DALET


DALET (Heb. ד; דָּלֶת), the fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; its numerical value is 4. It is assumed that the earliest form of the dalet – as it appears in the Proto-Sinaitic inscriptions – was a pictograph of a fish (Heb. dag) . This developed in the South-Arabic script into , and the early Phoenician dalet became a triangle ◁, which survived in the delta of the Greek alphabet: △. In the later Phoenician script the left angle was curved and the right stroke developed a downward tail . The ancient Hebrew dalet also has an upper stroke drawn leftward and thus in Samaritan too: .

While the Phoenician cursive tends to open the circular head at its lower part , the Aramaic script opens the top of this letter . This developed into the Jewish . As the dalet resembles the resh, it happens that both letters were written in the same way. Thus, in Syriac only diacritic marks distinguish between them. The Arabic د is an offshoot of the Aramaic dalet, which developed through the Nabatean cursive.

The modern cursive Hebrew dalet is a result of emphasizing the right upper angle, in order to distinguish it from the resh, and it developed as follows: . See *Alphabet, Hebrew.

[Joseph Naveh]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.