Hebrew Alphabet

Hebrew uses a different alphabet than English. The picture above illustrates the Hebrew alphabet, in Hebrew alphabetical order. Note that Hebrew is written from right to left, rather than left to right as in English, so Alef is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet and Tav is the last. The Hebrew alphabet is often called the “alef-bet,” because of its first two letters.

There are two versions of some letters. Kaf, Mem, Nun, Peh and Tzadeh all are written differently when they appear at the end of a word than when they appear in the beginning or middle of the word. The version used at the end of a word is referred to as Final Kaf, Final Mem, etc. The version of the letter on the left is the final version. In all cases except Final Mem, the final version has a long tail.

א Aleph

Aleph is one of two letters in the Hebrew alphabet that are silent. When pronounced, it takes the sound of whatever vowel its accompanied by. 

בּ Bet

Bet is pronounced “b”, just like the letter B in English. 

ב Vet

Vet is just bet without the dot inside, which is called a dagesh. Vet is pronounced “v” like the letter V in English.

ג Gimmel

Gimmel makes a hard G sound, as in “goat”. It may have a dagesh inside like this גּ but it makes the same sound with or without the dagesh.

ד Dalet

Dalet is pronounced “d”, like the letter D in English. It can also carry a dagesh, which doesn’t change its sound like this דּ.

ה Hay

Hay is pronounced “h” like the letter H in English. When it appears at the end of a word, it’s silent. It sometimes has a dot inside of it (הּ), called a mappiq instead of a dagesh that appears in other letters. It indicates that the hay should be pronounced as a consonant, even though it may appear in a place in a word where it would normally be silent.

ו Vav

Vav makes the “v” sound, exactly like the letter vet above. The thing that makes vav interesting is that it can also function as two different vowel sounds as well. When it appears as וֹ (called holem vav), it’s pronounced “oh”, like the sound at the end of “mow” and when you see וּ (called shurek), you’d pronounce it “ooo” like the sound at the end of “blue”.

ז Zayin

Zayin is pronounced “zzz” like the letter Z in English. It can carry a dagesh (זּ), which doesn’t change the pronunciation. 

ח Chet

Chet is one of the guttural letters in Hebrew and, as I said above, is pronounced in the back of your throat and sounds like the “ch” in the name “Bach”.

ט Tet

Tet is pronounced “t” like the letter T in English. It will sometimes appear with a dagesh (טּ), which doesn’t change its pronunciation. 

י Yod

The tiny letter yod sounds like the English letter “y”, as in “yellow”. Like others, it can carry a dagesh (יּ), which doesn’t change its pronunciation. 

כּ Kaf

Kaf is pronounced “k” like the English letter K. It’s always pronounced this way when the dot (dagesh) is present. Without the dagesh, it makes the sound of the next letter on this list, Chaf.

כ Chaf

The “ch” in the name of the letter chaf is pronounced as a guttural, similar to the “ch” in “Bach” like the letter chet above. It makes the same sound as chet also, the “ch” sound. When this letter has a dagesh, it makes the sound “k”, as described above. 

What’s unique about Chaf that I haven’t discussed yet is that it looks different when it appears at the end of a word. Five Hebrew letters do this and this end form of a letter is called the final (or sofit) form. When at the end of a word, chaf will look like this: ך.

ל Lamed

Lamed makes the same “l” sound as the letter L in English. Lamed may have a dagesh and look like this (לּ) but is pronounced the same. 

מ Mem

Mem is pronounced “mmm” like the letter M in English. When it appears with a dagesh (מּ), its sound is not changed. Mem also has a final form, ם, which is almost always found only when a mem is at the end of a word.

נ Nun

Nun (Pronounced both noon and nun), is pronounced “n” like the English letter N. It can have a dagesh, which would look like this (נּ) but the pronunciation remains the same. Nun has a final form for when it’s found at the end of a word, which looks like this: ן.

ס Samech

Samech is pronounced like the English letter S and is pronounced “s”. It can also have a dagesh (סּ) and is pronounced the same if it does.

ע Ayin

Like aleph, ayin is a silent letter. It only makes the sound of the vowel that accompanies it.

פּ Pey

Pey is pronounced “p” like the letter P in the English alphabet. If it has a dagesh, it’s pronounced “p” and if it doesn’t, it’s pronounced “f”, further explained below.

פ Fey

Fey is, like the English letter F, pronounced “f”. This is only when it doesn’t have a dagesh because if it does, it’s pronounced “p”. Fey also has a final form, ף, for when it appears at the end of a word.

צ Tsade

This letter’s name is pronounced tsa-dee, with the “ts” being a consonant blend sound like the sound at the end of the word “nuts”. This is also the way the letter is pronounced. It’s said the same when it contains a dagesh and has a final form (ץ) when it’s at the end of a word.

ק Qof

Qof makes the “q” sound like the English letter Q. It can also appear with a dagesh and it’s pronounced the same then.

ר Resh

Resh is pronounced “rrr” like the English letter R. It’s a guttural so it’s said from the back of your throat and is also rolled like a letter R in Spanish.

שׁ Shin 

Shin is pronounced “sh” like the commonly-used consonant blend in English. It sounds the same when it has a dagesh. Which side the dot on top is on indicates whether it’s pronounced “sh” or “s”.

שׂ Sin 

The name of this letter is pronounced sin or seen. It makes the same sound as the letter S in English, “sss”. This is the same sound as the letter samech and sin makes the same sound when it has a dagesh. Pay careful attention to which side the dot is on, as this is what differentiates between shin and sin. 

ת Tav

Tav, the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet, is pronounced “t” just like the English letter T. It sounds the same when it has a dagesh in it, like this: תּ.

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