Fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The name is evidently connected with "delet," meaning "door," and was borrowed from the shape of the letter in the Phenician (ancient Hebrew) script (see Alphabet). It corresponds to the "delta" (Aramaic pronunciation of "dalet") of the Greek alphabet, in which the original form of the letter has been very clearly preserved. In the classification of letters (consonants), as it is found for the first time in "Sefer Yeẓirah" (iv. 3), the dalet is included in the group (d, ṭ, 1, n, t), which are formed at the upper edge of the tongue. The grammarians, who classify the letters according to the organs of speech by which they are formed, designate this group as linguals (see Abu al-Walid, "Luma'," ii.; Abraham ibn Ezra, "Ẓaḥot," 11b).
According to modern phonetic terminology, dalet ("d") is the sonant dental, corresponding to which ת ("t") is the mute, and ט ("ṭ") the emphatic explosive dental (König, "Lehrgebäude der Hebräischen Sprache," i. 34). According to the Masorah, dalet belongs to the letters () which have a double pronunciation: softened or aspirated, and hard or unaspirated (see under Dagesh). The aspirated dalet (ד) was most probably pronounced like the Neo-Greek δ or the soft English "th" (in "the"). In the grammatical division of the letters which has been adopted generally by Hebrew philology since Saadia, dalet is included in the eleven which occur only as root sounds and never as functional sounds. Only Dunash b. Labraṭ included the ד as well as the ט in the group of functional sounds, because in forming the "hitpa'el" of certain roots, both represent ת (see Bacher, "Abraham ibn Esar als Grammatiker," p. 58).
For the textual criticism of the Biblical books the similarity of dalet (ר) and resh (ר) is an important point, as may be seen, for example, on comparing Gen. x. 3 with I Chron. i. 6 ( and ) or Gen. x. 4 with I Chron. i. 7 ( and ). In Job xxiv. 24 is translated by the Targum as if the word were ("wait"), which was certainly the original reading. As a numeral, ר has the value 4. As an abbreviation it stands for ("page"), especially in later literature, and also for other words beginning with ר. The tetragrammaton is sometimes represented by ר, as being the second letter of .