Hebrew Acronyms
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Hebrew Acronyms

Abbreviations (Hebrew: ? ‎) are a common part of the Hebrew language, with many organizations, places, people and concepts known by their abbreviations.


Acronyms in Hebrew use a special punctuation mark called gershayim (?). This mark is placed between the last two letters of the non-inflected form of the acronym (e.g. "report" in singular is "?‎," hence the plural "‎").[1] Acronyms can be formed from strings of single initial letters, e.g. "‎" pazátsta (for , , , ?, ‎), or multiple initial letters, e.g. ‎ (for ‎, the Holy Land) or ‎ ráshlats (for ‎, Rishon LeZion).

If the acronym is read as is, then the spelling should be with a final form letter. If, on the other hand, the acronym is read as the complete phrase or read as the individual letters, then it should be spelled with a medial form letter.[2] In practice, this rule is more often than not ignored, and the acronyms spelled either way.

Abbreviations that are truncations of a single word, consisting of the first letter or first several letters of that word (as opposed to acronyms formed from initials or truncations of more than one word) are denoted using the punctuation mark geresh (?) by placing the sign after the last letter of the abbreviation (e.g. "Ms.": "").[2] However, in practice, single and double quotes are often used instead of the special punctuation marks (for which most keyboards do not have keys), with the single quote used both in acronyms[] and abbreviations.


Often (and especially when they describe a noun), Hebrew acronyms are pronounced by the insertion of a vowel sound (usually [a]) between the letters. These vowels often appear in transliterations to other scripts. Examples include Shas (‎), Tanakh (?‎) and Shabak (?‎). There are exceptions to the use of "a", such as Etzel (?‎).

When one of the letters is vav or yud, these may be read as vowels ("u"/"o" and "i") instead: ?‎ (duakh/dokh = ‎, judgement and account); ‎ (admor = ‎, hasidic rebbe; ?‎ (shut = ?‎, questions and answers); ‎ (sakum = ? ‎, knife spoon and fork); ‎ (tapuz = ? ‎, orange, lit. golden apple); ?‎ (um = ‎, the United Nations); Bilu; ?Lehi. (An exception is ‎, Beitar, pronounced beytar.)

Hebrew numbers (e.g. year numbers in the Hebrew calendar) are written the same way as acronyms, with gershayim before the last character, but pronounced as separate letter names. For example, ? (5775 AM, or 2014-2015 CE) is pronounced hei-tav-shin-ayin-hei.



Acronyms have been widely used in Hebrew since at least the Middle Ages. Several important rabbis are referred to with acronyms of their names. For example, Rabbi Shlomo ben Yitzchak is known as Rashi, Rav Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides) is commonly known as Rambam (Hebrew: ‎), Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman (Nahmanides) is likewise known as the Ramban (Hebrew: ‎), and Baal Shem Tov is called the Besht (Hebrew: ‎).

A number of such acronyms differ only in their last letter. They all begin with "Mahara-", as an acronym of the words ... ‎ (Morenu Ha-Rav rabi ..., Our teacher the Rabbi ...)."


The usage of Hebrew acronyms extends to liturgical groupings: the word Tanakh (Hebrew) is an acronym for Torah (Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im (Book of Prophets), and Ketuvim (Hagiographa).

Most often, though, one will find use of acronyms as acrostics, in both prayer, poetry (see Piyyut), and kabbalistic works. Because each Hebrew letter also has a numeric value, embedding an acrostic may give an additional layer of meaning to these works.

One purpose of acrostics was as a mnemonic or a way for an author to weave his name as a signature, or some other spiritual thought, into his work, at a time when much was memorized. Examples of prayers which contain acrostics include:

  • Ashrei - The first letter of every verse starts with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet, with the omission of nun.
  • Lekhah Dodi - The first letter of each stanza (not including the first and last) spells out "Shlomo Halevi" (Hebrew ?) the name of the author Shlomo Halevi Alkabetz.
  • Shokhen Ad - Four lines are written so that letters line up vertically, with the first letter of the second word in each line spelling the name Yitzchak, which may refer either to the Patriarch Yitzchak or to an unknown author, and the first letter of the last word in each line spelling out the name Rivka, one of the Matriarchs.

See also


  1. ^ ? - . , ? 30 [Punctuation -- select rules] (in Hebrew). Academy of the Hebrew Language. Retrieved .
  2. ^ a b - ? [Punctuation -- select rules] (in Hebrew). Academy of the Hebrew Language. Retrieved .

, , ? ? ?, ? ? ? 18, 2011

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