Phoenician alphabet

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Phoenician alphabet
Phoenician alphabet.svg
LanguagesPhoenician, Punic
Time period
c. 1200–150 BC[1]
Parent systems
Child systems
Aramaic alphabet
Greek alphabet
Paleo-Hebrew alphabet
Paleohispanic script
Sister systems
South Arabian alphabet
ISO 15924Phnx, 115
Unicode alias

The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, is the oldest verified alphabet. It is an alphabet of abjad[3] type, consisting of 22 consonant letters only, leaving vowel sounds implicit, although certain late varieties use matres lectionis for some vowels. It was used to write Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the ancient civilization of Phoenicia in modern-day Lebanon, coast of Syria and northern Israel.[4]

The Phoenician alphabet, which the Phoenicians adapted from the early West Semitic alphabet,[5] is ultimately derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs.[6] It became one of the most widely used writing systems, spread by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world, where it was adopted and modified by many other cultures. The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet is a local variant of Phoenician,[7] as is the Aramaic alphabet, the ancestor of the modern Arabic. Modern Hebrew script is a stylistic variant of the Aramaic. The Greek alphabet (with its descendants Latin, Cyrillic, Runic, and Coptic) also derives from the Phoenician.

As the letters were originally incised with a stylus, they are mostly angular and straight, although cursive versions steadily gained popularity, culminating in the Neo-Punic alphabet of Roman-era North Africa.

Phoenician was usually written right to left, though some texts alternate directions (boustrophedon).



The earliest known alphabetic (or "proto-alphabetic") inscriptions are the so-called Proto-Sinaitic (or Proto-Canaanite) script sporadically attested in the Sinai and in Canaan in the late Middle and Late Bronze Age. The script was not widely used until the rise of new Semitic kingdoms in the 13th and 12th centuries BC.

The Phoenician alphabet is a direct continuation of the "Proto-Canaanite" script of the Bronze Age collapse period. The so-called Ahiram epitaph, whose dating is controversial, engraved on the sarcophagus of king Ahiram in Byblos, Lebanon, one of five known Byblian royal inscriptions, shows essentially the fully developed Phoenician script,[8] although the name "Phoenician" is by convention given to inscriptions beginning in the mid-11th century BC.[9]

Spread of the alphabet and its social effects[edit]

Beginning in the 9th century BC, adaptations of the Phoenician alphabet thrived, including Greek, Old Italic, Anatolian, and the Paleohispanic scripts. The alphabet's attractive innovation was its phonetic nature, in which one sound was represented by one symbol, which meant only a few dozen symbols to learn. The other scripts of the time, cuneiform and Egyptian hieroglyphs, employed many complex characters and required long professional training to achieve proficiency.[10]

Another reason for its success was the maritime trading culture of Phoenician merchants, which spread the alphabet into parts of North Africa and Southern Europe.[11] Phoenician inscriptions have been found in archaeological sites at a number of former Phoenician cities and colonies around the Mediterranean, such as Byblos (in present-day Lebanon) and Carthage in North Africa. Later finds indicate earlier use in Egypt.[12]

The alphabet had long-term effects on the social structures of the civilizations that came in contact with it. Its simplicity not only allowed its easy adaptation to multiple languages, but it also allowed the common people to learn how to write. This upset the long-standing status of literacy as an exclusive achievement of royal and religious elites, scribes who used their monopoly on information to control the common population.[13] The appearance of Phoenician disintegrated many of these class divisions, although many Middle Eastern kingdoms, such as Assyria, Babylonia and Adiabene, would continue to use cuneiform for legal and liturgical matters well into the Common Era.

Modern rediscovery[edit]

The Phoenician alphabet was first uncovered in the 17th century, but up to the 19th century its origin was unknown. It was at first believed that the script was a direct variation of Egyptian hieroglyphs,[14] which had been spectacularly deciphered shortly before. However, scholars could not find any link between the two writing systems, nor to hieratic or cuneiform. The theories of independent creation ranged from the idea of a single individual conceiving it, to the Hyksos people forming it from corrupt Egyptian.[15] It was eventually discovered that the proto-Sinaitic alphabet was inspired by the model of hieroglyphs.

The Phoenician alphabet was known by the Sages of Israel, but called by them under a different name: the "Old Hebrew" (paleo-Hebrew) script.[16] Although inconclusive, this designation may have been the result of their thinking that the early invention of this alphabet was made by Eber, the progenitor of the Hebrew nation, or else by one of his descendants.


