MEM


MEM (Heb. מ, ם; מֵם), the 13th letter of the Hebrew alphabet; its numerical value is 40. In Proto-Sinaitic and early Proto-Canaanite inscriptions the mem was drawn as a pictograph representing water (mayim) or. In the later Proto-Canaanite script the vertical zigzag prevailed, which turned into in the tenth-century B.C.E. Phoenician script. Later, the mem consisted of a zigzag-shaped head and a downstroke. The Hebrew forms were: → (cursive) and (formal); hence the Samaritan. From the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.E., the Phoenician mem was written, which in the Aramaic became. In the late fifth century B.C.E. and later Aramaic cursive the downstrokes were bent leftward. Thus the medial and final variations evolved. These are prototypes of the Jewish medial and final mem forms. The Nabatean mem was drawn without lifting the pen and this led to the Arabic. The ancestor of the Latin "M," the Archaic Greek developed from the early Phoenician mem. See *Alphabet, Hebrew.

[Joseph Naveh]


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