Plowing through History from the Aleph to the Tav

Topics Ancient Hebrew Alphabet


By Jeff A. Benner


Ancient Name: Zayin?, Zan?
Pictograph: Mattock / Hoe / Plow
Meanings: Food, Cut, Nourish
Sound: Z

History & Reconstruction

The ancient pictograph for this letter, , is some type of agricultural implement similar to a mattock or plow. The meanings of this letter are "harvest," "food" as from the harvest, "cut" from the function of the implement and "broad" from its shape.

The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is zayin but was originally the parent root zan. When the Greeks adopted the letter its name was originally zan, but later became zeta, the modern name for this letter in the Greek alphabet.

The phonetic sound for this letter is a "z" as it is in Greek and Arabic.

The Early Semitic was simplified to in the Middle Semitic script, which then evolved into in the Late Semitic script. This form evolved into the Modern Hebrew letter ז. The Greeks and Romans adopted this letter to become the letter "Z." The Late Semitic became the number 7.

Semitic Script Charts

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