|Phonemic representation||ʃ (s)|
|Position in alphabet||21|
|Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician|
Shin (also spelled Šin (šīn) or Sheen) is the name of the twenty-first letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Shin , Hebrew Shin ש, Aramaic Shin , Syriac Shin ܫ, and Arabic Shin ش (in abjadi order, 13th in modern order). Its sound value is a voiceless sibilant, [ʃ] or [s].
The Proto-Sinaitic glyph, according to William Albright, was based on a "tooth" and with the phonemic value š "corresponds etymologically (in part, at least) to original Semitic ṯ (th), which was pronounced s in South Canaanite".
The Phoenician šin letter expressed the continuants of two Proto-Semitic phonemes, and may have been based on a pictogram of a tooth (in modern Hebrew shen). The Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, records that it originally represented a composite bow.
The history of the letters expressing sibilants in the various Semitic alphabets is somewhat complicated, due to different mergers between Proto-Semitic phonemes. As usually reconstructed, there are five Proto-Semitic phonemes that evolved into various voiceless sibilants in daughter languages, as follows:
|ś||s̠||ش||š||š||שׂ||s||שׂ or ס||s||ሠ||ś|
Šīn represents /ʃ/, and is the 13th letter of the modern alphabet order and is written thus:
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
The Arabic letter šīn was an acronym for "something" (شيء šayʾ(un) [ʃajʔ(un)]) meaning the unknown in algebraic equations. In the transcription into Spanish, the Greek letter chi (χ) was used which was later transcribed into Latin x. According to some sources, this is the origin of x used for the unknown in the equations. However, according to other sources, there is no historical evidence for this. In Modern Arabic mathematical notation, س sīn, i.e. šīn without its dots, often corresponds to Latin x.
Aramaic Shin/Sin 
In Aramaic, where the use of shin is well-determined, the orthography of sin was never fully resolved.
To express an etymological /ś/, a number of dialects chose either sin or samek exclusively, where other dialects switch freely between them (often 'leaning' more often towards one or the other). For example:
|Old Aramaic||Imperial Aramaic||Middle Aramaic||Palestinian Aramaic||Babylonian Aramaic|
|עשר||Syrian Inscriptions||Idumaean Ostraca, Egyptian, Egyptian-Persian, Ezra||Qumran||Galilean||Gaonic, Jewish Babylonian Aramaic|
|עסר||Tell Halaf||(none recorded)||Palmyrene, Syriac||Zoar, Christian Palestinian Aramaic||Mandaic|
|both||(none recorded)||(none recorded)||(none recorded)||Targum Jehonathan, Original Manuscript Archival Texts, Palestinian Targum (Genizah), Samaritan||Late Jewish Literary Aramaic|
Regardless of how it is written, /ś/ in spoken Aramaic seems to have universally resolved to /s/.
Hebrew Shin / Sin
|Various print fonts||Cursive
Hebrew spelling: שִׁין
The Hebrew /s/ version according to the reconstruction shown above is descended from Proto-Semitic *ś, a phoneme thought to correspond to a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative /ɬ/, similar to Welsh Ll in "Llandudno".
Sin and Shin Dot
|Sin and Shin dot|
|English example||sought, shot|
|The word Israel in Hebrew, Yisrael. The upper left hand dot on the Sin is a Sin dot.|
|The Hebrew word yesh, there is. The upper right hand dot on the Shin is a Shin dot.|
|Shva · Hiriq · Zeire · Segol · Patach · Kamatz · Holam · Dagesh · Mappiq · Shuruk · Kubutz · Rafe · Sin/Shin Dot|
The Hebrew letter represents two different phonemes: a sibilant /s/, like English sour, and a /ʃ/, like English shoe. The two are distinguished by a dot above the left-hand side of the letter for /s/ and above the right-hand side for /ʃ/. In the biblical name Issachar (Hebrew: יִשָּׂשכָר) only, the second sin/shin letter is always written without any dot, even in fully vocalized texts. This is because the second sin/shin is always silent.
|Sin dot (left)||שׂ||/s/||s||sour|
|Shin dot (right)||שׁ||/ʃ/||sh||shop|
In gematria, Shin represents the number 300.
Shin, as a prefix, bears the same meaning as the relative pronouns "that", "which" and "who" in English. In colloquial Hebrew, Kaph and Shin together have the meaning of "when". This is a contraction of כּאשר, ka'asher (as, when).
According to Judges 12:6, the tribe of Ephraim could not differentiate between Shin and Samekh; when the Gileadites were at war with the Ephraimites, they would ask suspected Ephraimites to say the word shibolet; an Ephraimite would say sibolet and thus be exposed. From this episode we get the English word shibboleth.
