What is the name for the Hebrew letter H?

PakoBckuu

New Member
English, USA
According to Jewish Encyclopedia, the letter ' , pronounced y and called "yod" refers to arm/hand. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/15114-yod)
Also, according to the same encyclopedia, the letter l , pronounced w and called "waw" refers to nail/hook.
But what does the Hebrew letter for H refer to?

In its early phase, it looked like:
heb-anc-lg-hey.jpg.856836ccef9b751865d760507871235a.jpg

In the time of King David, it looked like the Phoenician
20px-Phoenician_he.svg.png.c45ae0364043446b5aa05a074bbdde40.png


Abarim publications gives these names and explanations:
הא
הי
The spelling and thus the meaning of this word is uncertain. Klein spells הא (he), meaning lo! behold! Fuerst holds to הי, and thinks it's a part of the name for heth; letter 8.
As prefix this letter serves as the definite particle, the, which is used far less than our word the, and specifically when an emphasis or reference to a previous statement is made.
Meaning of the Hebrew Alphabet and a Survey per Hebrew Letter

Phoenicia.org lists "window" as the meaning for the Phoenician letter "He".
So does this site: Phoenician alphabet and language

David Sacks writes about the 5th Letter of the Alphabet, E, in his book on alphabetic developments, Letter Perfect: The A-to-Z History of Our Alphabet:
What the "he" [name for E] meant- and this is no kidding - was Hey! The letter's name indicated a shout of surprise.
...
The [Egyptians'] letter shape is a human stick figure, half crouching,.... arms raised at the elbows. The person is probably meant to be shouting, in ancient Semitic expression that by coincidence resembles our Hey!
...
No doubt the choice of [the Phoenicians'] he for E [by the Greeks] was prompted by the Phoenician letter name, pronounced hey or hay. The vowel sound in hey was the sound the Greeks wanted for their long E.

The Story of the Letters and Figures, By Hubert Marshall Skinner, says:
its representation was the picture of a window. The ancient windows were generally unlike our own, being enclosed with a lattice... The name meant look! or see! It was originally an interjection.... to call the attention of the person addressed. If you were to step to a window today to hail a passing newsboy.... you would be very apt to call out, Hey, there! Hey!
...
The fence, which was called Cheth, represented a much stronger aspirate than our H, being somewhat similar to the CH of the Germans
OK, I can see that H (drawn, Skinner and Sacks claim, as a window) and Cheth (drawn as a fence) were two different letters in ancient Hebrew/Phoenician script.

The Bible Dictionary (1875) says:
Gesenius conjectures that it may have signified a window, but Furst believes it equivalent to the Hebrew word signifying a hedge.

This idea that Heh is window in Phoenician is not clear to me, as the word "window" in Phoenician was Mhzt (http://ancientroadpublications.com/Studies/AncientLanguage/Phoenician.pdf), and that doesn't start with an H, but with an M.
 
  • Malki92

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    Just as a general rule, the "picture" of Hebrew letters have nothing to do with the meaning of words. The name of the letter is simply he/הֵא.
     

    airelibre

    Senior Member
    English - London
    The origin of ה is probably lost to the ages. I'm not sure what your references are using as sources (or sources' sources in the case of Genesius), other than pure conjecture.

    Window in Hebrew is חלון but that's with ח not ה.
     

    PakoBckuu

    New Member
    English, USA
    Just as a general rule, the "picture" of Hebrew letters have nothing to do with the meaning of words. The name of the letter is simply he/הֵא.
    I agree with you, but I expect there are rare exceptions, since after all, the letters include names of things, unlike in English or Russian.
    I read that hillul in Proto Semitic means praise (in Wikipedia), and it's written as a man with his arms up. Praise in Hebrew is "halal", and the letter H was written similarly, the letter eventually morphing into our E.

