When the alephbet was invented, in today’s Israel and in the time of the Patriarchs of the Bible, the spoken language or group of dialects, North-Western Semitic, had to be written with the new system .



Certainly, as in all languages and nations, various dialects and local or individual differences in the ways of pronouncing sounds, consonants as well as vocals, must have existed in practice between the various regions, such as per example Phoenicia and Israel.



Therefore the inventors of alphabetic signs or letters had to make choices. And apparently various scholars have found non-identical solutions in a number of cases. Consequently we find often one symbol used for different sounds, especially in the case of alveolar affricates, lateral fricatives and velars.



When trying to analyze relationships between Indo-European and Semitic roots, we have to be well aware of this. This should not surprise anybody, as also in Indo-European languages, before the legal regulation or imposition of spelling, there often seemed to be a free for all as to the choices in spelling .





S I G M A  and others



Visibly the Greek capital letter  Σ  , sounding "S" and called " sigma " has its origin in the Semitic and Hebrew letter  Sin :  ש ( sounding "S"). And so has the Greek lower case letter ώ m sounding "O" and called " omega ", a name that means " big O ". But the Greek lower case letter σ , also sounding "S" , has visibly been derived from the Semitic  Samech : ס , that also sounds "S".

There are two complications  . The name " sigma " is used for both symbols ,  Σ and σ . And also for the variation ς , used at the end of words .  It can be presumed that this name was derived from the Semitic name of this letter , in Hebrew " samech ", with a metathesis between the M and CH sounds and the adding of a final A as has been the case with many other letters . The second complication is that the letter Omega  has also the,  outside Greece more generally known , form Ω as a capital letter. The letters for the sound defined as " big O "  have to be compared with those for the sound defined as " omikron" or " little o ". These letters are in fact one : Ο and  ο .


As to the origin of the symbol " O " for " O ", that has obviously lived on into modern European languages , there exists the idea that it has been designed after the Semitic letter ע. This letter represents a guttural sound unknown in European tongues , and it could be used for something else . It’s name is " Ayin " which says " eye " . Regretfully the O does not in any way look like the  ע .. We will not repeat the complicated reasoning’s that are used in this matter . The supposition seems anyhow wrong .


The Ayin itself in our view may simply have been used to express a different vowel, the "Ypsilon " or in ancient Greek " Upsilon ", that sounded like  German " ü " .  Some think instead that the Greek Υ , also υ , has been designed after the Semitic letter Waw, ו . But there is no visible likeness at all. Besides this, the Waw, used for the sounds W , O and U , has lived on in early Greek exactly as "waw", be it with the addition of a second line in the middle, possibly to make it clearer and easier to recognize : F . Only later the "waw" and its sound have disappeared from Greek.


We can make another hypothesis. As we know the Greeks used  the Semitic letters that they did not need for their consonants,  in a different way, as  in order to express vowels . They found in the Semitic alphabet two symbols for what they considered one sound : S . One of them could be used for a vowel. Possibly different people originally made different choices. Some used the ש for the vowel  "O-mega " and others took it for the " S ". Some perhaps used the ס for the consonant  " S " , but others even made a vowel " O " out of it .  This has certainly created some confusion.  The old Dorian name "σαν,  san  " is probably based on the original semitic name " sin " . Curious is that this name had not been hellenized  , as it might have been for example by adding an "A" : "*shina" or " sina ".


Interesting is the explanation why the Ionians felt free to  use the letter"Hé" for the vowel E . Perhaps the choice of  ה and  ח , two letters that look not too different from each other, for two Greek vowels that also are not too different ( E and ‘E ) , can be considered very rational . Also the two Hebrew letters stand for not too different sounds .


The Hebrew SIN and SHIN , sounding respectively " S " and " SH " , but using the same symbol , have other interesting aspects , as noted for example in similarity number Hebrew 0919 (E 0931) , where the original meaning of its name is compared with other languages  . 

The three Hebrew letters we mentioned,  ס samech , , shin , and  sin,  sometimes are found in roots that are clear cognates or even identical. Their boundaries are not always clearly signed. A few examples are the roots :


  ר ד ס (seder) "order"               ה ר ד שׂ (sәdera)  "line, row, circle" similarity Hebrew 0847 (E 0640)

  ק פ ס  (sapaq) "to clap hands" ק פ שׂ ( sapaq )   "to clap hands"     similarity n.a.

  ק פ ס  (sapaq) "to provide"      ק פ שׂ ( sapaq )   "to be sufficient "  similarity Hebrew 0859 (RU 1274)

  ת ו ס  ( sut)   "suit, dress"         י ת , ו ת ( shut, shit ) "dress"   similarity Hebrew 0873 (E 0883)

                                                                                                                    and  Hebrew 0955 (E 0884)

  ם ת ס (sittèm) "to stem"          ם ת(satam)    "to obstruct, stem" similarity Hebrew 0864 (E 0873)


The Hebrew letter "Samech" is found in some words with particularly interesting roots, that are cognates of many Indo European and specific English words .  Examples are seen in the following  similarities :  


                                                    Hebrew 0847 (E 0640)  , order                                    

                                                    Hebrew 0849 (E 0821)  , he saw , sight                       

                                                    Hebrew 0851 (E 0781)  , secure

                                                    Hebrew 0868 (E 0830)  , sit, session


Also the letter "Sin" has some roots with important Indo-European cognates, such as :


                                                    Hebrew 0878 (E 0762 ) , to say                                   


The Hebrew letter "Shin" is  found as well in many roots that are cognates of both Indo- European and specific English words . We give a few examples :


                                                    Hebrew 0886 (E 0782) , see, show                                  

                                                    Hebrew 0893 (E 0822) , sight, view                                

                                                    Hebrew 0887 (E 0769) , sceon (O E.), geschehen (German)  

                                                    Hebrew 0894 (E 0752)  , sag, sink/b>

                                                    Hebrew 0914 (E 0806) , shield

                                                    Hebrew 0920 (E 0809) , shine

                                                    Hebrew 0939 (E 0780) , seat

                                                    Hebrew 0941 (E 0794) , set                                             

                                                    Hebrew 0943 (E 0872) , steer (v)

                                                    Hebrew 0948 (E 0846) , some                                         

                                                    Hebrew 0954 (E 0795) , set





Created: Tuesday 6 November 2007 at 22.30.54 Updated: Thursday 10 January 2013 at 19.59.13