Ayin (also ayn or ain; transliterated ⟨ʿ⟩) is the sixteenth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician ʿayin , Hebrew ʿayin ע, Aramaic ʿē , Syriac ʿē ܥ, and Arabic ʿayn ع (where it is sixteenth in abjadi order only).[note 1]
|Position in alphabet||16|
|Numerical value||70 (no numeric value in Maltese)|
|Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician|
|Cyrillic||О, Ѡ, Ѿ, Ꙋ, Ю, Ъ?, Ь?, Ы?, Ѫ?|
The letter represents a voiced pharyngeal fricative (/ʕ/) or a similarly articulated consonant. In some Semitic languages and dialects, the phonetic value of the letter has changed, or the phoneme has been lost altogether (thus, in the revived Modern Hebrew it is reduced to a glottal stop or is omitted entirely in part due to European influence).
The letter name is derived from Proto-Semitic *ʿayn- "eye", and the Phoenician letter had the shape of a circle or oval, clearly representing an eye, perhaps ultimately (via Proto-Sinaitic) derived from the ı͗r hieroglyph 𓁹 (Gardiner D4).
In Semitic philology, there is a long-standing tradition of rendering Semitic ayin with the Greek rough breathing mark ⟨ ̔ ⟩ (e.g. ̔arab عَرَب). Depending on typography, this could look similar to either an articulate single opening quotation mark ⟨ʻ⟩ (e.g. ʻarab عَرَب). or as a raised semi-circle open to the right ⟨ʿ⟩ (e.g. ʿarab عَرَب).[note 2]
This is by analogy to the transliteration of alef (glottal stop, hamza) by the Greek smooth breathing mark ⟨ ̓ ⟩, rendered as single closing quotation mark or as raised semi-circle open to the left. This convention has been adopted by DIN in 1982 and by ISO in 1984 for Arabic (DIN 31635, ISO 233) and Hebrew (DIN 31636, ISO 259).
The shape of the "raised semi-circle" for ayin [U+02BF ʿ MODIFIER LETTER LEFT HALF RING] and alef [U+02BE ʾ MODIFIER LETTER RIGHT HALF RING] was adopted by the Encyclopedia of Islam (edited 1913–1938, 1954–2005, and from 2007), and from there by the International Journal of Middle East Studies. This convention has since also been followed by ISO (ISO 233-2 and ISO 259-2, 1993/4) and by DIN[year needed]. A notable exception remains, ALA-LC (1991), the system used by the Library of Congress, continues to recommend modifier letter turned comma ⟨ʻ⟩ or left single quotation mark ⟨ʻ⟩.[clarification needed]
In anglicized Arabic or Hebrew names or in loanwords, ayin is often omitted entirely: Iraq ʿirāq عراق, Arab ʿarab عرب, Saudi suʿūdī سعودي , etc.; Afula עֲפוּלָה, Arad עֲרָד, etc. In Arabic, the presence of ayin in front of u can sometimes be inferred even if it is not rendered separately, as the vowel quality is shifted towards o (e.g. Oman عمان ʿUmān, Omar عمر ʿUmar, etc.)
Maltese, which uses a Latin alphabet, the only Semitic language to do so in its standard form, writes the ayin as ⟨għ⟩. It is usually unvocalized in speech. The Somali Latin alphabet represents the ʿayin with the letter ⟨c⟩. The informal way to represent it in Arabic chat alphabet uses the digit ⟨3⟩ as transliteration.
In Unicode, the recommended character for the transliteration of ayin is U+02BF ʿ MODIFIER LETTER LEFT HALF RING (a character in the Spacing Modifier Letters range, even though it is here not used as a modifier letter but as a full grapheme).[note 3] This convention has been adopted by ISO 233-2 (1993) for Arabic and ISO 259-2 (1994) for Hebrew.
