Urdu experts have the last word

Published: July 18, 2010
22-volume Urdu dictionary with 220,000 words is ready to hit the shelves

22-volume Urdu dictionary with 220,000 words is ready to hit the shelves

KARACHI: It took half a century to put together, but finally, the Urdu Dictionary Board has unveiled its 22-volume Urdu Lughat that contains the meaning of every single word in the language. It has 220,000 words printed on 20,000 pages and work started on it in 1958.

On Saturday, an ‘academic parliament’ of academics, literary figures and students gave a standing ovation to all those experts who had contributed to the effort over the last 52 years. The ceremony was held at the University of Karachi and was attended by the who’s who of the literati. The idea was to offset a similar standing ovation given by the British parliament on the completion of a 12-volume all-inclusive Oxford English Dictionary in 1928. The ceremony, organised by the Unikarians (Karachi University Old Students Association), was not marked by felicitations from government officials such as the prime minister or the education minister, unlike a statement made by the then British prime minister Stanley Baldwin who called the Oxford dictionary “the greatest enterprise of its kind in history”.

But people arrived from all over Pakistan to celebrate the success. Among those present were Dr Farman Fatehpuri, Haziq-ul Khairi, Iftikhar Arif, Fehmida Riaz, Syed Safwanullah, Prof Dr Shahana Urooj Kazimi, Prof Dr Abdush Saeed Nomani, Mirza Naseem Baig, Prof Sahar Ansari, Dr Unus Hasny, Dr Rauf Parekh, Farhat Fatima Rizvi and Professor Malahat Kaleem Shirwani.

“We should not fear for the future of Urdu,” said Dr Iftikhar Arif. “It has the potential to survive and it is being used in every part of the world. We should focus on promoting it rather than ‘implementing’ it.”

Talking to The Express Tribune, Prof Dr Rauf Parekh said the dictionary and it contains words, idioms and other derivatives and has been prepared on historical principles, which means that the historical perspective has been factored in. The dictionary has meanings and usage by authors and poets for which the board maintains a library of all important Urdu books and many rare handwritten manuscripts.

But the board has come a long way, as Fehmida Riaz pointed out. According to her, on the third day of her appointment as the head of the board, when the teams were still busy working on the last volume of the dictionary, she was informed by the authorities in Islamabad that they were being wound up. She said she had to fight on many fronts to keep the board working.

In fact, the bureaucracy had decided in 1987 to wrap up the project. The lexicographers and other staff working at the board have not even been given any promotion for the last 20 years and the office did not even have a photocopy machine.

The Urdu Dictionary Board has started revising and preparing a concise Urdu Dictionary along with bibliographic references.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Jul 18, 2010 - 5:13AM

    One must not forget Abdul Haq,Josh Maleeh Abadi and Shan ul Haq Haqqi on this occasion.It is also a fact that in the tenure of Farman Fatehpuri,it picked the pace and many volumes of these 22 were produced.All the living legends should be appreciated and all the parlimentarians[+waiting as well]should purchase a set of Urdu Lughat to subside the issue of bogus degrees.Recommend

  • Jul 18, 2010 - 11:42AM


    this is a great achievement and shows rare grit and acumen…baba e urdu maulvi abdul haq would be proudRecommend

  • Rajeev Ahal
    Jul 19, 2010 - 1:30PM

    This is indeed a monumental contribution. I am a Hindi speaking Hindu in India who fell in love with Urdu from childhood. I bought a kaida on the train and my mother and I taught ourselves urdu – so much so that I started reading urdu newspapers. but what i missed was knowing the meaning of some of the words that I was reading – and this dictionary will fill that big gap. The next best step would be that this dictionary becomes available online to reach the millions beyond reach of paper – any foundations or CSR oriented companies listening up ??Recommend

  • Jawaid
    Jul 21, 2010 - 2:52PM

    It is indeed surprising that the man who initiated this project in Pakistan in 1957 has not been mentioned and long forgotten. He is Dr. Itrat H. Zuberi who was Education Advisor to the Ministry of Eductation, Government of Pakistan from 1957-59. After Baba-e-Urdu,It was Dr. Zuberi who got this project initiated in Pakistan and got it approved and the funds released from the Government to establish the Urdu Board. It was Dr.Zuberi’s idea to use the Oxford Dictionary as a template for the Urdu Dictionary. Dr. Zuberi was a world renown scholar of 17th Centuary English Literature,who spent many years at Oxford University first as a student and later as a research scholar. He has several books to his credit, in recognation of his work he was awarded Fellow of the Royal Society of literature, Dr.Zuberi was the first Muslim and the second Asian to be awarded an F.R.S.L.Recommend

  • Saqib
    Oct 11, 2010 - 11:03PM

    Is it available for an ordinary person? From where it can be purchased? What is the price?Recommend

  • Mohd. safiullah khan
    Oct 23, 2010 - 6:32PM

    kindly pravide work meeing of


    Mohd. safiullah khanRecommend

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