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There are several prefixes in the Hebrew language which are appended to regular words to introduce a new meaning. In Hebrew, the letters that form those prefixes are called "formative letters" (Hebrew: אוֹתִיּוֹת הַשִּׁמּוּשׁ, Otiyot HaShimush). Eleven of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet are considered Otiyot HaShimush. These letters are Aleph (א), Bet (ב), He (ה), Vav (ו), Yud (י), Kaf (כ), Lamed (ל), Mem (מ), Nun (נ), Shin (ש), and Tav (ת). A mnemonic to remember these letters is איתן משה וכלב (Eitan, Moshe, v'Kalev), which translates to "Ethan, Moses, and Caleb."

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Otiyot haShimushEdit

Prefixes in Hebrew serve multiple purposes. A prefix can serve as a conjunction, preposition, definite article, or interrogative. Prefixes are also used when conjugating verbs in the future tense and for various other purposes.

ConjunctionsEdit

width= Meaning Comments Examples
ו (Vav) and, but Vav-conjunctive (cf. Vav-consecutive) can make the "v" sound (/v/) or the "u" sound (/u/).
If it is used with other prefixes, this is always the first prefix.
  • וְהוּא v'hu[1] (and he)
  • וּבַיוֹם uvayom[2] (and on the day)

Inseparable prepositionsEdit

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
ל (Lamed) to, for The Inseparable Prepositions are pointed:
  1. Normally with Sheva.
  2. Before a Sheva they take Chirik.
  3. Before יְ they take Chirik, but the Sheva under the י falls away.
  4. Before a T'nua Chatufa they assume the corresponding short vowel.
  5. Before אֶלֹהִים they take Tzere and the T'nua Chatufa under the א disappears.
  1. לְמֶלֶךְ l'melekh (to a king)
  2. לִמְלָכִים lim'lokhim (to kings)
  3. לִיהוּדָה lihudah (to Judah)
  4. לַאֲרִי la'ari (to a lion)
  5. לֵאלֹהִים lelohim (to God)
ב (Bet) in, with, by
  1. בְּמֶלֶךְ b'melekh (in a king)
  2. בִּמְלָכִים bim'lokhim (in kings)
  3. בִּיהוּדָה bihudah (in Judah)
  4. בַּאֲרִי ba'ari (in a lion)
  5. בֵּאלֹהִים belohim (in God)
כ (Kaf) as, like
  1. כְּמֶלֶךְ k'melekh (as a king)
  2. כִּמְלָכִים kim'lokhim (as kings)
  3. כִּיהוּדָה kihudah (as Judah)
  4. כַּאֲרִי ka'ari (as a lion)
  5. כֵּאלֹהִים kelohim (as God)

Other prepositionsEdit

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
מ (Mem) from
  1. Before ordinary letters (excluding the gutturals and ר) it is מִ followed by a Dagesh Chazak.
  2. Before gutturals and ר it is מֵ.
  3. Before the definite article (ה) it is מֵ as in 2, and the article remains intact; or it becomes מִן plus ה.
  1. מִמֶּלֶךְ mimelekh (from a king)
  2. מֵאָדָם me'adam (from a man)
  3. מֵהַמֶּלֶךְ mehamelekh (from the king), or
    מִן הַמֶּלֶךְ min hamelekh

Definite articleEdit

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
ה (He) the Before ordinary letters (i.e. excluding gutturals and ר) it is הַ followed by a Dagesh Chazak.
  • הַמֶּלֶךְ hamelekh (the king)
Before the weaker gutturals א and ע, as well as ר, it is הָ.
  • הָאוֹר ha'or (the light)
  • הָעַיִן ha'ayin (the eye)
  • הָרֹאשׁ harosh (the head)
Before the harsh gutturals ה and ח it is הַ.
  • הַהוֹד hahod (the glory)
  • הַחֹשֶׁךְ hachoshekh (the darkness)
Before an unaccented הָ and עָ and always before חָ it is הֶ.
  • הֶהָרִים heharim (the mountains)
  • הֶעָפָר he'afar (the dust)
  • הֶחָכָם hechakham (the wise)
Before an accented הָ and עָ it is הָ.
  • הָהָר hahar (the mountain)
  • הָעָז ha'az (the strong)
  • When used with the Bet, Kaf or Lamed prepositional prefix it is omitted; instead the vowel on the preposition is changed.
  • If He is used with other prefixes, the He is always the last prefix before the root.
  • וּבַיוֹם uvayom[3] (and on the day: note that the ve (on) combines with the ha (the) to become va (on the)).

InterrogativeEdit

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
ה (He) Used to indicate a question Can usually be distinguished from the definite article because it is vowelized with a chataf patach
  • הֲבֵן יַקִּיר לִי? haven yaqir li?[4] (Is he my most precious son?)

