Hebrew alphabet

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Hebrew alphabet
Font Abdschad
languages Hebrew
Usage time since about 300 BC Chr.
ancestry Phoenician script
 →  Aramaic script
  →  Hebrew alphabet
particularities written horizontally from right to left;
from right book page to left book page;
scrolled from left to right
Unicode block U + 0590 and U + 05FF
U + FB1D and U + FB40
ISO 15924 Hebrew
The word "Hebrew Alphabet" in Hebrew

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Hebrew for "Garden of Eden"

גן עדן

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The Hebrew Alphabet ( Hebrew אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי alef-bet Ivri ) is composed of 22 letters existing alphabet of the ancient and modern Hebrew and the biblical and Talmudic Aramaic . In addition, other Jewish languages or forms of language were and are sometimes written with it, for example Yiddish and Ladino .


The first ten Hebrew letters Aleph to Jod stand as numerical values ​​for the Decalogue , here from top to bottom and from right to left on the doors of the main synagogue Ohel Jaʿakov , Munich (see also Abecedarium )

Letter today's
Transcription international Transcription in German Surname Numerical value
classic print modern handwriting
Standard shape Final shape
א - Hebrew letter Alef handwriting.svg ʔ ʾ ʾ Aleph 1
ב - Hebrew letter Bet handwriting.svg b / v b / v b / w Beth 2
ג - Hebrew letter Gimel handwriting.svg G G G Gimel 3
ד - Hebrew letter Daled handwriting.svg d d d Daleth 4th
ה - Hebrew letter He handwriting.svg H H H Hey 5
ו - Hebrew letter Vav handwriting.svg v v w Waw 6th
ז - Hebrew letter Zayin handwriting.svg z z s Zajin 7th
ח - Hebrew letter Het handwriting.svg χ H ch Chet 8th
ט - Hebrew letter Tet handwriting.svg t t t Tet 9
י - Hebrew letter Yud handwriting.svg j y j iodine 10
כ ך Hebrew letter Kaf handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kaf-final handwriting.svg k / χ k / kh k / ch Cap 20th
ל - Hebrew letter Lamed handwriting.svg l l l Lamed 30th
מ ם Hebrew letter Mem handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Mem-final handwriting.svg m m m Mem 40
נ ן Hebrew letter Nun handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Nun-final handwriting.svg n n n Now 50
ס - Hebrew letter Samekh handwriting.svg s s s Samech 60
ע - Hebrew letter Ayin handwriting.svg ʔ (less often ʕ ) ʿ ʿ Ajin 70
פ ף Hebrew letter Pe handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Pe-final handwriting.svg p / f p / f p / f Pe 80
צ ץ Hebrew letter Tsadik handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Tsadik-final handwriting.svg t͡s ts z Tzade 90
ק - Hebrew letter Kuf handwriting.svg k k k Qoph 100
ר - Hebrew letter Resh handwriting.svg ʁ r r Resch 200
ש - Hebrew letter Shin handwriting.svg s , ʃ s, sh s, sch Sin, Schin 300
ת - Hebrew letter Taf handwriting.svg t t t Taw 400


The Hebrew language was originally written using the ancient Hebrew script , which is very similar to the Phoenician script (example:ב, a house symbol rotated by 90 °:, Phoenician beth.pngHebrewבית bajit "house"). Both presumably have the Protosinaitic script as a common origin.

From the fifth to fourth centuries BC Chr. Were with the rise of the Persian Empire and after the Babylonian exile Imperial Aramaic , the language of administration and the letterforms of the Aramaic alphabet to commonly used font for Aramaic and other languages. The use of ancient Hebrew characters was slowly being replaced.

In the Dead Sea Scrolls , the ancient Hebrew script is still occasionally used to denote the name of God, and coins from the revolt of Bar Kochba still have such characters.

The ancient Hebrew script was finally declared unusable for sacred texts by the rabbis in the 2nd century AD . In their place they established the Hebrew book script or square script, which is customary in Hebrew to this day, developed from the Jewish- Aramaic style , as the only canonical script . The Samaritan Pentateuch is still written in a further development of the ancient Hebrew script.

