What Does the Hebrew Alphabet and Symbols Look Like?


Quick Answer

The best-known Hebrew script, used in religious texts and most Israeli media, has a squared-off appearance. Readers read the text from right to left. There are 22 letters with unique script forming the Hebrew alphabet.

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Full Answer

Of the 22 Hebrew letters, five have different symbols when used at the end of a word. The Hebrew letters represent consonants. A series of diacritical marks called “niqqudim” indicate vowel sounds and are dots and dashes written under, above or beside the letters. In many types of written Hebrew, these vowel markings are not included, and context indicates the correct pronunciation of the word.

The Hebrew language originated as a dialect of Phoenician around 900 BCE, but the Hebrew alphabet derives from the Aramaic alphabet and dates from about 600 BCE. This alphabet evolved into a unique script used by the Jewish people. The Hebrew language was, for centuries, a religious language of the Jewish community, not spoken day-to-day. Zionists seeking to create a Jewish nation in what is now Israel resurrected it as a spoken language in the 19th century. Today, millions of people in Israel and throughout the world speak Hebrew.

In addition to the block script that most associate with Hebrew, there is also a Hebrew cursive alphabet, which is more curvilinear and typically used in handwriting rather than printed texts.

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