The Phoenician letter forms shown here are idealized: actual Phoenician writing was cruder and less uniform, with significant variations by era and region.

When alphabetic writing began in Greece, the letter forms were similar but not identical to Phoenician, and vowels were added to the consonant-only Phoenician letters. There were also distinct variants of the writing system in different parts of Greece, primarily in how those Phoenician characters that did not have an exact match to Greek sounds were used. The Ionic variant evolved into the standard Greek alphabet, and the Cumae variant into the Latin alphabet, which accounts for many of the differences between the two. Occasionally, Phoenician used a short stroke or dot symbol as a word separator.[17]

The chart shows the graphical evolution of Phoenician letter forms into other alphabets. The sound values also changed significantly, both at the initial creation of new alphabets and from gradual pronunciation changes which did not immediately lead to spelling changes.[18]

Letter Name[19] Possible Meaning Phoneme Origin Corresponding letter in
Image Text Aramaic Syriac/ Assyrian Hebrew Arabic Maledivan Thaana South Arabian Ethiopian Ge'ez Greek Egyptian Coptic Anatolian Lydian Old Italic Germanic Runes Latin Slavic Cyrillic Georgian Armenian Old Turkic Mongolian Tibetan Indic Devanagari Bengali Burmese Sinhala Khmer Thai Lao Javanese
Aleph 𐤀 ʾalp ox ʾ [ʔ] 𓃾 𐡀‬ ܐ א އ 𐩱 Αα Ⲁⲁ 𐤠 𐌀 Aa Аа /ⴀ/Ⴀ Ա/ա 𐰀 Mongol a tail 1.jpgMongol a tail 2.jpg , आ, ओ, औ, अं, अः, ॲ, ऑ অ, আ, ও, ঔ ꦨ, ආ, ඇ, ඈ
Beth 𐤁 bēt house, cow b [b] 𓉐 𐡁‬ ܒ ב ބ 𐩨 Ββ Ⲃⲃ 𐤡 𐌁 Bb Бб, Вв /ⴁ/Ⴁ Բ/բ 𐰉 3mg b1 final.png

