Other diacritics cantillation, geresh,
Gen. 1:9, And God said,
"Let the waters be collected".
Letters in black, niqqud in red,
cantillation in blue
Niqqud articles
Shva · Hiriq · Zeire · Segol · Patach · Kamatz · Holam · Dagesh · Mappiq · Shuruk · Kubutz · Rafe · Sin/Shin Dot

In Hebrew orthography, niqqud or nikkud (Hebrew: נִקּוּד, Modern nikud, Tiberian niqqûḏ; "dotting, pointing" or Hebrew: נְקֻדּוֹת, Modern nekudot, Tiberian nəquddôṯ; "dots") is a system of diacritical signs used to represent vowels or distinguish between alternative pronunciations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Several such diacritical systems 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 in the second half of the first millennium AD in the Land of Israel (see Masoretic Text, Tiberian Hebrew). Text written with niqqud is called ktiv menuqad.

Niqqud marks are small compared to consonants, so they can be added without retranscribing texts whose writers did not anticipate them.

In modern Israeli orthography niqqud is seldom used, except in specialised texts such as dictionaries, poetry, or texts for children or for new immigrants. For purposes of disambiguation, a system of spelling without niqqud, known in Hebrew as ktiv maleh (כתיב מלא, literally "full spelling") has developed. This was formally standardised in the Rules for Spelling without Niqqud (כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד) enacted by the Academy of the Hebrew Language in 1996.[2]

One reason for the lesser use of niqqud is that it no longer reflects the current pronunciation. In modern Hebrew, tzere is pronounced the same as segol, although they were distinct in Tiberian Hebrew, and also pataḥ makes the same sound as a qamatz. To the younger generation of native Hebrew speakers, these distinctions seem arbitrary and meaningless; on the other hand, Hebrew language purists have rejected out of hand the idea of changing the basics of niqqud and fitting them to the current pronunciation - with the result that in practice niqqud is increasingly going out of use.[3]

Among those who do not speak Hebrew, niqqud are the sometimes unnamed focus of controversy regarding the interpretation of the name written with the Tetragrammaton—written as יְהֹוָה in Hebrew. The interpretation affects discussion of the authentic ancient pronunciation of the name whose other conventional English forms are "Jehovah" and "Yahweh".


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 the classic Ashkenazi pronunciation, for example, 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. It works very well when "dir=rtl" is added in the HTML source. 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 and the accompanying "vowel letter" consonants for the mālê (long) forms appear after.
Note concerning IPA: the transcription symbols are linked to the articles about the sounds they represent. The diacritic ˘ (breve) indicates a short vowel; the triangular colon symbol ː indicates that the vowel is long.
Symbol Type Common name Alternate names Scientific name Hebrew IPA Transliteration Comments
בְ Israeli Sh'va sheva shva שְׁוָא [] or Ø ə, e, ’, or nothing

In modern Hebrew, shva represents either /e/ or Ø, regardless of its traditional classification as shva naḥ (שווא נח) or shva na (שווא נע), see the following table for examples:

