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Shin (letter)

Phonemic representationʃ (s)
Position in alphabet21
Numerical value300
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

Shin (also spelled Šin (šīn) or Sheen) is the twenty-first letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician šīn 𐤔, Hebrew šīn ש, Aramaic šīn 𐡔, Syriac šīn ܫ, and Arabic sīn س .[a] Its sound value is a voiceless sibilant, [ʃ] or [s].

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Sigma (Σ) (which in turn gave Latin S and Cyrillic С), and the letter Sha in the Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts (, Ш).

The South Arabian and Ethiopian letter Śawt is also cognate.


Egyptian hieroglyph Proto-Sinaitic Phoenician Paleo-Hebrew

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 (th), which was pronounced s in South Canaanite".[2]

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 seven Proto-Semitic coronal voiceless fricative phonemes that evolved into the various voiceless sibilants of its daughter languages, as follows:

Plain consonants
Proto-Semitic Akkadian Phoenician Hebrew Aramaic Arabic Old South Arabian Ge'ez
s [s] / [ts] s 𐤎 s ס s ס s س s 𐩯 s₃ (s) s
š [ʃ] / [s] š 𐤔 š שׁ š ש š 𐩪 s₁ (š)
[θ] ש‎, later ת *ṯ,

š later t

ث 𐩻
ś [ɬ] / [tɬ] שׂ *ś,


ש‎, later ס *ś, s ش š 𐩦 s₂ (ś) ś
Emphatic consonants
Proto-Semitic Akkadian Phoenician Hebrew Aramaic Arabic Old South Arabian Ge'ez
[sʼ] / [tsʼ] 𐤑 צ צ ص 𐩮
[θʼ] צ‎, later ט *ṱ,

ṣ later ṭ

ṣ́ [ɬʼ] / [tɬʼ] ק‎, later ע *ṣ́,

q/ḳ later ʿ

ض 𐩳 ṣ́

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:[3]



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

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
ש ש ש

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".

See also Hebrew phonology, Śawt.

Sin and Shin dot

The Hebrew letter represents two different phonemes: a sibilant /s/, like English sour, and a /ʃ/, like English shoe. Prior to the advent and ascendancy of Tiberian orthography, the two were distinguished by a superscript samekh, i.e. ש vs. שס, which later developed into the dot. 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.

Name Symbol IPA Transliteration Example
Sin dot (left) שׂ /s/ s sour
Shin dot (right) שׁ /ʃ/ sh shop

Unicode encoding

Glyph Unicode Name
ׂ U+05C2 SIN DOT


forms of letter shin phoenician
The rapid evolution of kaf, mem, shin from the 13th-8th c are especially helpful to date "les écritures phéniciennes archaïques."[4][5]

In gematria, Shin represents the number 300. The breakdown of its namesake, Shin[300] - Yodh[10] - Nunh[50] gives the geometrical meaningful number 360, which encompasses the fullness of the degrees of circles.

Shin as a prefix commonly used in the Hebrew language carries similar meaning as specificity faring relative pronouns in English– "that (..)", "which (..)" and "who (..)". When used in this way, it is pronounced like 'sh' and 'eh'. In colloquial Hebrew, Kaph and Shin together have the meaning of "when". This is a contraction of כּאשר, ka'asher (as, when).

Shin is also one of the seven letters which receive special crowns (called tagin) when written in a Sefer Torah. See Gimmel, Ayin, Teth, Nun, Zayin, and Tzadi.

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.

In Judaism

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.[6][7]

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.

In Russian

The Cyrillic letter "sha" is sometimes said to derive from the Hebrew letter shin, showing how both letters are nearly identical.

The corresponding letter for the /ʃ/ sound in Russian is nearly identical in shape to the Hebrew shin. Given that the Cyrillic script includes borrowed letters from a variety of different alphabets such as Greek and Latin, it is often suggested that the letter sha is directly borrowed from the Hebrew letter shin (other hypothesized sources include Coptic and Samaritan).

Sayings with Shin

The Shin-Bet was an old acronym for the Israeli Department of Internal General Security, and name of the service is still usually translated as such in English. In Israeli Hebrew and Palestinian Arabic, the security service is known as the "Shabak".

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.

