Biblical Hebrew Alphabet, Words, Names

If you’re just starting out learning biblical Hebrew, here’s a reference guide to the letters of the alphabet, along with some nouns, verbs, and names from the Hebrew Old Testament. As you look at the different words, you can jump back up to the alphabet for a quick reminder of the letters you encounter in those words. This type of practice is how you can build a foundation for growing in biblical Hebrew. Enjoy!

BIBLICAL HEBREW ALPHABET

I’ve listed each letter as it appears in biblical Hebrew, followed by the Hebrew name of the letter, and then the pronunciation.

Some letters can appear with or without a dot in the middle. For some letters, that dot makes a “hard” pronunciation, while the absence of the dot makes a “soft” pronunciation; I’ve included both pronunciations below. For other letters, the dot doesn’t change the pronunciation; I’ve indicated that below.

Five letters have a different final form; that is, they appear differently when they are the final letter of a word. The final forms are indicated below.

You might run into slight variances in biblical Hebrew pronunciation, as there are different “schools.” Biblical Hebrew is an ancient language, so scholars make their best attempt at a pronunciation guide. I teach the pronunciation I was taught. If you are taking a biblical Hebrew class in school, follow the pronunciation guide of your instructor.

א — Alef — silent (can take whatever vowel goes with it)

ב בּ — Bet — with the dot, like English “b” / without the dot, like English “v”

ג גּ — Gimel — like English hard “g” (as in “goose”) / the dot doesn’t change pronunciation

ד דּ — Dalet — like English “d” / the dot doesn’t change pronunciation

ה — He’ — like English “h”

ו — Vav — like English “v” (in some places you might see/hear “w”; as mentioned above, sometimes there are variances in pronunciation depending on the “school”)

ז — Zayin — like English “z”

ח — Chet — like “ch” in “Bach”

ט — Tet — like English “t”

י — Yod — like English “y”

ך כ כּ — with the dot, like English “k” / without the dot, like “ch” in “Bach” / the final form of the letter is on the far right

ל — Lamed — like English “L”

ם מ — Mem — like English “m” / the final form of the letter is on the right

ן נ — Nun — like English “n” / the final form of the letter is on the right

ס — Samech — like English “s”

ע — Ayin — silent (can take whatever vowel goes with it)

ף פ פּ — Pe’ — with the dot, like English “p” / without the dot, like English “f” / the final form of the letter is on the far right

ץ צ — Tsade — like “ts” in “Cats” / the final form of the letter is on the right

ק — Qof — like English “k”

ר — Resh — like English “r”

שׂ — Sin — like English “s”

שׁ — Shin — like English “sh” (notice that Sin and Shin look similar; the only difference is where the dot is placed over the letter: Sin on the left side, Shin on the right side; be careful not to get them mixed up; Shin is much more common, so it’s easy to get used to it and miss when the letter is Sin)

ת תּ — Tav — like English “t” / the dot doesn’t change pronunciation

VOWELS IN BIBLICAL HEBREW

When we see biblical Hebrew words written on the page, we mostly see consonants, not vowels, although a few consonants double as vowels. But we have vowel markings that, when added to a consonant, help you know how to pronounce the word. This is especially helpful when first learning biblical Hebrew words and reading in the Hebrew Bible.

Here is a quick reference to the vowel markings (using the Hebrew consonant ב to illustrate the markings). By vowel markings, I mean those little lines and dots that appear beneath or above or next to a consonant. Where you see an extra consonant in addition to the markings (an extra ו, י, ה), that’s where a consonant doubles as a vowel. There’s more to learn about the vowels if you choose to dig into it, but this quick overview will help you figure out pronunciation of words that have vowels marked.

