Saturday, 11 May 2013

Reference guide to Roman Hindustanti (Roman Urdu or Roman Hindi)

Here is a short guide to the Roman Hindustani (Roman Urdu or Roman Hindi) as it is used in sign boards, internet forums, mobile texts and for mostly casual written conversation in North India and Pakistan.

There are a few exceptions. They tend to show influences of the script one uses. Compare ahasaas (feeling) vs ehesaas (feeling). Indians (influenced by Devnagari) write it the former way, while Pakistanis (and some Indians like me) prefer the latter.


Single consonants

b – as in boy. Bechna (to sell), Banaras (the name of a city)
c – not used, foreign words are an exception. (cola, not kola)
d – sometimes as "th" in "the", dadi (grandmother), dimag (brain, intelligence)
      at other times as "d" in "command", danda (stick, baton), damru (a musical instrument)
      There is also a third sound which does not have any English equivalent. Mod  (turn), tod (to break)
f – as in fish, faltu (useless), fir (then, again)
g – always hard as in go; gerna (to let fall), gana (song)
h – as in house; harna (to lose), holi (the name of a festival)
j – as in jam; jamun (Jambul), jija (brother-in-law)
k – as in quick (unaspirated); kela (banana), kala (black)
l – as in London; lamba (long, tall), litna (to lie down)
m – as in man; maal (money), mohit (enchant)
n – as in nanny; nana (mother's father), neem (a herb)
      as in French "pardon"; men (in), saans (breath)
      as in kan (grain). No English equivalent.
p – as in blip (unaspirated); Patna (capital of Bihar); papa (papa)
q – not used, except in some words of Arabic or Persian origin ("qaum", "qafila", "quran")
r – as in Russian; roshni (light), rasta (way)
     Sometimes used in place of "d" in words like "Mor" instead of "Mod"
s – as in sip; sona (to sleep; gold); saas (mother-in-law)
t – sometimes as "t" in Italian "alto"; tota (parrot), totla (someone who stammers, stutters)
     in other occasions "t" as in pit (never aspirated); tanki (water tank), tokna (to interrupt)
v – as in van; vasta (sake), vikna (to be sold)
w – Mostly to replace "v."; wasta (sake), wikna (to be sold)
x – rarely used. Pronounced "ksh" as in Lakshmi. Only a few names have it; Laxmi
y – as in yatch; yaari (friendship), yatri (traveller)
z – as in zoo; zameen (earth), zar (gold)


bh – aspirated "b". No English equivalent. Bhárat (India)
ch – unaspirated, as in "church"
dh – aspirated "d."
       There are two sounds neither of which has an English equivalent.  
      Dhám (a place of pilgrimage) 
       and dhol (an musical instrument)
gh – aspirated "g." No English equivalent. Ghee
jh – aspirated "j." No English equivalent. Jhánsi (the name of a city)
kh – aspirated "k" as in car, cap
ph – sometimes used in place of "f"
rh - No English equivalent. Used as "d" of "mod" (turn) at the end of the names of cities and states: Chhattisgarh, Rajgarh, Junagarh
sh – as in slush
th – two sounds.
       One is of "th" in "think"
       the second does not have an English equivalent. Thand (cold)


chh - aspirated "ch". As in "church". Chhattisgarh   


Single vowels

a – mostly as "u" in cut. Kab (when)
      sometimes long as in father. Kitab (book), sipahi (soldier)
      Mostly long when it comes in the end of a word. Gita (Gita), pita (father)

e – as in elephant. Jan-e-man (darling)
     sometimes as in academy. Ke (that)
     sometimes as in may. Akeli (alone; female), jhelna (to bear)

i – as in inch. Kitna (how much)
     Long as in machine at the end of a word. Pani (water)

o – as in hot. Langot (a trouser), mota (fat, obese)

u – mostly short as in put. Lutna (to be robbed), pul (bridge)
      sometimes as in cut. Hum (we)


aa – long "a" as in father. Saari (an Indian dress), maali (gardner)

ai – as in animal. Hai (is), main (me)

au – as in ought. Aur (and), Qaum (society)

ay – In Pakistan, "ay" is found instead of "ai." Hay (is), mayn (me)

ei – as in freigh. Mein (in)

ee – as in feed. Bijlee (electricity)


Kal jab ham vahaan ja rahe the to hame ehesaas hua ke is dunia men sab kuchh theek nahi hai.

We realised not everything in the world was well when were going there yesterday.

Kya maths ka ijaad hua tha, ya fir us ko khoja geya hai?

Has mathematics been invented, or has it  been discovered?

Kaash hamaare politicians bhi hamaari tarah samajhdaar hote. Ha ha ha!

If only our politicians were as wise as we are. Ha ha ha!  


  1. Can you please better explain "rh" ?
    He, I see that "ai" is pronounced as in French or Sambahsa !

    1. "rh" sounds like "d" of "mod" (turn).

      The IPA symbol is: ɽ.

      You will find a sound sample here: Retroflex Flap on Wikipedia.