In Arab world Somalia is written with ص. They call it صومال.

But in Iran where people use so many Arabic words in a daily basis without misspelling them, write Somalia with س. They write it سومالی.

How and when did Iranians write the name of Somalia with a س? I think this word and Amman, Capital of Jordan are the only Arabic words that are misspelled in Iran.

  • Doesn't the endonym in Somali have /s/ in it?
    – Draconis
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 20:37
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    ص is the emphatic ṣ in Arabic, generally pronounced /sˤ/ (s with pharyngealisation). س is a regular /s/ in Arabic. I don’t know the details of Arabic dialects, but ث is generally transliterated th or , and its standard value is /θ/, which is not an s sound at all. Sahara is an Arabic loan word in Persian – that is, it’s an Arabic word loaned into Persian. Conversely, while Somalia may have entered Persian via Arabic, it is a Somali word, and Somali does not have /sˤ/. So س is the more ‘correct’ letter to use to match the Somali word. Why does Arabic use ص, I wonder..? Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 22:25
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    No, صومال is not the endonym. The endonym is Somali, and it is Soomaaliya. The Arabic name is a loan word borrowed from Somali and thus an exonym, even if Arabic is now an official language in Somalia. Persian is not playing with or changing the endonym; Arabic is, if anything. Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 23:37
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    Use of ص is explicable by reference to the vowel system of Arabic vs. that of Somalia, not Sumalia. Emphatics have a lowering effect on the high vowels. صومال is the best Arabic spelling of the Somali pronunciation of the word "Somali".
    – user6726
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 4:17
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    @SnackExchange Arabic is an official language of Somalia, not the official language. Somali is also official
    – Tristan
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 8:35

1 Answer 1


All foreign names and words with (S) letter which are entered into Persian are written in (س) . If we borrow a word from Arabic, we will write it exactly same as Arabic letters like( ص or ث ) otherwise we just use (س ) for all Persian and Latin words etc. We Iranians prefer to derive names from Indo-European languages rather than Hamitic and Semitic ones therefore because of this attitude our letters are different from them in the most names.

The Persian name of Somalia is derived from the French Somalie, from the name of the native people Somalis, perhaps from the Cushitic language "dark", referring to their skin color, and perhaps from the phrase soo maal "to go and drink (drinking) milk".It refers to their hospitality with milk; And maybe it is from the name of their tribe's chief that is Samaale .

By the way somal ( صومال ) has different meanings in Arabic which comes from Afro-Asiatic root .

  • What about Amman, Capital of Jordan? Arabs write it as عمّان, and Iranians as امّان. I think that's for differentiating between it and the country Oman (عمان). But Arabs write both the same! So why do Iranians change the original name of عمّان? It has a tashdeed that differentiate it from عمان. Also, Iranian امّان can be mistaken for the word for security if written without tashdeed. Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 22:58
  • Arabs sometimes don't use a tashdeed. But they don't confuse عمان and عمان because of the rest of the context. Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 23:03
  • @SnackExchange, عمّان isn't the original name of that city. The original name was in Ammonite, not Arabic, and an older spelling would have been 𐤏𐤌𐤍 in Phoenician. But that first letter is ʿayin. Why does Persian use aleph instead? Presumably related to the fact that Persian pronounces ع as a glottal stop (/ʔ/) and not a pharyngeal ([ʕ]).
    – Juhasz
    Commented Sep 13, 2023 at 23:19
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    "By the way somal ( صومال ) has different meanings in Arabic which comes from Afro-Asiatic root ." Can you please tell its meaning? Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 0:36
  • This word has two meanings in the Arabic language. First, it is the name of a tree that grows in the desert, and second, it refers to the dryness of the skin that occurs in the desert.
    – Alireza
    Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 17:41

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