Bet (letter)

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This article is about the Semitic letter. For the use of this letter in mathematics, see Beth number.
Phonemic representation b, v
Position in alphabet 2
Numerical value 2
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

Bet, Beth, Beh, or Vet is the second letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Bēt Phoenician beth.svg, Hebrew Bēt ב, Aramaic Bēth Beth.svg, Syriac Bēṯ ܒ, and Arabic Bāʾ ب Its sound value is a Voiced bilabial stop ⟨b⟩ or a Voiced labiodental fricative ⟨v⟩. This letter's name means "house" in various Semitic languages (Arabic bayt, Akkadian bītu, bētu, Hebrew: bayiṯ, Phoenician bt etc.; ultimately all from Proto-Semitic *bayt-), and appears to derive from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a house by acrophony.


The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Beta, Latin B, and Cyrillic Б, В.


The name bet is derived from the West Semitic word for "house", and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph that may have been based on a Egyptian hieroglyph


which depicts a house.

Hieroglyph Proto-Sinaitic Phoenician Paleo-Hebrew
Proto-Canaanite - bet.png Bet Early Aramaic character - Beth.png

Hebrew Bet / Vet[edit]

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
ב ב ב Hebrew letter Bet handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Bet Rashi.png

Hebrew spelling: בֵּית

The Hebrew letter represents two different phonemes: a "b" sound (/b/) (bet) and a "v" sound (/v/) (vet). The two are distinguished by a dot (called a dagesh) in the centre of the letter for /b/ and no dot for /v/.

This letter is named bet and vet, following the modern Israeli Hebrew pronunciation, bet and vet (/bɛjt/), in Israel and by most Jews familiar with Hebrew, although some non-Israeli Ashkenazi speakers pronounce it beis and veis (/bejs/). It is also named beth, following the Tiberian Hebrew pronunciation, in academic circles.

In modern Hebrew the frequency of the usage of bet, out of all the letters, is 4.98%.

Variations on written form/pronunciation[edit]

Main article: Hebrew phonology
Name Symbol IPA Transliteration Example
Vet ב /v/ v vote
Bet בּ /b/ b boat

Bet with the dagesh[edit]

When the Bet has a "dot" in its center, known as a dagesh, then it represents /b/. There are various rules in Hebrew grammar that stipulate when and why a dagesh is used.

Bet without the dagesh (Vet)[edit]

When this letter appears as ב without the dagesh ("dot") in its center then it represents a voiced labiodental fricative: /v/.

Significance of ב, mystical and otherwise[edit]

Bet in gematria symbolizes the number 2.

As a prefix, the letter bet may function as a preposition meaning "in", "at", or "with".

Bet is the first letter of the Torah. As Bet is the number 2 in gematria, this is said to symbolize that there are two parts to Torah: the Written Torah and the Oral Torah.

Rashi points out that the letter is closed on three sides and open on one; this is to teach you that you may question about what happened after creation, but not what happened before it, or what is above the heavens or below the earth.

In set theory, the beth numbers stand for powers of infinite sets.

Syriac Beth[edit]

Syriac Eastern bet.svg Madnḫaya Beth
Syriac Serta bet.svg Serṭo Beth
Syriac Estrangela bet.svg Esṭrangela Beth

Syriac letter shapes Beth.PNG

In the Syriac alphabet, the second letter is ܒ — Beth (ܒܝܼܬ). It is one of six letters that represents two associated sounds (the others are Gimel, Dalet, Kaph, Pe and Taw). When Beth has a hard pronunciation (qûššāyâ) it is a [b]. When Beth has a soft pronunciation (rûkkāḵâ) it is traditionally pronounced as a [v], similar to its Hebrew form. However, in eastern dialects, the soft Beth is more often pronounced as a [w], and can form diphthongs with its preceding vowel. Whether Beth should be pronounced as a hard or soft sound is generally determined by its context within a word. However, wherever it is traditionally geminate within a word, even in dialects that no longer distinguish double consonants, it is hard. In the West Syriac dialect, some speakers always pronounce Beth with its hard sound.

Beth, when attached to the beginning of a word, represents the preposition 'in, with, at'. As a numeral, the letter represents the number 2, and, using various systems of dashes above or below, can stand for 2,000 and 20,000.

Arabic bāʾ[edit]

The Arabic letter ب is named باء bāʾ (bāʔ). It is written in several ways depending on its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ب ـب ـبـ بـ

The letter normally renders /b/ sound, except in some names and loanwords where it can also render /p/, often arabized as /b/. (as in برسيل (Persil). For /p/, it may be used interchangeably with the Persian letter پ - pe (with 3 dots) in this case.

Character encodings[edit]

Character ב ب ܒ
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 1489 U+05D1 1576 U+0628 1810 U+0712 2049 U+0801 8502 U+2136
UTF-8 215 145 D7 91 216 168 D8 A8 220 146 DC 92 224 160 129 E0 A0 81 226 132 182 E2 84 B6
Numeric character reference ב ב ب ب ܒ ܒ ࠁ ࠁ ℶ ℶ
Character 𐎁 𐡁 𐤁
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 66433 U+10381 67649 U+10841 67841 U+10901
UTF-8 240 144 142 129 F0 90 8E 81 240 144 161 129 F0 90 A1 81 240 144 164 129 F0 90 A4 81
UTF-16 55296 57217 D800 DF81 55298 56385 D802 DC41 55298 56577 D802 DD01
Numeric character reference 𐎁 𐎁 𐡁 𐡁 𐤁 𐤁


External links[edit]