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Introduction to Hebrew Numbers

All about Numbers in Hebrew

If you ever wanted to learn the names of the Hebrew numbers, know how to count in Hebrew, or understand the Hebrew counting system, here is your chance! In this introduction to Hebrew numbering, you will learn how Hebrew uses different sets of numbers for different functions, when to use the masculine or feminine forms of Hebrew numbers, and much more.

Hebrew Numbers in Daily Activities

Knowing the Hebrew numbers and how to count in Hebrew are essential skills if you want to become fluent in Hebrew. If you think of the myriads of times each day we refer to numbers, you'll see how often numbers creep into our daily activities and thus how often numbers will come up even in simple Hebrew conversations. Whether you want to know what number bus to take to get around Israel, how to tell time in Hebrew, how to do your banking in Hebrew, how to use money to go shopping in Hebrew, how to count from one to ten or from one to a hundred or from one to a million in Hebrew, how to tell someone how old you are in Hebrew, how to ask for and understand a phone number in Hebrew, or how to say the Hebrew date or the year in Hebrew, you will be "counted" among the masters of the Hebrew language if you become an expert in the Hebrew number system.

The Value Number of Hebrew Letters

In addition to the Hebrew counting system, each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value assigned to it. This system dates back to Temple times, when the rules for the Hebrew calendar system were established, and when our Sages used "Gematria" or Hebrew letter numerical values to glean important insights or hidden meanings in the Torah and other religious texts. Here is how it works in brief: there is no notation for "zero"; the first 10 letters of the Hebrew alphabet have the numerical values 1-10; the next nine letters are valued at 20, 30, 40, et cetera; the remaining Hebrew letters take on the values of 200, 300, and 400 – the latter assigned to tav, the last letter of the Hebrew Aleph Bet.

Hebrew Calendar Year

In Israel today, the digits we are accustomed to (1, 2, 3 … 9) are used most of the time (i.e., for counting money, age, and civil calendar dates). However Hebrew numerals are sometimes used for numbering lists (much like a, b, c, d), for copyright dates, and for the Hebrew calendar. For example, "Monday" in Modern Hebrew is Yom Sheni (literally "the Second Day"); however it is indicated on Hebrew calendars as Yom Bet, referring the numerical value of two assigned to bet, the second letter of the Hebrew Aleph Bet. Similarly, the Hebrew calendar year is indicated in Hebrew letters. Keeping in mind that the current Hebrew calendar year is 5771 and that the "5000" is generally dropped on calendars, the current year in Hebrew is tav-shin-ayin-aleph, the numerical equivalent of which is 771.

Hebrew Numbers and Gender

In Hebrew, numbers are conjugated by gender, taking on the masculine or feminine form of the object they modify.

The feminine form of the Hebrew numbers 1-10 are:
achat, shtayim, shalosh, arba, chamesh, shesh, sheva, shmone, tesha, esser (Note that the number achat is always placed after the noun it qualifies and that shtayim becomes shtey before the noun it modifies)

The masculine form of the Hebrew numbers 1-10 are:
echad, shnayim, shlosha, arba'a, chamisha, shisha, Shiv'a, shmona, tish'a, assara (Note that the number echad is always placed after the noun it qualifies and that shnayim becomes shney before the noun it modifies)

Here are a few examples of counting in Hebrew using the numbers 1-10:

5 sisters: chamesh achayot (feminine)
5 brothers: chamisha achim (masculine)

6 hours: shesh sha'ot (feminine)
6 days: shisha yamim (masculine)

10 shekels: assara shkalim (feminine)
10 agurot: esser agurot (masculine)

For unspecified numbers (such as telling time, phone numbers, and bus numbers) always use the feminine form.

Hebrew Numbers 11 to 19

Here are the next Hebrew numbers to learn:

Number

Feminine

Masculine

11

Achat-esre

Achad-asar

12

Shteym-esre

Shneym-asar

13

Shlosh-esre

Shlosha-asar

14

Arba-esre

Arba'a-asar

15

Chamesh-esre

Chamisha-asar

16

Shesh-esre

Shisha-asar

17

Shva-esre

Shiv'a-asar

18

Shmone-esre

Shmona-asar

19

Tsha-esre

Tish'a-asar

Hebrew Numbers 20 to 29

(You will use a similar format to count in Hebrew all the way up the number ladder)


Number

Feminine

Masculine

20

Esrim

Esrim

21

Esrim ve’achat

Esrim ve’echad

22

Esrim u’shtaim

Esrim u’shnaim

23

Esrim ve’shalosh

Esrim u’shlosha

24

Esrim ve’arba

Esrim ve’arba'a

25

Esrim ve’chamesh

Esrim va’chamisha

26

Esrim ve’shesh

Esrim ve’shisha

27

Esrim ve’sheva

Esrim ve’shiv'a

28

Esrim u’shmone

Esrim u’shmona

29

Esrim ve’tesha

Esrim ve’tish'a

Hebrew Numbers 30 and Up

From the number 30 and up, Hebrew numbers are conjugated only one way (using the feminine form):
30 shloshim; 40 arba'im; 50 chamishim; 60 shishim; 70 shiv'im; 80 sh'monim; 90 tish'im; 100 me'ah
200 ma'tayim
300 sh'losh me'ot
400 arba me'ot
500 chamesh me'ot
600 shesh me'ot
700 sh'va me'ot
800 sh'mona me'ot
900 t'sha me'ot
1000 elef
2000 alpayim
3000 shloshet alafim
4000 arba'at alafim
5000 chameshet alafim
6000 sheshet alafim
7000 shiv'at alafim (commonly pronounced: shvat alafim)
8000 sh'monat alafim
9000 tish'at alafim (commonly pronounced: tshat alafim)
10,000 asseret alafim
11,000 echad esre elef
50 000 chamishim elef
100,000 me'ah elef
250,000 ma'tayim chamishim elef
1,000,000 milione

Telling Time in Hebrew

When asked Ma ha'sha'a? (What time is it?), the answer might be (for example, 6 o'clock, 10 o'clock, and 12 o'clock): ha'sha'a shesh; ha'sha'a eser; ha'sha'a shtem-esre.

To indicate minutes after the hour, a half hour, or quarter of an hour, practice saying the following (7:20, 9:43, 6:30, 3:30, 2:15, 4:15): sheva ve'esrim, tesha arba'im ve'shalosh, shesh va'chetzi, shalosh va'chetzi, shtayim va'reva, arba va'reva.

To become an expert at counting in Hebrew, practice, practice, practice!


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