3mg p final.png 3mg f final.png

བ, མ , भ ব, ভ ဗ, ဘ බ, භ ប, ផ ꦧ, ꦨ
Gimel 𐤂 gimel throwing stick, camel, calf, drink g [ɡ] 𓌙 𐡂‬ ܓ ג ޖ 𐩴 Γγ Ⲅⲅ 𐤢 𐌂 , Cc, Gg Гг, Ґґ /ⴂ/Ⴂ Գ/գ 𐰍 Mongol g tail.jpg ค, ฅ
Daleth 𐤃 dalt door, udder, bucket d [d] 𓇯 𐡃‬ ܕ ד د, ذ ޑ, ޛ 𐩵 Δδ Ⲇⲇ 𐤣 𐌃 Dd Дд /ⴃ/Ⴃ Դ/դ 𐰑
He 𐤄 window, feather, pen h [h] 𓀠 𐡄‬ ܗ ה ه ހ 𐩠 Εε Ⲉⲉ 𐤤 𐌄 Ee Ее, Єє, Ээ /ⴄ/Ⴄ Ե/ե, Է/է, Ը/ը ꦌ, ꦍ
Waw 𐤅 wāw hook, hoe w [w] 𓏲 𐡅‬ ܘ ו ވ, ޥ 𐩥 (Ϝϝ), Υυ Ⲩⲩ 𐤥,𐤱,𐤰 𐌅, 𐌖 Ff, Uu, Vv, Yy, Ww (Ѵѵ), Уу, Ўў /ⴅ/Ⴅ Վ/վ Mongol w middle.jpg
Zayin 𐤆 zēn weapon, plough, grain-wagon z [d͡z] 𓏭 𐡆‬ ܙ ז ޒ, ޜ 𐩹 Ζζ Ⲍⲍ 𐌆 Zz Зз /ⴆ/Ⴆ Զ/զ 𐰔 2mg j medial.png ཇ, ཛ, ཛྷ , জ, ঝ ဇ, ဈ ජ, ඣ ช, ซ ꦗ, ꦙ
Heth 𐤇 ḥēt wall, courtyard [x] 𓉗 or 𓈈 𐡇‬ ܚ ח ح, خ ޙ, ޚ 𐩢, 𐩭 , Ηη Ⲏⲏ 𐌇 ᚺ/ᚻ Hh Ии, Йй /ⴈ/Ⴈ Ի/ի, Խ/խ 3mg q final.png 3mg gh1 final.png གྷ
Teth 𐤈 ṭēt wheel [t] 𓄤 𐡈‬ ܛ ט ط, ظ ޘ, ދ 𐩷 Θθ Ⲑⲑ 𐌈 Þþ[citation needed] (Ѳѳ) /ⴇ/Ⴇ Թ/թ 𐰦 थ, ठ,
Yodh 𐤉 yad hand, shovel, handle y [j] 𓂝 𐡉‬ ܝ י ي ޔ 𐩺 Ιι Ⲓⲓ 𐤦 𐌉 Ii, Jj Іі, Її, Јј Յ/յ 𐰖 3mg iy final.png ယ, ရ
Kaph 𐤊 kap palm of a hand, dustpan k [k] 𓂧 𐡊‬ ܟ כך ކ 𐩫 Κκ Ⲕⲕ 𐤨 𐌊 Kk Кк /ⴉ/Ⴉ Կ/կ 𐰚 2mg g medial.png က
Lamedh 𐤋 lamed goad l [l] 𓌅 𐡋‬ ܠ ל ލ, ޅ 𐩡 Λλ Ⲗⲗ 𐤩 𐌋 Ll Лл /ⴊ/Ⴊ Լ/լ 𐰞 3mg l final.png လ, ဠ
Mem 𐤌 mēm water m [m] 𓈖 𐡌‬ ܡ מם މ 𐩣 Μμ Ⲙⲙ 𐤪 𐌌 Mm Мм /ⴋ/Ⴋ Մ/մ 𐰢 3mg m final.png
Nun 𐤍 nūn fish, serpent n [n] 𓆓 𐡍‬ ܢ נן ނ, ޏ 𐩬 Νν Ⲛⲛ 𐤫 𐌍 Nn Нн /ⴌ/Ⴌ Ն/ն 𐰣 3mg n2 final.png ང, ཉ, ན न, ण, , ঙ, ঞ, ণ, ন င, ဉ, ည, ဏ, န ඞ, ඤ, ණ, න ង, ញ, ណ ง, ณ, น ງ, ຍ, ນ ꦔ, ꦚ, ꦟ, ꦤ
Samekh 𐤎 sāmek fishbone, fish, djed s [s] 𓊽 𐡎‬ ܣ, ܤ ס س 𐩪 Ξξ, Χχ Ⲝⲝ, Ⲭⲭ 𐌎, 𐌗 ᛊ,ᛋ Xx (Ѯѯ), Хх /ⴑ/Ⴑ Ս/ս 𐰽‬ ष, स ষ, স ស, ឞ ส, ษ ສ, ຊ ꦯ, ꦰ
Ayin 𐤏 ʿēn eye, water-spring ʿ [ʕ] 𓁹 𐡏‬ ܥ ע ع, غ ޢ, ޣ 𐩲 Οο, Ωω Ⲟⲟ, Ⲱⲱ 𐤬 𐌏 Oo Оо /ⴍ/Ⴍ Օ/օ 𐰆 3mg ouöü final.PNG ए, ऐ এ,ঐ ဩ, ဪ អុ ꦎ, ꦎꦴ
Pe 𐤐 mouth, well p [p] 𓂋 𐡐‬ ܦ פף ف ފ, ޕ 𐩰 ፐ, ፈ Ππ Ⲡⲡ 𐌐 Pp Пп /ⴎ/Ⴎ Պ/պ 𐰯 པ, ཕ प, फ প, ফ ပ, ဖ ප, ඵ ព, ភ ປ, ຜ ꦥ, ꦦ
Sadek 𐤑 ṣade plant/sapling, fishnet, fishing hook [t͡s] 𓇑 𐡑‬ ܨ צץ ص, ض ޞ, ޟ 𐩮 , ጰ, ፀ (Ϻϻ) 𐌑 Цц, Чч, Џџ /ⴚ/Ⴚ Ց/ց 2mg c medial.png 2mg ts medial.png ཅ, ཆ, ཙ, ཚ , চ, ছ စ, ဆ ච, ඡ ច, ឆ จ, ฉ ꦕ, ꦖ
Qoph 𐤒 qūp needle eye q [q] 𓃻 𐡒‬ ܩ ק ޤ, ގ‎ 𐩤 (Ϙϙ), Φφ, Ψψ Ϥϥ, Ⲫⲫ, Ⲯⲯ 𐌒, 𐌘, 𐌙 Qq (Ҁҁ, Фф) /ⴕ/Ⴕ Ք/ք, Փ/փ, Ֆ/ֆ 𐰴 ข, ฃ
Res 𐤓 rūš head, harpoon r [r] 𓁶 𐡓‬ ܪ ר ރ 𐩧 Ρρ Ⲣⲣ 𐤭 𐌓 Rr Рр /ⴐ/Ⴐ Ր/ր 𐰺 3mg r final.png
Sin 𐤔 šīn tooth, toothed knife š [ʃ] 𓌓 𐡔‬ ܫ ש ش, س ޝ, ސ 𐩦 Σσς Ⲋⲋ, Ⲥⲥ, Ϣϣ 𐤮 𐌔 ᛊ/ᛋ Ss Сс, Шш, Щщ /ⴘ/Ⴘ Շ/շ 𐱁 3mg s final.png 3mg sh final.png
Taw 𐤕 tāw mark t [θ] 𓏴 𐡕‬ ܬ ת ت, ث ތ, ޘ 𐩩 Ττ Ⲋⲋ, Ⲧⲧ 𐤯 𐌕 Tt Тт /ⴒ/ Տ/տ 𐱃 3mg td final.png ต, ด
Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
Plain Emphatic
Nasal m n
Stop Voiceless p t k q ʔ
Voiced b d ɡ
Affricate Voiceless t͡s
Voiced d͡z
Fricative Voiceless θ s ʃ x h
Voiced ʕ
Trill r
Approximant l j w