Pronunciation of shva in modern Hebrew
  Occurrences of shva denoting the vowel /e/) Occurrences of shva denoting Ø (absence of a vowel)
shva naḥ*
קִפַּלְתְּ [kiˈpalt]
shva na שָׁדְדוּ [ʃade̞ˈdu]
שָׂרְדוּ [sarˈdu]
*All shvas in the words "קִמַּטְתְּ" and "הִתְמוֹטַטְתְּ", also those marked under the letter tet ("ט"), are shva naḥ.
Tiberian šəwâ שְׁוָא [ɐ̆]
חֱ Israeli Reduced segol hataf segol ẖataf seggol חֲטַף סֶגּוֹל [] e  
Tiberian ḥăṭep̄ səḡôl חֲטֶף סְגוֹל [ɛ̆] ĕ  
חֲ Israeli Reduced patach hataf patah ẖataf pataẖ חֲטַף פַּתַח [a] a  
Tiberian ḥăṭep̄ páṯaḥ חֲטֶף פַּתַח [ɐ̆] ă  
חֳ Israeli Reduced kamatz hataf kamats ẖataf kamats חֲטַף קָמָץ [] o  
Tiberian ḥăṭep̄ qāmeṣ חֲטֶף קָמָץ [ɔ̆] ŏ  
בִ Israeli Hiriq hiriq ẖirik חִירִיק [i] i Usually promoted to Hiriq Malei in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation.
Tiberian ḥîreq חִירֶק [i] or []) i or í  
בִי Israeli Hiriq malei hiriq yod ẖirik male חִירִיק מָלֵא [i] i  
Tiberian ḥîreq mālê חִירֶק מָלֵא [] î  
בֵ Israeli Zeire tsere, tzeirei tsere צֵירֵי [] e  
Tiberian ṣērê צֵרֵי [] ē  
בֵי, בֵה, בֵא Israeli Zeire malei tsere yod, tzeirei yod tsere male צֵירֵי מָלֵא [] e More commonly ei (IPA [ei̯]).
Tiberian ṣērê mālê צֵרֵי מָלֵא [] ê  
בֶ Israeli Segol segol seggol סֶגּוֹל [] e  
Tiberian səḡôl סְגוֹל [ɛ] or [ɛː] e or é  
בֶי, בֶה, בֶא Israeli Segol malei segol yod seggol male סֶגּוֹל מָלֵא [] e With succeeding yod, it is more commonly ei (IPA [ei̯])
Tiberian səḡôl mālê סְגוֹל מָלֵא [ɛː]  
בַ Israeli Patach patah pataẖ פַּתַח [a] a A patach on a letters ח, ע, ה at the end of a word is sounded before the letter, and not after. Thus, נֹחַ (Noah) is pronounced /ˈ This only occurs at the ends of words and only with patach and ח, ע, and הּ (that is, ה with a dot (mappiq) in it). This is sometimes called a patach ganuv, or "stolen" patach (more formally, "furtive patach"), since the sound "steals" an imaginary epenthetic consonant to make the extra syllable.
Tiberian páṯaḥ פַּתַח [ɐ] or [ɐː] a or á  
בַה, בַא Israeli Patach malei patah yod pataẖ male פַּתַח מָלֵא [a] a  
Tiberian páṯaḥ mālê פַּתַח מָלֵא [ɐː]  
בָ Israeli Kamatz gadol kamats kamats gadol קָמַץ גָּדוֹל [a] a  
Tiberian qāmeṣ gāḏôl קָמֶץ גָּדוֹל [ɔː] ā  
בָה, בָא Israeli Kamatz malei kamats he kamats male קָמַץ מָלֵא [a] a  
Tiberian qāmeṣ mālê קָמֶץ מָלֵא [ɔː] â  
בָ Israeli Kamatz katan kamats hatuf kamats katan קָמַץ קָטָן [] o Usually promoted to Holam Malei in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation. Also, not to be confused with Hataf Kamatz.
Tiberian qāmeṣ qāṭān קָמֶץ קָטָן [ɔ]  
בֹ Israeli Holam holam ẖolam חוֹלָם [] o Usually promoted to Holam Malei in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation. The holam is written above the consonant on the left corner, or slightly to the left of (i.e., after) it at the top.
Tiberian ḥōlem חֹלֶם [] ō  
בוֹ, בֹה, בֹא Israeli Holam malei holam male ẖolam male חוֹלַם מָלֵא [] o The holam is written in the normal position relative to the main consonant (above and slightly to the left), which places it directly over the vav.
Tiberian ḥōlem mālê חֹלֶם מָלֵא [] ô  
בֻ Israeli Kubutz kubuts kubbuts קֻבּוּץ [u] u Usually promoted to Shuruk in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation.
Tiberian qibbûṣ קִבּוּץ [u] or [] u or ú  
בוּ, בוּה, בוּא Israeli Shuruk shuruk shuruk שׁוּרוּק [u] u The shuruk is written after the consonant it applies to (the consonant after which the vowel /u/ is pronounced). The dot in the shuruk is identical to a dagesh, thus shuruq and vav with a dagesh are indistinguishable. (see below).
Tiberian šûreq שׁוּרֶק [] û  
בּ Israeli Dagesh dagesh dagesh דָּגֵשׁ varied varied Not a vowel, "dagesh" refers to two distinct grammatical entities:
  1. "dagesh kal", which designates the plosive (as opposed to fricative) variant of any of the letters בגדכפת (in earlier forms of Hebrew this distinction was allophonic; in Israeli Hebrew ג, ד and ת with or without dagesh kal are acoustically and phonologically indistinguishable, whereas plosive and fricative variants of ב, כ and פ are sometimes allophonic and sometimes distinct phonemes (e.g., אִפֵּר /iˈper/ applied make up vs. אִפֵר /iˈfer/ tipped ash),
  2. "dagesh hazak", which designates gemination (prolonged pronunciation) of consonants, but which, although represented in most cases when transliterated according to standards of the Academy of the Hebrew Language,[4] is acoustically and phonologically non existent in Modern Hebrew (except occasionally in dramatic or comical recitations, in some loanwords—such as a few Arabic profanities—and pronunciations exaggerated for the sake of disambiguation).

