Biblical Hebrew

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Biblical Hebrew

Biblical Hebrew (Classical Hebrew) is an archaic form of the Hebrew language, in which the Old Testament was written, and which the ancient Israelites spoke. It is not spoken in its pure form today, although it is studied by religious Jews and Christian theologians, linguists and Israeli archaeologists. Biblical Hebrew is easily read by anyone familiar with modern Hebrew. The differences between Biblical Hebrew and modern Hebrew are mainly in grammar and Biblical Hebrew's distinct writing style.

From a linguistic point of view, the Classical Hebrew language is usually divided into two periods: Biblical Hebrew, and Roman Era Hebrew, having very distinct grammatical patterns.


Name Letter Transliteration IPA Notes
Aleph א - - One of two silent letters. Usually appears at the start of a syllable to make the syllable start with a vowel sound.
Bet בּ b b Sounds just like the English letter B.
Vet ב v v Sounds just like the English letter V.
Gimel ג g ɡ Sounds like a hard g as in give
Dalet ד d d Sounds like d as in dog.
He ה h h Sounds like the English letter H when it's in the beginning or middle of a word. At the end of a word, it is silent.
Vav ו v v Sounds like v as in vacuum. Also used to make a couple of vowel sounds.
Zayin ז z z Sounds like z as in zoo.
Het ח kh χ This is a sound that English doesn't have. It sounds like the ch in the German name Bach or in the Scottish word loch. It is the throat clearing guttural sound.
Tet ט t t Sounds like t as in tetris.
Yod י y j Sounds like y as in yard. It can also change the sound of the vowel that precedes it.
Kaf כּ k k Sounds like k as in kitten.
Kaf Final ךּ k k Rarely used (almost no words end with Kaf).
Khaf כ kh x Sounds just like Het, except that it isn't guttural.
Khaf Final ך kh x -
Lamed ל l l Sounds like l as in lamb.
Mem מ m m Sounds like m as in mother
Mem final ם m m -
Nun נ n n Sounds like n as in name.
Nun final ן n n -
Samech ס s s Sounds like s as in safe.
Ayin ע - ʔ A glottal stop.
Pe פּ p p Sounds like p as in port
Pe final ףּ p p -
Fe פ f f Sounds like f as in fame
Fe final ף f f
Tsadi צ tz ʦ Sounds like the zz in pizza.
Tsadi final ץ tz ʦ -
Qof ק k k Sounds like Kaf in modern Hebrew, but was originally pronounced with pressure in the throat ([q]).
Resh ר r ɾ Sounds like the letter R, but is not pronounced exactly the same as in English. At the beginning or in the middle of a word it is slightly rolled so that its sound is somewhere between the English "R" and the Spanish rolled "R". The tongue bounces off the roof of the mouth just once. (The Ashkenazi pronunciation is [ʁ].)
Shin שׁ
or ש
sh ʃ Sounds like sh as in ship
Sin שׂ s s Sounds like s as in soon
Tav ת t t Sounds like t as in tomato



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