Shin (letter)

Shin (letter)

Shin (also spelled Šin or Sheen) is the twenty-first letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew Ivrit|שׂ, and Arabic ArabDIN|šīn _ar. ﺵ (in abjadi order, 12th in modern order).

Its sound value is a voiceless sibilant, IPA2|ʃ or IPA|/s/.

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Sigma (Σ), Latin S, and Cyrillic letters Es (С) and Sha (Ш), and may have inspired the form of the letter Sha in the Glagolitic alphabet.


The Proto-Sinaitic glyph, and possibly its Proto-Canaanite descendant glyph, according to William Albright and Brian Colless, may have been based on the hieroglyph
for the uraeus in Semitic called shamash "sun", ultimately reflecting Proto-Semitic , with a phonetic value IPA2|ʃ.

The Phoenician transl|sem|šin letter expressed the continuants of two Proto-Semitic phonemes, and may have been based on a pictogram of a tooth (in modern Hebrew "shen"). The Encyclopedia Judaica, 1972, records that it originally represented a composite bow.

The history of the letters expressing sibilants in the various Semitic alphabets is a bit complicated, due to different mergers between Proto-Semitic phonemes. As usually reconstructed, there are five Proto-Semitic phonemes that evolved into various voiceless sibilants in daughter languages, as follows:


In gematria, Shin represents the number 300.

Shin, as a prefix, bears the same meaning as the relative pronouns "that", "which" and "who" in English.In colloquial Hebrew, Kaph and Shin together have the meaning of "when". This is a contraction of כּאשר, "ka'asher" (when).

Shin is also one of the seven letters which receive a special crown (called a "tagin") when written in a Sefer Torah. See Gimmel, Ayin, Teth, Nun, Zayin, and Tzadi.

According to Judges 12:6, the tribe of Ephraim could not differentiate between Shin and Sin; when the Gileadites were at war with the Ephraimites, they would ask suspected Ephraimites to say the word "shibolet"; an Ephraimite would say "sibolet" and thus be exposed. From this episode we get the English word Shibboleth.

In Judaism

Shin also stands for the word Shaddai, a name for God. Because of this, a kohen (priest) forms the letter Shin with his hands as he recites the Priestly Blessing. In the mid 1960s, actor Leonard Nimoy used a single-handed version of this gesture to create the Vulcan Hand Salute for his character, Mr. Spock, on "".

In Jewish tradition the letter Shin is inscribed on the Mezuzah, a vessel which houses a scroll of parchment with Biblical text written on it. The text contained in the Mezuzah is the Shema Yisrael prayer, which calls the Israelites to love their God with all their heart, soul and strength. The mezuzah is situated upon all the doorframes in a home or establishment. Sometimes the whole word "Shaddai" will be written.

The Shema Yisrael prayer also commands the Israelites to write God's commandments on their hearts (Deut. 6:6); the shape of the letter Shin mimics the structure of the human heart: the lower, larger left ventricle (which supplies the full body) and the smaller right ventricle (which supplies the lungs) are positioned like the lines of the letter Shin.

A religious significance has been applied to the fact that there are three valleys which comprise the city of Jersualem's geography: the Valley of Ben Hinnom, Tyropoeon Valley, and Kidron Valley, and that these valleys converge to also form the shape of the letter shin, and that the Temple in Jerusalem is located where the dagesh (horizontal line) is.

In the Sefer Yetzirah the letter Shin is King over Fire, Formed Heaven in the Universe, Hot in the Year, and the Head in the Soul.

ayings with Shin

The Shin-Bet was an old acronym for the Israeli Department of Internal General Security.

A Shin-Shin Clash is Israeli military parlance for a battle between two tank divisions (tank in Hebrew is "shiryon").

Sh'at haShin (The Shin Hour) is the last possible moment for any action, usually military. Corresponds to the English expression "the eleventh hour".

Arabic sīn / shīn

Arabic sīn

The letter has developed into two forms; one is named "sīn", representing IPA|/s/. It is the 12th letter of the Arabic alphabet and is written thus:

Sīn is used as a future marker, added to imperfective/present tense verbs to indicate that they will happen in the future: for instance يكتب "yaktub" ("he writes") → سيكتب "sayaktub" ("he will write"). The term is a shortened form of the word سوف "sawfa" ("will"). "Sawfa" is not much used outside of very formal language, and many dialects use sounds other than sīn to indicate future tense; for instance, Egyptian Arabic uses one of the two "h" sounds: hā' هـ or ḥā' حـ, almost idiolectically; 'a عـ also attested, being a stereotypical trait of the Saidi (Upper Egyptian) Arabic.

Though derived from Aramaic Shīn, Sīn takes the place of Samekh (from which Arabic has no derived glyph) in abjadi order.

Arabic shīn

The other Arabic letter derived from Shin is "shīn" representing IPA|ʃ, and is the 13th letter of the Arabic alphabet and is written thus:

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