There are a number of alternative Unicode characters in use, some of which are easily confused or even considered equivalent in practice:
Other variants chosen[clarification needed] to represent ayin as a full grapheme (rather than a sign suggestive of an apostrophe or a diacritic):
It is worth noting that the phonemes corresponding to alef and ayin in Ancient Egyptian are by convention transliterated by more distinctive signs: Egyptian alef is rendered by two semi-circles open to the left, stacked vertically, and Egyptian ayin is rendered by a single full-width semi-circle open to the right. These characters were introduced in Unicode in version 5.1 (2008, Latin Extended-D range), ꜣ U+A723 Latin small letter Egyptological Alef and ꜥ U+A725 Latin small letter Egyptological Ain.
|Various print fonts||Cursive
Hebrew spelling: עַיִן
ʿayin has traditionally been described as a voiced pharyngeal fricative ([ʕ]). However, this may be imprecise. Although a pharyngeal fricative has occasionally been observed for ʿayin in Arabic and so may occur in Hebrew as well, the sound is more commonly epiglottal ([ʢ]), and may also be a pharyngealized glottal stop ([ʔˤ]).
In some historical Sephardi and Ashkenazi pronunciations, ʿayin represented a velar nasal ([ŋ]). Remnants can be found in the Yiddish pronunciations of some words such as /ˈjaŋkəv/ and /ˈmansə/ from Hebrew יַעֲקֹב (yaʿăqōḇ, "Jacob") and מַעֲשֶׂה (maʿăse, "story"), but in other cases, the nasal has disappeared and been replaced by /j/, such as /ˈmajsə/ and /ˈmajrəv/ from Hebrew מַעֲשֶׂה and מַעֲרָב (maʿărāḇ, "west"). In Israeli Hebrew (except for Mizrahi pronunciations), it represents a glottal stop in certain cases but is usually silent (it behaves the same as aleph). However, changes in adjoining vowels often testify to the former presence of a pharyngeal or epiglottal articulation. Additionally, it may be used as a shibboleth to identify the ethnolinguistic background of a Hebrew-speaker, as most Israeli Arab non-Jews and some of Israel’s Mizrahi Jews (mainly Yemenite Jews) use the more traditional pronunciation, while other Hebrew-speakers pronounce it similar to Aleph.
Ayin is also one of the three letters that can take a furtive patach (patach ganuv).
In Hebrew loanwords in Greek and Latin, ʿayin is sometimes reflected as /g/, since the biblical phonemes /ʕ/ (or "ʿ") and /ʁ/ (represented by "g") were both represented in Hebrew writing by the letter ʿayin (see Ġain). Gomorrah is from the original /ʁamora/ (modern ʿAmora) and Gaza from the original /ʁazza/ (ʿaza) (cf. Arabic غزة Ġazzah, IPA: [ˈɣazza].)
In Yiddish, the ʿayin is used to write the vowel e when it is not part of the diphthong ey.
In gematria, ʿayin represents the number 70.
The Arabic letter ﻉ (called ﻋَﻴْﻦْ ʿayn) is the eighteenth letter of the alphabet. It is written in one of several ways depending on its position in the word:
|Position in word||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
Arabic ʿayn is one of the most common letters in Arabic. Depending on the region, it ranges from a pharyngeal [
ʕ] to an epiglottal [ ʢ]. It is voiced, its unvoiced counterpart being ح. Due to its position as the innermost letter to emerge from the throat, al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi, who wrote the first Arabic dictionary, actually started writing with ʿayn as the first letter instead of the eighteenth; he viewed its origins deep down in the throat as a sign that it was the first sound, the essential sound, the voice and a representation of the self.
