AYIN (ā'yēn, Heb. ’ayin, an eye, a spring or fountain)

The sixteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, probably so named because originally in outline the letter resembled an eye. See also Writing.A place name. See Ain.

AYIN a’ yin (עַ֫יִן, H6524, eye, fountain). 1. The sixteenth letter of the Heb. alphabet named for the shape of the letter which resembles the picture of an eye. This letter also represents the g (gayin), a hard cayin, which was retained in Arab. and now is attested in the Ugaritic alphabet. It appears in the LXX rendering of the hard ’ayin as a gamma (g), and in such proper names as Gomorrah and Gaza which both begin with an cayin which originally was a gayin (sounds like a gutteral rg). English also bears witness to this difference in that we borrow our word “gauze” from the fact that a thin fabric in medieval times called “gauze” was exported from Gaza.

2. A city named Ayin-Rimmon appears in Joshua 15:32; 1 Chronicles 4:32. These are usually read as two names, but they prob. belong together as one word and often are read as Ain-rimmon or En-rimmon.


E. Horowitz, How the Hebrew Language Grew (1961), 103, 104.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

a’-yen: `ayin, "eye" or "fountain": The 16th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, so named, probably, because the original form resembled the eye. `Ayin (`) is usually neglected in pronunciation, and inverted comma (`) is the sign most commonly employed to represent it in transliteration.

The same sound is found in the Arabic and other Semitic languages. The Arabs have two pronunciations, one a very strong guttural formed at the back of the palate, something like a rattled "r" or "rg," the other similar in quality, only less harsh and guttural. The Septuagint reproduced the `ayin (`) in some cases by the Greek letter gamma (g). The numerical value of this letter is 70. An `ayin (`) begins each verse of the 16th section of Ps 119 in the Hebrew.

W.W. Davies