בַ — “a” as in “father”

בָ — “a” as in “father”

בָה — “a” as in “father”

בֶ — “e” as in “let”

בֵ — “ey” as in “they”

בֵי — “ey” as in “they”

בִ — “ee” as in “tweet”

בִי — “ee” as in “tweet”

בָ — “o” as in “go” (this looks similar to one of the “a” vowels above; it’s more commonly “a” but occasionally “o”; you’ll have to learn which words have the “o” sound as you go along)

בֹ — “o” as in “go”

בוֹ — “o” as in “go”

בֻ — “oo” as in “food”

בוּ — “oo” as in “food”

בְ בֲ בֱ בֳ — sometimes you’ll see what looks like a tiny colon under a consonant, and at other times, that colon has a tiny vowel marking next to it. This colon marking represents what’s called a “shva.” Sometimes a “shva” indicates that the consonant has no vowel. At other times, the “shva” indicates a very short vowel sound, almost like the “a” in the English word “about” (but even shorter). When I’m writing pronunciation, I write the “shva” like “uh.” But remember it is a very short sound, just a tiny breath sound.

COMMON NOUNS IN THE HEBREW OLD TESTAMENT

For most biblical Hebrew words, the stress is on the last syllable. Where this is different, I have made a note below.

יְהוָה — YHWH — This is God’s name but is considered unpronounceable. When reading out loud in scripture, the word “Adonai” (Lord) is spoken in place of this word (see next entry). The vowel markings for the name YHWH are actually the vowel markings for Adonai, as a reminder to those reading the scriptures out loud to pronounce the name as Adonai.

אֲדֹנָי — Lord (God); or lord/master — “Adonai”

אֱלֹהִים — God; or gods — “Elohim”

כֵּן — Yes — like English “cane”

לֹא — No — “lo”

אִישׁ — Man — “ish”

אִשָּׁה — Woman — “isha”

אָב — Father — “av” (“a” as in “father”)

אֵם — Mother — like English “aim”

בֵּן — Son — like English “bane”

בַּת — Daughter — like English “bought”

אָח — Brother — “ach” (as in “Bach”)

אָחוֹת — Sister — “achot”

שֵׁם — Name — like English “shame”

בְּרִית — Covenant — “buh-reet”

צְדָקָה — Righteousness — “ts-da-ka”

שָׁלוֹם — Peace — “shalom”

נֶפֶשׁ — Life; self — “ne-fesh” (stress is on the first syllable)

מֶלֶך — King — “me-lech” (“ch” as in “Bach”) (stress is on the first syllable)

עֶבֶד — Servant — “e-ved” (stress is on the first syllable)

עַם — People — “am” (“a” as in “father”)

מַלְאָך — Angel — “ma-lach” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

עוֹלָה — Burnt offering — “ola”

מִנְחָה — Grain offering — “min-cha” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

מִשְׁפָּט — Judgment; justice; custom — “mish-pat”

שָׁמַיִם — Heavens (this word is only in plural form) – “sha-ma-yim” (stress is on the middle syllable)

מַיִם — Water (this word is only in plural form) — “ma-yim” (stress is on the first syllable)

יָם — Sea — “yam” (“a” as in “father”)

עַיִן — Spring (water); eye — “ay-in” (stress is on the first syllable)

אֶרֶץ — Land; earth — “e-retz” (stress is on the first syllable)

אֲדָמָה — Ground — “adama”

מָקוֹם — Place — “ma-kom”

אֹהֶל — Tent — “o-hel” (stress is on the first syllable)

בַּיִת — House — “ba-yit”

בֶּגֶד — Garment — “be-ged” (stress is on the first syllable)

דֶּרֶך — Road; way — “de-rech” (“ch” as in “Bach”) (stress is on the first syllable)

עִיר — City — like English “ear”

גּוֹי — Nation — “goy”

לֶחֶם — Bread — “le-chem” (“e” as in “let,” “ch” as in “Bach”) (stress is on the first syllable)

רָעָב — Famine — “ra-av” (“a” as in “father”)

יוֹם — Day — “yom”

לַיְלָה — Night — “lay-la” (stress is on the first syllable, which sounds like “lie,” not “lay”)

אוֹר — Light — like English “oar”

קוֹל — Voice; sound — like English “coal”

דָּבָר — Word; thing — “da-var” (“a” as in “father”)

כֹּחַ — Strength; power — “ko-ach” (“ach” as in “Bach”) (some words with a final ח have the “a” vowel come before them instead of after them; this is one such word)

COMMON VERBS IN THE HEBREW OLD TESTAMENT

Biblical Hebrew verb grammar is complex — but also amazing for biblical interpretation and definitely worth learning. If you want to learn the verbs, you’ll need a grammar textbook (you can visit my Biblical Hebrew Books page for my recommendation) and even better, a grammar class with an instructor.

