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Hebrew › Introduction to Hebrew › The Alphabet · אלפבית עברי

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The Alphabet[edit]

Letter IPA Name in Hebrew Pronunciation
א Listen /ʔ/ alef · אלף No English equivalent. See Supplementary Notes below.
בּ Listen /b/ bet · בּית Like b in bet.
ב Listen /v/ vet · בית Like v in voice.
ג Listen /ɡ/ geemel · גימל Like g in go.
ד Listen /d/ dalet · דלת Like d in dark.
ה Listen /h/ heh · הא Like h in hen. See Supplementary Notes below.
ו Listen /v/ vav · ויב Like v in voice. See Supplementary Notes below.
ז Listen /z/ zayeen · זין Like z in zoo.
ח Listen /χ/ khet · חית Like ch in loch.
ט Listen /t/ tet · טית Like t in sting.
י Listen /j/ yod · יוד Like y in yes. See Supplementary Notes below.
כּ Listen /k/ kaf · כּף Like k in kiss.
כ Listen /χ/ khaf · כף Like ch in loch.
ך Listen /k/ khaf sofeet · כף סופית Like ch in loch.
ל Listen /l/ lamed · למד Like l in love.
מ Listen /m/ mem · מם Like m in man.
ם Listen /m/ mem sofeet · מם סופית Like m in man
נ Listen /n/ nun · נון Like n in no.
ן Listen /n/ nun sofeet · נון סופית Like n in no.
ס Listen /s/ samekh · סמך Like s in sand.
ע Listen /ʔ/ 'ayeen · עין No English equivalent. See Supplementary Notes below.
פּ Listen /p/ peh · פּא like p in pack
פ Listen /f/ feh · פא like f in fill
ף Listen /f/ feh sofeet · פא סופית Like f in fill.
צ Listen /ts/ tsadee · צדי No English equivalent. Like z in the Italian word grazia.
ץ Listen /ts/ tsadee sofeet · צדי סופית No English equivalent. Like z in the Italian word grazia.
ק Listen /k/ quf · קוף Like k in kiss.
ר Listen /ʁ/ resh · ריש Like r in the French word rue.
שׁ Listen /ʃ/ sheen · שׁין Like sh in she.
שׂ Listen /s/ seen · שׂין Like s in sand.
ת Listen /t/ tav · תיב Like t in tick.

Notes on Alphabet[edit]

Type of writing system: abjad Direction of writing: right to left in horizontal lines. Number of letters: 22 consonants, plus final letters and diacritics Used to write: Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Ladino, Yiddish and many other Jewish languages. Some letters (kaf, mem, nun, fe and tzadi) have a final form (sofit), which is used when they appear at the end of a word. There are no separate numerals in Hebrew, instead standard western numerals (1, 2, 3, etc) are used.


Most Hebrew consonants will present absolutely no problem to speakers of English or Romance languages as they are clear and do not vary. These consonants are:

Regular Consonants
ג (Geemel) Listen /g/ - Like g in go. ד (Dalet) Listen /d/ - Like d in david.
ה (Heh) Listen /h/ - Like h in hen. ו (Vav) Listen /v/ - Like v in voice.
ז (Zayeen) Listen /z/ - Like z in zoo. ט (Tet) Listen /t/ - Like t in sting.
י (Yod) Listen /y/ - Like y in yes. ל (Lamed) Listen /l/ - Like l in love.
מ (Mem) Listen /m/ - Like m in man. נ (Nun) Listen /n/ - Like n in no.
ס (Samekh) Listen /s/ - Like s in sand. צ (Tsadee) Listen /ts/ - Like z in grazia.
ק (Quf) Listen /k/ - Like k in kiss. ר (Resh) Listen /ʁ/ - Like r in rue.
ת (Tav) Listen /t/ - Like t in tick. ח (Khet) is regular, but difficult.

There are four consonants in Hebrew in which their pronunciation varies. This variation cannot be identified from the text in "unpointed" spelling, but instead must be realized through context. These consonants are:

Consonants that Vary
בּ (Bet) Listen /b/ or ב (Vet) Listen /v/ כּ (Kaf) Listen /k/ or כ (Khaf) Listen /χ/
פּ (Peh) Listen /p/ or פ (Feh) Listen /f/ שׁ (Sheen) Listen /ʃ/ or שׂ (Seen) Listen /s/

Notes on Consonants[edit]

Three of these consonants use a geresh to render sounds that are not native to Hebrew, but are used in the language as foreign words are adopted. They are:

Listen /ʤ/   ג׳ (Geemel with Geresh) - Like j in joy.
Listen /ʧ/   צ׳ (Tsadee with Geresh) - Like ch in chair.
Listen /ʒ/  

ז׳ (Zayeen with Geresh) - Like ge in beige.

Difficult Consonants

Some Hebrew consonants will be difficult for the English speaker to pronounce. They are:

ח (Khet) Listen /χ/  

כ (Khaf) Listen /χ/

The /χ/ sound is not used in the English language. However, you may be familiar with the words Chaim, chutzpah, loch, Chanukah, achtung, or loch that all have the same sound. The letter is pronounced as a strong h in the back of your throat.

Consonants that Sound-alike

There are four pairs of consonants which sound alike and often present problems for the speller new to the language. They are:

ח (Khet) Listen /χ/   כ (Khaf) Listen /χ/
ק (Koof) Listen /k/   כּ (Kaf) Listen /k/
ט (Tet) Listen /t/   ת (Tav) Listen /t/
ס (Samekh) Listen /s/   שׂ (Seen) Listen /s/


IPA Diactric Sound Transliteration
Listen /a/ ָ (Kamats), ַ (Patakh), ֲ (Khataf patakh) father a
Listen /e/ ֵ (Tsere), ֶ (Segol), ֱ (Khataf segol), ְ (Shva na'), ֵי (Tsere male) bed e
Listen /i/ ִ (Kheereek khaser), ִי (Kheereek male) see ee
Listen /o/ ‍ֹ (Kholam khaser), וֹ (Kholam male), ָ (Kamats katan), ֳ(Khataf kamats) story o
Listen /u/ וּ (Vav with Shoorook), ֻ (Kooboots) boot oo
/∅/ ְ (Shva nakh') '

Notes on Vowels[edit]

The letters of the Hebrew alphabet are consonantal. Vowels are mostly indicated by markings placed below or above these consonants. In Israel, Modern Hebrew texts are printed without these vowel markings which are often reserved for children's books, poetry, and liturgical pieces. That means that the correct pronunciation of every word must be learned and subsequently read from context.

At first, this may seem near impossible. However, if you apply this practice to English you will soon realize it is indeed possible to read in such a way. Dn't gv p nw!

  • With vowels: אִמָּא
  • Without vowels: אימא

There are only five vowel sounds in Modern Hebrew and they are all pronounced fully like Italian. They are: a like in far, e like in less, o like in more, ee like in free, and oo like in food.

Semi-consonants also Acting as Vowels[edit]

Alef (א)[edit]

Heh (ה)[edit]

Vav (ו)[edit]

Yod (י)[edit]

Final Letters[edit]

In Hebrew, five letters appear differently when they occur at the end of a word. They are:

כ becomes ך מ becomes ם
נ becomes ן פ becomes ף
צ becomes ץ


Modern Israeli Hebrew uses the same punctuation as English, though Biblical Hebrew has only a colon to represent the end of a sentence.


Israeli Hebrew, which is the subject of this book, uses the regular 0-9 characters to represent numbers. Very rarely it uses the old representation, the use of letters as numerals, called Gematria.