Arabic shīn/sīn

In the Arabic alphabet, sīn is at the original (21st) position in the supposedly older Maghrebian abjadi order, represents /s/, and is the 12th letter of the modern hijā’ī (هِجَائِي) or alifbāʾī (أَلِفْبَائِي) order and is written thus:

Position in word Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
س ـس ـسـ سـ

In the Mashriqi abjadi order س sīn takes the place of Samekh at 15th position;[b] meanwhile, the letter variant shīn is placed at the original (21st) position, represents /ʃ/, and is the 13th letter of the modern hijā’ī (هِجَائِي) or alifbāʾī (أَلِفْبَائِي) order and is written thus:

Position in word Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ش ـش ـشـ شـ

The Arabic letter shīn was an acronym for "something" (شيء shayʾ(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.[8][9] However, according to other sources, there is no historical evidence for this.[10][11] In Modern Arabic mathematical notation, س sīn, i.e. shīn without its dots, often corresponds to Latin x.

In Moroccan Arabic, the letter ڜ, šīn with an additional three dots below, is used to transliterate the /t͡ʃ/ sound in Spanish loan words.[12]

Position in word Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ڜ ـڜ ـڜـ ڜـ


Character encodings

Character information
Preview ש س ش ܫ
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 1513 U+05E9 1587 U+0633 1588 U+0634 1835 U+072B 64298 U+FB2A 64299 U+FB2B 64300 U+FB2C 64301 U+FB2D
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

Character information
Preview 𐎌 𐡔 𐤔 𐪆 𐩦
Encodings decimal hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex dec hex
Unicode 2068 U+0814 8527 U+214F 66444 U+1038C 67668 U+10854 67860 U+10914 68230 U+10A86 68198 U+10A66 4640 U+1220
UTF-8 224 160 148 E0 A0 94 226 133 143 E2 85 8F 240 144 142 140 F0 90 8E 8C 240 144 161 148 F0 90 A1 94 240 144 164 148 F0 90 A4 94 240 144 170 134 F0 90 AA 86 240 144 169 166 F0 90 A9 A6 225 136 160 E1 88 A0
UTF-16 2068 0814 8527 214F 55296 57228 D800 DF8C 55298 56404 D802 DC54 55298 56596 D802 DD14 55298 56966 D802 DE86 55298 56934 D802 DE66 4640 1220
Numeric character reference ࠔ ࠔ ⅏ ⅏ 𐎌 𐎌 𐡔 𐡔 𐤔 𐤔 𐪆 𐪆 𐩦 𐩦 ሠ ሠ


  1. ^ The position of Arabic sīn س is 21st in the Maghrebian abjadi order (quoted by apparently earliest authorities and considered older), 15th in the common abjadi order, 12th in the common hijāʾī order, & 24th in the Maghrebian hijāʾī order; its numerical value is 300 in the Maghrebian abjad order and 60 in the common abjadi order.[1]
  2. ^ Which is occupied by ص ṣad in the Maghrebian abjadi order.


  1. ^ Macdonald 1986, pp. 117, 130, 149.
  2. ^ Albright, W. F. (1948). "The Early Alphabetic Inscriptions from Sinai and their Decipherment". Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 110 (110): 6–22 [p. 15]. doi:10.2307/3218767. JSTOR 3218767. S2CID 163924917.
  3. ^ The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon
  4. ^ Dussaud 1924
  5. ^ Two distinct forms of the Phoenician shin are shown, the later more resembling Hebrew's.
  6. ^ Star Trek: The Original Series, episode #30 "Amok Time" (production #34), and I Am Not Spock, Leonard Nimoy, 1977.
  7. ^ Nimoy, Leonard (Narrator) (February 6, 2014). Live Long and Prosper: The Jewish Story Behind Spock, Leonard Nimoy's Star Trek Character. Yiddish Book Center. Archived from the original on 2021-12-13. Retrieved February 27, 2015.
  8. ^ Terry Moore: Why is 'x' the unknown?
  9. ^ Online Etymological Dictionary
  10. ^ Cajori, Florian (1993). A History of Mathematical Notation. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 382–383. ISBN 9780486677668. 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.'
  11. ^ Oxford Dictionary (2nd ed.). 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.
  12. ^ José de Lerchundi: Rudimentos del árabe vulgar que se habla en el Imperio de Marruecos, Madrid 1872, S. 5, 26, 95.


  • Macdonald, Michael C. A. (1986). "ABCs and letter order in Ancient North Arabian". Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies (16): 101–168.


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Shin (letter)
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