In addition, there are a number of epoch-dependent regional cursive scripts, which reproduce the square script with handwritten sweep, and a modern italic script , which developed in the German-Ashkenazi area in the 19th century.


The Hebrew script is left-handed , it is written and read in the primary direction from right to left, and secondarily from top to bottom. There is no difference between upper and lower case , but five of the letters at the end of a word are given a special final form, which appears in the table to the right of the standard form.

All letters are originally pure consonants , but four of them are used in addition to their consonantic meaning to represent vowels , especially long vowels , as so-called matres lectionis (mothers of reading) . This is how the two vowels become in the wordתורה "Torah" (instruction) written as consonants Waw and He: ת Taw - ו Waw - ר Resch - ה Hey However, not all vowels are written like this, especially short vowels mostly remain unmarked. In biblical texts, spellings with ( plene spelling ) and without matres lectionis (defective spelling) occur for the same word . Only when spelling Yiddish is the Hebrew script no longer a consonant script, in this case all vowels are written as letters: e asע Ajin, a and o as א Alef, as well as i, u, ei and oi with the help of י Iodine and ו Waw.

In the 2nd century BC Chr. Old numerals were replaced by numerical values ​​assigned to letters , which are marked as numbers with two slashes (called Geresch and Gerschajim ) between the last two digits. In sacred texts, numbers are usually written out in words in order to prevent reading and typing errors. In today's everyday life, numbers are mostly written with the Arabic numerals that are common in Germany , but the letter spelling is still common for dates in the Jewish calendar , for example .

Biblical unvocalized writing

The oldest form is unvocalized text, as it is in old Bible manuscripts and is still used today for scrolls with Bible text. It already contains matres lectionis , but neither punctuation marks nor diacritical marks of any kind.

Masoretic vocalization

In order to fix the reading of the consonant text of the Holy Scriptures for the worship service, various systems of vocalization (Hebrew Nikud, literally "dots") were developed. The Tiberian system has been fully developed since the 8th century and has prevailed over the Palestinian and Babylonian systems. The name is derived from the place Tiberias , where this system originated. Vowel signs consisting of dots and small lines are placed under the consonants according to which they are pronounced. However, Cholam is placed on the left above the preceding consonant or on the right above the following letter, and Schuruq is a point to the left of the Vaw. A vowel that is written in the unvocalized text by a mater lectionis appears in the vocalized text as a vowel mark, which is followed by the mater lectionis - this is retained, and after removing all vowel marks, the biblical unvocalized spelling is available again. The dots comment on the text without changing it.

This form has a high degree of clear legibility due to the fact that, with very few exceptions, consonant and vowel signs are always alternating, the former consisting of exactly one letter and the latter either just a punctuation mark or an additional mater lectionis . It is therefore also used in modern texts when absolute uniqueness is important, for example in dictionaries (in which you can then dispense with the pronunciation of the pronunciation), also in poems and sometimes in children's books for easier reading, in sacred scriptures intended for study and in most prayer books, but not in everyday texts. The vocalization is also used in the Masoretic text to distinguish between Ketib (= 'written, it is written as it is written') and Qere (= 'Read!'), To indicate that a word is to be read differently than the text or that there are alternative forms of text. Handwritten Torah scrolls as used in worship, as well as certain religious texts, do not contain any vocalization, as they reduce the ambiguity of some words to a certain meaning and thereby restrict and interpret the text , as is comparable with the division of the text into chapters and verse happens.