Letter names[edit]

Phoenician used a system of acrophony to name letters: a word was chosen with each initial consonant sound, and became the name of the letter for that sound. These names were not arbitrary: each Phoenician letter was based on an Egyptian hieroglyph representing an Egyptian word; this word was translated into Phoenician (or a closely related Semitic language), then the initial sound of the translated word became the letter's Phoenician value.[20] For example, the second letter of the Phoenician alphabet was based on the Egyptian hieroglyph for "house" (a sketch of a house); the Semitic word for "house" was bet; hence the Phoenician letter was called bet and had the sound value b.

According to a 1904 theory by Theodor Nöldeke, some of the letter names were changed in Phoenician from the Proto-Canaanite script.[dubious ] This includes:

  • gaml "throwing stick" to gimel "camel"
  • digg "fish" to dalet "door"
  • hll "jubilation" to he "window"
  • ziqq "manacle" to zayin "weapon"
  • naḥš "snake" to nun "fish"
  • piʾt "corner" to pe "mouth"
  • šimš "sun" to šin "tooth"

Yigael Yadin (1963) went to great lengths to prove that there was actual battle equipment similar to some of the original letter forms.[21]


The Phoenician numeral system consisted of separate symbols for 1, 10, 20, and 100. The sign for 1 was a simple vertical stroke (𐤖). Other numbers up to 9 were formed by adding the appropriate number of such strokes, arranged in groups of three. The symbol for 10 was a horizontal line or tack (𐤗‎). The sign for 20 (𐤘) could come in different glyph variants, one of them being a combination of two 10-tacks, approximately Z-shaped. Larger multiples of ten were formed by grouping the appropriate number of 20s and 10s. There existed several glyph variants for 100 (𐤙). The 100 symbol could be multiplied by a preceding numeral, e.g. the combination of "4" and "100" yielded 400.[22] The system did not contain a numeral zero.[23]


(32 code points)
Assigned29 code points
Unused3 reserved code points
Unicode version history
5.027 (+27)
5.229 (+2)
Note: [24][25]

The Phoenician alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in July 2006 with the release of version 5.0. An alternative proposal to handle it as a font variation of Hebrew was turned down. (See PDF summary.)

The Unicode block for Phoenician is U+10900–U+1091F. It is intended for the representation of text in Palaeo-Hebrew, Archaic Phoenician, Phoenician, Early Aramaic, Late Phoenician cursive, Phoenician papyri, Siloam Hebrew, Hebrew seals, Ammonite, Moabite, and Punic.

