Nun (letter)

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Phonemic representationn
Position in alphabet14
Numerical value50
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

Nun is the fourteenth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Nūn Phoenician nun.svg, Hebrew Nun נ, Aramaic Nun Nun.svg, Syriac Nūn ܢܢ, and Arabic Nūn ن (in abjadi order). It's numerical value is 50. It is the third letter in Thaana (ނ), pronounced as "nonou".
In all languages, it represents the alveolar nasal /n/.

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek nu (Ν), Etruscan N, Latin N, and Cyrillic Н.


Nun is believed to be derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph of a snake (the Hebrew word for snake, nachash begins with a Nun and snake in Aramaic is nun) or eel. Some[citation needed] have hypothesized a hieroglyph of fish in water as its origin (in Arabic, nūn means large fish or whale). The Phoenician letter was named nūn "fish", but the glyph has been suggested to descend from a hypothetical Proto-Canaanite naḥš "snake", based on the name in Ethiopic, ultimately from a hieroglyph representing a snake,


(see Middle Bronze Age alphabets). Naḥs in modern Arabic literally means "bad luck". The cognate letter in Ge'ez and descended Semitic languages of Ethiopia is nehas, which also means "brass".

Hebrew Nun[edit]

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
non final נ נ נ Hebrew letter Nun handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Nun-nonfinal Rashi.png
final ן ן ן Hebrew letter Nun-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Nun-final Rashi.png

Hebrew spelling: נוּן


Nun represents an alveolar nasal, (IPA: /n/), like the English letter N.


Nun, like Kaph, Mem, Pe, and Tzadi, has a final form, used at the end of words. Its shape changes from נ to ן. There are also nine instances of an inverted nun (׆) in the Tanakh.


In gematria, Nun represents the number 50. Its final form represents 700 but this is rarely used, Tav and Shin (400+300) being used instead.

As in Arabic, nun as an abbreviation can stand for neqevah, feminine. In medieval Rabbinic writings, Nun Sophit (Final Nun) stood for "Son of" (Hebrew ben or ibn).

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

In the game of dreidel, a rolled Nun passes play to the next player with no other action.

Arabic nūn[edit]

Writing systemArabic script
Language of originArabic language
Phonetic usage/n/
  • ن

The letter is named nūn, and is written is several ways depending in its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ن ـن ـنـ نـ

Some examples on its uses in Modern Standard Arabic:

Nūn is used as a suffix indicating present-tense plural feminine nouns; for example هِيَ تَكْتُب hiya taktub ("she writes") becomes هُنَّ تَكْتَبْنَ hunna taktabna ("they [feminine] write").

Nūn is also used as the prefix for first-person plural imperfective/present tense verbs. Thus هُوَ يَكْتُب huwwa yaktub ("he writes") → نَحْنُ نَكْتُب naḥnu naktub ("we write").

Saraiki nūn[edit]

It is retroflex nasal consonantal sound symbol, used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ⟨ɳ⟩, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is n`. Like all the retroflex consonants, the IPA symbol is formed by adding a rightward-pointing hook extending from the bottom of an en (the letter used for the corresponding alveolar consonant). It is similar to ⟨ɲ⟩, the letter for the palatal nasal, which has a leftward-pointing hook extending from the bottom of the left stem, and to ⟨ŋ⟩, the letter for the velar nasal, which has a leftward-pointing hook extending from the bottom of the right stem. Saraiki uses the letter ⟨ݨ⟩ for /ɳ/. It is a compound of nūn and rre (⟨ڑ⟩). For example:

کݨ مݨ، چھݨ چھݨ، ونڄݨ۔

Social media campaign (2014)[edit]

After the fall of Mosul, ISIL demanded Assyrian Christians in the city to convert to Islam, pay tribute, or face execution.[1] ISIL begun marking homes of Christian residents with the letter nūn for Nassarah ("Nazarene").[2][3] Thousands of Christians, Yazidis (the latter of whom were given only the choice of conversion or death) and other, mostly Shi'a, Muslims (whom ISIL consider to be apostates) abandoned their homes and land.

In response to the persecution of Christians and Yazidis by ISIL, an international social media campaign was launched to raise global awareness of the plight of religious minorities in Mosul, making use of the letter ن (nun)—the mark that ISIL troops spray painted on properties owned by Christians.[4] Some Christians changed their profile pictures on Facebook and Twitter to pictures of the letter ن as a symbol of support.[5] The letter ن, in relation to this social media campaign, is being called the "Mark of the Nazarene" from naṣrānī (نصراني; plural naṣārā نصارى), a normative Arabic term disparagingly used by ISIL to brand Christians.[5]

The word naṣārā/nosrim designates Christians in both Arabic, Aramaic and Hebrew. The more common term used to refer to Christians in Modern Standard Arabic is masihi (مسيحي, plural مسيحيون).

Character encodings[edit]

Character נ ן ن ܢ
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 1504 U+05E0 1503 U+05DF 1606 U+0646 1826 U+0722 2061 U+080D
UTF-8 215 160 D7 A0 215 159 D7 9F 217 134 D9 86 220 162 DC A2 224 160 141 E0 A0 8D
Numeric character reference נ נ ן ן ن ن ܢ ܢ ࠍ ࠍ
Character 𐎐 𐡍 𐤍
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 66448 U+10390 67661 U+1084D 67853 U+1090D
UTF-8 240 144 142 144 F0 90 8E 90 240 144 161 141 F0 90 A1 8D 240 144 164 141 F0 90 A4 8D
UTF-16 55296 57232 D800 DF90 55298 56397 D802 DC4D 55298 56589 D802 DD0D
Numeric character reference 𐎐 𐎐 𐡍 𐡍 𐤍 𐤍

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "BBC News - Iraqi Christians flee after Isis issue Mosul ultimatum". BBC News. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
  2. ^ "Iraqi Christians flee after Isis issue Mosul ultimatum". BBC News. August 7, 2014. Archived from the original on July 24, 2014. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  3. ^ Loveluck, Louisa (August 7, 2014). "Christians flee Iraq's Mosul after Islamists tell them: convert, pay or die". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on July 30, 2014. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  4. ^ "A Christian Genocide Symbolized by One Letter". National Review Online.
  5. ^ a b "#ن: How an Arabic letter was reclaimed to support Iraq's persecuted Christians". euronews.