Surname Appearance (according to א) Transcription pronunciation
Old Hebrew New Hebrew Old Hebrew
New Hebrew
Chiriq אִ one point i i i / iː short or long i [i]
Chiriq Magnum אִי a silent iodine according to Chiriq i i long i [i]
Sere אֵ two horizontally arranged points ē e long e [ɛ̝]
Sere Magnum אֵי a silent iodine according to Sere ē e long e [ɛ̝]
Seggol אֶ three points arranged in a triangle æ e ɛ / ɛː short or long ä [ɛ̝]
Seggol Magnum אֶי a silent iodine according to Seggol æ e ɛː long ä [ɛ̝]
Patach אַ horizontal underline a a a short a [a]
Qamaz gadol אָ Patach with drops - a long a [a]
Qamaz qatan / chatuph אָ Patach with drops å O ɔ short open o [ɔ̝]
Cholemia אֹ Point above left O O O long o [ɔ̝]
Cholaem Magnum וֹ Waw with a point above O O O long o; like cholemia [ɔ̝]
Qubbuz אֻ three obliquely arranged points u u u / uː short or long u [u]
Schuruq וּ Waw with a dot in it ū u long u [u]
Chataph-Seggol אֱ Schwa and Seggol superscript æ e ɛ̆ very short ä [ɛ̝]
Chataph-Patach אֲ Schwa and Patach superscript a a ă very short a [a]
Chataph-Qamaz אֳ Schwa and Qamaz superscript å O ɔ̆ very short open o [ɔ̝]
Schwa אְ two vertically arranged points Schwa mobile: ə
or superscript e
e or nothing fleeting e-sound [ɛ̝] or silent
(regardless of its
traditional designation
as "quiescens" or "mobile")
Schwa quiescens: nothing silent
In non-modern Hebrew, Schwa quiescens denotes lack of vowels in closed syllables or at the syllable border (it is omitted in the transcription) and Schwa mobile a short syllable suggestion in open syllables, spoken as a volatile e-sound (depending on the transcription system with a superscript e or a ə reproduced).

The following can occur as matres lectionis :י Iodine according to Sere or Chiräq, very rarely also according to Qamaz or Seggol;ו Waw after Choläm or (mandatory) as part of Schuruq and Choläm magnum;א Aleph after almost all vowel markers;ה Hey only at the end of the word. Vowels with mater lectionis are always long; Chiräq and Seggol are long precisely when they have a mater lectionis . The matres lectionis almost never appear in Latin transcription.

The terms “long” and “short” and the distinction between the two Schwa are important for the syllable structure; As far as today's debate is concerned, however, they are meaningless. The long vowels appear in most of the open syllables (not terminated by a consonant) and in stressed final syllables terminated with only one consonant; Schwa is not counted as a vowel. Today only the vowels written as iodine and the open, stressed final syllables are spoken long; for example "shalom" (שָׁלוֹםSchin-Qamäz-Lamed-Choläm magnum meme), despite its two “long” vowels, pronounced like “Schallomm” (short, unstressed a and short, accented o) instead of “Schahlohm” (both vowels long). The Schwa mobile is also omitted - except in some prefixes - if the rest remains pronounced.

In vocalized texts, diacritical marks not only designate the vowels, but also specify some consonants in their pronunciation:

  • The pronunciation of the letter Sin / Schin as a sh sound is indicated by a dot on the right arm, and the s sound by a dot on the left arm of the letter.
  • The doubling of a consonant, which in some consonants also leads to a change in pronunciation, is denoted by a point in the consonant, the Dagesch .
  • Is a hey הNo mater lectionis at the end of the word , but used as the consonant h , then this heh is marked by a point in itהּ, the Mappiq. A mix-up with a Dagesch is impossible, since a He never wears a Dagesch.

Vocalized and accented text

In addition to the diacritics of the previous section, the masoretic Bible text contains other characters, the teamim , which structure the Bible verses in a similar way to punctuation marks and determine the melody used when chanting. They are only used in Bible texts.

Later and modern uncocalized spelling

In post-biblical times, even before the development of the Tiberian vocalization, the letters Jod and Waw were used more often than in the biblical model as matres lectionis, sometimes also for short vowels. If these two letters appear as consonants, this is indicated in many positions by doubling to distinguish them from Matres lectionis. Overall, this increases the legibility compared to the unvocalized text such as in Bible manuscripts. Modern Hebrew texts are written this way throughout.

The rules for using the additional letters are relatively complex. A full outline can be found in Simon's textbook; Only the most important differences to vocalized writing are listed below.

In some places Matres lectionis are written where there is only one vowel mark in the vocalized text:

  • Waw for Cholam and Qubbuz in all positions,
  • Waw for Qamaz qatan and Chataph-Qamaz, if other forms of the same word there have Cholam,
  • Jod for Chiriq when followed by a consonant with a strong Dagesch , but not for the Chiriq in the prefixמִ,
  • Jod for Zere in the stem of polysyllabic words before the stressed syllable and
  • Jod for Patach or Qamaz before a consonantic Jod or Vaw at the end of a word.