The letters are encoded U+10900 𐤀aleph through to U+10915 𐤕taw, U+10916 𐤖‎, U+10917 𐤗‎, U+10918 𐤘‎ and U+10919 𐤙‎ encode the numerals 1, 10, 20 and 100 respectively and U+1091F 𐤟‎ is the word separator.


Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+1090x 𐤀 𐤁 𐤂 𐤃 𐤄 𐤅 𐤆 𐤇 𐤈 𐤉 𐤊 𐤋 𐤌 𐤍 𐤎 𐤏
U+1091x 𐤐 𐤑 𐤒 𐤓 𐤔 𐤕 𐤖 𐤗 𐤘 𐤙 𐤚 𐤛 𐤟
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


The following Unicode-related documents record the purpose and process of defining specific characters in the Phoenician block:

Version Final code points[a] Count L2 ID WG2 ID Document
5.0 U+10900..10919, 1091F 27 N1579 Everson, Michael (1997-05-27), Proposal for encoding the Phoenician script
L2/97-288 N1603 Umamaheswaran, V. S. (1997-10-24), "8.24.1", Unconfirmed Meeting Minutes, WG 2 Meeting # 33, Heraklion, Crete, Greece, 20 June – 4 July 1997
L2/99-013 N1932 Everson, Michael (1998-11-23), Revised proposal for encoding the Phoenician script in the UCS
L2/99-224 N2097, N2025-2 Röllig, W. (1999-07-23), Comments on proposals for the Universal Multiple-Octed Coded Character Set
N2133 Response to comments on the question of encoding Old Semitic scripts in the UCS (N2097), 1999-10-04
L2/00-010 N2103 Umamaheswaran, V. S. (2000-01-05), "10.4", Minutes of WG 2 meeting 37, Copenhagen, Denmark: 1999-09-13—16
L2/04-149 Kass, James; Anderson, Deborah W.; Snyder, Dean; Lehmann, Reinhard G.; Cowie, Paul James; Kirk, Peter; Cowan, John; Khalaf, S. George; Richmond, Bob (2004-05-25), Miscellaneous Input on Phoenician Encoding Proposal
L2/04-141R2 N2746R2 Everson, Michael (2004-05-29), Final proposal for encoding the Phoenician script in the UCS
L2/04-177 Anderson, Deborah (2004-05-31), Expert Feedback on Phoenician
L2/04-178 N2772 Anderson, Deborah (2004-06-04), Additional Support for Phoenician
L2/04-181 Keown, Elaine (2004-06-04), REBUTTAL to “Final proposal for encoding the Phoenician script in the UCS”
L2/04-190 N2787 Everson, Michael (2004-06-06), Additional examples of the Phoenician script in use
L2/04-187 McGowan, Rick (2004-06-07), Phoenician Recommendation
L2/04-206 N2793 Kirk, Peter (2004-06-07), Response to the revised "Final proposal for encoding the Phoenician script" (L2/04-141R2)
L2/04-213 Rosenne, Jony (2004-06-07), Responses to Several Hebrew Related Items
L2/04-217R Keown, Elaine (2004-06-07), Proposal to add Archaic Mediterranean Script block to ISO 10646
L2/04-226 Durusau, Patrick (2004-06-07), Statement of the Society of Biblical Literature on WG2 N2746R2
L2/04-218 N2792 Snyder, Dean (2004-06-08), Response to the Proposal to Encode Phoenician in Unicode
L2/05-009 N2909 Anderson, Deborah (2005-01-19), Letters in support of Phoenician
5.2 U+1091A..1091B 2 N3353 (pdf, doc) Umamaheswaran, V. S. (2007-10-10), "M51.14", Unconfirmed minutes of WG 2 meeting 51 Hanzhou, China; 2007-04-24/27
L2/07-206 N3284 Everson, Michael (2007-07-25), Proposal to add two numbers for the Phoenician script
L2/07-225 Moore, Lisa (2007-08-21), "Phoenician", UTC #112 Minutes
  1. ^ Proposed code points and characters names may differ from final code points and names

Derived alphabets[edit]

Each letter of Phoenician gave way to a new form in its daughter scripts. Left to right: Latin, Greek, Phoenician, Hebrew, Arabic

Middle Eastern descendants[edit]

The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, used to write early Hebrew, was a regional offshoot of Phoenician; it is nearly identical to the Phoenician (in many early writings they are impossible to distinguish).[citation needed] The Samaritan alphabet is a direct descendant of the Paleo-Hebrew. The current Hebrew alphabet is a stylized form of the Aramaic alphabet, itself a descendant of the Phoenician script.

