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He (letter)

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Title: He (letter)  
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Subject: Phoenician alphabet, Hebraization of English, Dalet, Mater lectionis, Waw (letter)
Collection: Arabic Letters, Hebrew Alphabet, Phoenician Alphabet
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He (letter)

Position in alphabet 5
Numerical value 5
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

He is the fifth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Hebrewה, Aramaic, Syriacܗ, and Arabic Hāʾ . Its sound value is a voiceless glottal fricative ([h]).

The proto-Canaanite letter gave rise to the Greek Epsilon, Etruscan E 𐌄, Latin E, Ë and Ɛ, and Cyrillic Е, Ё, Є and Э. He, like all Phoenician letters, represented a consonant, but the Latin, Greek and Cyrillic equivalents have all come to represent vowel sounds.


  • Origins 1
  • Hebrew He 2
    • Pronunciation 2.1
    • Significance of He 2.2
      • In Judaism 2.2.1
  • Syriac Heh 3
  • Arabic hāʾ 4
  • Character encodings 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


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

ḫayt "thread",


"jubilation", compare South Arabian h, , , Ge'ez , , , and

ḥasir "court". In the Phoenician alphabet, ḫayt and ḥasir are merged into Heth "fence", while hillul is replaced by He "window".

Hebrew He

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
ה ה ה

Hebrew spelling: הֵא


In modern Hebrew, the letter represents a voiceless glottal fricative. /h/ may also be dropped, although this pronunciation is seen as substandard.

Also, in many variant Hebrew pronunciations the letter may represent a glottal stop. In word-final position, He is used to indicate an a-vowel, usually that of qamatzָ ), and in this sense functions like Aleph, Vav, and Yud as a mater lectionis, indicating the presence of a long vowel.

He, along with Aleph, Ayin, Resh, and Heth, cannot receive a dagesh. Nonetheless, it does receive a marking identical to the dagesh, to form He-mappiq (הּ). Although indistinguishable for most modern speakers or readers of Hebrew, the mapiq is placed in a word-final He to indicate that the letter is not merely a mater lectionis, but that the consonant should be aspirated in that position. It is generally used in Hebrew to indicate the third-person feminine singular genitive marker. Today such a pronunciation only occurs in religious contexts, and then often only by careful readers of the scriptures.

Significance of He

In gematria, He symbolizes the number five, and when used at the beginning of Hebrew years, it means 5000 (i.e. התשנ״ד in numbers would be the date 5754).

Attached to words, He may have three possible meanings:

  • A preposition meaning the definite article "the", or the relative pronouns "that", or "who" (as in "a boy who reads"). For example, yeled, a boy; hayeled, the boy.
  • A prefix indicating that the sentence is a question. (For example, Yadata, You knew; Hayadata?, Did you know?)
  • A suffix after place names indicating movement towards the given noun. (For example, Yerushalayim, Jerusalem; Yerushalaymah, towards Jerusalem.)

in modern Hebrew the frequency of the usage of he, out of all the letters, is 8.18%.

He, representing five in gematria, is often found on amulets, symbolizing the five fingers of a hand, a very common talismanic symbol.

In Judaism

He is often used to represent the name of God, as He stands for Hashem, which means The Name and is a way of saying God without actually saying the name of God. In print, Hashem is usually written as He with a geresh: ה׳.

Syriac Heh

Madnḫaya Heh
Serṭo Heh
Esṭrangela Heh

In the Syriac alphabet, the fifth letter is ܗ — Heh (ܗܹܐ). It is pronounced as an [h]. At the end of a word with a point above it, it represents the third-person feminine singular suffix. Without the point, it stands for the masculine equivalent. Standing alone with a horizontal line above it, it is the abbreviation for either hānoh (ܗܵܢܘܿ), meaning 'this is' or 'that is', or halelûya (ܗܵܠܹܠܘܼܝܵܐ). As a numeral, He represents the number five.

Arabic hāʾ

The letter is named hāʾ. It is written in several ways depending on its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ه ـه ـهـ هـ

Hāʾ is used as a suffix (with the harakat dictated by ʾIʿrab) indicating possession, indicating that the noun marked with the suffix belongs to a specific masculine possessor; for example, كِتَاب kitāb ("book") becomes كِتَابُهُ kitābuhu ("his book") with the addition of final hāʾ; the possessor is implied in the suffix. A longer example, هُوَ يَقْرَأُ كِتَابَهُ, (huwa yaqraʼu kitābahu, "he reads his book") more clearly indicates the possessor. Hāʾ is also used as the Arabic abbreviation for dates following the Islamic era AH.

The hāʾ suffix appended to a verb represents a masculine object (e.g. يَقْرَأُهُ, yaqraʾuhu, "he reads it").

The feminine form of this construction is in both cases ـهَا -hā.

In Nastaʿlīq the letter has its own patricular shapes. As Urdu and other languages of Pakistan are usually written in Nastaʿlīq, they normally employ those shapes, which are given an independent code point (U+06C1) for compatibility:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ہ ـہ ـہـ ہـ

For aspiration Urdu and other languages of Pakistan use a special form of hāʾ, called in Urdu do chashmī he ("two-eyed he"):

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ھ ـھ ـھـ ھـ

Many Turkic languges of Central Asia like Uyghur as well as Kurdish use the modification of the letter for front vowels /æ/ or /ɛ/. This has its own code point (U+06D5). To distinguish it from Arabic hāʾ /h/ the letter lacks its initial and medial forms:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ە ـە ـە ە

Character encodings

Character ה ه ܗ
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 1492 U+05D4 1607 U+0647 1815 U+0717 2052 U+0804
UTF-8 215 148 D7 94 217 135 D9 87 220 151 DC 97 224 160 132 E0 A0 84
Numeric character reference ה ה ه ه ܗ ܗ
Character ΅
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 66437 U+10385 67652 U+10844 67844 U+10904
UTF-8 240 144 142 133 F0 90 8E 85 240 144 161 132 F0 90 A1 84 240 144 164 132 F0 90 A4 84
UTF-16 55296 57221 D800 DF85 55298 56388 D802 DC44 55298 56580 D802 DD04
Numeric character reference 𐎅 𐎅 𐡄 𐡄 𐤄 𐤄


External links

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