The Scripts List
The Many Forms of Aramaic Writing

The Aramaic language has been written in a large number of scripts in its nearly 3000 year history. Below are a list of some of the more prominent sets that Aramaic Designs offers. This list is by no means exhaustive, and we're always looking to add to it.

Old Aramaic - The oldest Aramaic script.

(1)
(2)

Probably one of the oldest scripts that any language classified as Aramaic would have been written in, Old Aramaic script (also known as "Paleo-Hebrew" script) was heavily influenced by Proto-Canaanite. This is the script (with some variants) that would have been employed around the times the Bible describes Moses and Abraham. Most scholars date the formation of this script to the 14th century BCE.

Samaritan - The liturgial script of the Samaritans.

(1)
(2)

Forming in approximately the 6th century BCE, Samaritan script came from old Aramaic. It is also the script that ancient copies of the Samaritan Pentateuch were penned and are preserved in today.

Imperial - The script of Egypt, Persia and India.

(1)
(2)

As Aramaic progressed into the Imperial language of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, the script used to write it underwent a change into something more cursive. Our best examples of this script come from documents written on papyrus from Egypt. This script was also used during the reign of King Ashoka in his eddicts to spread early Buddhism.

Herodian - The script of Jesus.

(1)
(2)
(3)

Herodian script is a type of handwriting that became prominent during the reign of Herod. Many of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written in this script, and this form would have been what was prominent in Judea during the lifetime of Jesus of Nazareth. NOTE: This is the script that was used on the authentic portions of the James Ossuary, and all of the Aramaic inscriptions in the Lost Tomb of Jesus.

"Hebrew" - The script of later Judaism.

(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)

The script that most of us know as "Hebrew" today is actually a script that was adopted during the Jewish exile to Babylon. Since the lingua franca of the Babylonian Empire was Aramaic, the Jewish people adopted it as a matter of survival. As a result, parts of the books of Daniel and Ezra were authored in Aramaic rather than Hebrew. The script came about from approximately the 6th to 3rd centuries BC from Old Aramaic.

Rashi - The script of the Talmud.

(1)

From Wikipedia: The semi-cursive typeface in which Rashi's (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki) commentaries are printed both in the Talmud and Tanakh is often referred to as "Rashi script." This does not mean that Rashi himself used such a script: the typface is based on a 15th century Sephardic semi-cursive hand. What would be called "Rashi script" was employed by early Hebrew typographers such as the Soncino family and Daniel Bomberg, a Christian printer in Venice, in their editions of commented texts (such as the Mikraot Gedolot and the Talmud, in which Rashi's commentaries prominently figure) to distinguish the rabbinic commentary from the text proper, for which a square typeface was used.

Estrangela - The script of Syriac Christianity.

(1)
(2)
(3)

The name "Estrangela" comes from the Greek word στρογγυλη (strongylé) which means "rounded" (in contrast to the square nature of the non-cursive Hebrew/Assyrian scripts). It was used as early as the 2nd century BCE to write Syriac, a prominent dialect of Aramaic that, in several forms, survives to this very day; however, the script didn't take on it's refined, familiar form until centuries later. The oldest copies of the Syriac Peshitta are found in this script.

Madnhaya - The script of the Eastern Syriac Church.

(1)

As Estrangela progressed eastward it took on a slightly different form. Called Madnhaya (sometimes spelled "Madinkhaya" or "Madnḥaya") or "Swadaya" (both of which mean "Eastern"), this is what modern Eastern Neo-Aramaic is written in.

Serto - The script of the Western Syriac Church.

(1)
(2)
(3)

As Estrangela progressed westward and came to be written upon wax tablets it slowly evolved into "Serto" (which literally means "line" or "scratch"). Western Syriac, including modern dialects, are written in this form.

Scripts Yet To Be Added

Mandaic, Nabatean, Palmyrene, Ma'loula.

Further Information

More resources on Aramaic scripts can be found on Omniglot:
Old Aramaic, Mandaic, Hebrew, Nabataean, Samaritan, and Syriac.

Looking for an Aramaic translation?
All of these scripts are available: