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Bible Lexicons

Old Testament Hebrew Lexical Dictionary

Ancient Hebrew Alphabet

The Ancient Hebrew letters form the foundation to the Ancient Hebrew language and a thorough study of these letters is essential to understanding the cultural background to the words they form. The process of reconstructing the original Hebrew alphabet is similar to the field of archeology, which digs down to hidden depths to determine the origins, culture or way of life of Ancient civilizations. As artifacts are found, they are compared to artifacts of other cultures and other time periods to determine the distinctive characteristics of the culture and civilization. When studying Ancient alphabets, one digs down into the depths of time and compares the artifacts of pictographic and non-pictographic scripts to determine dates, meaning and sound.

 

Letter Characteristics
We usually associate two characteristics for each letter, a form and a sound, as in the first letter of our alphabet whose form is "A" and has the sound "a". The Ancient Hebrew alphabet has four characteristics: form, sound, name and meaning.

Form
The original letter is pictographic, meaning it represents a picture of something, such as the letter p representing a mouth. The original form is determined by examining the archeological record of ancient Semitic inscriptions and other related scripts such as the South Arabian and Punic. The name of the letter will help to determine the original pictograph.

Name
Each pictograph is associated with a single syllable of two consonants. This syllable is also the name of the letter. The name of the letter p is "peh" and is also the Hebrew word for "mouth". The name is determined by comparing the various names of this letter as used in Semitic languages as well as other non Semitic languages that have adopted the Semitic alphabet.

Meaning
The mnemonic meaning of a pictograph is the extended meanings related to the pictograph. These mnemonic meanings most often are related to the pictograph by their function rather than appearance. For example, the letter p has the extended mnemonic meanings, speak, blow and open, functions of the mouth.

Sound
The first letter of the syllabic name provides a singular sound for the purpose of forming words and sentences. The phonetic value of the letter p is therefore a "p". The original sound is determined by comparing the sound of the letter as used in other Semitic languages as well as non-Semitic languages that have adopted the Semitic alphabet.

 


 

The Reconstructed Alphabet

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
aaa

Al (Aleph)
The original pictograph for this letter is a picture of an ox head - a representing strength and power from the work performed by the animal. This pictograph also represents a chief or other leader. When two oxen are yoked together for pulling a wagon or plow, one is the older and more experienced one who leads the other. Within the clan, tribe or family the chief or father is seen as the elder who is yoked to the others as the leader and teacher.

The Modern name for this letter is aleph and corresponds to the Greek name alpha and the Arabic name aleph. The various meanings of this root are oxen, yoke and learn. Each of these meanings is related to the meanings of the pictograph a. The root aleph (pla) is an adopted root from the parent root el (la) meaning, strength, power and chief and is the probable original name of the pictograph a.

The l is a shepherd staff and represents authority as well as a yoke (see the letter Lam). Combined these two pictographs mean "strong authority". The chief or father is the "strong authority". The la can also be understood as the "ox in the yoke". Many Near Eastern cultures worshipped the god la, most commonly pronounced as "el" and depicted as a bull in carvings and statues. Israel chose the form of a calf (young bull) as an image of God at Mount Sinai showing their association between the word la and the ox or bull. The word la is also commonly used in the Hebrew Bible for God or any god.

The concept of the ox and the shepherd staff in the word la has been carried over into modern times as the scepter and crown of a monarch, the leader of a nation.

These modern items are representative of the shepherd staff, an ancient sign of authority, and the horns of the ox, an ancient sign of strength.

In Modern Hebrew this letter is silent but was originally used as the vowel "a" as well as a glottal stop. The Greek letter "alpha" derived from the "aleph" is also used for the "a" sound.

The Early Semitic pictograph a was simplified to A and a in the Middle Hebrew script and continued to evolve into the a in the Late Hebrew script. The Modern Hebrew letter א developed out of the Late Semitic. The Middle Semitic was adopted by the Greeks to be the letter "A" and carried over into the Roman "A". The Middle Semitic script a became the number "1" we use today.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
bbb

Bet (Beyt)
Several variations were used for the original pictograph including , , , and b. Each of these pictographs are representative of a house or tent. The pictograph b is chosen as it best represents the nomadic tents of the Hebrews. The tent was divided into two sections, men's and women's, with the entrance at the front of the tent in the men's section and an entrance from the men's to the women's section.

