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Ktiv hasar niqqud

Ktiv hasar niqqud (Hebrew pronunciation: [ktiv χaˈsaʁ niˈkud]; Hebrew: כתיב חסר ניקוד, literally "spelling lacking niqqud"), colloquially known as ktiv maleh (IPA: [ktiv maˈle]; כתיב מלא‎, literally "full spelling"), are the rules for writing Hebrew without vowel points (niqqud), often replacing them with matres lectionis (ו‎ and י‎). To avoid confusion, consonantal ו‎ ([v]) and י‎ ([j]) are doubled in the middle of words. In general use, niqqud are seldom used, except in specialized texts such as dictionaries, poetry, or texts for children or for new immigrants.

Comparison example

From a Hebrew translation of "The Raven" by Edgar Allan Poe (translated by Eliyahu Tsifer):

Ktiv male With niqqud

וילון של משי ארגמן, ספק רשרוש, מסך מוכמן,
הפחידוני, ביעתוני, חששות אימה וסלוד,
פעמי לבי מקבת, במאוץ וגם בשבת,
האושפיז בשוט ושבט, את דלתי הזיז במנוד,
את דלתי הזיז הניע, קטב לשכתי ישוד,
אלמוני הוא האורח, אלמוני הוא ולא עוד!

שלוותי פרשה כנפיים, היסוסיי אפסו אפיים,
אדון וגברת, בכנות אפציר אסגוד,
כן עובדה היא, שעת גלוש, וברוך ידך תקוש,
מדורי אזי נלוש, עת הנדת שדוד,
לרווחה דלתי פרשתי, כי נועדתי לשרוד,
ושור! הבט! רק שחור, לא עוד!

וִילוֹן שֶׁל מֶשִׁי אַרְגָּמָן, סָפֵק רִשְׁרוּשׁ, מָסָךְ מֻכְמָן,
הִפְחִידֻנִּי, בִּעֲתֻנִי, חֲשָׁשוֹת אֵימָה וּסְלוֹד,
פַּעֲמֵי לִבִּי מַקֶּבֶת, בִּמְאוֹץ וְגַם בְּשֶׁבֶת,
הָאֻשְׁפִּיז בְּשׁוֹט וָשֵׁבֶט, אֶת דַּלְתִּי הֵזִיז בִּמְנֹד,
אֶת דַלְתִּי הֵזִיז הֵנִיעַ, קֶטֶב לִשְׁכַּתִּי יָשׁוֹד,
אַלְמוֹנִי הוּא הָאוֹרֵחַ, אַלְמוֹנִי הוּא וְלֹא עוֹד!

שַׁלְוַתִּי פַּרְשָׂה כְּנָפַיִם, הִסּוּסַי אָפְסוּ אַפַּיִם,
אָדוֹן וּגְבֶרֶת, בְּכֵנוּת אָפְצִיר אֶסְגֹּד,
כֵּן עֻבְדָּה הִיא, שְׁעַת גְּלֹש, וּבְרוֹךְ יָדְךָ תַּקֹּשׁ,
מְדוֹרִי אֲזַי נַלֹּשׁ, עֵת הֵנַדְתָּ שָׁדֹד,
לִרְוָחָה דַּלְתִּי פָּרַשְׂתִּי, כִּי נוֹעַדְתִּי לִשְׂרֹד,
וְשּׁוּר! הַבֵּט! רַק שְׁחוֹר, לֹא עוֹד!

Historical examination

Ktiv haser

Ktiv haser (כתיב חסר‎) is writing whose consonants match those generally used in voweled text, but without the actual niqqud. For example, the words שֻׁלְחָן‎ and דִּבֵּר‎ written in ktiv haser are שלחן‎ and דבר‎. In vowelled text, the niqqud indicate the correct vowels, but when the niqqud is missing, the text is difficult to read, and the reader must make use of the context of each word to know the correct reading.

A typical example of a Hebrew text written in ktiv haser is the Torah, read in synagogues (simply called the Torah reading). For assistance readers often use a Tikkun, a book in which the text of the Torah appears in two side-by-side versions, one identical to the text which appears in the Torah, and one with niqqud and cantillation.

Ktiv male

Because of the difficulty of reading unvowelled text, the Va'ad ha-lashon introduced the Rules for the Spelling-Without-Niqqud (כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד‎), which in reality dictates ktiv male. This system mostly involved the addition of ו‎ and י‎ to mark the different vowels. Later on, these rules were adopted by the Academy of the Hebrew Language, which continued to revise them, and they were mostly accepted by the public, mainly for official writing.

