Why is this 𓏭 Egyptian Hieroglyph associated with the Hebrew letter ז [Zayin] and not the word וו [VaV]?

  • [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleo-Hebrew_alphabet] claims the 𓏭 pictogram is the origin for the Paleo-Hebrew 𐤆 zayin.

  • [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Egyptian_hieroglyphs] then claims the 𓏭 was engraved "as a replacement for signs perceived to be dangerous to be actually written".

  • We find the Hebrew word וָו [VaV] "hook" in Exodus 38:28 which shares closer pictographic similarities to the Egyptian 𓏭

Thanks for any insight in regards to this 𓏭 hieroglyph.

  • 1
    For what it's worth, I've never seen Z4 (the dual strokes) used to replace a dangerous sign; single slashes, X's, and dots are more common in my experience.
    – Draconis
    Jun 17, 2021 at 1:07
  • @Draconis - Thank you. | Do you know the Egyptian name of the 𓏭 engraving? Jun 17, 2021 at 1:10
  • More relevantly, though, why are you comparing Aramaic square writing to Egyptian, rather than its ancestors? If you're linking to the wikipedia page for Paleo-Hebrew script, you've presumably looked at the tables there and seen that Paleo-Hebrew waw didn't look like a single vertical line.
    – Draconis
    Jun 17, 2021 at 1:11
  • 1
    To answer your other question, as far as I know, the Egyptians didn't have names for most hieroglyphic signs. Modern Egyptologists call it either "Z4" or "the dual strokes", since it looks like a pair of strokes and is used to write dual nouns (nouns indicating exactly two of something).
    – Draconis
    Jun 17, 2021 at 1:13
  • 2
    All that said, I have no idea why scholars (according to Wikipedia) say zayin came from that sign either. I'm not by any means an expert on Proto-Sinaitic, but that sign in Egyptian doesn't really have anything to do with a weapon. There are other signs that would be much more obvious choices for representing "weapon". The Wikipedia page for Proto-Sinaitic suggests instead sign N34, a metal ingot, and that makes much more sense to me.
    – Draconis
    Jun 17, 2021 at 16:04

1 Answer 1


You're comparing glyphs from very different time periods.

The word wāw (or vāv) looks like two vertical lines in the square script (ktav ashuri). However, scholars have a pretty good idea where this script came from, historically: it was adapted from the imperial Aramaic script, which came from the Phoenician script, which probably came from Proto-Sinaitic script, which was probably adapted from some form of Egyptian writing (cursive hieroglyphic or hieratic).

In other words, the square script wasn't adapted from Egyptian—the Proto-Sinaitic script was. (Probably. It's not entirely understood, mostly due to lack of evidence.) And the Proto-Sinaitic ancestor of waw wasn't a vertical line.

Besides, from the perspective of the people adapting Proto-Sinaitic, there's no real reason why hieroglyph Z4 (the two diagonal strokes) would be used to write the letter w. In hieroglyphic writing, that sign represents y (probably /j/), when used as the dual ending for nouns. And while Hebrew has some remnants of a dual, there's no w in it.

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