The Hebrew word (bet) means house or tent as well as family. A common designation for a family is to identify the "house" of the family patriarch such as in "The house of Jacob".

The meanings of this letter are house, tent, family as well as in, with, inside or within as the family resides within the house or tent.

The original name for this letter is bet, the parent root of the child root beyt (meaning house) and is equivalent to the Greek name beta and the Arabic name beyt. This letter is pronounced as a "b" when sounded as a stop such as in the word "beyt" or a "bh" (v) when sounded as a spirant as in the word "shubh" (shoov).

This letter is commonly used as a prefix to words to mean "in" or "with" as in "be'erets" meaning "in a land".

The Early Semitic letter b evolved into b in the Middle Semitic script and into b in the Late Semitic script. The Modern Hebrew letter ב developed out of the Late Semitic. The Middle Semitic script was adopted by the Greeks to become the letter β (a reverse direction due to being written from right to left instead of left to right) and the Roman B and b. The Late Semitic script b became the number "2".


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
ccc

Gam (Gimel)
The earliest known pictograph for this letter is c and is a picture of a foot. The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is "gimel", an adopted root. The original name to this letter is most likely "gam", the parent root of "gimel". This letter is the origin of the Arabic letter "Geem" and the Greek "gamma" supporting the theory that the original name for the letter did not include the "L".

The word "gam" means to gather together as a group of animals gathering at the water hole to drink. The pictographic script for the word "gam" is mc. The c is the foot representing "walk" and the m is "water" (See Mah). Combined these mean "walk to the water".

The letter c has the meanings of walk, carry or gather. The sound associated with this letter is a "g" as in "go".

The Early Semitic c became C and c (a turn of 180 degrees) in the Middle Semitic script. This letter further developed to c in the Late Semitic script. The Late Semitic script further developed into the Modern Hebrew ג. The Middle Semitic script became the Greek Γ (a reversal of the letter due to direction of writing) as well as the Roman C and G. The Late Semitic c became the number 3.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
ddd

Dal (Dalet)
There are two possibilities for the original Early Semitic pictograph for this letter - , a picture of a fish and d, a picture of a door. The modern Hebrew name for this letter is "dalet" and means "door". The word "dalet" is a derivative of the parent root "dal" also meaning "door". The Arabic name for this letter is "dal" giving support to the parent root as the original name. As the Hebrew word for a "fish" is dag, it is unlikely that the pictograph is the pictograph for this letter but, rather the pictograph d.

The basic meaning of the letter d is "door" but has several other meanings associated with it. It can mean "a back and forth movement" as one goes back and forth through the tent through the door. It can mean "dangle" as the tent door dangled down from a roof pole of the tent. It can also mean weak or poor as one who dangles the head down.

The sound for this letter is a "d" as in "door" as it is with the Greek and Arabic equivalents.

The Early Semitic pictograph d evolved into the Middle Semitic letter d. The Middle Semitic then evolved into the Late Semitic letter d, the early form of the Modern Hebrew ד. The Middle Semitic letter is the origin of the Greek letter Δ, The Roman D and the number 4.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
eee

Hey
The original pictograph for this letter is e, a man standing with his arms raised out. The Modern Hebrew and original name for this letter is "hey". The Hebrew word "hey" means "behold", as when looking at a great sight. This word can also mean "breath" or "sigh" as one does when looking at a great sight. The meaning of the letter e is behold, look, breath, sigh and reveal or revelation from the idea of revealing a great sight by pointing it out.

The Modern Hebrew sound for this letter is "h". Originally this letter doubled as a consonant, with an "h" sound, or as the vowel sound "eh". When the Greeks adopted this letter it became the "epsilon" with an "eh" sound.

This letter is commonly used as a prefix to words to mean "the" as in "ha'arets" meaning "the land". The use of this prefix is to reveal something of importance within the sentence.

