|Phonemic representation||ʃ (s)|
|Position in alphabet||21|
|Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician|
|Greek||Σ (Ϲ), Ϛ, Ψ?|
|Latin||S (ſ), ẞ, Ʃ, Ↄ?|
|Cyrillic||С, Ш, Щ, Ѱ?|
Shin (also spelled Šin (šīn) or Sheen) is the twenty-first letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Shin 𐤔, Hebrew Shin ש, Aramaic Shin 𐡔, Syriac Shin ܫ, and Arabic Šin ش (in abjadi order, 13th in modern order). Its sound value is a voiceless sibilant, [ʃ] or [s].
The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Sigma (Σ) (which in turn gave Latin S and Cyrillic С), and the letter Sha in the Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts (
The South Arabian and Ethiopian letter Śawt is also cognate.
The Proto-Sinaitic glyph, according to William Albright, was based on a "tooth" and with the phonemic value š "corresponds etymologically (in part, at least) to original Semitic ṯ (th), which was pronounced s in South Canaanite".
The Phoenician 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 Encyclopaedia Judaica, 1972, records that it originally represented a composite bow.
The history of the letters expressing sibilants in the various Semitic alphabets is somewhat complicated, due to different mergers between Proto-Semitic phonemes. As usually reconstructed, there are seven Proto-Semitic coronal voiceless fricative phonemes that evolved into the various voiceless sibilants of its daughter languages, as follows:
|s [s] / [ts]||s||s||ס||s||ס||s||س||s||ሰ||s|
|š [ʃ] / [s]||š||š||שׁ||š||ש||š|
|ṯ [θ]||ש, later ת||*ṯ,
š later t
|ś [ɬ] / [tɬ]||שׂ||*ś,
|ש, later ס||*ś, s||ش||š||ሠ||ś|
|ṣ [sʼ] / [tsʼ]||ṣ||ṣ||צ||ṣ||צ||ṣ||ص||ṣ||ጸ||ṣ|
|ṱ [θʼ]||צ, later ט||*ṱ,
ṣ later ṭ
|ṣ́ [ɬʼ] / [tɬʼ]||ק, later ע||*ṣ́,
q/ḳ later ʿ
In Aramaic, where the use of shin is well-determined, the orthography of sin was never fully resolved.
To express an etymological /ś/, a number of dialects chose either sin or samek exclusively, where other dialects switch freely between them (often 'leaning' more often towards one or the other). For example:
|Old Aramaic||Imperial Aramaic||Middle Aramaic||Palestinian Aramaic||Babylonian Aramaic|
|עשר||Syrian Inscriptions||Idumaean Ostraca, Egyptian, Egyptian-Persian, Ezra||Qumran||Galilean||Gaonic, Jewish Babylonian Aramaic|
|עסר||Tell Halaf||(none recorded)||Palmyrene, Syriac||Zoar, Christian Palestinian Aramaic||Mandaic|
|both||(none recorded)||(none recorded)||(none recorded)||Targum Jehonathan, Original Manuscript Archival Texts, Palestinian Targum (Genizah), Samaritan||Late Jewish Literary Aramaic|
Regardless of how it is written, /ś/ in spoken Aramaic seems to have universally resolved to /s/.
|Various print fonts||Cursive
Hebrew spelling: שִׁין
The Hebrew /s/ version according to the reconstruction shown above is descended from Proto-Semitic *ś, a phoneme thought to correspond to a voiceless alveolar lateral fricative /ɬ/, similar to Welsh Ll in "Llandudno".
See also Hebrew phonology, Śawt.
The Hebrew letter represents two different phonemes: a sibilant /s/, like English sour, and a /ʃ/, like English shoe. Prior to the advent and ascendancy of Tiberian orthography, the two were distinguished by a superscript samekh, i.e. ש vs. שס, which later developed into the dot. The two are distinguished by a dot above the left-hand side of the letter for /s/ and above the right-hand side for /ʃ/. In the biblical name Issachar (Hebrew: יִשָּׂשכָר) only, the second sin/shin letter is always written without any dot, even in fully vocalized texts. This is because the second sin/shin is always silent.
|Sin dot (left)||שׂ||/s/||s||sour|
|Shin dot (right)||שׁ||/ʃ/||sh||shop|
In gematria, Shin represents the number 300. The breakdown of its namesake, Shin - Yodh - Nunh gives the geometrical meaningful number 360, which encompasses the fullness of the degrees of circles.
Shin as a prefix commonly used in the Hebrew language carries similar meaning as specificity faring relative pronouns in English– "that (..)", "which (..)" and "who (..)". When used in this way, it is pronounced like 'sh' and 'eh'. In colloquial Hebrew, Kaph and Shin together have the meaning of "when". This is a contraction of כּאשר, ka'asher (as, when).
