How To Read the Hebrew Alphabet

Known as the Aleph Bet, the Hebrew alphabet contains 22 letters.

The Hebrew alphabet, or the Aleph Bet, consists of 22 letters. The Aleph Bet is also used to write other Jewish languages, like Yiddish, Ladino, Aramaic, Judeo-Persian and Judeo-Arabic.

In Hebrew, the letters are all consonants and the language is comprehensible when written without vowels. However, some texts do include vowels, which are represented in writing by a set of marks, mostly dots and dashes, written under and between the letters. Sacred texts and books for children who are still learning the language are commonly written with vowels. Other texts, like newspapers and books for adults, are written without.

Unlike English, Hebrew does not have uppercase and lowercase versions of each letter. However, some letters do have a second form that is used in the final position of a word. This is because in ancient times Hebrew was written without spaces between words and these letters helped differentiate where one word ended and another began.

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Modern Hebrew has a separate script for handwriting, although scribes use the block script pictured below when handwriting sacred scrolls like a mezuzah or a Torah.

Each modern Hebrew letter, as well as its corresponding English sound and its numerical value, is listed below. Note that two letters make no sound at all. Scroll all the way down to see the vowels as well.

Click here for a printable guide to the Aleph Bet.

Sound: Silent
Numerical value: 1
Example: אִמָא (ima, meaning “mother”)

Bet / Vet
Sound: B with the dagesh (dot); V without
Numerical value: 2
Example: בַּיִת (bayit, meaning “house”)

Sound: G
Numerical value: 3
Example: גָמָל (gamal, meaning “camel”)

Sound: D
Numerical value: 4
Example: דָג (dag, meaning “fish”)

Sound: H
Numerical value: 5
Example: הַר (har, meaning “mountain”)

Sound: V
Numerical value: 6
Example: וֶרֶד (vered, meaning “rose”)

Sound: Z
Numerical value: 7
Example: זָכוֹר (zachor, meaning “remember”)

Sound: Gutteral Ch/Kh
Numerical value: 8
Example: חַג (chag, meaning “holiday” or “festival”)

Sound: T
Numerical value: 9
Example: טִיסָּה (tisa, meaning “flight”)

Sound: Y
Numerical value: 10
Example: יְהוּדִי (yehudi, meaning “Jewish”)

Khaf / Kaf
Sound: K with the dagesh (dot); gutteral CH/KH without
Numerical value: 20
Example: כִּיפָּה (kippah, meaning “yarmulke” or “dome”)

Sound: L
Numerical value: 30
Example: לָשׁוֹן (lashon, meaning “language” or “tongue”)

Sound: M
Numerical value: 40
Example: מְנוֹרָה (menorah, meaning “lamp”)

Sound: N
Numerical value: 50
Example: נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh, meaning “soul”)

Sound: S
Numerical value: 60
Example: סֵפֶר (sefer, meaning “book”)

Sound: Silent
Numerical value: 70
Example: עִבְרִית (ivrit, meaning “Hebrew”)

Pey / Fey
Sound: P with the dagesh (dot); F without
Numerical value: 80
Example: פִּלְפֵּל (pilpel, meaning “pepper”)

Sound: Tz or Ts
Numerical value: 90
Example: צְדָקָה (tzedakah, meaning “charity”)

Sound: K
Numerical value: 100
Example: קָהָל (kahal, meaning “community”)

Sound: R
Numerical value: 200
Example: רַב (rav, meaning “rabbi”)

Shin / Sin
Sound: Sh when the dot is on the right; S when the dot is on the left
Numerical value: 300
Example: שַׁבָּת (shabbat, meaning “sabbath”)

Sound: T
Numerical value: 400
Example: תְּפִילָה (tefilah, meaning “prayer”)

Final Forms (Sofit)

Five letters have a distinct final form that is used if the letter ends a word.

Mem Sofit
Sound: M
Example: אָדוֹם (adom, meaning “red”)

Nun Sofit
Sound: N
Example: יַיִן (ya-yeen, meaning “wine”)

Tzadi Sofit
Sound: Tz or Ts
Example: אֶרֶץ (eretz, meaning “land”)

Pey / Fey Sofit
Sound: F
Example: חֹרֶף (choref, meaning “winter”)

Kaf / Khaf Sofit
Sound: Guttural Kh
Example: מֶלֶך (melekh, meaning “king”)

Vowels (Nikkudot)

Each vowel sound in Hebrew corresponds with a nikkud (Hebrew for “dot”). Many prayer books and dictionaries include nikkudot, while Hebrew-language literature, newspapers, signs and other written materials typically do not.

Sound: ah
Example: אָדוֹם (adom, meaning “red”)

Sound: ah
Example: אַחֲרֵי (acharei, meaning “after”)

Sound: uh or ih
Example: בְּיַחַד (beyachad, meaning “together”)

Sound: ee
Example: מִלִּים (mee-leem, meaning “words”)

Sound: eh
Example: אֶשׁכּוֹלִיוֹת  (eshkoli’ot, meaning “grapefruit”)

Sound: oo
Example: צְנִיעוּת  (tzniut, meaning “modesty”)

Sound: oh
Example: עוֹלָם  (olam, meaning “world”)

Sound: oo
Example: שֻׁלְחָן (shulchan, meaning “table”)

Nikkudot can also be used with consonants to distinguish between two similar sounds. The dagesh that distinguishes the letters bet/vet, khaf/kaf, and pey/fey is one example.

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