Hebrew is a Northwest Semitic language native to Israel, spoken by over 9 million people worldwide. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites and their ancestors, although the language was not referred to by the name Hebrew in the Tanakh. The earliest examples of written Paleo-Hebrew date from the 10th century BCE. Hebrew belongs to the West Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic language family.
Hebrew is the only living Canaanite language left, and the only truly successful example of a revived dead language.
Hebrew had ceased to be an everyday spoken language somewhere between 200 and 400 CE, declining since the aftermath of the Bar Kokhba revolt. Aramaic and to a lesser extent Greek were already in use as international languages, especially among elites and immigrants.
Hebrew survived into the medieval period as the language of Jewish liturgy, rabbinic literature, intra-Jewish commerce, and poetry. Then, in the 19th century, it was revived as a spoken and literary language. It became the lingua franca of Palestine's Jews, and subsequently of the State of Israel. According to Ethnologue, in 1998, it was the language of 5 million people worldwide.
After Israel, the United States has the second largest Hebrew-speaking population, with 220,000 fluent speakers, mostly from Israel.