Yodh (also spelled yud, yod, jod, or jodh) is the tenth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Yōd , Hebrew Yōd י, Aramaic Yodh , Syriac Yōḏ ܝ, and Arabic Yāʾ ي. Its sound value is /j/ in all languages for which it is used; in many languages, it also serves as a long vowel, representing //.

Phonemic representationj, i, e
Position in alphabet10
Numerical value10
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Iota (Ι),[1] Latin I, J, Cyrillic І, Coptic iauda (Ⲓ) and Gothic eis .


Yodh is originated from a pictograph of a “hand” that ultimately derives from Proto-Semitic *yad-. It may be related to the Egyptian hieroglyph of an “arm” or “hand”

Hebrew Yud

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
י י י

Hebrew spelling: יוֹד ;[2][3] colloquial יוּד


In both Biblical and modern Hebrew, Yud represents a palatal approximant ([j]). As a mater lectionis, it represents the vowel [i]. At the end of words with a vowel or when marked with a sh'va nach, it represents the formation of a diphthong, such as /ei/, /ai/, or /oi/.


In gematria, Yud represents the number ten.

As a prefix, it designates the third person singular (or plural, with a Vav as a suffix) in the future tense.

As a suffix, it indicates first person singular possessive; av (father) becomes avi (my father).

"Yod" in the Hebrew language signifies iodine. Iodine is also called يود yod in Arabic.

In religion

Two Yuds in a row designate the name of God Adonai and in pointed texts are written with the vowels of Adonai; this is done as well with the Tetragrammaton.

As Yud is the smallest letter, much kabbalistic and mystical significance is attached to it. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus mentioned it during the Antithesis of the Law, when he says: "One jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled." Jot, or iota, refers to the letter Yud; it was often overlooked by scribes because of its size and position as a mater lectionis. In modern Hebrew, the phrase "tip of the Yud" refers to a small and insignificant thing, and someone who "worries about the tip of a Yud" is someone who is picky and meticulous about small details.

Much kabbalistic and mystical significance is also attached to it because of its gematria value as ten, which is an important number in Judaism, and its place in the name of God.[4]


In Yiddish,[5] the letter yud is used for several orthographic purposes in native words:

  • Alone, a single yud י may represent the vowel [i] or the consonant [j]. When adjacent to another vowel, or another yud, [i] may be distinguished from [j] by the addition of a dot below. Thus the word Yidish 'Yiddish' is spelled ייִדיש. The first yud represents [j]; the second yud represents [i] and is distinguished from the adjacent [j] by a dot; the third yud represents [i] as well, but no dot is necessary.
  • The digraph יי, consisting of two yuds, represents the diphthong [ej].
  • A pair of yuds with a horizontal line (pasekh) under them, ײַ, represents the diphthong [aj] in standard Yiddish.
  • The digraph consisting of a vov followed by a yud, וי, represents the diphthong [oj].

Loanwords from Hebrew or Aramaic in Yiddish are spelled as they are in their language of origin.

Arabic yāʼ

Writing systemArabic script
Language of originArabic language
Phonetic usage[j], []
Alphabetical position4
  • ي

The letter ي is named yāʼ (يَاء). It is written in several ways depending on its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ي ـي ـيـ يـ

It is pronounced in four ways:

  • As a consonant, it is pronounced as a palatal approximant /j/, typically at the beginnings of words in front of short or long vowels.
  • A long /iː/ usually in the middle or end of words. In this case it has no diacritic, but could be marked with a kasra in the preceding letter in some traditions.
  • A long /eː/ In many dialects, as a result of the monophthongization that the diphthong /aj/ underwent in most words.
  • A part of a diphthong, /aj/. Then, it has no diacritic but could be marked with a sukun in some traditions. The preceding consonant could have no diacritic or have fatḥa sign, hinting to the first vowel in the diphthong, i.e. /a/.

As a vowel, yāʾ can serve as the "seat" of the hamza: ئ

Yāʾ serves several functions in the Arabic language. Yāʾ as a prefix is the marker for a singular imperfective verb, as in يَكْتُب yaktub "he writes" from the root ك-ت-ب K-T-B ("write, writing"). Yāʾ with a shadda is particularly used to turn a noun into an adjective, called a nisbah (نِسْبَة). For instance, مِصْر Miṣr (Egypt) → مِصْرِيّ Miṣriyy (Egyptian). The transformation can be more abstract; for instance, مَوْضَوع mawḍūʿ (matter, object) → مَوْضُوعِيّ mawḍūʿiyy (objective). Still other uses of this function can be a bit further from the root: إِشْتِرَاك ishtirāk (cooperation) → إِشْتِرَاكِيّ ishtirākiyy (socialist). The common pronunciation of the final /-ijj/ is most often pronounced as [i] or [iː].