In addition, consonant iodine and vav are used within the word, i.e. H. after the first consonant of the word stem and before the last letter of the whole word, written twice - Waw always, iodine not before or after matres lectionis .

These rules are not or not all applied if this would lead to an accumulation of iodine and vav. There are also additional rules that ensure that different forms of the same word - and vice versa, analog forms of different words - are written more similarly than would be the case if the above rules were applied mechanically.

A few examples:
meschuga (crazy)מְשֻׁגָּע becomes משוגע,
tiqqun (repair)תִּקּוּן becomes תיקון,
tiqwa (hope)תִּקְוָה; becomesתקווה,
ahshaw (now)עַכְשָׁו becomes עכשיו,
khodschayim (two months)חָדְשַׁיִם becomes חודשיים.

Some small, frequent words do not change their word image compared to the vocalized spelling - and thus the biblical model. Biblical names too, e.g. B.

  • Chava (Eva)חוה,
  • Mosque (mose)משה,
  • Yehoshua (Joshua)יהושע,
  • Schlomo (Solomon)שלמה

are mostly written with the traditional consonant inventory, even if they are the names of people today. Foreign words and names tend to get even more matres lectionis than according to the above rules, e.g. B. historja היסטוריה, Bali באלי.

Partial vocalization

The language committee, later called the Hebrew Language Academy, published rules for non-vocalized writing in 1949 and 1968. According to them, the letter Vav should be dotted when it is used as mater lectionis , and dots that change the pronunciation of consonants (Dagesch in Bet, Kaf and Pe; dot on Sin; Mappiq in He) should also be used. These rules did not prevail. However, you will occasionally find texts that adhere to some or all of these rules.

Double vocalization

In some dictionaries you will find words that have a mater lectionis or a double-written letter only in the modern non-vocalized spelling, the simultaneous indication of punctuation and additional letter. It should then be possible to draw conclusions about both spellings and the pronunciation. This is particularly the case when the alphabetical sorting is based on the modern non-localized spelling. This notation is not used for continuous texts.

