Prefixes and Suffixes in Hebrew
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Prefixes and Suffixes in Hebrew

There are several prefixes in the Hebrew language which are appended to regular words to introduce a new meaning. In Hebrew, the letters that form those prefixes are called "formative letters" (Hebrew , Otiyot HaShimush). Eleven of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are considered Otiyot HaShimush. These letters are Aleph (?), Bet (?), He (?), Vav (?), Yud (?), Kaf (?), Lamed (?), Mem (?), Nun (?), Shin (?), and Tav (?). A mnemonic to remember these letters is ? ? (Eitan, Moshe, v'Kalev), which translates to "Ethan, Moses, and Caleb."

Otiyot HaShimush

Prefixes in Hebrew serve multiple purposes. A prefix can serve as a conjunction, preposition, definite article, or interrogative. Prefixes are also used when conjugating verbs in the future tense and for various other purposes.


Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
?‎ (Vav) and Vav-conjunctive (cf. Vav-consecutive) can make the "v" sound (/v/) or the "u" sound (/u/).
If it is used with other prefixes, this is always the first prefix.
  • v'hu[1] (and he)
  • uvayom[2] (and on the day)

Inseparable prepositions

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
?‎ (Lamed) to, for The Inseparable Prepositions are pointed:
  1. Normally with Sheva.
  2. Before a Sheva they take Chirik.
  3. Before ‎ they take Chirik, but the Sheva under the ?‎ falls away.
  4. Before a T'nua Chatufa they assume the corresponding short vowel.
  5. Before ‎ they take Tzere and the T'nua Chatufa under the ?‎ disappears.
  1. l'melekh (to a king)
  2. ?lim'lokhim (to kings)
  3. lihudah (to Judah)
  4. ?la'ari (to a lion)
  5. lelohim (to Gods)
?‎ (Bet) in, with, by
  1. b'melekh (in a king)
  2. bim'lokhim (in kings)
  3. ?bihudah (in Judah)
  4. ba'ari (in a lion)
  5. ?belohim (in Gods)
?‎ (Kaf) as, like
  1. k'melekh (as a king)
  2. kim'lokhim (as kings)
  3. ?kihudah (Like Judah)
  4. ka'ari (Like a lion)
  5. ?kelohim (Like Gods)

Other prepositions

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
?‎ (Mem) from
  1. Before ordinary letters (excluding the gutturals and ?‎) it is ‎ followed by a Dagesh Chazak.
  2. Before gutturals and ?‎ it is ‎.
  3. Before the definite article (?‎) it is ‎ as in 2, and the article remains intact; or it becomes ‎ plus ?‎.
  1. mimelekh (from a king)
  2. ?me'adam (from a man)
  3. mehamelekh (from the king), or
    min hamelekh

Definite article

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
?‎ (He) the Before ordinary letters (i.e. excluding gutturals and ?‎) it is ‎ followed by a Dagesh Chazak.
  • hamelekh (the king)
Before the weaker gutturals ?‎ and ?‎, as well as ?‎, it is ‎.
  • ha'or (the light)
  • ?ha'ayin (the eye)
  • ?harosh (the head)
Before the harsh gutturals ?‎ and ?‎ it is ‎.
  • hahod (the glory)
  • hachoshekh (the darkness)
Before an unaccented ‎ and ‎ and always before ‎ it is ‎.
  • heharim (the mountains)
  • ?he'afar (the dust)
  • ?hechakham (the wise)
Before an accented ‎ and ‎ it is ‎.
  • hahar (the mountain)
  • ha'az (the strong)
  • When used with the Bet, Kaf or Lamed prepositional prefix it is omitted; instead the vowel on the preposition is changed.
  • If He is used with other prefixes, the He is always the last prefix before the root.
  • uvayom[3] (and on the day: note that the ve (on) combines with the ha (the) to become va (on the)).


Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
?‎ (He) ...? Used to indicate a question. Can usually be distinguished from the definite article because it is vowelized with a chataf patach
  • ? ?haven yaqir li?[4] (Is he my most precious son?)

Conjugation of verbs

Prefix Meaning Comment Examples
?‎ (Alef) I will When prefixed to a verb stem, indicates first person, singular, future tense. I will.
  • 'osamak (I will uphold)
?‎ (Yud) He/They will When prefixed to a verb stem, indicates third person, future tense. (Number and gender depend on suffixes.) He will or They will.
  • yaysamak (he will uphold)
  • ?yaysamaku (they will uphold)
?‎ (Nun) We will When prefixed to a verb stem, indicates first person, plural, future tense. We will.
  • nosamak (we will uphold)
?‎ (Tav) She/You/They will When prefixed to a verb stem, indicates one of the following:
  • third person, singular, feminine, future tense. She will
  • second person, future tense. (Number and gender depend on suffixes.) You will
  • In biblical Hebrew, third person, plural, feminine, future tense. They will
  • tosamak (she/you will uphold)
  • tosamaku (you (pl.) will uphold)
  • ?tosamakna sarot[5] (the women of the nobility will uphold)