The Early Semitic e evolved into the Middle Semitic e by rotating the letter 90 degrees to the left. This letter then evolved into e in the late Semitic script that developed into the Modern Hebrew ה. The Middle Semitic e was adopted by the Greeks and the Romans to become the E (reversed due to the direction of writing). This Middle Semitic letter also became the number 5.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
fff

Waw (Vav)
The original pictograph used in the Early Semitic script is a f, a picture of a tent peg. The tent pegs were made of wood and may have been Y-shaped to prevent the rope from slipping off.

The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is "vav", a word meaning "peg" or "hook". This letter is used in Modern Hebrew as a consonant with a "v" sound and as a vowel. If the Modern Hebrew letter appears as , it is the vowel sound "ow" and if it appears as , it is the vowel sound "uw". When used as a vowel the ancient pronunciation was also an "ow" or "uw". In each of the consonant/vowel letters of the Ancient Hebrew language the pronunciation of the consonant is closely related to the pronunciation of the vowel such as the letter "hey" (See above) is "h" and "eh" and the pronunciation of the letter "yud" (See below) is "y" and "iy". For this reason, it is probable that the original pronunciation of the letter f was with a "w". In Modern Arabic language, this letter is also pronounced with a "w". Therefore, the original name of this letter would have been "waw" instead of "vav".

As the pictograph indicates, this letter represents a peg or hook, which are used for securing something. The meaning of this letter is to add or secure.

This letter is frequently used as a prefix to words to mean "and" in the sense of adding things together.

The Early Semitic f evolved into the f in the Middle Semitic script. This letter then became the f of the Late Semitic script and evolved into the Modern Hebrew ו. The Middle Semitic letter was adopted by the Greeks and the Romans to be the letter F but was dropped from the Greek alphabet later. The Late Semitic form of the letter became the number 9.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
zzz

Zen (Zayin)
The ancient pictograph for this letter is z and is some type of agricultural implement similar to a mattock or plow. The meanings of this letter are "harvest" or "crop" as this tool is used in the harvesting, "food" as from the harvest, "cut" from the function of the implement and "broad" from its shape.

The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is "zayin" but was originally the parent root "zan". When the Greeks adopted the letter its name was originally "zan" but later became "zeta", the modern name for this letter in the Greek alphabet.

The phonetic sound for this letter is a "z" as it is in Greek and Arabic.

The Early Semitic pictograph was simplified to z and evolving into z in the Late Semitic script and evolved into the Modern Hebrew letter ז. The Greeks and Romans adopted this letter to become the letter "Z". The Late Semitic z became the number 7.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
hhh

Hhets (Hhet)
The ancient pictograph h is a picture of a tent wall. The meanings of this letter is outside as the function of the wall is to protect the occupants from the elements, halp as the wall in the middle of the tent divides the tent into the male and female sections and secular as something that is outside.

The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is hhet meaning a string. A very similar Hebrew word is hhets, meaning a wall and is most likely the original name for this letter. The sound of the letter, in ancient and modern times, is a guttural "hh" (as in the "ch" in the name Bach).

The early Semitic pictograph h evolved into h in the Middle Semitic script by being rotated 90 degrees. This letter continued to evolve into h in the Late Semitic script. The Middle Semitic script is the origin of the Greek and Roman H while the late Semitic script became the modern Hebrew ח. The Middle Semitic form of this letter became the number 8.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
uuu

Thet (Tet)
The original pictograph for this letter is u, a container made of wicker or clay. Containers were a very important item among the nomadic Hebrews. They were used for storing grains and other items. Wicker baskets were used as nets for catching fish. The meanings of this letter are basket, contain, store and clay.

The twenty-second letter of the Hebrew alphabet is a tav with a "t" sound. It is unlikely that the original Hebrew had two letters with the same sound. When the Greeks adopted the Hebrew alphabet this letter the Greek theta. The original sound for this letter is was probably a "th".

The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is "tet" meaning mud or clay but would have been pronounced as "thet".

The Early Semitic letter u remained unchanged into the Middle Semitic script but was simplified to z in the Late Semitic script. The Late Semitic letter became the Θ, Theta, in the Greek alphabet, the Modern Hebrew ט and our number 6.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
iii

Yad (Yud)
The Early Semitic pictograph of this letter is i, an arm and hand. The meaning of this letter is work, make and throw, the functions of the hand. The Modern Hebrew name "yud" is a derivative of the two letter word "yad" meaning "hand", the original name for the letter.

