The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







This article concerns the vowel points or vowel marks of Hebrew. For those of Arabic, see Harakat.

In Hebrew orthography, Niqqud or Nikkud (Standard Hebrew נִיקוּד, Biblical Hebrew נְקֻדּוֹת, Tiberian Hebrew "vowels") is the system of diacritical vowel points (or vowel marks) in the Hebrew alphabet. Several orthographic systems for representing Hebrew vowels were developed in the early middle ages. The most widespread system (and the only one still used to a significant degree today) was created by the Masoretes of Tiberias (see Masoretic Text, Tiberian Hebrew).

Niqqud marks are small compared to the consonants they are positioned adjacent to, and thus can be added, without requiring the retranscription of texts whose writers did not anticipate their eventual addition.

Non-speakers of Hebrew give their greatest attention to vowel points (usually without using the word "niqqud") in the context of controversy over the interpretation of those written with the Tetragrammaton -- written as יְהוָה in Hebrew. The interpretation affects discussion of the authentic ancient pronunciation of the name whose other conventional English forms are "Jehovah" and "Yahweh".

The signs of the niqqud

This table uses the consonants ב, ח or ש, where appropriate, to demonstrate where the niqqud is placed in relation to the consonant it is pronounced after. Any other consonants shown are actually part of the vowel. Note that there is some variation among different traditions in exactly how some vowel points are pronounced. The table below shows how most Israelis would pronounce them, but for example the classic Ashkenazi pronunciation differs in several respects.

