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« Dictionary Index « Definitions under E


The Ethiopic language is descended from the Hebrew, yet approaching nearer to the Arabic than to any other of the Semitic languages. It observes the order of reading and writing from left to right, in common with the other languages of the same origin. It has twenty-six characters peculiar to itself, of which the order, figure, name, and power are as follow: —

1 ሀ : Hoi h ה 14 ከ : Caph c כ
2 ለ : Lawi l ל 15 ወ : Wawe w ו
3 ሐ : Haut h ח 16 ዐ : Ain a ע
4 መ : Mai m מ 17 ዘ : Zai z FR. ז
5 ሠ : Saut ss ס 18 የ : Jaman j י
6 ረ : Rees r ר 19 ደ : Dent d ד
7 ሰ : Saat ss ש 20 ገ : Geml g ג
8 ቀ : 'Kaph 'k ק 21 ጠ : 'Tait 't ט
9 በ : Beth b ב 22 ጰ : 'Pait 'p פ
10 ተ : Tawi t ת 23 ጸ : 'Zadai 'z צ
11 ኀ : Harm h ח 24 ፀ : 'Zappa 'z צ
12 ነ : Nahas n נ 25 ፈ : Aph f פ
13 አ : Alph a א 26 ፐ : Psa p פ

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Of these ጰ: and ፐ: are used only in words of Greek and Latin origin. In expressing Arabic these seven, ሰ: ተ: ነ: ከ: ዘ: ደ: ጠ:, and in Portuguese and Italian these three, መ: በ: and አ:, are made use of with the addition of certain horns.

Moreover, none of the above letters are connected, except Ethiopic character, which, in the name of God, sometimes coalesces with ዘ:, in this manner Connected letters as,God in Ethiopic writing

The power of the letters approaches nearest to those which have been added, whence it appears that ሀ: ሐ: and ኀ: also ሠ: and ሰ:, also ለ: and ዐ: and lastly ጸ: and ዐ: are generally pronounced in the same manner, which causes no small confusion in writing, as one cognate letter is often put for another, so that it should always be borne in mind in looking for a word in the lexicon, that if it is not to be found under one letter, we should continue our researches under the cognate.

These four ቀ: ጠ: ጰ: and ጸ: or ፀ:, have a sound altogether at variance with European custom, and the correct pronunciation can only be learnt by hearing. But one destitute of a preceptor may approach nearer to their genuine sounds, by first prefixing to each the power of the vowel i, thus, ik, it, ip, iz, and afterwards, having substituted in its place an apostrophe, he may add the vowels, in this manner 'k-a, 'k-e, 'k-i, &c., and similarly with 't-a, 'p-a, 'z-a, &c.

In Ethiopic the numbers are not represented by the letters, but by certain peculiar figures formed apparently from the Greek letters, and which are included within two small lines, in the following manner: —

1 ፩ : αʹ 40 ፵ : μʹ
2 ፪ : βʹ 50 ፶ : νʹ
3 ፫ : γʹ 60 ፷ : ξʹ
4 ፬ : δʹ 70 ፸ : οʹ
5 ፭ : εʹ 80 ፹ : πʹ
6* ϛʹ 90 ፺ : ϟʹ
7 ፯ : ζʹ 100 ፻ : ρʹ
8 ፰ : ηʹ 200 ፪፻ : σʹ
9 ፱ : θʹ 300 ፫፻ : τʹ
10 ፲ : ιʹ 400 ፬፻ : υʹ, &c.
20 ፳ : κʹ 1000 ፲፻ :
30 ፴ : λʹ

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* Where blanks occur in the Ethiopic, the characters are not in the British founderies.1)
because in writing and speaking they say: Ten Hundreds in Ethiopic writing — ten hundreds.

The other numbers are compounded from these, the greater being always placed first, as ፲፩ : 11; ፲፪ : 12; &c. ፳፩ : 21; ፳፪ : 22; &c. ፻፩ : 101; ፻፪ : 102.

In Ethiopic the vowels are not expressed by particular letters, as in the European, or by separate points, as in the Oriental languages, but by certain small lines or circles annexed to the top, middle, or bottom of the letters themselves, or by the shortening or lengthening of one of the strokes, which changes are in number seven; whence arise so many orders of letters, or rather of syllables, of which the first is considered as the simple figure, and the remainder as compound, and are read — the first by a short, the second by u, the third by i, the fourth by a long, the fifth by e long, the sixth by e or y short, and the seventh by o; in this manner:

Ethiopic vowels Ethiopic Vowels Enlarge

The diphthongs are formed not only by the letters ው : and ይ :, mutes of the sixth order, after a letter of the first or fourth order, as, for instance, months in Ethiopic months, it is appointed in Ethiopic it is appointed; but also the four letters ቀ : ኀ : ከ : and ገ : with the addition of certain peculiar points, are generally considered to form diphthongs in the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth orders, in this manner:

Ethiopic diphthongs Ethiopic Diphthongs Enlarge

In Ethiopic each separate word is distinguished by two thick points, and the periods by four or more; there are no marks of accentuation.

The preceding observations are extracted from a small treatise on the elements of Ethiopic grammar by George Otho, professor of the Greek and Oriental languages at Marburg in Hesse Cassel, with an acknowledgment of being indebted for his information to Ludolph; and bound in connexion with the “Fundamenta Punctationis Linguae Sanctae” of Jacob Alting, printed at Frankfort on the Main, in 2 vols., 1717.

Ethiopic Types in the British Founderies

English. — Oxford University. Thorowgood & Besley. Formerly Bynneman's.

Pica. — Caslon & Livermore. Thorowgood & Besley. Walton's Polyglot; through Andrews's and James's founderies to Fry.

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We left the table cell blank, to reflect the fact that this character was missing from the British foundries at the time the dictionary was published. However, the Ethiopian 6 is marked (OBI)