The ancient and modern pronunciation of this letter is a "y". In Ancient Hebrew this letter also doubled as a vowel with an "i" sound. The Greek language adopted this letter as the "iota", carrying over the "i" sound.

The ancient pictograph i, was turned 90 degrees to become the i in the Middle Semitic script. The letter continued to evolve into the simpler form i in the Late Semitic script. The Middle Semitic form became the Greek and Roman I. The Late Semitic form became the Modern Hebrew י.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
kkk

Kaph
The Ancient form of this letter is k the open palm of a hand. The meanings of this letter are bend and curve from the shape of the palm as well as to tame or subdue as one who has been bent to another's will.

The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is kaph, a Hebrew word meaning "palm" and is the original name for the letter. This letter is pronounced as a "k", as in the word "kaph", when used as a stop or as a "kh" (pronounced hard like the German name Bach), as in the word "yalakh" (to walk) when used as a spirant.

The Early Semitic k evolved into k in the Middle Semitic script. This letter continued to evolve into k in the Late Semitic script and becoming the Modern Hebrew כ and the ך (final kaph). The Middle Semitic k became the Greek and Roman K (written in reverse direction).


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
lll

Lam (Lamed)
The Early Hebrew pictograph is l, a shepherd's staff. The shepherd staff was used to direct sheep by pushing or pulling them. It was also used as a weapon against predators to defend and protect the sheep.

The meaning of this letter is toward as moving something in a different direction. This letter also means authority, as it is a sign of the shepherd, the leader of the flock. It also means yoke, a staff on the shoulders as well as tie or bind from the yoke that is bound to the animal.

This letter is used as a prefix to nouns meaning "to" or "toward".

The Modern Hebrew name of this letter is "lamed", similarly is the Greek name "lamda". The Arabic name however is "lam" retaining an older two letter root name for the letter and the probable original name. The phonetic sound for this letter is "l".

The original pictograph for this letter, l, has remained virtually unchanged through the ages. The Middle Semitic remained the same but changed slightly to n in the Late Semitic script becoming the ל in the Modern Hebrew script. The Early Semitic l is the origin of the Greek L (upside down) and the Roman L.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
mmm

Mah (Mem)
The Early Semitic pictograph for this letter is m a picture of waves of water. This pictograph has the meanings of liquid, water and sea, mighty and massive from the size of the sea and chaos from the storms of the sea. To the Hebrews the sea was a feared and unknown place, for this reason this letter is used as a question word, who, what, when, where, why and how, in the sense of searching for an unknown.

The modern Hebrew name for this letter is "mem" probably from the word "mayim" meaning "water". The word "mayim" is the plural form of "mah", probably the original name for this letter, meaning "what". The Greek name for this letter is "mu", a Hebrew word closely related to "mah". The sound for this letter is "m".

The Early Semitic m evolved into m in the Middle Semitic and continued to evolve into m in the Late Semitic script. The Late Semitic script became the מ and ם (final mem) of the Modern Hebrew script. The Early and Middle Semitic script is the origin to the Greek and Roman M.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
nnn

Nun
The ancient pictograph n is a picture of a seed sprout representing the idea of continuing to a new generation. This pictograph has the meanings of continue, perpetuation, offspring or heir.

The Modern Hebrew name is "nun", a Hebrew word meaning continue, offspring or heir. This two-letter word is the original name for the letter. The phonetic sound for this letter is "n".

The Early Semitic n evolved into n in the Middle Semitic script and continued to evolve into n in the Late Semitic script. The Late Semitic script became the Modern Hebrew נ and ן (final nun). The Middle Semitic script became the N (written in reverse direction) in both the Greek and Roman alphabets.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
xxx

Sin (Samehh)
There are several possibilities for the original Semitic pictograph including (a fish), (possibly a thorn), (a window?) and x (a thorn). The pictograph x is used almost exclusively through the history of this letter. This picture has the meanings of pierce and sharp. This letter also has the meaning of a shield as thorn bushes were used by the shepherd to build a wall or shield, made to enclose his flock during the night to protect them from predators. Another meaning is to grab hold as a thorn is a seed that clings to hair and clothing.

