is the fifteenth letter in many Semitic
alphabets, including Phoenician
, and Aramaic
, representing /s/. The Arabic alphabet
, however, uses a letter based on Phoenician šin
to represent /s/ (see there); however, that glyph takes Samekh's place in the traditional Abjadi order
of the Arabic alphabet.
The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Xi (Ξ, ξ)..
The origin of Samekh is unclear. The Phoenician letter may continue a glyph from the Middle Bronze Age alphabets
, either based on a hieroglyph
for a fish like Nun
is fish in Arabic), or a tent peg / some kind of prop (s'mikhah
in modern Hebrew
means to support), and thus may be derived from the Egyptian
Samekh represents /s/, a voiceless alveolar fricative
. Unlike most Semitic consonants, the pronunciation of /s/ remains constant between vowels and before voiced consonants.
Samekh in gematria
has the value 60.
Samekh and Mem form the abbreviation for the Angel of Death, whose name in Hebrew is Samael. It also stands for centimetre.
In some legends, samekh is said to have been a miracle of the Ten Commandments. records that the tablets "were written on both their sides." The Jerusalem Talmud interprets this as meaning that the inscription went through the full thickness of the tablets. The stone in the center parts of the letters ayin and teth should have fallen out, as it was not connected to the rest of the tablet, but it miraculously remained in place. The Babylonian Talmud (tractate Shabbat 104a), on the other hand, atttributes this instead to samekh, but samekh did not have such a hollow form in the sacred Paleo-Hebrew alphabet that would presumably have been used for the tablets.