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Topics Ancient Hebrew Alphabet


By Jeff A. Benner


Ancient Name: Waw
Pictograph: Peg
Meanings: Add, Secure, Hook
Sound: W, ow, uw

History & Reconstruction

The original pictograph used in the Early Semitic script is a , a picture of a tent peg. The tent pegs were made of wood and may have been Y-shaped to prevent the rope from slipping off.

The Modern Hebrew name for this letter is vav, a word meaning "peg" or "hook." This letter is used as a consonant with a "v" sound and as a vowel with a "ow" and "uw" sound. The consonantal and vowel pronunciations of each of the consonant/vowel letters of the Ancient Hebrew language, which include the aleph,, hey,, vav, and yud, were closely related. For instance, the letter hey is "h" and "eh" and the pronunciations of the letter yud is "y" and "iy." Following this pattern, it is probable that the original pronunciation of the letter was "w" as the vowel sounds associated with this letter are "ow" and "uw." In addition, in the Modern Arabic language, this letter is pronounced with a "w." Therefore, the original name of this letter would have been waw instead of vav, as it is in Modern Hebrew.

As the pictograph indicates, this letter represents a peg or hook, which is used for securing something. The meaning of this letter is to add or secure.

This letter is frequently used as a prefix to words to mean "and" in the sense of adding things together.

The Early Semitic evolved into the in the Middle Semitic script. This letter then became the in the Late Semitic script and evolved into the Modern Hebrew ו. The Middle Semitic letter was adopted by the Greeks and the Romans to be the letter F, but was dropped from the Greek alphabet and does not exist in the Modern Greek alphabet. The Late Semitic form of the letter became the number 9.

Semitic Script Charts

Go to Nehemiah Gordon's video concerning this letter and his and Mr. Benner's email discussion concerning the video.

Ancient Hebrew Alphabet and Language

Related Pages by Jeff A. Benner

TheThe Ancient Pictographic Alphabet (Article)
The original Hebrew alphabet was written with pictures that reveal insights into Hebrew words.

TheThe Paleo-Hebrew Alphabet (Article)
The relationship between the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet and the Samaritan alphabet.

SabbathSabbath in Ancient Hebrew (Video)
Each letter in the Hebrew alphabet was originally a picture with meaning. In this video we will examine the letters in the Hebrew word shabbat.