Heth originally represented a voiceless fricative, either pharyngeal /ħ/, or velar /x/ (the two Proto-Semitic phonemes having merged in Canaanite). In Arabic, two corresponding letters were created for both phonemic sounds: unmodified ḥāʾ ح represents /ħ/, while ḫāʾ خ represents /x/.
The letter shape ultimately goes back to a hieroglyph for "courtyard",
Possibly named ḥasir in the Middle Bronze Age alphabets. The Modern Hebrew word for courtyard is Hatzer (חצר). While the name goes rather back to ḫayt, the name reconstructed for a letter derived from a hieroglyph for "thread",
In Arabic "thread" is خيط [xajtˤ] or [xeːtˤ].
The letter is named حاء ḥāʾ and is the sixth letter of the alphabet. Its shape varies depending on its position in the word:
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
This form is used to denote two letters, the second being خ ḫāʾ.
|Various print fonts||Cursive
Hebrew spelling: חֵית
In Modern Israeli Hebrew (and Ashkenazi Hebrew, although not under strict pronunciation), the letter Ḥet (חֵית) usually has the sound value of a voiceless uvular fricative (/χ/), as the historical phonemes of the letters Ḥet ח (/ħ/) and Khaf כ (/x/) merged, both becoming the voiceless uvular fricative (/χ/).
In more rare phonologies, it is pronounced as a voiceless pharyngeal fricative (/ħ/) and is still among Mizrahim (especially among the older generation and popular Mizrahi singers, mostly Yemenies), in accordance with oriental Jewish traditions.
The ability to pronounce the Arabic letter ḥāʾ (ح) correctly as a voiceless pharyngeal fricative /ħ/ is often used as a shibboleth to distinguish Arabic-speakers from non-Arabic-speakers; in particular, pronunciation of the letter as /x/ is seen as a hallmark of Ashkenazi Jews and Greek Jews.
Ḥet is one of the few Hebrew consonants that can take a vowel at the end of a word. This occurs when patach gnuva comes under the Ḥet at the end of the word. The combination is then pronounced /-aχ/ rather than /-χa/. For example: פתוח (/ˌpaˈtuaχ/), and תפוח (/ˌtaˈpuaχ/).
Ḥet, along with Aleph, Ayin, Resh, and He, cannot receive a dagesh. As pharyngeal fricatives are difficult for most English speakers to pronounce, loanwords are usually Anglicized to have /h/. Thus challah (חלה), pronounced by native Hebrew speakers as /χala/ or /ħala/ is pronounced /halə/ by most English speakers, who cannot often perceive the difference between [h] and [ħ].
In gematria, Ḥet represents the number eight.
|Unicode name||HEBREW LETTER HET||ARABIC LETTER HAH||SYRIAC LETTER HETH||SAMARITAN LETTER HIT|
|UTF-8||215 151||D7 97||216 173||D8 AD||220 154||DC 9A||224 160 135||E0 A0 87|
|Numeric character reference||ח||ח||ح||ح||ܚ||ܚ||ࠇ||ࠇ|
|Unicode name||UGARITIC LETTER HOTA||IMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER HETH||PHOENICIAN LETTER HET|
|UTF-8||240 144 142 136||F0 90 8E 88||240 144 161 135||F0 90 A1 87||240 144 164 135||F0 90 A4 87|
|UTF-16||55296 57224||D800 DF88||55298 56391||D802 DC47||55298 56583||D802 DD07|
|Numeric character reference||𐎈||𐎈||𐡇||𐡇||𐤇||𐤇|
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