A form similar to but distinguished from yāʾ is the ʾalif maqṣūrah (أَلِف مَقْصُورَة) "limited/restricted alif", with the form ى. It indicates a final long /aː/.

In Egypt, Sudan and sometimes the Maghreb, the final form is always ى (without dots), both in handwriting and in print, representing both final /-iː/ and /-aː/. ى representing final /-aː/ (DIN 31635 transliteration: ā) is less likely to occur in Modern Standard Arabic. In this case, it is commonly known as, especially in Egypt, أَلِف لَيِّنَة ʾalif layyinah [ˈʔælef læjˈjenæ]. In Egypt, it is always short [-æ, -ɑ] if used in Egyptian Arabic and most commonly short in Modern Standard Arabic, as well.

Alif maqṣūrah

The alif maqṣūrah (ألف مقصورة, 'limited/restricted alif'), commonly known in Egypt as alif layyinah (ألف لينة, 'flexible alif'), looks like a dotless yā’ ى (final ـى) and may appear only at the end of a word. Although it looks different from a regular alif, it represents the same sound /aː/, often realized as a short vowel. When it is written, alif maqṣūrah is indistinguishable from final Persian ye or Arabic yā’ as it is written in Egypt, Sudan and sometimes elsewhere. The letter is transliterated as y in Kazakh. Alif maqsurah is transliterated as á in ALA-LC, ā in DIN 31635, à in ISO 233-2, and in ISO 233.

In Arabic, Alif maqsurah ى is not used initially or medially, and it is not joinable initially or medially in all fonts. However, the letter is used initially and medially in the Uyghur Arabic alphabet and the Arabic-based Kyrgyz alphabet: (ىـ ـىـ).

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ى ـى ـىـ ىـ

Perso-Arabic ye

In the Persian alphabet, the letter is generally called ye following Persian-language custom. In its final form, the letter does not have dots (ی), much like the Arabic Alif maqṣūrah or, more to the point, much like the custom in Egypt, Sudan and sometimes Maghreb. On account of this difference, Perso-Arabic ye is located at a different Unicode code point than both of the standard Arabic letters. In computers, the Persian version of the letter automatically appears with two dots initially and medially: (یـ ـیـ ـی).

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ی ـی ـیـ یـ

In Kashmiri, it uses a ring instead from ي of a dots below (ؠ ؠـ ـؠـ ـؠ).

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ؠ ـؠ ـؠـ ؠـ

Returned yāʾ

In different calligraphic styles like the Hijazi script, Kufic, and Nastaʿlīq script, a final yāʾ might have a particular shape with the descender turned to the right (ـے), called al-yāʾ al-mardūdah/al-rājiʿah ("returned, recurred yāʾ"),[6] either with two dots or without them.[7]

In Urdu this is called baṛī ye ("big ye"), but is an independent letter used for /ɛː, eː/ and differs from the basic ye (choṭī ye, "little ye"). For this reason the letter has its own code point in Unicode. Nevertheless, its initial and medial forms are not different from the other ye (practically baṛī ye is not used in these positions).

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ے ـے ـے ے

Character encodings

UTF-8215 153D7 99217 138D9 8A219 140DB 8C220 157DC 9D224 160 137E0 A0 89
Numeric character referenceייييییܝܝࠉࠉ
UTF-8240 144 142 138F0 90 8E 8A240 144 161 137F0 90 A1 89240 144 164 137F0 90 A4 89
UTF-1655296 57226D800 DF8A55298 56393D802 DC4955298 56585D802 DD09
Numeric character reference𐎊𐎊𐡉𐡉𐤉𐤉

See also


  1. Victor Parker, A History of Greece, 1300 to 30 BC, (John Wiley & Sons, 2014), 67.
  2. Morfix.mako.co.il
  3. Fileformat.info
  4. Inner.org
  5. Weinreich, Uriel (1992). College Yiddish. New York: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. pp. 27–8.
  6. Gacek, Adam (2008). The Arabic manuscript tradition: a glossary of technical terms and bibliography: supplement. Leiden: Brill. p. 29. ISBN 9004165401.
  7. Yūsofī, Ḡolām-Ḥosayn (1990). "Calligraphy". Encyclopædia Iranica. IV. pp. 680–704.
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