The verbs in the list below are given in a simple form to help my students learn the basic meaning. But the verb forms will look different in the pages of the Bible because the verbs are conjugated. Also, meanings will differ depending on the verb group or “binyan” that appears in a Bible verse.

For all of the verbs listed below, the stress falls on the last syllable.

קָרָא — Call — “ka-ra” (“a” as in “father”)

צִוָּה — Command — “tsee-va”

שָׁלַח — Send — “sha-lach” (“ach” as in “Bach”)

הָלַך — Walk; go — “ha-lach” (“ach” as in “Bach”)

רוּץ — Run — like English “roots”

יָצָא — Go forth — “ya-tsa”

בּוֹא — Come; enter — “bo”

פָּקַד — Visit — “pa-kad”

נִרְאָה — Show oneself; appear — “neer-ah”

הֵנְחָה — Bring; make enter — “heyn-cha” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

יָשַׁב — Sit; inhabit — “ya-shav”

עָמַד — Stand — “a-mad” (“a” as in “father”)

דִּבֵּר — Speak — “deeb-bear”

שָׁמַע — Hear; listen — “sha-ma”

בֵּרֵך — Bless — “bey-reych” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

דָּרַשׁ — Seek — “da-rash”

מָצָא — Find — “ma-tsa”

בָּרָא — Create — “ba-ra”

שָׁמַר — Guard — “sha-mar”

כִּבֵּד — Honor — “keeb-beyd”

קָדֵשׁ — Be holy — “ka-deysh”

חָרָה — Burn; be kindled — “cha-ra” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

נָתַן — Give; place; set — “na-tan”

לָקַח — Take; receive — “la-kach” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

הִבְדִּיל — Divide; separate — “heev-deel”

נָשָׂא — Lift up; carry — “na-sa”

צָחַק — Laugh — “tsa-chak” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

שָׂמַח — Be glad; rejoice — “sa-mach” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

אָכַל — Eat — “a-kal”

יָדַע — Know — “ya-da”

שָׁכַח — Forget — “sha-chach” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

כִּלָּה — Complete; finish — “keel-lah”

שָׁפַט — Judge; govern — “sha-fat” (“a” as in “father”)

מָלַך — Reign — “ma-lach” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

BIBLICAL HEBREW NAMES (PEOPLE)

It’s wonderful to learn biblical names in Hebrew. These personal names, as well as names of places really help you connect with the people and settings in the Bible. These connections bring the stories to life in even more ways.

Learning and reviewing names from the Hebrew Bible is also a great way to learn and practice the Hebrew alphabet. Names are often simpler to learn because you already know those names in your native language. The sounds are often similar. As you review the names, you’ll start to notice them in Bible passages. They will seem to jump off the page.

Another benefit to learning Hebrew names from the Bible is that you’ll become more familiar with how to pronounce more difficult names in the Bible translations in your native language. Often when we read scripture out loud, in church, at Bible studies, etc., it’s hard to pronounce some of the less familiar names and places. As you learn these names in Hebrew, you’ll find it much easier to read the names out loud from your Bible in your own language.

As you read through the people names below, remember to refer to the pronunciation guide at the top of the page (alphabet and vowel markings).

For most biblical Hebrew words, the stress is on the last syllable. Where this is different, I have made a note below.