Of all the letters this is the most difficult to reconstruct due to the limited archeological and textual support. The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is samech, which is a word that means support, with no apparent connection to a two letter parent root or to the meaning of the original picture of this letter. The Arabic alphabet does not have this letter and the Greek letter derived from this letter is called the ksi. The 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet (ש) has two names and sounds, Shin (sh) and Sin (s). All the words using the sin are related in meaning to the words using a samech in the same place as the sin. It is possible that the original name for the samech was sin, meaning thorn, and later was divided into the samech and sin (which then became associated with the shin).

The original sound for this letter must be an "s" to which the samech and sin both agree. The Greek sound for the letter is "ks", similar to the "s".

The early Semitic x evolved into the x in the middle Semitic. This letter continued to evolve into x in the late Semitic. This letter became the ס in the modern Hebrew alphabet. The late Semitic is reversed in the Greek alphabet becoming the ζ and Ξ. The Greek letter Ξ became the Latin X.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
ooo

Ayin
The Ancient picture for this letter is a picture of an eye o. This letter represents the ideas of seeing and watching as well as knowledge as the eye is the window of knowledge.

The name of the letter is ayin, a Semitic word meaning eye. This letter is silent in modern Hebrew. There is no indication that the ancient Semitic had a sound for this letter as well and appears to have been silent in the past. The Greek language assigned the vowel sound "o" to the letter. As Hebrew did not have one letter for the "o" sound the Greeks took this silent letter and converted it into a vowel.

The early Semitic o evolved into the simpler o in the middle Semitic and remained the same into the late Semitic period. This letter evolved into the ע in the modern Hebrew script. The middle Semitic became the Greek O and the Latin O.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
ppp

Pey
The Semitic word "pey" means a "mouth" and there are several ancient Semitic pictographs believed to be this letter, none of which resemble a mouth. The only exception is the South Arabian pictograph p. This pictograph closely resembles a mouth and is similar to the later Semitic letters for the letter "pey".

This pictograph has the meanings of speak and blow from the functions of the mouth as well as the edge of something, as the lips are at the edge of the mouth.

The modern Hebrew name for this letter is "pey" and as previously identified it is the Hebrew word for mouth. There are two sounds for this letter, the stop "P" and the spirant "Ph" or "f".

The early Semitic p evolved to the letter p in the middle Semitic scripts. The letter continued to evolved into the p in the late Semitic script. This letter evolved into the פ and ף (final pey) in the modern Hebrew script. The middle Semitic p became the Greek Π and the Latin P.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
yyy

Tsad (Tsadey)
The Ancient pictograph for this letter is y. The word "tsad" means "side," but is also related to the idea of a stronghold, which is often built on the side of a mountain. The pictograph is a picture of a trail as leading up to a destination or stronghold.

The squiggly line is the trail while the circle is the destination. The Hebrew verb ציד (Ts.Y.D) means "to hunt" as in following a trail to the game (the destination). The word "tsiyd" may be the original name for this letter, which then later evolved to "tsade." Each of the words that are derived from the parent root צד (tsad) are related to the idea of hunting. צדה means to lay in wait in ambush alongside a trail. צוד is a snare that is set in the trail. ציד means game, the goal or destination of the hunt.

Below is a list of parents roots which begin with the letter tsade.

צאto go out, as in to follow a trail or path.
צבa wagon, as following a trail or path.
צגto leave behind.
צדa stronghold.
צוdirections, as in to point out the way.
צחdry, in the sense of the desert, the place of the nomads who follow the trails.
ציa desert, the place of the nomads who follow the trails.
צךa burden, as carried when traveling.
צלa shadow, as an outline/path of the original.
צםthirst, in the sense of searching for water.צ
צןa flock, as herded by the nomad.
צעwander, as one searching for the trail.
צףkeep watch, as in keeping an eye on the destination.
צץa blossom, whose purpose (destination) is to produce a fruit.
צרnarrow, in the sense of following a canyon trail with high sides.
צתto set on fire, possibly related to the idea of "blazing" a trail.

In addition, the concept of a trail can be seen in other Hebrew roots.

צדקto be on the correct path.
צעדto march or walk in step.
צפרto depart early for a journey.