Shin also stands for the word Shaddai, a name for God. Because of this, a kohen (priest) forms the letter Shin with his hands as he recites the Priestly Blessing. In the mid 1960s, actor Leonard Nimoy used a single-handed version of this gesture to create the Vulcan hand salute for his character, Mr. Spock, on Star Trek.
The letter Shin is often inscribed on the case containing a mezuzah, a scroll of parchment with Biblical text written on it. The text contained in the mezuzah is the Shema Yisrael prayer, which calls the Israelites to love their God with all their heart, soul and strength. The mezuzah is situated upon all the doorframes in a home or establishment. Sometimes the whole word Shaddai will be written.
The Shema Yisrael prayer also commands the Israelites to write God's commandments on their hearts (Deut. 6:6); the shape of the letter Shin mimics the structure of the human heart: the lower, larger left ventricle (which supplies the full body) and the smaller right ventricle (which supplies the lungs) are positioned like the lines of the letter Shin.
A religious significance has been applied to the fact that there are three valleys that comprise the city of Jerusalem's geography: the Valley of Ben Hinnom, Tyropoeon Valley, and Kidron Valley, and that these valleys converge to also form the shape of the letter shin, and that the Temple in Jerusalem is located where the dagesh (horizontal line) is. This is seen as a fulfillment of passages such as Deuteronomy 16:2 that instructs Jews to celebrate the Pasach at "the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name" (NIV).
In the Sefer Yetzirah the letter Shin is King over Fire, Formed Heaven in the Universe, Hot in the Year, and the Head in the Soul.
The 13th-century Kabbalistic text Sefer HaTemunah, holds that a single letter of unknown pronunciation, held by some to be the four-pronged shin on one side of the teffilin box, is missing from the current alphabet. The world's flaws, the book teaches, are related to the absence of this letter, the eventual revelation of which will repair the universe.
Sayings with Shin
A Shin-Shin Clash is Israeli military parlance for a battle between two tank divisions ("armour" in Hebrew is שִׁרְיוֹן - shiryon).
Sh'at haShin (the Shin hour) is the last possible moment for any action, usually military. Corresponds to the English expression the eleventh hour.
|Unicode name||HEBREW LETTER SHIN||ARABIC LETTER SEEN||ARABIC LETTER SHEEN||SYRIAC LETTER SHIN||HEBREW LETTER SHIN WITH SHIN DOT||HEBREW LETTER SHIN WITH SIN DOT||HEBREW LETTER SHIN WITH DAGESH AND SHIN DOT||HEBREW LETTER SHIN WITH DAGESH AND SIN DOT|
|UTF-8||215 169||D7 A9||216 179||D8 B3||216 180||D8 B4||220 171||DC AB||239 172 170||EF AC AA||239 172 171||EF AC AB||239 172 172||EF AC AC||239 172 173||EF AC AD|
|Numeric character reference||ש||ש||س||س||ش||ش||ܫ||ܫ||שׁ||שׁ||שׂ||שׂ||שּׁ||שּׁ||שּׂ||שּׂ|
|Unicode name||SAMARITAN LETTER SHAN||UGARITIC LETTER SHEN||IMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER SHIN||PHOENICIAN LETTER SHIN|
|UTF-8||224 160 148||E0 A0 94||240 144 142 152||F0 90 8E 98||240 144 161 148||F0 90 A1 94||240 144 164 148||F0 90 A4 94|
|UTF-16||2068||0814||55296 57240||D800 DF98||55298 56404||D802 DC54||55298 56596||D802 DD14|
|Numeric character reference||ࠔ||ࠔ||𐎘||𐎘||𐡔||𐡔||𐤔||𐤔|
- Albright, 1948: 15
- Terry Moore: Why is 'x' the unknown?
- Online Etymological Dictionary
- Cajori, Florian. A History of Mathematical Notation. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 382–383. Retrieved 11 October 2012.
Nor is there historical evidence to support the statement found in Noah Webster's Dictionary, under the letter x, to the effect that 'x was used as an abbreviation of Ar. shei (a thing), something, which, in the Middle Ages, was used to designate the unknown, and was then prevailingly transcribed as xei.'
- Oxford Dictionary, 2nd Edition.
There is no evidence in support of the hypothesis that x is derived ultimately from the mediaeval transliteration xei of shei "thing", used by the Arabs to denote the unknown quantity, or from the compendium for L. res "thing" or radix "root" (resembling a loosely-written x), used by mediaeval mathematicians.
- The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon
- Star Trek: The Original Series, episode #30 "Amok Time" (production #34), and "I Am Not Spock", Leonard Nimoy, 1977.
- Nimoy, Leonard (Narrator) (February 6, 2014). Live Long and Prosper: The Jewish Story Behind Spock, Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Character. Yiddish Book Center. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
- Albright, W. F., "The Early Alphabetic Inscriptions from Sinai and their Decipherment," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 110 (1948): 6-22.
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