Last updated on November 28, 2020
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 him (ُمِنْه). 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.
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.
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.
Arabic grammar can be so excited: