Variant of ad-.
Arabic definite article, meaning "the." It often prefixes Arabic proper nouns, especially place-names; an example is Al-Jazirah (Arabic: "The Island"), the name of an interfluvial region in The Sudan. The article is often used in lowercase form, hence al-Jazirah. Reference works, including Encyclopaedia Britannica, often alphabetize names beginning with al- under the main part of the name (thus, in the example, "Jazirah, Al-"). Thirteen Arabic letters-the so-called sun letters, t, th, d, dh, r, z, s, sh, s, d, t, z, and n-assimilate the l of al- in pronunciation; thus, Ash-Sham (the colloquial Arabic name of Damascus), not Al-Sham.
Learn more about al- with a free trial on Britannica.com.