    In Proto-Northwest Semitic there were still three voiceless fricatives: uvular ḫ, glottal h, and pharyngeal ḥ. In the Wadi el-Hol script, these appear to be expressed by derivatives of the following Egyptian hieroglyphs

    hiero_A28.png

    hillul "jubilation", compare South Arabian [Letter for] ḥ, Ge'ez ሀ, ሐ, ኀ,
    He (letter) - Wikipedia

    Doesn't "hey" the letter also mean He or it (the pronoun)?
     

    PakoBckuu

    New Member
    English, USA
    The origin of ה is probably lost to the ages. I'm not sure what your references are using as sources, other than pure conjecture.
    Aire,
    The Proto-Sinaitic and Proto-Canaanite letters h are reconstructed to have been called hillul "jubilation", and were based on the hieroglyph

    hiero_A28.png

    . It was replaced by a predecessor of the Hebrew letter He ה.

    The same word is used in Arabic (Arabic: هلل‎, translit. Hallel, lit. 'Praise'‎) or (Arabic: تهليل‎, translit. Tahlel, lit. 'to praise'‎)[1]
    Hallel - Wikipedia

    Here is a chapter on Hebrew Etymology, titled the Letter He. I can't read Hebrew so I don't know what it says:
    http://www.hebrewetymology.com/chapters/he.pdf

    Here is a fuller discussion on Sacks' and Klein's ideas I mentioned. Click here to read it:
    In his chapter about the letter E, Sacks describes how it developed from the Hebrew hey. He writes:

    "What the he meant - and this is no kidding - was "Hey!" The letter's name indicated a shout of surprise. And the letter's shape illustrated it strikingly. The earliest surviving example of a written he appears oldest known alphabetic writing, carved into limestone in Central Egypt around 1800 BCE. The letter shape is a human stick figure, half crouching, perhaps leaping upward, arms raised at the elbows. The person is probably meant to be shouting, in an ancient Semitic expression that by coincidence resembles our "Hey!". "



    egypt-hey.0.gif

    You can see the development from the "hands-up" guy here to our current hey on the e-hebrew site.

    There are those that say that hey actually refers to the Hebrew word הלל - hillul or hallel, meaning jubilation. I'm not so sure. While hey does start the word hallel, it isn't actually the make up of the word. In any case, I'm not sure we need to look so far. In Hebrew and Aramaic the words הא and הי (hey and ha) mean "behold". Klein says that הי, meaning "lo", "behold" or "here is" works as a prefix in the words הילך, היכן and הינו.

    Interestingly, to return to Pessin, there are those that say that while the character originally meant hillul, it followed a similar transformation as we've seen in other letters, and later took on the meaning - and pronunciation - of "window". I don't think that this is referring to chalon חלון, since there isn't much of a similarity. Perhaps there was a Phoenician word hey meaning window. Anybody know?
    Balashon - Hebrew Language Detective: hey

    Does it sound to you like Klein is right "that הי, meaning "lo", "behold" or "here is" works as a prefix in the words הילך, היכן and הינו"?


    Here is what Klein writes in his dictionary:
    xn"
    interj. lo, behold. [Prob. from
    demonstrative -n, whence also mh and
    J Aram, -n (=here is), Ethiop. heja
    ( - here), Arab, hayta ( - come here), cp.
    -n and the first element in ^'n . )

    Nn"

    interj. pbh behold. [Related to
    BAram., J Aram, and Syr. xn.)
    Here you can read the dictionary better with the Hebrew letters used:
    A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary Of The Hebrew Language Ernest Klein 1987 OCR : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive

    What do you think about their observations?
     

    Malki92

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I agree with you, but I expect there are rare exceptions, since after all, the letters include names of things, unlike in English or Russian.
    Yes, it works for a few dozen words. But for 98% of Hebrew words, if you examine the letters that are used to spell a particular word. And then try to understand the word means based on the pictures of the letters, it would ultimately produce nonsense.