The Aramaic alphabet, used to write Aramaic, is another descendant of Phoenician. Aramaic, being the lingua franca of the Middle East, was widely adopted. It later split off (due to political divisions) into a number of related alphabets, including Hebrew, Syriac, and Nabataean, the latter of which, in its cursive form, became an ancestor of the Arabic alphabet currently used in Arabic-speaking countries from North Africa through the Levant to Iraq and the Persian Gulf region, as well as in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries.

The Sogdian alphabet, a descendant of Phoenician via Syriac, is an ancestor of the Old Uyghur, which in turn is an ancestor of the Mongolian and Manchu alphabets, the former of which is still in use and the latter of which survives as the Xibe script.

The Arabic script is a descendant of Phoenician via Aramaic.

The Coptic alphabet, still used in Egypt for writing the Christian liturgical language Coptic (descended from Ancient Egyptian), is mostly based on the Greek alphabet, but with a few additional letters for sounds not in Greek at the time. Those additional letters are based on Demotic script.

Derived European scripts[edit]

According to Herodotus,[27] the Phoenician prince Cadmus was accredited with the introduction of the Phoenician alphabet—phoinikeia grammata, "Phoenician letters"—to the Greeks, who adapted it to form their Greek alphabet, which was later introduced to the rest of Europe. Herodotus estimates that Cadmus lived sixteen hundred years before his time, or around 2000 BC, and claims that the Greeks did not know of the Phoenician alphabet before Cadmus.[28]

Modern historians agree that Greek alphabet is derived from the Phoenician.[29] With a different phonology, the Greeks adapted the Phoenician script to represent their own sounds, including the vowels absent in Phoenician. It was possibly more important in Greek to write out vowel sounds: Phoenician being a Semitic language, words were based on consonantal roots that permitted extensive removal of vowels without loss of meaning, a feature absent in the Indo-European Greek. However, Akkadian cuneiform, which wrote a related Semitic language, did indicate vowels, which suggests the Phoenicians simply accepted the model of the Egyptians, who never wrote vowels. In any case, the Greeks repurposed the Phoenician letters of consonant sounds not present in Greek; each such letter had its name shorn of its leading consonant, and the letter took the value of the now-leading vowel. For example, ʾāleph, which designated a glottal stop in Phoenician, was repurposed to represent the vowel /a/; he became /e/, ḥet became /eː/ (a long vowel), ʿayin became /o/ (because the pharyngeality altered the following vowel), while the two semi-consonants wau and yod became the corresponding high vowels, /u/ and /i/. (Some dialects of Greek, which did possess /h/ and /w/, continued to use the Phoenician letters for those consonants as well.)

Cyrillic script was derived from the Greek alphabet. Some Cyrillic letters (generally for sounds not in Mediaeval Greek) are based on Glagolitic forms, which in turn were influenced by the Hebrew or even Coptic alphabets.[citation needed]

The Latin alphabet was derived from Old Italic (originally a form of the Greek alphabet), used for Etruscan and other languages. The origin of the Runic alphabet is disputed: the main theories are that it evolved either from the Latin alphabet itself, some early Old Italic alphabet via the Alpine scripts, or the Greek alphabet. Despite this debate, the Runic alphabet is clearly derived from one or more scripts that ultimately trace their roots back to the Phoenician alphabet.[29][30]

Brahmic scripts[edit]

Many Western scholars believe that the Brahmi script of India and the subsequent Indic alphabets are also derived from the Aramaic script, which would make Phoenician the ancestor of virtually every alphabetic writing system in use today.[31][32]

However, due to an indigenous-origin hypothesis of Brahmic scripts, no definitive scholarly consensus exists.