This demonstration is known to work in Internet Explorer and Mozilla browsers in at least some circumstances, but in most other Windows browsers the niqqud do not properly combine with the consonants. This is because, currently, the Windows text display engine does not combine the niqqud automatically. Except as noted, the vowel pointings should appear directly beneath the consonants, although the accompanying "vowel letter" consonants for the māl (unchangeable long) forms appear after.
Symbol Tiberian Standard
בְ שוא . Transliterated ə (IPA /ə/), or not at all (silent). שווא šəva, more commonly shva. Officially transliterated ə (IPA /ə/) or not at all (silent), but more commonly transliterated e, or clipped as an apostrophe ' or not written at all. See also schwa.
חֱ חטף סגול ḥăṭep̄ səḡl. Transliterated ĕ (IPA /ɛ/). חטף סגול ḥataf seggol, more commonly chataf segol, also reduced seghol. Transliterated e (IPA /e/).
חֲ חטף פתח ḥăṭep̄ pṯaḥ. Transliterated ă (IPA /a/). חטף פתח ḥataf ptaḥ, more commonly chataf ptach, also reduced pathach. Transliterated a (IPA /a/).
חֳ חטף קמץ ḥăṭep̄ qāmeṣ. Transliterated ŏ (IPA /ɔ/). חטף קמץ ḥataf qamaẓ, more commonly chataf kamatz, also reduced qamets. Transliterated o (IPA /o/).
בִ חירק ḥreq. Transliterated i (IPA /i/) or (IPA /iː/). חיריק ḥiriq, more commonly chirik. Transliterated i (IPA /i/). Usually promoted to ḥiriq male in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation.
בִי חירק מלא ḥreq māl. Transliterated (IPA /iː/). חיריק מלא ḥiriq male, more commonly chirik malei. also hiriq yod. Transliterated i (IPA /i/).
בֵ צרי ṣēr. Transliterated ē (IPA /eː/). צירי ẓere, more commonly tzeirei. Transliterated e (IPA /e/).
בֵי, בֵה, בֵא צרי מלא ṣēr māl. Transliterated (IPA /eː/). צירי מלא ẓere male, more commonly tzeirei malei, also tsere yod. Transliterated e (IPA /e/), but more commonly ei (IPA /ei/).
בֶ סגול səḡl. Transliterated e (IPA /ɛ/) or (IPA /ɛː/). סגול seggol, more commonly segol. Transliterated e (IPA /e/).
בֶי, בֶה, בֶא סגול מלא səḡl māl. Transliterated (IPA /ɛː/). סגול מלא seggol male, more commonly segol malei, also seghol yod. Transliterated e (IPA /e/), but with י it is more commonly ei (IPA /ei/).
בַ פתח pṯaḥ. Transliterated a (IPA /a/) or (IPA /aː/). פתח ptaḥ, more commonly ptach. Transliterated a (IPA /a/).
בַה, בַא פתח מלא pṯaḥ māl. Transliterated (IPA /aː/). פתח מלא ptaḥ male, more commonly ptach malei. Transliterated a (IPA /a/).
בָ קמץ גדול qāmeṣ gāḏl. Transliterated ā (IPA /ɔː/). קמץ גדול qamaẓ gadol, more commonly kamatz gadol, sometimes simply called qamets. May also be marked with a short vertical line (called metheg) to the left of the qamets, to distinguish it from the qamets qatan. Transliterated a (IPA /a/).
בָה, בָא קמץ מלא qāmeṣ māl. Transliterated (IPA /ɔː/). קמץ מלא qamaẓ male, more commonly kamatz malei, also qamets he. Transliterated a (IPA /a/).
בָ קמץ קטן qāmeṣ qāṭān. Transliterated o (IPA /ɔ/). קמץ קטן qamaẓ qatan, more commonly kamatz katan, also qamets hatuf (not, however, to be confused with hatef qamets). Transliterated o (IPA /o/). Usually promoted to ḥolam male in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation.
בֹ חלם ḥōlem. Transliterated ō (IPA /oː/). חולם ḥolam, more commonly cholam. Transliterated o (IPA /o/). Usually promoted to ḥolam male in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation. The holem is written above the consonant on the left corner, or slightly to the left of (i.e., after) it at the top.
בוֹ, בֹה, בֹא חלם מלא ḥōlem māl. Transliterated (IPA /oː/). חולם מלא ḥolam male, more commonly cholam malei. Transliterated o (IPA /o/). The holem is written in the normal position relative to the main consonant (above and slightly to the left), which places it directly over the waw/vav.
בֻ קבוץ qibbṣ. Transliterated u (IPA /u/) or (IPA /uː/). קובוץ qubbuẓ, more commonly kubutz. Transliterated u (IPA /u/). Usually promoted to šuruq in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation.
בוּ שורק šreq. Transliterated (IPA /uː/). שורוק šuruq, more commonly shuruk. Transliterated u (IPA /u/). The shureq is written after the main consonant, because it is essentially a waw/vav with a piercing; the piercing is written identically to a dagesh (see below).
בּ דגש dāḡēš. Not technically a vowel. It hardens or doubles the consonant it modifies. The resulting form can still take a niqqud vowel. דגש dageš, more commonly dagesh. Though Standard Hebrew indicates doubled consonants in transliteration, it (but not consonant hardening) is almost universally ignored in Israeli Hebrew. For most consonants the dagesh is written within the consonant, near the middle if possible, but the exact position varies from letter to letter; some letters do not have an open area in the middle, and in these cases it is written usually beside the letter, as with yod. The guttural stops do not take a dagesh per se, although they may appear with mappiq (which is written the same way as dagesh) occasionally.
שׁ Šin dot. Not technically a vowel. It indicates that the ש it modifies is to be transliterated š (IPA /ʃ/). Shin dot. It indicates that the ש it modifies is to be transliterated š (IPA /ʃ/), though more commonly transliterated sh. The dot for shin is written over the right (first) branch of the letter.
שׂ Śin dot. Not technically a vowel. It indicates that the ש it modifies is to be transliterated ś (IPA /ɬ/). Sin dot. It indicates that the ש it modifies is to be transliterated s (IPA /s/). The dot for sin is written over the left (third) branch of the letter.

Technical problems on Wikimedia

  • Important: There is currently a serious bug affecting niqqud in all Wikimedia projects. See Wikipedia:Niqqud for a discussion of the problem in English, and click the language link in the sidebar for an extensive analysis of the problem in Hebrew.

Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13