    I say that to say that even if you were to figure out the meaning of the letter H (not in Hebrew, but whatever the Phoenicians based their script on - perhaps a simplified form of Egyptian hieroglyphics) then it really wouldn't amount to anything in determining what Hebrew words mean.
     

    PakoBckuu

    New Member
    English, USA
    Yes, it works for a few dozen words. But for 98% of Hebrew words, if you examine the letters that are used to spell a particular word. And then try to understand the word means based on the pictures of the letters, it would ultimately produce nonsense.

    I say that to say that even if you were to figure out the meaning of the letter H (not in Hebrew, but whatever the Phoenicians based their script on - perhaps a simplified form of Egyptian hieroglyphics) then it really wouldn't amount to anything in determining what Hebrew words mean.
    I understand what you mean, Shaliach.

    This is a tangent,
    but to address the issue you are raising and give you a personal reason I am looking into this, Jewish tradition has seen inner meanings in words' letters and has used them to make religious interpretations. Two examples are the interpretations of the words Passover and Pharaoh. If you click the book's URL below, you can find a fuller discussion on the former:
    Wrestling with God: Jewish Theological Responses , [URL='https://www.google.com/search?num=100&tbm=bks&q=inauthor:%22Steven+T.+Katz%22&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi1iY7G57PRAhUG4CYKHTPuCWMQ9AgIXjAO']by Steven T. Katz, ‎Shlomo Biderman, ‎Gershon Greenberg - 2007[/URL]
    https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0195300149

    the wise son asks, "What are the testimonies, etc." "...And you also tell him about the laws of Passover." That is, according to the order and according to the matter of the PeSaH. Just as when the mouth speaks, the hidden is greater than what is revealed...
    ...
    Let this be understood.

    Here is a discussion that goes into the words Passover and Pharaoh for inner meanings:
    In the Book of Exodus,2 Pharaoh, whose name also begins with a pei, said, “Let us [confine the Jews to slavery] lest they multiply.” The word for “lest” in Hebrew is פן, pen: pei-nun. G‑d was displeased with Pharaoh’s declaration, so He “knocked out his tooth” by knocking out the tooth of the pei in Pharaoh’s “pen,” which made it a kaf. Now the word was no longer pen (“lest”) but כן, ken: kaf-nun, meaning “surely.” Surely the Jews will multiply.3
    ...
    The letter pei actually means “mouth”—peh. A mouth is something we use to speak, and the entire purpose of speaking is to communicate with another individual. That ability to communicate is the essential aspect of eighty’s special strength.

    Speech has tremendous power. A king rules with his words. An ordinary person also has great power in his mouth. With words of praise he can raise a person to great heights, and with a bit of gossip he can destroy a person’s reputation.
    ...
    Everyone has the ability to communicate and inspire others. One should not shy away from that responsibility claiming, “I have an impediment.” Moses had an impediment, yet he revealed the ability to lead a nation of several million people for forty years. All of us have impediments in one area or another. Yet those external weaknesses should never incapacitate us or stymie our desire to bestow goodness and communicate words of inspiration to others.
    G‑d told Moses, “Anochi eheyeh im picha10—I will be your mouthpiece.” The word anochi has the gematria of 81: alef=1, nun=50, kaf=20, yud=10. If a person is humble and relies upon G‑d to be his mouthpiece, his power of speech will transcend its natural limits and be a source of strength for others.
    There is a famous teaching of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev11 which explains the meaning of the Passover holiday (Pesach). “Pesach” literally means peh-sach, “the mouth (peh) talks (sach).”On Pesach, the mouth talks about the wonders and miracles of G‑d. Pesach represents the antithesis of Pharaoh, who, as the Megaleh Amukos12 explains, signifies peh-ra, a “bad mouth.” Pharaoh was someone who denied G‑d’s providence in every act of nature. Our mouths were not given to us to slander or denigrate others, but to speak of G‑d’s greatness and wonders.
    Pei — Communication
    I understand that this is a separate issue from normal linguistic etymology and is a tangent from the thread. I am just explaining a main reason I bring this up.
     

