Zeire redirects here. Distinguish from Zaire in Africa.
Transliteration e
English example bed
Same sound segol
The word for mound in Hebrew, tel. The two dots is a Tzere.
Other Niqqud
Shva · Hiriq · Tzere · Segol · Patach · Kamatz · Holam · Dagesh · Mappiq · Shuruk · Kubutz · Rafe · Sin/Shin Dot

Tzere (also spelled Tsere, Tzeirei, Zere, Zeire, Ṣerî, Ṣerê etc.; Hebrew: צֵירֵי   IPA: [tseˈʁe], sometimes צירה) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign represented by two dots "◌ֵ" underneath a letter. In modern Hebrew, it indicates the phoneme /e/ which is the same as the "e" sound in sell and is transliterated as an "e". In modern Hebrew, tzere is pronounced the same as segol, although they were distinct in Tiberian Hebrew.


Tzere is usually written in these cases:

In declension tzere sometimes changes to other vowels or to shva. The full rules for these changes were formulated the Academy of the Hebrew Language.[3]

In modern Hebrew there are words which are homophones and homographs in spelling without niqqud, but are written differently with niqqud, the difference being segol and tzere. For example, עֶרֶב evening and עֵרֶב weft are both pronounced [ˈʕeʁev] and written ערב without niqqud (these words also have different etymology).

Writing tzere with and without matres lectionis

Main article: Mater lectionis

Tzere can be written with and without matres lectionis. The most prominent mater lectionis for tzere is Yod (י), and in some cases it is used with the letters aleph (א) and he (ה).

Standard spelling rules mandate only one way to spell every word with or without the Yod after tzere. Although in standard modern pronunciation the sound of tzere with or without the Yod is the same, it may change the word's meaning in a written text (see below).

Standard usage without Yod

Tzere can be written by itself without mater lectionis, in which case it is called tzere ḥaser ("lacking tzere"), for example in the word זֵר ([zeʁ], wreath). In this case, in text without niqqud the vowel [e] is usually not written at all: זר. This word can be also vocalized as זָר ([zaʁ], stranger) and the reader has to guess the right pronunciation according to the context. According to the standardized Hebrew spelling the letter Yod is sometimes written in texts without niqqud, when there is a grammatical reason for it; for example, the verb תֵּעָדֵר ([teʕaˈdeʁ], she will be absent) is written without Yod in texts with niqqud, but the Yod is written in a text without niqqud: תיעדר.

Standard usage with Yod

Tzere with Yod is called "full tzere". When a full tzere is written in text with niqqud, the letter Yod must be written in text without niqqud. The main cases for writing the tzere with Yod are these:

Nonstandard usage of Yod to represent tzere

In texts with full niqqud – mostly poetry, religious and children books – tzere is usually written in accordance with the rules mandated by the Academy. The Academy defined some cases in which a Yod is added to texts without niqqud to signify an [e] sound, but in common usage Yod is often written or not written contrary to the standard.

Some notable common deviations from the standard in which a Yod is added include:

Some notable common deviations from the standard in which a Yod is not written include:

Tzere with aleph and he

The letter aleph (א) is the mater lectionis after tzere in the middle or the end of the word when it is a part of the root: מוֹצֵא ([moˈtse], finding m.), מוֹצֵאת ([moˈtset], finding f.).

The letter he (ה) is very rarely used as a mater lectionis for [e] in the middle of the word. The notable example for this is the word יְפֵהפִיָּה ([jəfefiˈja], pretty), in which the two last letters of the root (י־פ־ה) are reduplicated. It can also be spelled יפה־פיה (fem.; so in the Bible, Jeremiah 46:20) or יפיפיה.

The letter he (ה) is often used as a mater lectionis for the vowel [e] in the end of the word, but the niqqud is usually segol. It is tzere in these cases:


The following table contains the pronunciation and transliteration of the different tzeres in reconstructed historical forms and dialects using the International Phonetic Alphabet. The pronunciation in IPA is above and the transliteration is below.

The letters Bet "ב" used in this table are only for demonstration. Any letter can be used.

Symbol Name Pronunciation
Israeli Ashkenazi Sephardi Yemenite Tiberian Reconstructed
Mishnaic Biblical
בֵ Tzere [e] [ej] [e] [e] [eː] ? ?
בֵי, בֵה, בֵא Tzere Male [e] [ej] [e] [e] [eː] ? ?

In Modern Hebrew tzere – with or without a following yod – may be pronounced as [ej] and transliterated as "ei or "ey". Such pronunciation and transliteration of tzere are not correct in the normative pronunciation and not consistent in the spoken language.[7]

Unicode encoding

Glyph Unicode Name

See also


  1. Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §1.4 ב.
  2. A full list appears in Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §1.4 כ.
  3. 1 2 Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §1.4.
  4.  Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, §75.
  5.  Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, §70.
  6. A grammatical supplement to the Even-Shoshan Dictionary (2003 edition), §15.
  7. Laufer, Asher (2008). Chapters in Phonetics and Phonetic Transcription. Jerusalem: Magnes. pp. 207–211. ISBN 9789654934015.
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