Other uses

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
‎ (Shin) that, which, who, whom
  • sheqara (which happened)
  • she'asu [6] (who performed)
?‎ (Vav) changes past tense to future tense and vice versa Used mostly in Biblical Hebrew as vav-consecutive (compare vav-conjunctive). Pronounced "va" when changing future tense to past tense. Usually pronounced "v'" or "u" when changing past tense to future tense.
  • vayomer [7] (he said)
compare yomar [8] (he will say)
  • ve'ahavta [9] (you shall love)
compare ahavta [10] (you loved)

Non Otiyot HaShimush

European languages had a large stock of prefixes for technical terminology mostly taken from Greek and Latin. While Hebrew traditionally did not use this kind of prefixes, professionals in the Yishuv who started to teach and work in Hebrew were used to this terminology, and incorporated most of these prefixes into Hebrew. Meanwhile people working on revitalising the language coined some Hebrew parallels, so today those foreign and Hebrew prefixes are used interchangeably.

Prefix Origin Hebrew Meaning Examples
Latin - former
  • eqspozitzya exposition
English/ Latin -i[11]
  • -?i-alimut non-violence
  • nonqonformizm nonconformism
  • -al-mathechet Nonmetal
in-/il-/im-/ir- Latin -i not, opposite of
  • iratzyonali irrational
Greek - lacking in, lack of
  • apoliti apolitical
  • -a-mini asexual
Latin -trom
  • ?prehistori prehistoric
  • -terom-ledati (pre-birth/delivery of a baby) prenatal
  • -qedam-soqratit Pre-Socratic
Latin -a?ar
  • -batar-miqra'i post-old-testamental
Greek - for, on the side of
  • prognoza prognosis
Latin -ben between, among
  • ?internatzyonal international
  • benle'umi international
Latin -tokh
Greek - beside, beyond
  • parapleg paraplegic
Greek - same
  • ?homoseqsualiyut homosexuality
(often shortened hetro)
Greek - different
  • heteroseqsualiyut heterosexuality
Greek/Latin ?-du two
  • ?-?du-tachmotzet (means: di-oxide) dioxide
  • ?-du-leshoni (means: bi-lingual) bilingual
  • bi-sexual (means: bi-sexual) bisexual
Greek - relating to the earth or its surface
  • ?geotermi geothermal
Latin - backwards
  • retroaqtivi retroactive
Latin -dmui-
half, similar to-
  • semitreiler semitrailer
Greek - half
  • hemisfera hemisphere
Greek - electric, electricity
  • eleqtroentzfalograf electroencephalograph (EEG)
Greek - opposite
  • ?antikrist Antichrist
  • ?-anti-chomer antimatter
Latin ?-tat below, beneath
  • ?-infra-adom infrared
Greek -chad one, sole, only
  • ?monolog monologue
  • -chad-leshoni monolingual
Latin -chad one, whole
  • -chad-ofan (lit. uni-wheel) unicycle
Greek -rav many
  • poligamya polygamy
Latin -rav many
  • multimedya multimedia
  • -rav-leshoni multilingual
Greek - at a distance
  • telesqop telescope
Latin -al- over, above, more than, better
  • supernova supernova
  • -?al-tiv'i supernatural
?-‎ (soft i)
Greek - extra specially, over, high
  • hiperaqtivi hyperactive
-‎ (soft i)
Greek thlat three
  • ?triatlon triathlon
  • thlat-Ofan (lit. three-wheel) tricycle
Latin - again, back
  • reorganizatzya reorganization
  • -re-irgun reorganization
  • ?revizya revision
sub-- Latin ?-tat under, lower than, less than
  • ?-tat-muda subconscious
Latin ?-chutz outside
  • ?-chutz-tai extracellular
  • eqstrateritoryali extraterritorial
Greek - new
  • neologizm neologism
proto- Greek -av
first, original, father
  • avtipus prototype
French - society, social, sociological
  • sotzyolingvistiqa sociolinguistics
Greek - relating to water, or using water
  • ?hidroeleqtri hydroelectric
Greek - under or below something, low
  • ?hipogliqemya hypoglycemia
Greek - equal
  • izotop isotope
Greek - after, along with, beyond, among
  • metabolizm metabolism
Greek - very large, million
  • megahertz megahertz
Greek - minute size, 1/1,000,000
  • miqrosqop microscope
Latin - across
  • ?transatlanti transatlantic
Greek - individual, personal, unique
  • ?idyomati idiomatic
Greek - fire
  • pirometer pyrometer
  • ?piroman pyromaniac
re- -she again
  • shechtuv rewrite
Greek - self
  • otomati automatic

See also


  1. ^ Genesis 3:16.
  2. ^ Exodus 12:16.
  3. ^ Exodus 12:16.
  4. ^ Jeremiah 31:19.
  5. ^ Esther 1:18.
  6. ^ Ecclesiastes 2:11.
  7. ^ Genesis 1:6.
  8. ^ Genesis 31:8.
  9. ^ Leviticus 19:18.
  10. ^ Genesis 22:2.
  11. ^ 1 Samuel, 4:21

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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