Updated 13-Jan-2018 • tags hebrew, scriptnotes
This page provides basic information about the Hebrew script. It is not authoritative, peer-reviewed information – these are just notes I have gathered or copied from various places as I learned. For similar information related to other scripts, see the Script comparison table.
Clicking on red text examples, or highlighting part of the sample text shows a list of characters, with links to more details. Click on the vertical blue bar (bottom right) to change font settings for the sample text.
סעיף א. כל בני אדם נולדו בני חורין ושווים בערכם ובזכויותיהם. כולם חוננו בתבונה ובמצפון, לפיכך חובה עליהם לנהוג איש ברעהו ברוח של אחוה.
סעיף ב. כל אדם זכאי לזכויות ולחרויות שנקבעו בהכרזש זו ללא הפליה כלשהיא מטעמי גזע, צבע, מין, לשון, דח, דעה פוליטית או דעה בבעיות אחרות, בגלל מוצא לאומי או חברתי, קנין, לידה או מעמד אחר. גדולה מזו, לא יופלה אדם על פי מעמדה המדיני, על פי סמכותה או על פי מעמדה הבינלאומי של המדינה או הארץ שאליה הוא שייך, דין שהארץ היא עצמאית, ובין שהיא נתונה לנאמנות, בין שהיא נטולת שלטון עצמי ובין שריבונותה מוגבלת כל הגבלה אחרת.
The Hebrew script is primarily used for writing the Hebrew, Samaritan and Yiddish languages. It is also used for writing some varieties of Arabic spoken in North Africa, Iraq and Yemen; the languages of the Jewish communities in Italy and Corfu, Morocco (Berber), Spain and the Caucasus mountains; and the modern Jewish Aramaic languages. Prior to 500 BC the Hebrew language was written in the Paleo-Hebrew script, which was abandoned after the Jewish exile in the 5th century BC in favour of the Aramaic script, from which the current Hebrew script descended. It is commonly called the Hebrew alphabet, after its first two letters aleph and bet, although it is actually an abjad. ...
There are four main styles of writing the Hebrew language. Ashuri is a widely-used block style. A particular form of Ashuri, called STA"M (an acronym for the Hebrew words for which this style is used), is used for sacred texts such as the Torah. Rashi is a typeface commonly used for commentaries on sacred texts. A 'cursive' style is used in handwriting. This is characterized by rounded letter shapes; unlike other cursive scripts the letters are generally unconnected.
The Hebrew alphabet (Hebrew: אָלֶף־בֵּית עִבְרִי, Alefbet Ivri), known variously by scholars as the Jewish script, square script and block script, is an abjad script used in the writing of the Hebrew language, also adapted as an alphabet script in the writing of other Jewish languages, most notably in Yiddish (lit. "Jewish" for Judeo-German), Djudío (lit. "Jewish" for Judeo-Spanish), and Judeo-Arabic. Historically, there have been two separate abjad scripts to write Hebrew. The original, old Hebrew script, is known as the paleo-Hebrew alphabet, which has been largely preserved, in a variant form, in the Samaritan alphabet. The present "Jewish script" or "square script" to write Hebrew, on the contrary, is a stylized form of the Aramaic alphabet and was known by Jewish sages as the Ashuri alphabet (lit. "Assyrian"), since its origins were alleged to be from Assyria. Various "styles" (in current terms, "fonts") of representation of the Jewish script letters described in this article also exist, as well as a cursive form which has also varied over time and place, and today is referred to as cursive Hebrew.
Hebrew is an abjad. This means that in normal use the script represents only consonant and long vowel sounds. This approach is helped by the strong emphasis on consonant patterns in Semitic languages. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features, taken from the Script Comparison Table.
The Hebrew script characters in Unicode 10.0 are in a single block:
The following links give information about characters used for languages associated with this script. The numbers in parentheses are for non-ASCII characters.
For character-specific details see Hebrew character notes.
Diacritics for vowel sounds are typically not used. The example highlighted above shows how they could be used to clarify the pronunciation of the name of the German town Mainz.
In Hebrew several characters have a different shape at the end of a word, but each shape variant has it's own codepoint and keyboard key, so there is no need for rendering rules to choose the correct glyph.
This example shows מ [U+05DE HEBREW LETTER MEM] and ם [U+05DD HEBREW LETTER FINAL MEM] (on the left).
Hebrew uses european digits.
Hebrew script is written right-to-left in the main, but as with all RTL scripts, numbers and embedded LTR script text are written left-to-right (bidirectional text). In the following example, the Hebrew words (red) are read right-to-left, starting with the one on the right, and the numeric expression (black) is read left-to-right, ie. it starts with 10 and ends with 12. (Note that this is unlike Arabic, where the 10 and 12 would be in opposite positions.)
Words are separated by spaces.
Hebrew uses Latin punctuation for the most part. There are 6 punctuation characters in the Hebrew Unicode block.
I'm not sure how justification works, but assume it is like in English.
Use the control below to see how your browser justifies the text sample here.
הכל שווים לפני החוק וזכזאים ללא הפליה להגנה שווה של החוק. הכל זכאים להגנה שווה מפני כל הפליה המפירה את מצוות ההכרזש הזאת ומפני כל הסתה להפליה כזו.