Hebrew alphabet

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The Hebrew alphabet (Hebrew: אלףבית) is a set of characters primarily used to write Hebrew and Yiddish languages. The present day alphabet is based on the old Aramaic alphabet, which in turn was based on the Phoenician alphabet. The term "alphabet", in the scientific sense, is something of a misnomer, as Hebrew script is more accurately described as an abjad; that is, a script with only consonants. Diacritics in the form of dots, called "niqqud" (נִקּוּד), are used to indicate vowels, primarily in the Bible, poetry, and books for children and foreign learners.[1] However, the Hebrew script is not a pure abjad, either, and the characters alef, he, vav, and yod are sometimes (in the case of vav and yod, frequently) used to represent vowels. When consonantal letters are used in this fashion, they are called matres lectionis (Latin: "mothers of reading"). This is in conformity to the nature of vowels in the Semitic languages in general, where consonant clusters indicate the "category of meaning" for a word, and vowels are a device for specification.

Modern script

The modern script is as follows:

Alef Bet/Vet Gimel Dalet He Vav Zayin Khet Tet Yod Kaf/Khaf
א ב ג ד ה ו ז ח ט י כ
Lamed Mem Nun Samekh Ayin Pe/Fe Tsadi Kuf Resh Shin/Sin Tav
ל מ נ ס ע פ צ ק ר ש ת
ם ן ף ץ

The script is written right to left, and has only one case. Five of the letters - kaf, mem, nun, pe and tsadi - have a different appearance when used as the last letter in a word.

The modern script is not the original Hebrew alphabet, but a development of Aramaic. In some Hebrew literature, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the original Hebrew alphabet is used for the name of God - yod, he, vav, he - within a text employing the "modern" Aramaic derived script.[Citation Needed] The original Hebrew script is much closer to the pictographs from which the alphabetic script was derived.[2] The alphabetic signs were stylized derivations of pictographs, and their names and phonetic values were taken from the common objects they were based on.


  1. Hebrew alphabet
  2. http://terpconnect.umd.edu/~rfradkin/phon-heb.html

See also