Ayin or ʿayin (Hebrew: [ajin, ʕajin, ʔajin][see below] Arabic: [ʕajn][see below]) is the sixteenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician ��, Aramaic ��, Hebrew ע, and Arabic ع (where it is sixteenth in abjadi order only). ﻉ comes twenty‐first in the New Persian alphabet and eighteenth in Arabic hija’i order.
The ʿayin glyph in these various languages represents, or has represented, a voiced pharyngeal fricative (/ʕ/), or a similarly articulated consonant, which has no equivalent or approximate substitute in the sound‐system of English. There are many possible transliterations, most commonly ʿ, U+02BF ʿ modifier letter left half ring (HTML: ʿ). For details, see section Transliteration.
The letter name is derived from Proto-Semitic *ʿayn- "eye", and the Phoenician letter had an eye-shape, ultimately derived from the ı͗r hieroglyph
. To this day, ʿayin in Hebrew, Arabic and Maltese means "eye" and "spring" (ʿayno in Assyrian).
The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Ο, Latin O, and Cyrillic О, all representing vowels.
The sound represented by ayin is common to much of the Afrasiatic language family, such as the Egyptian, Cushitic, and Semitic languages. Some scholars believe that the sound in Proto-Indo-European transcribed h3 was similar, though this is debatable. (See Laryngeal theory.)
ʿAyin is usually transliterated into the Latin alphabet with ʿ, (U+02BF) "modifier letter left half ring" (in the Spacing Modifier Letters range). This is true in DIN 31635 romanization of Arabic. This symbol originated from Semitic romanization and Egyptological transliteration, where it was inspired by the Greek spiritus asper. Example: The name of the letter itself, ʿayin.
As a substitute for the left half ring, other symbols resembling it are sometimes used, such as a superscript c (c), ʻ (U+02BB MODIFIER LETTER TURNED COMMA) as in ALA-LC romanization of Arabic, a single opening quotation mark (‘), the grave accent (`), ˁ (U+02C1 MODIFIER LETTER REVERSED GLOTTAL STOP), or the IPA pharyngeal symbols [ʕ] (U+0295 LATIN LETTER PHARYNGEAL VOICED FRICATIVE) and [ˤ] (U+02E4 MODIFIER LETTER SMALL REVERSED GLOTTAL STOP). However, such substitutions obviously may cause confusion, such as with the glottal stop consonant hamza.
In loanwords, ʿayin is commonly omitted altogether. Examples: Iraq العراق al-ʿIrāq, Oman عمان ʿUmān, Saudi Arabia العربية السعودية al-ʿArabiyyah as-Saʿūdiyyah, Arab or Arabic عربي, ʿArabī, Amman عمان ʿAmmān, etc.
Specifically for use in transliterating the Egyptian language, Ꜥ (U+A724 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL AIN) and ꜥ (U+A725 LATIN SMALL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL AIN) were added to the Latin Extended-D range in Unicode version 5.1.
The Maltese language, which uses a Latin alphabet (and is the only Semitic language to do so in its standard form) writes the ayin as għ.
The Latin orthography for the Somali language represents the ayin with the ordinary Roman letter c.
The informal way to represent it in Arabic chat alphabet uses the digit 3 as transliteration.