The phonetic sound of the letter is a "ts" in both ancient and modern Hebrew.

The early pictograph y evolved into y in the Middle Semitic script and continued to evolve into y in the Late Semitic Script. From the middle Semitic script comes the Modern Hebrew צ and ץ. Modern Greek and Latin has no letter derived from this Semitic letter.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
qqq

Quph
Most of the pictographs used for this letter are or q. Ancient Semitic letter which were originally oriented in a horizontal plane were tilted to a vertical plane. More than likely this letter was originally written as q.

The name of this letter is quph, a parent root. When all of the words derived from this parent root are compared the common theme of a circle or revolution are found. The pictograph of this letter is probably a picture of the sun at the horizon in the sense of a revolution of the sun.

The various meanings of this letter are sun, revolution, circle and horizon. This letter can also mean condense as the light gathers at the sun when it is at the horizon. It can also mean time as the revolution of the sun is used to calculate time. Hebrew, Greek and Arabic agree that the sound for this letter is "q". The Modern Hebrew and Arabic name for this letter is quph, a parent root.

The early pictograph q evolved into q in the Middle Semitic script and continued to evolve into q in the Late Semitic Script. From the middle Semitic script comes the Modern Hebrew ק. The Middle Semitic script is the origin of the Latin letter Q.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
rrr

Resh
The Ancient picture for this letter is r, the head of a man. This letter has the meanings of head or man as well as chief, top, beginning or first.

The modern Hebrew name for this letter is resh, a Hebrew word meaning head. Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek agree that the sound for this letter is an "r".

The early pictograph r evolved into r in the Middle Semitic script and continued to evolve into r in the Late Semitic Script. From the middle Semitic script comes the Modern Hebrew ר. The Middle Semitic script is also the origin of the Greek letter R and the Latin R.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
sss

Shin
The Ancient picture for this letter is s, a picture of the two front teeth. This letter has the meanings of teeth, sharp and press (from the function of the teeth when chewing). It also has the meaning of two, again, both or second from the two teeth.

The modern Hebrew name for this letter is shin, a Hebrew word meaning tooth. Hebrew and Arabic agree that the sound for this letter is "sh".

The early pictograph s evolved into s in the Middle Semitic script and continued to evolve into s in the Late Semitic Script. From the middle Semitic script comes the Modern Hebrew ש. The Middle Semitic script is also the origin of the Greek letter Σ and the Latin S.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
ttt

Taw (Tav)
The Ancient picture t is a type of "mark", probably of two sticks crossed to mark a place similar to the Egyptian hieroglyph of , a picture of two crossed sticks. This letter has the meanings of mark, sign or signature.

The Modern Hebrew, Arabic and Greek names for this letter is tav (or taw), a Hebrew word meaning, mark. Hebrew, Greek and Arabic agree that the sound for this letter is "t".

The early pictograph t evolved into t in the Middle Semitic script and continued to evolve into t in the Late Semitic Script. From the middle Semitic script comes the Modern Hebrew ת. The Early Semitic script is the origin of the Greek letter T and the Latin T.


 

Early
2,000 BC
Middle
1,000 BC
Late
400 BC
Modern
Today
goo

Ghah (Ayin)
While this letter existed in ancient Semitic languages and some modern Semitic languages, it no longer exists in the modern Hebrew. Instead it has been absorbed into the letter ע (ayin). While the evidence exists showing that this is in fact a separate letter, there is very little evidence for reconstructing its original pictograph. The Ugarit and Arabic languages wrote this letter the same as the ayin but with an additional line or dot. The closest candidate for this letter is the g, a twisted rope, as found in some ancient Semitic inscriptions.

In the Arabic language this letter is called the ghah but originally may have had the name ghah meaning "twisted". The meaning of the letter ghah is twisted from the twisting fibers of a rope and from this come the meaning of goats from their twisted horns. As goats are dark in color, this letter also carries the meaning of dark.

Because the Greek language transliterates this letter with a gamma (g sound) we know that this letter originally had a type of "g" sound such as in the word ring.


Copyright: © 1999-2013; Ancient Hebrew Research Center; Used by permission of the author.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, October 18th, 2017
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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