Shin is also one of the seven letters which receive special crowns (called 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 Samekh; 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.
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 Star Trek.
The letter Shin is often inscribed on the case containing a mezuzah, 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 that comprise the city of Jerusalem'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. This is seen as a fulfillment of passages such as Deuteronomy 16:2 that instructs Jews to celebrate the Pasach at "the place the LORD will choose as a dwelling for his Name" (NIV).
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.
The 13th-century Kabbalistic text Sefer HaTemunah, holds that a single letter of unknown pronunciation, held by some to be the four-pronged shin on one side of the teffilin box, is missing from the current alphabet. The world's flaws, the book teaches, are related to the absence of this letter, the eventual revelation of which will repair the universe.
The corresponding letter for the /ʃ/ sound in Russian is nearly identical in shape to the Hebrew shin. Given that the Cyrillic script includes borrowed letters from a variety of different alphabets such as Greek and Latin, it is often suggested that the letter sha is directly borrowed from the Hebrew letter shin (other hypothesized sources include Coptic and Samaritan).
The Shin-Bet was an old acronym for the Israeli Department of Internal General Security, and name of the service is still usually translated as such in English. In Israeli Hebrew and Palestinian Arabic, the security service is known as the “Shabak ”.
A Shin-Shin Clash is Israeli military parlance for a battle between two tank divisions ("armour" in Hebrew is שִׁרְיוֹן - 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.
In the Arabic alphabet, šīn is at the original (21st) position in Abjadi order.
Šīn represents /ʃ/, and is the 13th letter of the modern alphabet order and is written thus:
|Position in word||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
A letter variant س sīn takes the place of Samekh at 15th position.
|Position in word||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
The Arabic letter šīn was an acronym for "something" (شيء šayʾ(un) [ʃajʔ(un)]) meaning the unknown in algebraic equations. In the transcription into Spanish, the Greek letter chi (χ) was used which was later transcribed into Latin x. According to some sources, this is the origin of x used for the unknown in the equations. However, according to other sources, there is no historical evidence for this. In Modern Arabic mathematical notation, س sīn, i.e. šīn without its dots, often corresponds to Latin x.
In Moroccan Arabic, the letter ڜ, šīn with an additional three dots below, is used to transliterate the /t͡ʃ/ sound in foreign loan words.
|Position in word||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
In Unicode, this is U+069C ڜ ARABIC LETTER SEEN WITH THREE DOTS BELOW AND THREE DOTS ABOVE.
|Unicode name||HEBREW LETTER SHIN||ARABIC LETTER SEEN||ARABIC LETTER SHEEN||SYRIAC LETTER SHIN||HEBREW LETTER SHIN WITH SHIN DOT||HEBREW LETTER SHIN WITH SIN DOT||HEBREW LETTER SHIN WITH DAGESH AND SHIN DOT||HEBREW LETTER SHIN WITH DAGESH AND SIN DOT|
|UTF-8||215 169||D7 A9||216 179||D8 B3||216 180||D8 B4||220 171||DC AB||239 172 170||EF AC AA||239 172 171||EF AC AB||239 172 172||EF AC AC||239 172 173||EF AC AD|
|Numeric character reference||ש
|Unicode name||SAMARITAN LETTER SHAN||SYMBOL FOR SAMARITAN SOURCE||UGARITIC LETTER SHEN||IMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER SHIN||PHOENICIAN LETTER SHIN||OLD NORTH ARABIAN LETTER ES-2||OLD SOUTH ARABIAN LETTER SHIN||ETHIOPIC LETTER SZA|
|UTF-8||224 160 148||E0 A0 94||226 133 143||E2 85 8F||240 144 142 140||F0 90 8E 8C||240 144 161 148||F0 90 A1 94||240 144 164 148||F0 90 A4 94||240 144 170 134||F0 90 AA 86||240 144 169 166||F0 90 A9 A6||225 136 160||E1 88 A0|
|UTF-16||2068||0814||8527||214F||55296 57228||D800 DF8C||55298 56404||D802 DC54||55298 56596||D802 DD14||55298 56966||D802 DE86||55298 56934||D802 DE66||4640||1220|
|Numeric character reference||ࠔ
Nor is there historical evidence to support the statement found in Noah Webster's Dictionary, under the letter x, to the effect that 'x was used as an abbreviation of Ar. shei (a thing), something, which, in the Middle Ages, was used to designate the unknown, and was then prevailingly transcribed as xei.'
There is no evidence in support of the hypothesis that x is derived ultimately from the mediaeval transliteration xei of shei "thing", used by the Arabs to denote the unknown quantity, or from the compendium for L. res "thing" or radix "root" (resembling a loosely-written x), used by mediaeval mathematicians.