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Ayin               peh               Tsade
Phoenician Hebrew Aramaic Syriac Arabic
File:Phoenician peh.svg פ,ף File:Peh0.svg ܦ ف‍,ف
Greek Latin Cyrillic
Phonemic representation: p, f (was ɸ), w
Position in alphabet: 17
Numerical (Gematria/Abjad) value: 80

Peh is the seventeenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew Pei פ, Persian alphabet Pe پ and Arabic alphabet fāʼ ف (in abjadi order).

The original sound value is a voiceless bilabial plosive: /p/; it retains this value in most Semitic languages except for Arabic, which having lost /p/ now uses it to render a voiceless labiodental fricative /f/.

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Pi (Π), Latin P, and Cyrillic Pe.


Origins of Pe

Phoenician alphabet
(ca. 1050–200 BCE)
𐤀    𐤁    𐤂    𐤃    𐤄    𐤅
𐤆    𐤇    𐤈    𐤉    𐤊    𐤋
𐤌    𐤍    𐤎    𐤏    𐤐
𐤑    𐤒    𐤓    𐤔    𐤕
Semitic abjads · Genealogy
Hebrew alphabet
(400 BCE–present)
א    ב    ג    ד    ה    ו
ז    ח    ט    י    כך
ל    מם    נן    ס    ע    פף
צץ    ק    ר    ש    ת
History · Transliteration
Niqqud · Dagesh · Gematria
Cantillation · Numeration
Syriac alphabet
(200 BCE–present)
ܐ    ܒ    ܓ    ܕ    ܗ    ܘ
ܙ    ܚ    ܛ    ܝ    ܟܟ    ܠ
ܡܡ    ܢܢ    ܣ    ܥ    ܦ
ܨ    ܩ    ܪ    ܫ    ܬ
Arabic alphabet
(400 CE–present)
ا    ب    ت    ث    ج    ح
خ    د    ذ    ر    ز    س
ش    ص    ض    ط    ظ    ع
غ    ف    ق    ك    ل
م    ن    ه    و    ي
History · Transliteration
Diacritics · Hamza ء
Numerals · Numeration

Pe is usually assumed to come from a pictogram of a mouth (in Hebrew pe; in Arabic, fam).

Hebrew Pei

Orthographic variants
Various Print Fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
non final פ פ פ Hebrew letter Pe handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Pe-nonfinal Rashi.png
final ף ף ף Hebrew letter Pe-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Pe-final Rashi.png

Variations on written form/pronunciation

The letter Pei is one of the six letters which can receive a Dagesh Kal. The six are Bet, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Pei, and Tav (see Hebrew Alphabet for more about these letters).

There are two orthographic variants of this letter which indicate a different pronunciation:

Name Symbol IPA Transliteration Example
Pei פּ /p/ p pan
Fei פ /f/ f fan

Pei with the dagesh

When the Pei has a "dot" in its center, known as a dagesh, it represents a voiceless bilabial plosive, /p/. There are various rules in Hebrew grammar that stipulate when and why a dagesh is used.

Pei without the dagesh (Fei)

When this letter appears as פ without the dagesh ("dot") in its center then it usually represents a voiceless labiodental fricative /f/.

Final form of Pei/Fei

At the end of words the letter's written form changes to a Pei/Fei Sophit (Final Pei/Fei):

  • ף This does not alter the pronunciation (see above).

However, when a word in modern Hebrew borrowed from another language ends in /p/, normally a pe with a dagesh at the end of the word is used instead of the final form.

Significance of Pei

In gematria, Pei represents the number 80. Its final form represents 800 but this is rarely used, Tav written twice (400+400) being used instead.

Arabic fāʼ

The letter is named ﻓﺎء fāʼ, and is written is several ways depending in its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Initial Medial Final
Form of letter: ف فـ ـفـ ـف

In most cases, letter fāʼ renders /f/ sound, except some foreign words where it can render /v/, often arabised as /f/. It may be used interchangeably with the Persian letter - vāʼ (with 3 dots) in this case.

In the process of developing from Proto-Semitic, Proto-Semitic /p/ became Arabic /f/, and this is reflected in the use of the letter representing /p/ in other Semitic languages for /f/ in Arabic.

Fayʼ-fatḥa (فَـ /fa/) is a multi-function prefix most commonly equivalent to "so" or "so that." For example: نكتب naktub ("we write") → فنكتب fanaktub ("so we write").

The Maghribi style of writing fa' is different. It is written with a dot underneath like this ڢ . Once the prevalent style, it is now only used in Maghribi countries for writing Qur'an with the exception of Libya which adopted the Mashriqi form. See also qaf for the Maghribi style of writing that letter.

Maghribi Fa'




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