'Shi'a ("followers" or "partisans") as an Islamic term traces its etymology to the very first century of Islam.
The singular/adjective form of Shi‘ah () is Shi‘i (). The apostrophe frequently used (e.g. Shi'a) is technically incorrect, since the Arabic letter is the ayin (), standardly represented with a grave accent (`), left half-circle (), or turned comma (‘). The apostrophe represents the hamza, which has a noted difference in pronunciation. The final Arabic letter is the ta' marbuta, which also causes difficulty in transliteration. It is often pronounced as a soft /h/ (e.g. Shi‘ah), but in a construct state, and in more classical Arabic, it is pronounced as a /t/ (e.g. Shi‘at ‘Ali). The ta' marbuta is frequently dropped in transliteration (e.g. Shia).
Due to the complexities of Arabic, there are approximately 30 possible transliterations of . For technical accuracy Shi‘ah is the preferred form. Using the Arabic chat alphabet, the transliteration is Shi3a.