Conjugation of verbsEdit

Prefix Meaning Examples
א (Alef) When prefixed to a verb stem, indicates first person, singular, future tense. I will.
  • אֹמַר 'omar (I will say)
י (Yud) When prefixed to a verb stem, indicates third person, future tense. (Number and gender depend on suffixes.) He will or They will.
  • יֺאמַר yomar (he will say)
  • יֺאמְרוּ yomru (they will say)
נ (Nun) When prefixed to a verb stem, indicates first person, plural, future tense. We will.
  • נֺאמַר nomar (we will say)
ת (Tav) When prefixed to a verb stem, indicates one of the following:
  • third person, singular, feminine, future tense. She will
  • second person, future tense. (Number and gender depend on suffixes.) You will
  • In biblical Hebrew, third person, plural, feminine, future tense. They will
  • תֹּאמַר tomar (she/you will say, )
  • תֹּאמְרוּ tomru (you (pl.) will say)
  • תֹּאמַרְנָה שָׂרוֹת tomarna sarot[5] (the women of the nobility will say)

Other usesEdit

Prefix Meaning Comments Examples
שׁ (Shin) that, which, who, whom
  • שֶׁקָּרָה sheqara (which happened)
  • שֶׁעָשׂוּ she'asu [6] (who performed)
ו (Vav (letter)) changes past tense to future tense and vice versa Used mostly in Biblical Hebrew as vav-consecutive (compare vav-conjunctive). Pronounced "va" when changing future tense to past tense. Usually pronounced "v'" or "u" when changing past tense to future tense.
  • וַיֹּאמֶר vayomer [7] (he said)

(compare yomar [8] (he will say)

  • וְאָהַבְתָּ ve'ahavta [9] (you shall love)

(compare ahavta [10] (you loved)

Non Otiyot HaShimushEdit

European languages had a large stock of prefixes for technical terminology mostly taken from Greek and Latin. While Hebrew traditionally didn't used this kind of prefixes, professionals in the Yishuv who started to teach and work in Hebrew were used to this terminology, and started incorporated most of these prefixes were into Hebrew. Meanwhile people working on revitalising the language coined some Hebrew parallels, so today those foreign and Hebrew prefixes are used interchangeably

