Hebrew 101

The Hebrew alphabet consists entirely of consonants, though some can function as vowels. Vowels are indicated with a system of dots and dashes next to the letters, but these are usually omitted except in Bibles and children's books. It is common for words, especially foreign words, to be spelled in more than one way; the Abu'l`afia Synagogue has five different spellings of its name on its signs.


The accent is usually on the last syllable; most of the exceptions are segolates (words in which segol, the e-sound, was inserted after the accent), such as elef "thousand". Some words have a diphthong "ua" or "ia" which is one syllable but sounds like two, like English "oil". This is called pattach gnubah "stolen a-sound" and occurs in shavua "week", which is accented on the "u".


Five letters (מנצפכ) have a different form at the end of a word (םןץףך, respectively). These are named by adding סופית (so-FEET) "final" to the name of the letter, e.g. נון סופית.


א aleph 
glottal stop or silent ('sometimes used as the letter a when rendering English in Hebrew')


ב beth 
like bear or maven
ג gimel 
like gone
ד daleth 
like dude
ה he 
like harp; silent at the end of a word, unless it has a dot in it
ו vav 
like violin; also or or tune when used as a vowel
ז zayin 
like zany
ח cheth 
voiceless gargle, i.e. like the scotish loch
ט teth 
like tuck
י yod 
like yet; also say or honey when used as a vowel
כ ך kaph 
like keep, or halfway between keep and heap
ל lamedh 
like leave
מ ם mem 
like mother
נ ן nun 
like never
ס samekh 
like some
ע ayin 
constriction of the throat, but you can just say ', though there are some minimal pairs
פ ף pe 
like upon or loofa
צ ץ tsadi 
like boots
ק qoph 
like coo, but further back in the throat
ר resh 
voiced gargle as in French
ש sin, shin 
like shoot or seem
ת tav 
like teeth; in some dialects sometimes like juice or teeth

Featured Video