אַהֲרוֹן — Aaron — “a-huh-rohn” (“a” as in “father”)

הֶבֶל — Abel — “he-vel” (“e” as in “let”) (stress is on the first syllable)

אֲבִימֶלֶך — Abimelech — “uh-bee-me-lech” (“ch” as in “Bach”) (stress is on the third syllable)

אַבְרָהָם — Abraham — “av-ra-ham” (“a” as in “father”)

אַבְרָם — Abram — “av-ram”

אַבְשָׁלוֹם — Absalom — “av-sha-lom” (“o” as in “go”)

אָדָם — Adam — “a-dam” (“a” as in “father”)

בַּת־שֶׁבַע — Bathsheba — “bat-she-va” (stress is on the second syllable)

בִּנְיָמִין — Benjamin — “been-ya-meen”

בִּלְהָה — Bilhah — “beel-ha”

בֹּעַז — Boaz — “bo-az” (“a” as in “father”) (stress is on the first syllable)

קַיִן — Cain — “ka-yeen” (stress is on the first syllable)

דָּן — Dan — “dan” (“a” as in “father”)

דָּוִד — David — “da-veed”

חֲנוֹך — Enoch — “cha-noch” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

עֵשָׂו — Esau — “ey-sav” (“ey” as in “they”)

חַוָּה — Eve — “cha-va” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

גִּדעוֹן — Gideon — “gee-don” (“o” as in “go”)

God (see the first three entries in Common Nouns in the Hebrew Old Testament above)

הָגָר — Hagar — “ha-gar”

חַנָּה — Hannah — “ha-na”

עִבְרִים — Hebrews — “eev-reem”

חִתִּים — Hittites — “chee-teem” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

יִצְחָק — Isaac — “yeets-chak” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

יִשְׁמָעֵאל — Ishmael — “yeesh-ma-eyl” (“ey” as in “they”)

יִשְׂרָאֵל — Israel — “yees-ra-eyl” (“ey” as in “they”)

יַעֲקֹב — Jacob — “ya-a-kov”

יֶפֶת — Japhet — “ye-fet” (“e” as in “let”)

יֵהוּא — Jehu — “yey-hoo” (“ey” as in “they”)

יִרְמְיָהוּ — Jeremiah — “yeer-muh-ya-hoo” (stress is on the third syllable)

יִשַׁי — Jesse — “yee-shai”

יוֹנָה — Jonah — “yo-na”

יְהוֹנָתָן — Jonathan — “yuh-ho-na-tan” (“o” as in “go”)

יוֹסֵפ — Joseph — “yo-seyf” (“ey” as in “they”)

יְהוֹשֻׁעַ — Joshua — “yuh-ho-shu-a” (“o” as in “go”)

לָבָן — Laban — “la-van”

לֶמֶך — Lamech — “le-mech” (“e” as in “let,” “ch” as in “Bach”) (stress is on the first syllable)

לֵאָה — Leah — “ley-a” (“ey” as in “they”)

לֵוִי — Levi — “ley-vee” (“ey” as in “they”)

LORD (see the first two entries in Common Nouns in the Hebrew Old Testament above)

לוֹט — Lot — “lot” (“o” as in “go”)

מֹשֶׁה — Moses — “mo-she” (“o” as in “go,” “e” as in “let”)

נָעֳמִי — Naomi — “na-o-mee”

נָתָן — Nathan — “na-tan”

נֹחַ — Noah — “no-ach” (“ach” as in “Bach”) (some words with a final ח have the “a” vowel come before them instead of after them; this is one such word)

עוֹבֵד — Obed — “o-veyd”

פַּרְעֹה — Pharaoh — “par-o”

פְּלִשְׁתִּים — Philistines — “puh-leesh-teem”

פּוֹטִיפַר — Potiphar — “po-tee-far” (“o” as in “go”)

רָחֵל — Rachel — “ra-cheyl” (“ch” as in “Bach,” “ey” as in “they”)

רַעְמְסֵס — Rameses — “ram-seys” (“ey” as in “they”)

רִבְקָה — Rebekah — “reev-ka”

רְחַבְעָם — Rehoboam — “ruh-chav-am” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

רְאוּבֵן — Reuben — “roo-veyn” (“ey” as in “they”)

רוּת — Ruth — like English “root”

שְׁמוּאֵל — Samuel — “shmoo-eyl”

שָׂרָה — Sarah — “sa-ra”

שָׂרַי — Sarai — “sa-rai”

שָׁאוּל — Saul — “sha-ool”

סַנְחֵרִיב — Sennacherib — “san-chey-reev” (“ch” as in “Bach,” “ey” as in “they”)

שַׁדַּי — Shaddai — “shad-dai”

שֵׁם — Shem — like English “shame”

שְׁלֹמֹה — Solomon — “shuh-lo-mo”

זִלְפָּה — Zilpah — “zeel-pa”

BIBLICAL HEBREW NAMES (PLACES)

As you read through the place names below, remember to refer to the pronunciation guide at the top of the page (alphabet and vowel markings).