Ktiv haser became obsolete in Modern Hebrew, and ktiv male has already been dominant for decades in unvowelled texts: all of the newspapers and books published in Hebrew are written in ktiv male. Additionally, it is common for children's books or texts for those with special needs to contain niqqud, but ktiv haser without niqqud is rare.

Despite the Academy's standardization of the rules for ktiv male, there is a substantial lack of unity in writing, partly because of a lack of grammatical knowledge, partly because of the historical layers of the language, and partly because of a number of linguistic categories in which the Academy's decisions are not popular. As a result, book publishers and newspaper editors make their own judgments.

Rules for spelling without niqqud

As is the norm for linguistic rules, the rules for spelling without niqqud are not entirely static. Changes occur from time to time, based on amassed experience. For example, originally the rules for spelling without niqqud dictated that אשהisha ("woman") should be written without a yod י‎ (to distinguish it from אישהishah – "her husband"), but currently the exception has been removed, and now, the Academy prefers אישה‎. The last substantial change to the rules for spelling without niqqud was made in 1993 updated in 1996. The following is the summary of the current rules:[1]

  • Every letter that appears in vowelled text also appears in unvowelled text.
  • After a letter vowelled with a kubuts (the vowel /u/), the letter waw ו‎ appears: קופסה‎‎, הופל‎‎, כולם‎ (kufsa, hupal, kulam).
  • After a letter vowelled with a holam haser (the vowel /o/) the letter waw ו‎ appears: בוקר‎‎, ישמור‎ (boker, yishmor).
  • After a letter vowelled with a hirik haser (the vowel /i/) the letter yod י‎ appears: דיבור‎‎, יישוב‎‎, תעשייה‎ (dibur, yishuv, ta'asiya). The letter yod י‎ does not appear in the following situations:
    • Before a shva nah, for example: הרגיש‎‎, מנהג‎‎, דמיון‎ (hirgish, minhag, dimyon);
    • Words whose base forms do not contain the vowel /i/: ליבי‎‎, איתך‎‎, עיתים‎ (livi, itkha/itakh, itim), which are inflected forms of לב‎‎, את‎‎, עת‎; (lev, et, et), respectively
    • After affix letters, like in מביתו‎‎, מיד‎ (mi-beto, mi-yad), and also in the words: עםim, הנהhine
    • Before יו‎ (/ju/ or /jo/): דיון‎‎, קיום‎‎, בריות‎‎, נטיות‎ (diyun, kiyum, briyot, netiyot).
  • After a letter vowelled with a tsere (the vowel /e/) the letter yod י‎ generally does not appear: ממד‎ ‎(=מֵמַד‎‎), אזור‎ ‎(=אֵזוֹר‎‎) (memad, ezor), but there are situations when yod י‎ does appear: תיבה‎‎, הישג‎ (teva, heseg) and in words in which tsere replaces hirik because the presence of a guttural letter (אהחע"ר‎‎): תיאבון‎‎, תיאבד‎ (te'avon, teaved).
  • Consonantal vav ו‎ (the consonant /v/) is doubled in the middle of a word: תקווה‎‎, זווית‎ (tikva, zavit). The letter is not doubled at the beginning or the end of a word: ורוד‎‎, ותיק‎‎, צו‎ (varod, vatik, tzav). Initial vav ו‎ is doubled when an affix letter is added except for the affix ו-‎ (meaning "and-"). Thus from the word ורודvarod one has הוורודha-varod but וורודu-varod.
  • Consonantal yod י‎ (the consonant /j/) is doubled in the middle of a word, for example: בניין‎‎, הייתה‎ (binyan, hayta). The letter is not doubled at the beginning of a word or after affix letters: ילד‎‎, יצא‎‎, הילד‎ (yeled, yatza, ha-yeled). Still, consonantal yod י‎ is not doubled in the middle of a word where it appears before or after a mater lectionis: פרויקט‎‎, מסוים‎‎, ראיה‎‎, הפניה‎‎, בעיה‎ (proyekt, mesuyam, re'aya, be'aya).

These are the most basic rules. Each one has exceptions which is described in the handbook "כללי הכתיב חסר הניקוד‎" (spelling rules without niqqud) that the Academy publishes in Hebrew.


  • When a reader is likely to err in the reading of a word, the use of partial vowelling is recommended: מִנהלminhal (to distinguish it from מנַהלmenahel).
  • While the rules above apply to the writing of native Hebrew words, they are not used for spelling given names, which are frequently written in ktiv haser rather than ktiv male: שלמה‎‎, יעקב‎‎, כהן‎‎ (Shlomo, Ya'akov, Kohen).

See also


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Ktiv hasar niqqud
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