Taw (letter)

For other uses, see Taw (disambiguation).

Taw, tav, or taf is the twenty-second and last letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew taw (Modern Hebrew: tav) ת and Arabic alphabet tāʼ ت (see below). Its original sound value is //.

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek tau (Τ), Latin T, and Cyrillic Т.

Origins of taw

Taw is said to have come from a mark or asterisk-like marking, perhaps indicating a signature. Its literal usage in the Torah denotes a wound, or in modern semantics, carving into a surface.

Hebrew tav

Orthographic variants
Various Print Fonts Cursive
Hebrew
Rashi
Script
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
ת ת ת

Hebrew spelling: תָו

Hebrew pronunciation

The letter tav in modern Hebrew usually represents a voiceless alveolar plosive /t/).

Variations on written form and pronunciation

The letter tav is one of the six letters which can receive a dagesh kal. The six are bet, gimel, dalet, kaph, pe, and tav (see Hebrew Alphabet for more about these letters). Three of them, bet, kaph, and pe, have their sound values changed in modern Hebrew from the fricative to the plosive by adding a dagesh. The other three have the same pronunciation in modern Hebrew, but have had alternate pronunciations at other times and places. In traditional Ashkenazi pronunciation, tav represented an /s/ (a form which is still heard today, especially among Diaspora Jews) without the dagesh, and had the plosive form when it had the dagesh. In some Sephardi areas, some Chassidic groups, as well as Yemen, tav without a dagesh represented a voiceless dental fricative /θ/ without a dagesh and the plosive form with the dagesh. See bet, dalet, kaph, pe, and gimel.

Significance of tav

In gematria tav represents the number 400, the largest single number that can be represented without using the sophit forms (see kaph, mem, nun, pe, and tzade).

In representing names from foreign languages, a geresh or chupchik can also be placed after the tav (ת׳), making it represent //.

In Judaism

Tav is the last letter of the Hebrew word emet, which means 'truth'. The midrash explains that emet is made up of the first, middle, and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet (aleph, mem, and tav: אמת). Sheqer (falsehood), on the other hand, is made up of the 19th, 20th, and 21st (and penultimate) letters.

Thus, truth is all-encompassing, while falsehood is narrow and deceiving. In Jewish mythology it was the word emet that was carved into the head of the golem which ultimately gave it life. But when the letter aleph was erased from the golem's forehead, what was left was "met"—dead. And so the golem died.

Ezekiel 9:4 depicts a vision in which the tav plays a Passover role similar to the blood on the lintel and doorposts of a Hebrew home in Egypt.[1] In Ezekiel’s vision, the Lord has his angels separate the demographic wheat from the chaff by going through Jerusalem, the capital city of ancient Israel, and inscribing a mark, a tav, “upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.”

In Ezekiel's vision, then, the Lord is counting tav-marked Israelites as worthwhile to spare, but counts the people worthy of annihilation who lack the tav and the critical attitude it signifies. In other words, looking askance at a culture marked by dire moral decline is a kind of shibboleth for loyalty and zeal for God.[2]

Sayings with taf

"From aleph to taf" describes something from beginning to end, the Hebrew equivalent of the English "From A to Z."

Syriac taw

In the Syriac alphabet, as in the Hebrew and Phoenician alphabets, taw (ܬ) is the last letter in the alphabet. It represents either /t/ (voiceless alveolar plosive) or between a t and d sound.

Esṭrangelā
(classical)
Madnḥāyā
(eastern)
Unicode
character
ܬ

Arabic tāʼ

The letter is named tāʼ . It is written in several ways depending on its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ت ـت ـتـ تـ

Final ـَتْ (fathah, then tāʼ  with a sukun on it, pronounced /at/, though diacritics are normally omitted) is used to mark feminine gender for third-person perfective/past tense verbs, while final تَ (tāʼ-fatḥah, /ta/) is used to mark past-tense second-person singular masculine verbs, final تِ (tāʼ-kasrah, /ti/) to mark past-tense second-person singular feminine verbs, and final تُ (tāʼ-ḍammah, /tu/) to mark past-tense first-person singular verbs.

Recently the isolated ت has been used online because it resembles a smiling face.

Tāʼ marbūṭah

An alternative form called tāʼ marbūṭah (Arabic: تاء مربوطة‎, meaning 'bound tāʼ ) is used at the end of words to mark feminine gender for nouns and adjectives. It denotes the final sound /-a/ and, when in construct state, /-at/. Regular tāʼ, to distinguish it from tāʼ marbūṭah, is referred to as tāʼ maftūḥah (Arabic: تاء مفتوحة‎, meaning 'open tāʼ ').

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ة ـة ـة ة

In words such as risālah رسالة ('letter, message'), tāʼ marbūṭah is denoted as h, and pronounced as /-a/. Historically, it was pronounced as the // sound, which is why tāʼ marbūṭah looks like a hāʼ  (ه). When the word is suffixed with a personal pronoun such as -kum 'your', it changes to risālat*kum (Arabic: رسالتكم‎; the asterisk indicates the short vowel signifying the case ending of the noun). The pronunciation is /t/, just like a regular tāʼ  (ت), but the identity of the "character" remains a tāʼ marbūṭah. Note that the isolated and final forms of this letter combine the shape of hāʼ  and the two dots of tāʼ .

When words containing the symbol are borrowed into other languages written in the Arabic alphabet (such as Persian), tāʼ marbūṭah usually becomes either a regular ه or a regular ت.

Character encodings

See also

Footnotes

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