    PakoBckuu

    New Member
    English, USA
    The origin of ה is probably lost to the ages. I'm not sure what your references are using as sources (or sources' sources in the case of Genesius), other than pure conjecture.
    Aire libre:

    Genesius' Lexicon says:
    H ( He Aleph ), the fifth letter... Its original form perfhaps represents a lattice of window, and the same seems to be expressed by the word HEY (H Aleph) Lo! See! ...

    H Aleph: Chaldean interjection Lo! Behold! Daniel 3:25
    H Aleph: Hebrew and Chaldean same. Genesis 47:23. In Chaldean pleon Dan 2:43; Behold as, etc.
    ...

    Hekh: interjection imitating a cry of joy Aha! Isa 44:16; also used in glorifying over an enemy's misfortune, Ps. 40:16

    HBL: (1) To breathe, to exhale, (2) to act or speak vainly 2 Kings 17:15 and they followed vanity(הַהֶ֙בֶל֙); Job 27:12 why then do ye speak so vainly? Also to have a vain hope Ps. 62:11 set not a vain hope
    HBL: Used of a gentle breeze, Isa 57:13; more often used of the breath of the mouth. ... Job 7:16


    Abridged edition of Gesenius's Hebrew and Chaldee lexicon to the Old Testament scriptures, from the Engl. tr. of S.P. Tregelles
    Do you agree with the underlined part?

    Genesis 47:23 says:
    וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יֹוסֵף֙ אֶל־הָעָ֔ם הֵן֩ קָנִ֨יתִי אֶתְכֶ֥ם הַיֹּ֛ום וְאֶת־אַדְמַתְכֶ֖ם לְפַרְעֹ֑ה הֵֽא־לָכֶ֣ם זֶ֔רַע וּזְרַעְתֶּ֖ם
    אֶת־הָאֲדָמָֽה׃

    Ezekiel 16:43 says:

    יַ֗עַן אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־ [זָכַרְתִּי כ] (זָכַרְתְּ֙ ק) אֶת־יְמֵ֣י נְעוּרַ֔יִךְ וַתִּרְגְּזִי־לִ֖י בְּכָל־אֵ֑לֶּה וְגַם־אֲנִ֨י הֵ֜א דַּרְכֵּ֣ךְ ׀ בְּרֹ֣אשׁ נָתַ֗תִּי נְאֻם֙ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֔ה וְלֹ֤א [עָשִׂיתִי כ] (עָשִׂית֙ ק) אֶת־הַזִּמָּ֔ה עַ֖ל כָּל־תֹּועֲבֹתָֽיִךְ׃

    Daniel 2:43 says:
    [דִי כ] (וְדִ֣י ק) חֲזַ֗יְתָ פַּרְזְלָא֙ מְעָרַב֙ בַּחֲסַ֣ף טִינָ֔א מִתְעָרְבִ֤ין לֶהֱוֹן֙ בִּזְרַ֣ע אֲנָשָׁ֔א וְלָֽא־לֶהֱוֹ֥ן דָּבְקִ֖ין דְּנָ֣ה עִם־דְּנָ֑ה הֵֽא־כְדִ֣י פַרְזְלָ֔א לָ֥א מִתְעָרַ֖ב עִם־חַסְפָּֽא׃
    It is said to be Aramaic there, but in the chapter's context, isn't it Hebrew?


    Daniel 3:25 would be Aramaic or Chaldean though, wouldn't it, considering the speaker is Nebudchadnezzar?:
    ענה ואמר הא־אנה חזה גברין ארבעה שרין מהלכין בגוא־נורא וחבל לא־איתי בהון ורוה די [רביעיא כ] (רביעאה ק) דמה לבר־אלהין׃ ס
    Here is the chapter: (Daniel - Chapter 3)

     
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