Picture Arabic

Arabic speaking countries

Arabic is an official language in 22 countries and is partly spoken as a mother tongue in 11 other countries. The Arabic language (native name: العربية) has its roots in the Afro-Asiatic language family.

With 107.95 million native speakers, Arabic has the highest prevalence in Egypt. As a percentage of the total population, the largest share of around 100 percent is in Western Sahara. A total of about 371.4 million people worldwide speak Arabic as their mother tongue.

Origin and dialects

The Arabic language comes from the Afro-Asian language family and has its origin on the Arabian peninsula. The oldest written records date from the fourth to the fifth century B.C.E. In addition to pure native speakers, Arabic is spoken by over 400 million people as a second or foreign language. It is thus one of the most widespread languages in the world. The Quran gave it a significance that lasted some 1,400 years, and it is used far beyond the borders of what was then Arabia.

Like most languages, Arabic is divided into different dialects. The spread of Islam in the seventh and eighth centuries created numerous widely dispersed communities, which in turn modified the language over time or allowed influences of formerly regional languages. Often the dialects differ only slightly in the written forms, while being quite different in pronunciation. Great influence took, e.g., the Persian, Aramaic or Greek languages. In the last two centuries, many loan words from English and French were added. Some of the dialects are similar to each other in written form, but their pronunciation is not intelligible, even to native speakers of High Arabic. The geographical classification alone assumes more than two dozen dialects today.

Distribution Arabic

Arabic script and alphabet

Picture Arabic The Arabic script consists of 29 characters and consists only of consonants and long vowels. It is written from right to left. Similar to the Latin script, the Arabic script is a Kurrentschrift, i.e., a way of writing in which the pen is only rarely lifted and the letters are connected with each other. Due to this only slightly interrupted line management and the increasing number of letters over the course of time, from the 800th century C.E. onwards, additional dots were added above and below the consonants in order to distinguish them better from each other.

A special feature of the Arabic script goes back to the prohibition of pictures in Islam: Instead of representing things pictorially, people shifted to writing and developed numerous beautiful scripts with sophisticated calligraphy. This gave rise to the elegant inscriptions on religious buildings.

CountryRegionOfficial languageDistributionTotal
EgyptNorthern Africayes98.8 %107,951,000
AlgeriaNorthern Africayes86.0 %37,993,000
Saudi ArabiaWestern Asiayes95.0 %34,153,000
IraqWestern Asiayes77.2 %33,608,000
YemenWestern Asiayes99.6 %32,850,000
MoroccoNorthern Africayes65.0 %24,100,000
SudanNorthern Africayes49.4 %22,555,000
SyriaWestern Asiayes90.0 %19,192,000
JordanWestern Asiayes97.9 %10,914,000
TunisiaNorthern Africayes69.9 %8,572,000
LibyaNorthern Africayes96.0 %6,466,000
LebanonWestern Asiayes93.0 %5,201,000
PalestineWestern Asiano95.9 %4,721,000
United Arab EmiratesWestern Asiayes42.0 %3,933,000
OmanWestern Asiayes76.7 %3,467,000
KuwaitWestern Asiayes78.1 %3,319,000
ChadCentral Africayes12.3 %2,113,000
IranSouth Asiano2.0 %1,758,000
FranceWestern Europeno2.5 %1,694,000
IsraelWestern Asiayes18.0 %1,686,000
TurkeyWestern Asiano1.4 %1,187,000
QatarWestern Asiayes40.7 %1,094,000
BahrainWestern Asiayes67.7 %991,000
Western SaharaNorthern Africayes100.0 %652,000
CanadaNorth Americano1.1 %421,000
AustraliaAustralia/New Zealandno1.3 %334,000
NetherlandsWestern Europeno0.9 %158,000
DjiboutiEastern Africayes10.6 %117,000
SwedenNorthern Europeno0.8 %83,000
DenmarkNorthern Europeno0.7 %41,000
CyprusWestern Asiano1.2 %15,000
ComorosEastern Africayes1.6 %13,000
GibraltarSouthern Europeno7.4 %2,000

Unless otherwise described in the text, this page is about native speakers — not the total number of speakers. How many people understand or speak Arabic as a subsequently learned language is not the subject of this page. Countries where native speakers make up only a few thousand, or even a few hundred people, or countries with a percentage well below 1% are unlikely to be listed here.