Comparison with some palaeographically related alphabetical systems

Name of the letter in Hebrew Hebrew fonts Other alphabetical systems
classic print script Rashi script Phoenician alphabet Greek alphabet Latin alphabet Cyrillic alphabet Nabatean alphabet Arabic alphabet
אָלֶף / 'alef / א א א Hebrew letter Alef handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Alef Rashi.png Phoenician aleph.png Α α A a А а 01 aleph.svg ا
בֵּית / bet / ב ב ב Hebrew letter Bet handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Bet Rashi.png Phoenician beth.png Β β B b Б б
В в
02 bet.svg ب
גִּמֶל / 'gimel / ג ג ג Hebrew letter Gimel handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Gimel Rashi.png Phoenician gimel.png Γ γ C c
G g
Г г 03 gimel.svg ج
דָּלֶת / 'dalet /,
also /' daled /
ד ד ד Hebrew letter Daled handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Daled Rashi.png Phoenician daleth.png Δ δ D d Д д 04 dal.svg د ذ
הֵא / he /,
also / hej /
ה ה ה Hebrew letter He handwriting.svg Hebrew letter He Rashi.png Phoenician he.png Ε ε E e Е е
Є є
05 ha.svg ه هـ
ـهـ ـه
וָו / vav / ו ו ו Hebrew letter Vav handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Vav Rashi.png Phoenician waw.png Υ υ
Ϝ ϝ
F f U u V v
W w Y y
Ѵ ѵ
У у
06 waw.svg و
זָיִן / 'zain / ז ז ז Hebrew letter Zayin handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Zayin Rashi.png Phoenician zayin.png Ζ ζ Z z З з 07 zayn.svg ز
חֵית / χet / ח ח ח Hebrew letter Het handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Het Rashi.png Phoenician heth.png Η η H h И и 08 ha.svg ح
טֵית / tet / ט ט ט Hebrew letter Tet handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Tet Rashi.png Phoenician teth.png Θ θ - Ѳ ѳ 09 taa.svg ط ظ
יוֹד / jod /,
also / jud /
י י י Hebrew letter Yud handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Yud Rashi.png Phoenician yodh.png Ι ι I i
J j
І і
Ј ј
10 yaa.svg ي
כַּף / kaf / כ ך כ ך כ ך Hebrew letter Kaf handwriting.svgHebrew letter Kaf-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kaf Rashi.png Phoenician kaph.png Κ κ K k К к 11 kaf.svg ك
לָמֶד / 'lamed / ל ל ל Hebrew letter Lamed handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Lamed Rashi.png Phoenician lamedh.png Λ λ L l Л л 12 lam.svg ل
מֵם / mem / מ ם מ ם מ ם Hebrew letter Mem handwriting.svgHebrew letter Mem-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Mem Rashi.png Phoenician mem.png Μ μ M m М м 13 meem.svg م
נוּן /now/ נ ן נ ן נ ן Hebrew letter Nun handwriting.svgHebrew letter Nun-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Nun Rashi.png Phoenician nun.png Ν ν N n Н н 14 noon.svg ن
סָמֶךְ / 'sameχ / ס ס ס Hebrew letter Samekh handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Samekh Rashi.png Phoenician samekh.png Ξ ξ
Χ χ
X x Ѯ ѯ
Х х
15 sin.svg ?
עַיִן / 'ain / ע ע ע Hebrew letter Ayin handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Ayin Rashi.png Phoenician ayin.png Ο ο O o О о 16 a.svg ع ء
غـ غ
פֵּא / pe /,
also / pej /
פ ף פ ף פ ף Hebrew letter Pe handwriting.svgHebrew letter Pe-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Pe Rashi.png Phoenician pe.png Π π P p П п 17 fa.svg ف
צָדֵי / 'tsade /,
also /' tsadik /
צ ץ צ ץ צ ץ Hebrew letter Tsadik handwriting.svgHebrew letter Tsadik-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Tsadik Rashi.png Phoenician sade.png Ϻ ϻ - Ц ц
Ч ч
18 sad.svg ص
ضـ ض
קוֹף / kof /,
also / kuf /
ק ק ק Hebrew letter Kuf handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kuf Rashi.png Phoenician qof.png Ϙ ϙ Q q Ҁ ҁ 19 qaf.svg ق
רֵישׁ / reʃ /,
also / rejʃ /
ר ר ר Hebrew letter Resh handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Resh Rashi.png Phoenician res.png Ρ ρ R r Р р 20 ra.svg ر
שִׁין / ʃin / ש ש ש Hebrew letter Shin handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Shin Rashi.png Phoenician sin.png Σ σ ς S s С с
Ш ш
21 shin.svg سـ س
شـ ش
תָּו / tav /,
also / taf /
ת ת ת Hebrew letter Taf handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Taf Rashi.png Phoenician taw.png Τ τ T t Т т 22 days svg ت

See also


Web links

Commons : Hebrew Alphabet  - collection of pictures, videos, and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Communication: Transcription from the Hebrew into the Latin alphabet ( Memento from November 16, 2011 in the Internet Archive ). (PDF; 579 kB) Academy for the Hebrew Language , July 14, 2011 ( Ivrit ).
  2. According to the Hebrew naming convention of the German language Wikipedia. This does not correspond to DIN 31636, which has been regulating the transcription of Hebrew in academic libraries since 2006. The latest edition is currently DIN 31636: 2018-10.
  3. see: Stefan Schorch: The vowels of the law: the Samaritan reading tradition as a text witness of the Torah . Berlin 2004.
    Israel Yeivin: The Hebrew Language Tradition as Reflected in the Babylonian Vocalization , Jerusalem 1985 (Hebrew).
    Alexander Sperber: A Grammar of Masoretic Hebrew, a General Introduction to the Pre-Masoretic Bible. Copenhagen 1959.
  4. a b Heinrich Simon : Textbook of the modern Hebrew language. Leipzig 1988, ISBN 3-324-00100-5 , pp. 151-160.