The Arabic word hundred is written مِائَة‎ – but pronounced like مِئَة.

How is it possible to have a كَسْرة before an Aleph? This is actu­ally impossible in Arabic. Well, let’s see…

There are several ideas to justify the strange spell­ing of مِاْئَة.

  • Some scholars date it back to the first writers of the Qur’an. The Aleph ا was probably meant to indicate the vowel of the second syllable but for whatever reason, it was placed before – and not after – the ئ.
  • Others say it was used to differentiate between the words hun­dred (مِئَة), cate­gory (فِئَة) and from himمِنْه). Arabic was writ­ten without vowel signs and dots, thus the words مِئَة and مِنْه would have looked exactly the same!

How is it in other Semitic languages?

The word is found in other Semitic languages, e.g., מֵאָה (“me-a”) in Hebrew. The Hebrew word is related to the Phoenician and Aramaic word.

The He­brew letter Aleph (א) is sometimes re­lated to the Hamza in Ara­bic which may explain the spelling of the Arabic word مِئَة.

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caption: pixabay (tookapic)

What is the correct pronunciation?

Whatever the reason is, the Aleph in the word مِائَة is nothing but extra (مُجَرَّد زِيادة). Therefore, don’t pro­nounce the word as if it was written with a long vowel “aa” which would result in مَائَة (“maa’a”). This is wrong.

The vowels are pro­nounced short and with “i”, i.e., مِئَة. In many Arabic dialects, the ­word مِيّة is used.

Strange forms

مِائَة usually serves as the first part of a إِضافة. A followi­ng word therefore has to be in the genitive case (singular). In its writ­ten form, the nu­merals from 3 to 9 are often united with مِائَة into one word.

For example: 300 years (ثَلاثُمِائةِ سَنَةٍ)

However, the very correct view is that you should separate them.


Note: This page was last updated on Jul 12, 2019 @ 7:53.

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2 comments
  1. Neat! I’ve been wondering why the word is written like this ever since I came across it in my entry Arabic classes.

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