As in Hebrew, the letter originally stood for two sounds, /ʕ/ and /ʁ/. When pointing was developed, the sound /ʁ/ was distinguished with a dot on top (غ), to give the letter ghayn. In Maltese, which is written with the Latin alphabet, the digraph għ, called ʿajn, is used to write what was originally the same sound.
|Unicode name||HEBREW LETTER AYIN||HEBREW LETTER
|SYRIAC LETTER E||SAMARITAN LETTER IN|
|UTF-8||215 162||D7 A2||239 172 160||EF AC A0||220 165||DC A5||224 160 143||E0 A0 8F|
|Numeric character reference||ע
|Unicode name||ARABIC LETTER AIN||ARABIC SMALL HIGH AIN||ARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH TWO DOTS
|ARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH TWO DOTS
|ARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH THREE DOTS
|ARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH THREE DOTS
POINTING DOWNWARDS ABOVE
|ARABIC LETTER AIN|
WITH THREE DOTS
|UTF-8||216 185||D8 B9||224 163 150||E0 A3 96||221 157||DD 9D||221 159||DD 9F||218 160||DA A0||221 158||DD 9E||224 162 179||E0 A2 B3|
|Numeric character reference||ع
|Unicode name||LATIN LETTER AIN||MODIFIER LETTER SMALL AIN||LATIN CAPITAL LETTER
|LATIN SMALL LETTER|
|UTF-8||225 180 165||E1 B4 A5||225 181 156||E1 B5 9C||234 156 164||EA 9C A4||234 156 165||EA 9C A5|
|Numeric character reference||ᴥ
|COPTIC CAPITAL LETTER
OLD COPTIC AIN
|COPTIC SMALL LETTER|
OLD COPTIC AIN
|UTF-8||240 144 142 147||F0 90 8E 93||240 144 161 143||F0 90 A1 8F||240 144 164 143||F0 90 A4 8F||226 178 180||E2 B2 B4||226 178 181||E2 B2 B5|
|UTF-16||55296 57235||D800 DF93||55298 56399||D802 DC4F||55298 56591||D802 DD0F||11444||2CB4||11445||2CB5|
|Numeric character reference||𐎓
|Unicode name||INSCRIPTIONAL PARTHIAN
|PSALTER PAHLAVI LETTER
|GEORGIAN LETTER AIN||GEORGIAN MTAVRULI|
CAPITAL LETTER AIN
|UTF-8||240 144 173 143||F0 90 AD 8F||240 144 173 165||F0 90 AD A5||240 144 174 133||F0 90 AE 85||225 131 186||E1 83 BA||225 178 186||E1 B2 BA|
|UTF-16||55298 57167||D802 DF4F||55298 57189||D802 DF65||55298 57221||D802 DF85||4346||10FA||7354||1CBA|
|Numeric character reference||𐭏
|Unicode name||MANICHAEAN LETTER AYIN||MANDAIC LETTER AIN||NABATAEAN LETTER AYIN||OLD NORTH ARABIAN LETTER AIN||PALMYRENE LETTER AYIN|
|UTF-8||240 144 171 153||F0 90 AB 99||224 161 152||E0 A1 98||240 144 162 151||F0 90 A2 97||240 144 170 146||F0 90 AA 92||240 144 161 176||F0 90 A1 B0|
|UTF-16||55298 57049||D802 DED9||2136||0858||55298 56471||D802 DC97||55298 56978||D802 DE92||55298 56432||D802 DC70|
|Numeric character reference||𐫙
|Unicode name||OLD SOGDIAN LETTER AYIN||OLD SOGDIAN LETTER
|OLD SOGDIAN LETTER
|SOGDIAN LETTER AYIN||SOGDIAN LETTER RESH-AYIN|
|UTF-8||240 144 188 146||F0 90 BC 92||240 144 188 147||F0 90 BC 93||240 144 188 152||F0 90 BC 98||240 144 188 189||F0 90 BC BD||240 144 189 128||F0 90 BD 80|
|UTF-16||55299 57106||D803 DF12||55299 57107||D803 DF13||55299 57112||D803 DF18||55299 57149||D803 DF3D||55299 57152||D803 DF40|
|Numeric character reference||𐼒
|Unicode name||ELYMAIC LETTER AYIN||CHORASMIAN LETTER AYIN|
|UTF-8||240 144 191 175||F0 90 BF AF||240 144 191 128||F0 90 BF 80|
|UTF-16||55299 57327||D803 DFEF||55299 57280||D803 DFC0|
|Numeric character reference||𐿯