpas vica vicaraṇā cāhīdā hai.

A recording of this text by Asha of Punjabi Hindi Online.com/


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about Punjabi | Punjabi phrases | Tower of Babel in Punjabi | Punjabi learning materials


Information about Punjabi

Information about Gurmukhi

Information about Shahmukhi

Online Punjabi lessons and other learning resources

Learn Punjabi and Hindi Online

Online collections of Punjabi phrases

Online Punjabi dictionaries

Free Gurmukhi fonts

Online Punjabi Radio

Punjab Online - information about the Punjabi language, history, culture, etc (includes an online English <> Punjabi dictionary and language lessons)

Punjabilok - Punjabi news, history, language, etc

Indo-Aryan languages

Awadhi, Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Chakma, Dhivehi, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri, Konkani, Kotia, Kutchi, Maithili, Marathi, Marwari, Modi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Rajasthani, Romany, Saraiki, Sindhi, Sinhala, Sourashtra, Sugali, Sylheti, Urdu

Syllabic alphabets / abugidas

Ahom, Badaga, Balinese, Batak, Baybayin (Tagalog), Bengali, Brahmi, Buhid, Burmese, Chakma, Cham, Dehong Dai, Devanagari, Dives Akuru, Ethiopic, Evēla Akuru, Fraser, Gondi, Grantha, Gujarati, Gupta, Gurmukhi, Hanuno'o, Javanese, Jenticha, Kaithi, Kannada, Kharosthi, Khmer, Khojki, Kulitan, Lanna, Lao, Lepcha, Limbu, Lontara/Makasar, Malayalam, Manpuri, Modi, Mongolian Horizontal Square Script, Mro, New Tai Lue, Oriya, Pahawh Hmong, Pallava, Phags-pa, Ranjana, Redjang, Shan, Sharda, Siddham, Sindhi, Sinhala, Sorang Sompeng, Sourashtra, Soyombo, Sundanese, Syloti Nagri, Tagbanwa, Takri, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Tibetan, Tigalari (Tulu), Tikamuli, Tocharian, Tolong Siki, Varang Kshiti

Other languages written with the Arabic and Gurmukhi scripts

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