Aramaic alphabet

The ancient Aramaic alphabet was adapted by Arameans from the Phoenician alphabet and became a distinct script by the 8th century BC. It was used to write the Aramaic language and had displaced the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet, itself a derivative of the Phoenician alphabet, for the writing of Hebrew. The letters all represent consonants, some of which are also used as matres lectionis to indicate long vowels.

Aramaic alphabet
Script type
Time period
800 BC to AD 600
Directionright-to-left script 
LanguagesAramaic, Hebrew, Syriac, Mandaic, Edomite
Related scripts
Parent systems
Child systems
Hebrew[1]

Nabataean[1]
  Arabic script
Syriac
  Sogdian
    Old Uyghur
      Mongolian
        Manchu

Palmyrene[1]
Edessan[1]
Hatran[1]
Mandaic[1]
Elymaic[1]
Pahlavi
Kharoṣṭhī
Brahmi script[a]
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Armi (124), Imperial Aramaic
Unicode
Unicode alias
Imperial Aramaic
U+10840–U+1085F
[a] The Semitic origin of the Brahmic scripts is not universally agreed upon.

The Aramaic alphabet is historically significant since virtually all modern Middle Eastern writing systems can be traced back to it as well as numerous non-Chinese writing systems of Central and East Asia.[citation needed] That is primarily from the widespread usage of the Aramaic language as both a lingua franca and the official language of the Neo-Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian Empires, and their successor, the Achaemenid Empire. Among the scripts in modern use, the Hebrew alphabet bears the closest relation to the Imperial Aramaic script of the 5th century BC, with an identical letter inventory and, for the most part, nearly identical letter shapes. The Aramaic alphabet was an ancestor to the Nabataean alphabet and the later Arabic alphabet.

Writing systems (like the Aramaic one) that indicate consonants but do not indicate most vowels other than by means of matres lectionis or added diacritical signs, have been called abjads by Peter T. Daniels to distinguish them from alphabets, such as the Greek alphabet, which represent vowels more systematically. The term was coined to avoid the notion that a writing system that represents sounds must be either a syllabary or an alphabet, which would imply that a system like Aramaic must be either a syllabary (as argued by Ignace Gelb) or an incomplete or deficient alphabet (as most other writers have said). Rather, it is a different type.


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