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History of the Hebrew alphabet: Wikis


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The History of the Hebrew alphabet dates back several thousand years.



A page from a 16th century Yiddish-Hebrew-Latin-German dictionary by Elijah Levita

According to contemporary scholars, the original Hebrew script developed alongside others in the region during the course of the late second and first millennia BCE; it is closely related to the Phoenician script, which itself probably gave rise to the use of alphabetic writing in Greece (Greek). It is sometimes claimed that around the 10th century BCE [1] a distinct Hebrew variant, the original "Hebrew script", emerged, which was widely used in the ancient kingdoms of Israel and Judah until they fell in the 8th and 6th centuries BCE, respectively. It is not straightforward, however, to distinguish Israelite/Judahite scripts from others which were in use in the immediate area, most notably by the Moabites and Ammonites.

Following the Babylonian exile, Jews gradually stopped using the Hebrew script, and instead adopted the Aramaic script (another offshoot of the same family of scripts). This script, used for writing Hebrew, later evolved into the Jewish, or "square" script, that is still used today. Closely related scripts were in use all over the Middle East for several hundred years, but following the rise of Christianity (and later, the rise of Islam), they gave way to the Roman and Arabic alphabets, respectively.

The Hebrew alphabet was later adapted in order to write down the languages of the Jewish diaspora (Karaim, Judæo-Arabic, Ladino, Yiddish, etc.), and was retained all the while in relatively unadapted form throughout the diaspora for Hebrew, which remained the language of Jewish law, scriptures and scholarship. The Hebrew alphabet was also retained as the alphabet used for writing down the Hebrew language during its rebirth as an everyday modern language starting in the 18th to 19th century.

According to one Jewish tradition,[2] however, the block script seen today in Hebrew Torah Scrolls, known as Kthav Ashurith, was the original Hebrew script carved into the Ten Commandments [3]. According to this opinion, the Ktav Ashurith was lost over time, as the masses used Paleo-Hebrew and its cousins, known as Kthav Ivri, for day to day writing, just as Jews today use a non block script for everyday writing.[4]

Ancestral scripts and script variants

Symbol Name Scripts
Hebrew Ancestral Related
Cursive Rashi Braille Proto-Sinaitic
Proto-Canaanite Phoenician Paleo-Hebrew Aramaic Greek Latin Cyrillic Arabic
א Alef Hebrew letter Alef handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Alef Rashi.png AlefBraille.png
Aleph Aleph Aleph Aleph.svg Αα Aa Аа ا
ב Bet, Vet Hebrew letter Bet handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Bet Rashi.png BeitBraille.png VeitBraille.png
Bet Beth Bet Beth.svg Ββ Bb Бб
ﺑ ﺏ
ג Gimel Hebrew letter Gimel handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Gimel Rashi.png GimelBraille.png
Gimel Gimel Gimel Igimel.png Γγ Cc
Гг ﺟ ﺝ
ד Dalet Hebrew letter Daled handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Daled Rashi.png DaletBraille.png
Dalet Daleth Daled Daleth.svg Δδ Dd Дд دذ
ה Hei Hebrew letter He handwriting.svg Hebrew letter He Rashi.png HeiBraille.png
Heh He Heh He0.svg Εε Ee Ее
ه هـ
ـهـ ـه
ו Vav Hebrew letter Vav handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Vav Rashi.png Vav1Braille.png unknown Vov Waw Vav Waw.svg Υυ
ז Zayin Hebrew letter Zayin handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Zayin Rashi.png ZayinBraille.png unknown Zayin Zayin Zayin Zayin.svg Ζζ Zz Зз
ח Het Hebrew letter Het handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Het Rashi.png ChetBraille.png
Khet Heth Khet Heht.svg Ηη Hh Ии ﺣﺡ
ט Tet Hebrew letter Tet handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Tet Rashi.png TetBraille.png
Tet Teth Tet Teth.svg Θθ  ? Ѳѳ
י Yud Hebrew letter Yud handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Yud Rashi.png Yud1Braille.png
Yud Yodh Yud Yod.svg Ιι Jj
ﻳ ﻱ
כ ך Kaf, Khaf Hebrew letter Kaf handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kaf-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kaf-nonfinal Rashi.png Hebrew letter Kaf-final Rashi.png Kaf1Braille.png Kaf2Braille.png
Khof Kaph Khof Kaph.svg Κκ Kk Кк ﻛ ﻙ
ל Lamed Hebrew letter Lamed handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Lamed Rashi.png LamedBraille.png
Lamed Lamedh Lamed Lamed.svg Λλ Ll Лл ﻟ ﻝ
מ ם Mem Hebrew letter Mem handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Mem-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Mem-nonfinal Rashi.png Hebrew letter Mem-final Rashi.png MemBraille.png
Mem Mem ‎Mem Mem.svg Μμ Mm Мм ﻣ ﻡ
נ ן Nun Hebrew letter Nun handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Nun-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Nun-nonfinal Rashi.png Hebrew letter Nun-final Rashi.png NunBraille.png
Nun Nun Nun Nun.svg Νν Nn Нн ﻧ ﻥ
ס Samech Hebrew letter Samekh handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Samekh Rashi.png SamechBraille.png
Samekh Samekh Samekh Samekh.svg Ξξ
Xx Ѯѯ
ע Ayin Hebrew letter Ayin handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Ayin Rashi.png AyinBraille.png
Ayin Ayin Ayin Ayin.svg Οο Oo Оо ﻋ ع
غـ غ
פ ף Pei, Fei Hebrew letter Pe handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Pe-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Pe-nonfinal Rashi.png Hebrew letter Pe-final Rashi.png Peh1Braille.png Peh2Braille.png
Pey Pe Pey Pe0.svg Ππ Pp Пп ﻓ ﻑ
צ ץ Tsadi Hebrew letter Tsadik handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Tsadik-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Tsadik-nonfinal Rashi.png Hebrew letter Tsadik-final Rashi.png TsadiBraille.png
Tsadi Sade Tzadi Sade 1.svg, Sade 2.svg Ϻϻ - Цц
ﺻ ص
ضـ ض
ק Kuf Hebrew letter Kuf handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kuf Rashi.png KofBraille.png
Quf Qoph Quf Qoph.svg Ϙϙ Qq Ҁҁ ﻗ ﻕ
ר Reish Hebrew letter Resh handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Resh Rashi.png ReishBraille.png
Resh Res Resh Resh.svg Ρρ Rr Рр
ש Shin, Sin Hebrew letter Shin handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Shin Rashi.png ShinBraille.png unknown Shin Sin Shin Shin.svg Σσς Ss Сс
سـ س
شـ ش
ת Tav Hebrew letter Taf handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Taf Rashi.png TavBraille.png unknown Tof Taw Tof Taw.svg Ττ Tt Тт ﺗ ﺕ
ﺛ ﺙ

See also


  1. ^ 10th century BCE script
  2. ^ "The Script of the Torah". Jerusalem, Israel: Aishdas. 2002.  , Sanhedrin 21b-22a
  3. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Shabbat 104a, Tractate Megilla 2b. "Rav Chisda says that the (final) mem and samech in the tablets were miraculously hanging in the air." This can only happen in Kthav Ashurith and not in Kthav Ivri.
  4. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megilla 3a.


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