Surviving examples[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Earliest attestation in the Bronze Age collapse period, classical form from about 1050 BC; gradually died out during the Hellenistic period as its evolved forms replaced it; obsolete with the destruction of Carthage in 149 BC.
  2. ^ Himelfarb, Elizabeth J. "First Alphabet Found in Egypt", Archaeology 53, Issue 1 (Jan./Feb. 2000): 21.
  3. ^ Fischer, Steven Roger (2004). A history of writing. Reaktion Books. p. 90.
  4. ^ "Phoenicia". Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-11-12.
  5. ^ Beyond Babel: A Handbook for Biblical Hebrew and Related Languages, article by Charles R. Krahmalkov (ed. John Kaltner, Steven L. McKenzie, 2002). "This alphabet was not, as often mistakenly asserted, invented by the Phoenicians but, rather, was an adaptation of the early West Semitic alphabet to the needs of their own language".
  6. ^ Michael C. Howard (2012). Transnationalism in Ancient and Medieval Societies. P. 23.
  7. ^ Reinhard G. Kratz (11 November 2015). Historical and Biblical Israel: The History, Tradition, and Archives of Israel and Judah. OUP Oxford. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-19-104448-9. [...] scribes wrote in Paleo-Hebrew, a local variant of the Phoenician alphabetic script [...]
  8. ^ Coulmas (1989) p. 141.
  9. ^ Markoe (2000) p. 111
  10. ^ Hock and Joseph (1996) p. 85.
  11. ^ Daniels (1996) p. 94-95.
  12. ^ "Discovery of Egyptian Inscriptions Indicates an Earlier Date for Origin of the Alphabet". Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  13. ^ Fischer (2003) p. 68-69.
  14. ^ Jensen (1969) p. 256.
  15. ^ Jensen (1969) p. 256-258.
  16. ^ The Mishnah, ed. Herbert Danby, Oxford University Press: Oxford 1933, p. 784, s.v. Yadayim 4:5-6, note 6) (ISBN 0-19-815402-X); Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 10a); Babylonian Talmud (Megillah 2b; Shabbat 104a; Zevahim 62a; Sanhedrin 22a, et al.)
  17. ^ "Charts" (PDF).
  18. ^ Krahmalkov, Charles R. (2001). A Phoenician Punic grammar. Brill. pp. 20–27. ISBN 9004117717. OCLC 237631007.
  19. ^ after Fischer, Steven R. (2001). A History of Writing. London: Reaction Books. p. 126.
  20. ^ Jensen (1969) p. 262-263.
  21. ^ Yigael Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands. McGraw-Hill, 1963. The Samech – a quick war ladder, later to become the '$' dollar sign drawing the three internal lines quickly. The 'Z' shaped Zayin – an ancient boomerang used for hunting. The 'H' shaped Het – mammoth tuffs.
  22. ^ "Phoenician numerals in Unicode], [ Systèmes numéraux" (PDF). Retrieved 20 April 2017. External link in |title= (help)
  23. ^ "Number Systems". Retrieved 20 April 2017.
  24. ^ "Unicode character database". The Unicode Standard. Retrieved 2016-07-09.
  25. ^ "Enumerated Versions of The Unicode Standard". The Unicode Standard. Retrieved 2016-07-09.
  26. ^ Herodotus, Histories, Book V, 58.
  27. ^ Herodotus. Histories, Book II, 145
  28. ^ a b Humphrey, John William (2006). Ancient technology. Greenwood guides to historic events of the ancient world (illustrated ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 219. ISBN 9780313327636. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
  29. ^ Spurkland, Terje (2005): Norwegian Runes and Runic Inscriptions, translated by Betsy van der Hoek, Boydell Press, Woodbridge, pp. 3–4
  30. ^ Richard Salomon, "Brahmi and Kharoshthi", in The World's Writing Systems
  31. ^ Daniélou, Alain (2003). A Brief History of India. Simon and Schuster. pp. 52–53. ISBN 9781594777943.


  • Jean-Pierre Thiollet, Je m'appelle Byblos, H & D, Paris, 2005. ISBN 2-914266-04-9
  • Maria Eugenia Aubet, The Phoenicians and the West Second Edition, Cambridge University Press, London, 2001.
  • Daniels, Peter T., et al. eds. The World's Writing Systems Oxford. (1996).
  • Jensen, Hans, Sign, Symbol, and Script, G.P. Putman's Sons, New York, 1969.
  • Coulmas, Florian, Writing Systems of the World, Blackwell Publishers Ltd, Oxford, 1989.
  • Hock, Hans H. and Joseph, Brian D., Language History, Language Change, and Language Relationship, Mouton de Gruyter, New York, 1996.
  • Fischer, Steven R., A History of Writing, Reaktion Books, 1999.
  • Markoe, Glenn E., Phoenicians. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22613-5 (2000) (hardback)
  • Ancient Hebrew and Aramaic on Coins, reading and transliterating Proto-Hebrew, online edition. (Judaea Coin Archive)

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