For most letters the dagesh is written within the glyph, 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 consonants (אהחע) and resh (ר) are not marked with a dagesh, although the letter he (ה) (and rarely א) may appear with a mappiq (which is written the same way as dagesh) at the end of a word to indicate that the letter does not signify a vowel but is consonantal.

To the resulting form, there can still be added a niqqud diacritic designating a vowel.

Tiberian dāḡēš דָּגֵשׁ    
בֿ Israeli Rafe rafe רָפֵא No longer used in Hebrew. Still seen in Yiddish (especially following the YIVO standard) to distinguish various letter pairs. Some ancient manuscripts have a dagesh or a rafe on nearly every letter. It is also used to indicate that a letter like ה or א is silent. In the particularly strange case of the Ten Commandments, which have two different traditions for their Cantillations which many texts write together, there are cases of a single letter with both a dagesh and a rafe, if it is hard in one reading and soft in the other.
Tiberian Niqqud, but not a vowel. Used as an "anti-dagesh", to show that a בגדכפת letter is soft and not hard, or (sometimes) that a consonant is single and not double, or that a letter like ה or א is completely silent
שׁ Israeli Shin dot shin dot šin dot שִׁי"ן, שִׁי״ן יְמָנִית or יְמִינִית, "right Shin" [ʃ] š/sh Niqqud, but not a vowel (except when inadequate typefaces merge the holam of a letter before the shin with the shin dot). The dot for shin is written over the right (first) branch of the letter. It is usually transcribed "sh".
שׂ Israeli Sin dot sin dot śin dot שִׂי"ן, שִׁי״ן שְׂמָאלִית, "left Sin" [s] ś/s Niqqud, but not a vowel (except when inadequate typefaces merge the holam of the sin with the sin dot). The dot for sin is written over the left (third) branch of the letter
Tiberian Some linguistic evidence indicates that it was originally IPA [ɬ], though poetry and acrostics show that it has been pronounced /s/ since quite ancient times).


Both consonants and niqqud can be typed from virtual graphical keyboards available on the World Wide Web, or by methods integrated into particular operating systems.

Microsoft Windows


In GTK+ Linux systems, niqqud can be entered by holding down AltGR and pressing the same keys as for Windows below. Or by pressing ctrl+shift+u followed by the appropriate 4 digit Unicode.


Using the Hebrew keyboard layout in Mac OS X, the typist can enter niqqud by pressing the Option key together with a number on the top row of the keyboard. Other combinations such as sofit and hataf can also be entered by pressing either the Shift key and a number, or by pressing the Shift key, Option key, and a number at the same time.[7][8]

Niqqud input
Input (Windows) Key (Windows) Input
(Mac OS X)
Unicode Type Result
~ 0 05B0 Sh'va [1]
1 3 05B1 Reduced Segol [1]
2 1 05B2 Reduced Patach [1]
3 2 05B3 Reduced Kamatz
4 4 05B4 Hiriq [1]
5 5 05B5 Zeire [1]
6 9 05B6 Segol [1]
7 6 05B7 Patach [1]
Niqqud input
Input (Windows) Key (Windows) Input
(Mac OS X)
Unicode Type Result
8 7 05B8 Kamatz
9 A 05C2 Sin dot (left) [2]
0 M 05C1 Shin dot (right) [2]
  = 05B9 Holam [1]
= [3] , 05BC Dagesh or Mappiq [1]
U 05BC Shuruk [4]
\ 8 05BB Kubutz [1]


SIL International have developed another standard, which is based on Tiro, but adds the Niqqud along the home keys.[9] Linux comes with "Israel — Biblical Hebrew (Tiro)" as a standard layout. With this layout, niqqud can be typed without pressing the Caps Lock key.

See also



  1. Cantillation
  2. Rules for Spelling without Niqqud
  3. “Supposedly, the teachers who taught my generation knew Hebrew perfectly. They had a thorough knowledge of all the Hebrew classics as well as of modern Hebrew literature. But Hebrew was not their natural language. They had gained their knowledge of Hebrew from books, by tremendous effort. And they subjected us, who grew up with Hebrew as out mother tongue, to a terrible torture. They demanded that we master perfectly all the niceties and nuances of a language purism which meant nothing to us. I remember when I was asked to write words with nikkud on the blackboard and made a hash of it, the teacher said “You are a total ignoramus”. Ze’ev Galili’s Blog, December 31, 2004
  4. Transliteration standards from November 2006
  8. comprehensive guide
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