Prefix Origin Hebrew Meaning Examples
ex-
אֶקְס-
Latin - former
  • אֶקְסְפּוֹזִיצְיָה eqspozitzya exposition
un-/non-
אַנ-/נוֹנ-
English/ Latin אִי- i[11]
אָל- al
negation
  • אִי-אַלִּימוּת i-alimut non-violence
  • נוֹנְקוֹנְפוֹרְמִיזְם nonqonformizm nonconformism
  • אָל-מַתֶּכֶת al-mathechet nonmetal
in-/il-/im-/ir- Latin אִי- i not, opposite of
  • אִירַצְיוֹנָלִי iratzyonali irrational
a-
אָ-
Greek - lacking in, lack of
  • אָפּוֹלִיטִי apoliti apolitical
  • אָ-מִינִי a-mini asexual
prae-
פְּרֵ-
Latin טְרוֹם- trom
קְדַם- qdam
before
  • פְּרֵהִיסְטוֹרִי prehistori prehistoric
  • טְרוֹם-לֵידָתִי terom-ledati (pre-birth/delivery of a baby) prenatal
  • קְדַם-סוֹקְרָטִית qedam-soqratit Pre-Socratic
post-
פּוֹסְט-
Latin אַחַרְ- aḥar
בָּתַר- batar
after
  • בָּתַר-מִקְרָאִי batar-miqra'i post-old-testamental
pro-
פְּרוֹ-
Greek - for, on the side of
  • פְּרוֹגְנוֹזָה prognoza prognosis
inter-
אִינְטֶר-
Latin בֵּין- ben between, among
  • אִינְטֶרְנַצְיוֹנָל internatzyonal international
  • בֵּינְלְאֻמִּי benle'umi international
intra-
אִינְטְרָ-
Latin תּוֹךְ- tokh
פְּנִים- pnim
inside
  • אִינְטְרָנֶט intranet intranet
para-
פָּרָ-
Greek - beside, beyond
  • פָּרַפְּלֶג parapaleg paraplegic
homo-
הוֹמוֹ-
Greek - same
  • הוֹמוֹסֶקְסוּאָלִיּוּת homoseqsualiyut homosexuality
hetero-
הֵטֵרוֹ-
(often shortened hetro)
Greek - different
  • הֵטֵרוֹסֶקְסוּאָלִיּוּת heteroseqsualiyut heterosexuality
di-/bi-
-/בּי
Greek/Latin דּוּ- du two
  • דּוּ-תַּחְמֹצֶת du-tachmotzet (means: di-oxide) dioxide
  • דּוּ-לְשׁוֹנִי du-leshoni (means: bi-lingual) bilingual
geo-
גֵּאוֹ-
Greek - relating to the earth or its surface
  • גֵּאוֹתֶרְמִי geotermi geothermal
retro-
רֶטְרוֹ-
Latin - backwards
  • רֶטְרוֹאַקְטִיבִי retroaqtivi retroactive
semi-
סֶמִי-
Latin דְמוּי- dmui-
חַצִי- ḥatsi-
half, similar to-
  • סֶמִיטְרֵיְלֶר semitreiler semitrailer
hemi-
הֶמִי-
Greek - half
  • הֶמִיסְפֶרָה hemisfera hemisphere
electro-
אֶלֶקְטְרוֹ-
Greek - electric, electricity
  • אֶלֶקְטְרוֹאֶנְצֶפָלוֹגְרָף eleqtroentzfalograf electroencephalograph (EEG)
anti-
אַנְטִי-
Greek - opposite
  • אַנְטִיכְּרִיסְט antikrist Antichrist
  • אַנְטִי-חֹמֶר anti-chomer antimatter
infra-
אִינְפְרָה-
Latin תַּת- tat below, beneath
  • אִינְפְרָה-אָדֹם infra-adom infrared
mono-
מוֹנוֹ-
Greek חַד- chad one, sole, only
  • מוֹנוֹלוֹג monolog monologue
  • חַד-לְשׁוֹנִי chad-leshoni monolingual
uni-
אוּנִי-
Latin חַד- chad one, whole
  • חַד-אוֹפַן chad-ofan (lit. uni-wheel) unicycle
poly-
פּוֹלִי-
Greek רַב- rav many
  • פּוֹלִיגַמְיָה poligamya polygamy
multi-
מוּלְטִי-
Latin רַב- rav many
  • מוּלְטִימֶדְיָה multimedya multimedia
  • רַב-לְשׁוֹנִי rav-leshoni multilingual
tele-
טֶלֶ-
Greek - at a distance
  • טֶלֶסְקוֹפּ telesqop telescope
super-
סוּפֶּר-
Latin עַל- al- over, above, more than, better
  • סוּפֶּרְנוֹבָה supernova supernova
  • עַל-טִבְעִי al-tiv'i supernatural
hyper-
הִיפֶּר- (soft i)
Greek - extra specially, over, high
  • הִיפֶּרְאַקְטִיבִי hiperaqtivi hyperactive
tri-
טְרִי- (soft i)
Greek תְּלַת thlat three
  • טְרִיאַתְלוֹן triatlon triathlon
re-
רֶ-
Latin - again, back
  • רֶאוֹרְגָּנִיזַצְיָה reorganizatzya reorganization
  • רֶה-אִרְגּוּן re-irgun reorganization
  • רֶבִיזְיָה revizya revision
sub-סַאבּ- Latin תַּת- tat under, lower than, less than
  • תַּת-מוּדָע tat-muda subconscious
extra-
אֶקְסְטְרָ-
Latin חוּץ- chutz outside
  • חוּץ-תָּאִי chutz-tai extracellular
  • אֶקְסְטְרָטֶרִיטוֹרְיָאלִי eqstrateritoryali extraterritorial
neo-
נֵאוֹ-
Greek - new
  • נֵאוֹלוֹגִיזְם neologizm neologism
proto- Greek אָב- av
קְדַם- qedam
first, original, father
  • אַבְטִיפּוּס avtipus prototype
socio-
סוֹצְיוֹ- sots'io
French - society, social, sociological
  • סוֹצְיוֹלִינְגְּוִיסְטִיקָה sotzyolingvistiqa sociolinguistics
hydro-
הִידְרוֹ-
Greek - relating to water, or using water
  • הִידְרוֹאֶלֶקְטְרִי hidroeleqtri hydroelectric
hypo-
הִיפּוֹ-
Greek - under or below something, low
  • הִיפּוֹגְלִיקֶמְיָה hipogliqemya hypoglycemia
iso-
אִיזוֹ-/אִיסוֹ- izo/iso
Greek - equal
  • אִיזוֹטוֹפּ izotop isotope
meta-
מֶטָ-
Greek - after, along with, beyond, among
  • מֶטָבּוֹלִיזְם metabolizm metabolism
mega-
מֶגָ-
Greek - very large, million
  • מֶגָהֶרְץ megahertz megahertz
micro-
מִיקְרוֹ-
Greek - minute size, 1/1,000,000
  • מִיקְרוֹסְקוֹפּ miqrosqop microscope
trans-
טְרַנְס-
Latin - across
  • טְרַנְסְאַטְלַנְטִי transatlanti transatlantic
idio-
אִידְיוֹ-
Greek - individual, personal, unique
  • אִידְיוֹמָטִי idyomati idiomatic
pyro-
פִּירוֹ-
Greek - fire
  • פִּירוֹמֶטֶר pirometer pyrometer
  • פִּירוֹמָן piroman pyromaniac
auto-
אוֹטוֹ-
Greek - self
  • אוֹטוֹמָטִי otomati automatic

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Genesis 3:16.
  2. ^ Exodus 12:16.
  3. ^ Exodus 12:16.
  4. ^ Jeremiah 31:19.
  5. ^ Esther 1:18.
  6. ^ Ecclesiastes 2:11.
  7. ^ Genesis 1:6.
  8. ^ Genesis 31:8.
  9. ^ Leviticus 19:18.
  10. ^ Genesis 22:2.
  11. ^ 1 Samuel, 4:21

External linksEdit