Continues Arabic ح (ḥ) and خ (ḵ). The two phonemes were merged into /ħ/ around Valetta since at least the 18th century, but continued to be distinguished as /ħ/ and /x~χ/ elsewhere. By the later 19th century, however, this merger had established itself throughout the language (thus significantly earlier than that of għ, which compare).
In contemporary Maltese, the letter ħ represents /ħ/ in all positions. Chiefly word-finally, the same phoneme may also be represented by għ or h. The actual realisation varies (by position and speaker) between [χ], [ħ], and [h]. This variation is purely allophonic.