In the first episode of Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan says that her necklace is her name in Arabic:

Thanks, it's actually my name in Arabic.

But, the necklace is not her name in Arabic, it's in Urdu, which makes sense as Kamala is of Pakistani descent and her family speaks Urdu and not Arabic. As both the character and the actress are of Pakistani descent, this should be something known to both of them and it seems like an intentional error.

An example of the Arabic spellings can be seen in the Arabic Wikipedia page for the character Khamala Khan: كامالا.

And, since there is no Urdu Wiki page for her, this article in Urdu about the show: کمالہ

And how it appears on screen:

picture of the necklace from Ms. Marvel

Why does she say it's Arabic and not Urdu?

  • 12
    Without knowing the context, she might be lying for simplicity's sake. Most people know what Arabic is, but might ask annoying follow-up questions about Urdu.
    – Exal
    Jul 9, 2022 at 7:17
  • 8
    For info, Kamala can also be written in Arabic the way it is in her necklace. Source: I am Lebanese and our main language is Arabic. The difference between the name you wrote كامالا and the way it's shown in the necklace, it the pronunciation. So, either as the answers already shown, that it's easier to say Arabic instead of Urdu because it's more known, or the necklace is actually in Arabic.
    – Paul Karam
    Jul 11, 2022 at 8:05

3 Answers 3


I think existing answers already answer the "why" component pretty well, but there seems to be some confusion in the comments about the spelling. Long story short: the same spelling works in both languages, and there are multiple spellings because transliterating is actually pretty hard.

I only have experience in one of these languages, but transliterating English to Arabic is a messy and remarkably inconsistent process. There are many possible choices with subtle pronunciation differences. The different regional dialects of Arabic introduce even greater variation, since some letters are pronounced differently.

Personally, I wouldn't write it as كامالا and I don't think that spelling represents the vowels very well. I would write it as كماله or كامله (they stress different "a"s), and you'll notice the first one looks an awful lot like کمالہ. The letters are actually identical, even the last letter, which takes the same form (ه) when out of context in both languages. It's written differently in context because Arabic script is complex.

Letters are connected (a bit like cursive) and take different shapes depending on their placement in the word. Even in the same context, there can be more than one way to write each letter. It's also wildly diverse in handwriting styles (with a long tradition of calligraphy) so there are many different ways to stylize each version of each letter.

In standard printed Arabic كماله would be the norm, but Arabic handwriting I would expect کمالہ to be common. It's a bit like the lowercase "a" in English, where the handwritten forms use simpler strokes than a printed font.

In any case, the names are essentially written the same way in both languages. They both use the Arabic script, and while there are plenty of linguistic differences, none of them really apply here. The only (apparent) differences are superficial choices that would be valid in both languages.

It very well may have been intended to be Urdu, and that would match standard digital print more closely, but it's completely valid and recognizable in both languages.


Urdu and Arabic are both written in essentially the same script (the same alphabet modulo a few letters missing or added), although the languages themselves are widely different. Much like e.g. English, Maltese, and Hungarian, three very different languages using the same (Latin) script. So you could say it's technically correct: that is "my name in Arabic [script]", or more precisely the variant of the Arabic alphabet that's used for Urdu.

But why not simply say Urdu instead of Arabic? Bear in mind that this is an American show set in the US, with an audience most of whom wouldn't know there's any difference between different languages using the Arabic script. As @Exal mentioned in a comment, the existence of Arabic as a language is much better known than Urdu. Instead of making their viewers go and look up what Urdu means, the scriptwriters might have thought it was easier to just have her say "Arabic" which is arguably correct since it could refer to a script rather than a language, although not as correct as "Urdu" would have been.

That also works as an in-universe explanation, if she was speaking to someone who might not be familiar with the word Urdu or the existence of the Urdu language.

  • 7
    Urdu and Arabic are both written in the Arabic script. I bet that's what she's referring to, but I haven't seen the show. On that note, I would say that English, Maltese, and Hungarian are also written in the same script, not alphabet, since some letters are removed or added, e.g. Maltese has ⟨Ħ⟩ but not ⟨Y⟩.
    – wjandrea
    Jul 9, 2022 at 19:09
  • 12
    Proper names aren't usually translated. Sometimes they have to be transliterated if their original writing system is different, but that's not the case here. So yes, that's just her name, in Urdu, Arabic, Farsi, etc.
    – T.E.D.
    Jul 9, 2022 at 21:40
  • @wjandrea Fair enough; edited to refer to script rather than alphabet. Jul 10, 2022 at 10:21
  • @T.E.D. It's interesting to note, though, that this character's name is rendered differently in Arabic and Urdu, according to the OP. Jul 10, 2022 at 10:22
  • 9
    I think the final paragraph, treating this as an in-universe decision by Kamala, makes more sense to me; the show frequently mentions Urdu in other contexts as the language spoken by many of the characters (Kamala's white, genius friend Bruno has been learning Urdu, for example) so the specific Ms Marvel audience is certainly treated as being aware of the language.
    – dbmag9
    Jul 10, 2022 at 10:35

Most people in the United States have probably never heard of Urdu. Given the context, it's likely that Kamala does what many real-life people in her situation do: they provide the next-closest, commonly known thing.

As a point of reference, I studied Uyghur for several years in the United States. If I'm in public with Uyghur materials I would most likely say that it was Arabic. It's a matter of selecting an answer that is appropriate for the audience. "Uyghur" would be more accurate, but would take a lot of time to explain.

Kamala, when asked about the language on her necklace, similarly provides an appropriate cultural analogue.

  • 2
    You're making the exact point that's made in the older, accepted answer. Please read the other answers before giving your own.
    – Joachim
    Jul 11, 2022 at 0:01
  • 2
    @Joachim Thanks. I'm not super familiar with the norms of this Stack. I don't see an accepted answer here. The existing answer (which is very good) provides reasoning for how viewers would understand the distinction between Arabic/Urdu. I hoped to provide an experience-based answer addressing why a person/character would make that choice. Jul 11, 2022 at 15:12
  • 3
    It's kind of like how I tell people who ask that I'm from Boston, when the truth is I'm from a small suburb 40 miles outside of Boston that nobody who isn't from the area has ever heard of. If I just say "Boston", people generally know where that is and no follow-up questions are needed. Jul 11, 2022 at 15:38
  • Yes, yours reads more like comment (to me). But my apologies, it indeed wasn't accepted, just upvoted a lot :)
    – Joachim
    Jul 11, 2022 at 15:46

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