For most biblical Hebrew words, the stress is on the last syllable. Where this is different, I have made a note below.

אֲרָם — Aram — “uh-ram” (“a” as in “father”)

אֲרָרַט — Ararat — “uh-ra-rat (“a” as in “father”)

אַשּׁוּר — Assyria — “ash-shoor”

בָּבֶל — Babylon — “ba-vel”

בֵּית־אֵל — Bethel — “beyt-eyl” (“ey” as in “they”)

בֵּית־לֶחֶם — Bethlehem — “beyt-le-chem” (“ch” as in “Bach”) (stress is on the second syllable)

כְּנַעַן — Canaan — “kuh-na-an” (stress is on the second syllable)

עֵדֶן — Eden — “ey-den” (“ey” as in “they”) (stress is on the first syllable)

אֱדוֹם — Edom — like in English “a dome”

מִצְרַיִם — Egypt — “meets-ra-yeem” (stress is on the second syllable)

גִּלְעָד — Gilead — “geel-ad” (remember “g” has a hard sound like English “goose”)

עֲמֹרָה — Gomorrah — “uh-mo-ra”

גֹּשֶׁן — Goshen — “go-shen” (stress is on the first syllable)

חֶבְרוֹן — Hebron — “chev-ron” (“ch” as in “Bach,” “e” as in “let,” “o” as in “go”)

חֹרֵב — Horeb — “cho-reyv” (“ch” as in “Bach,” “o” as in “go,” “ey” as in “they”)

יְרִיחוֹ — Jericho — “yuh-ree-cho” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

יְרוּשָׁלַיִם — Jerusalem — “yuh-roo-sha-lai-yeem” (“lai” sounds like English “lie”) (stress is on the fourth syllable)

יַרְדֵּן — Jordan (river) — “yar-deyn”

עֲרָבָה — Jordan Valley — “uh-ra-va”

יְהוּדָה — Judah — “yuh-hoo-da”

לְבָנוֹן — Lebanon — “luh-va-non” (“o” as in “go”)

מַכְפֵּלָה — Machpelah — “mach-pey-la” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

מַמְרֵא — Mamre — “mam-rey”

מָרָא — Mara — “ma-ra” (a place named for “bitterness”)

מִדְיָן — Midian — “meed-yan”

מוֹאָב — Moab — “mo-av” (“o” as in “go,” “a” as in “father”)

מֹרִיָּה — Moriah — “mo-ree-ya”

נֶגֶב — Negeb — “ne-gev” (“e” as in “let”) (remember “g” has a hard sound like English “goose”) (stress is on the first syllable)

נוֹד — Nod — like English “node”

יַם־סוּף — Red Sea (Sea of Reeds) — “yam-soof” (“a” as in “father”) (remember “yam” is the word for “sea”)

שֶׁבַע — Sheba — “she-va” (“e” as in “let”) (stress is on the first syllable)

שְׁכֶם — Shechem — “shuh-chem” (“ch” as in “Bach”)

שְׁאוֹל — Sheol — “shuh-ol” (“o” as in “go”)

שִׁלֹה — Shiloh — “shee-lo”

שִׁנְעָר — Shinar — “sheen-ar”

סִינַי — Sinai — “see-nai”

סְדֹם — Sodom — “suh-dom” (“o” as in “go”)

תַּרְשִׁישׁ — Tarshish — “tar-sheesh”

צִיוֹן — Zion — “tsee-yon” (“o” as in “go”)

I invite you to visit the next page in this series: Biblical Hebrew Lessons.