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Writing systemHebrew alphabet
Language of originHebrew
Sound values
  • Biblical
  • ḥazaq: [ː] (gemination), qal: [β]→[b], [ɣ]→[ɡ], [ð]→[d], [x]→[k], [ɸ]→[p], [θ]→[t]
  • Modern
  • [v]→[b], [x]~[χ]→[k], [f]→[p]
In UnicodeU+05BC
  • ּ
SistersMappiq, shuruk
  • Biblical
  • ḥazaq: doubled consonant, qal: none[a]
  • Modern
  • v→b, kh→k, f→p
Associated graphs בbet, גgimel, דdalet, כkaf, פpe, תtav
This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
Dagesh in Hebrew. The red dot on the rightmost character (the letter dalet) is a dagesh.
The word dagesh in Hebrew. The red dot on the rightmost character (the letter dalet) is a dagesh.

The dagesh (Hebrew: דָּגֵשׁ) is a diacritic that is used in the Hebrew alphabet. It takes the form of a dot placed inside a consonant. A dagesh can either indicate a "hard" plosive version of the consonant (known as dagesh qal, literally 'light dot') or that the consonant is geminated (known as dagesh ḥazaq, literally 'hard dot'), although the latter is rarely used in Modern Hebrew.

The dagesh was added to Hebrew orthography at the same time as the Masoretic system of niqqud (vowel points).

Two other diacritics with different functions, the mappiq and the shuruk, are visually identical to the dagesh but are only used with vowel letters.

The dagesh and mappiq symbols are often omitted when writing niqqud (e.g. בּ‎ is written as ב‎). In these cases, dagesh may be added to help readers resolve the ambiguity.[2] The use or omission of such marks is usually consistent throughout any given context.

Dagesh qal

A dagesh kal or dagesh qal (דגש קל, or דגש קשיין, also dagesh lene, weak/light dagesh) may be placed inside the consonants בbet, גgimel, דdalet, כkaf, פpe and תtav. They each have two sounds, the original hard plosive sound (which originally contained no dagesh as it was the only pronunciation), and a soft fricative version produced as such for speech efficiency because of the position in which the mouth is left immediately after a vowel has been produced.

Prior to the Babylonian captivity, the soft sounds of these letters did not exist in Hebrew, but were later differentiated in Hebrew writing as a result of the Aramaic-influenced pronunciation of Hebrew.[citation needed] The Aramaic languages, including Jewish versions of Aramaic, have these same allophonic pronunciations of the letters.

The letters take on their hard sounds when they have no vowel sound before them, and take their soft sounds when a vowel immediately precedes them. In Biblical Hebrew this was the case within a word and also across word boundaries, though in Modern Hebrew there are no longer across word boundaries, since the soft and hard sounds are no longer allophones of each other, but regarded as distinct phonemes.

When vowel diacritics are used, the hard sounds are indicated by a central dot called dagesh, while the soft sounds lack the mark. In Modern Hebrew, however, the dagesh only changes the pronunciation of בbet, כkaf, and פpe. Traditional Ashkenazic pronunciation also varies the pronunciation of תtav, and some traditional Middle Eastern pronunciations[which?] carry alternate forms for דdalet.

With dagesh Without dagesh
Symbol Name Transliteration IPA Example in English Symbol Name Transliteration IPA Example in English
בּ bet b /b/ bun ב vet v /v/ van
כּ ךּ[b] kaph k /k/ kangaroo כ ך khaph kh/ch/ḵ /χ/ loch
פּ ףּ[c] pe p /p/ pass פ ף phe f/ph /f/ find

In Ashkenazi pronunciation, tav without a dagesh is pronounced [s], while in other traditions[which?] it is assumed to have been pronounced [θ] at the time niqqud was introduced. In Modern Hebrew, it is always pronounced [t].

The letters gimel (ג‎) and dalet (ד‎) may also contain a dagesh kal. This indicates an allophonic variation of the phonemes /ɡ/ and /d/, a variation which no longer exists in modern Hebrew pronunciation. The variations are believed to have been: גּ‎ pronounced as [ɡ], ג‎ as [ɣ], דּ‎ as [d], and ד‎ as [ð]. The Hebrew spoken by the Jews of Yemen (Yemenite Hebrew) still preserves unique phonemes for these letters with and without a dagesh.[3]


Among Modern Hebrew speakers, the pronunciation of some of the above letters has become the same as others:

Letter Pronounced like Letter
(without dagesh) like ו
(without dagesh) like ח
(with dagesh) like ק
תּ, ת
(with and without dagesh) like ט

Dagesh hazaq

Dagesh ḥazak or dagesh ḥazaq (דגש חזק, lit.'strong dot', i.e. 'gemination dagesh', or דגש כפלן, also 'dagesh forte') may be placed in almost any letter, indicating a gemination (doubling) of that consonant in the pronunciation of pre-modern Hebrew. This gemination is not adhered to in modern Hebrew and is only used in careful pronunciation, such as the reading of scripture in a synagogue service, recitation of biblical or traditional texts or on ceremonial occasions, and only by very precise readers.

The following letters, the gutturals, almost never have a dagesh: aleph א‎, he ה‎, chet ח‎, ayin ע‎, and resh ר‎. A few instances of resh with dagesh are recorded in the Masoretic Text, as well as a few cases of aleph with dagesh, such as in Leviticus 23:17.

The presence of a dagesh ḥazak or consonant-doubling in a word may be entirely morphological, or, as is often the case, is a lengthening to compensate for a deleted consonant. A dagesh ḥazak may be placed in letters for one of the following reasons:


In Masoretic manuscripts the opposite of a dagesh would be indicated by a rafe, a small line on top of the letter. This is no longer found in Hebrew, but may still sometimes be seen in Yiddish and Ladino.

Unicode encodings

In computer typography there are two ways to use a dagesh with Hebrew text. The following examples give the Unicode and numeric character references:

Some fonts, character sets, encodings, and operating systems may support neither, one, or both methods.

See also


  1. ^ SBL transliteration system[1]
  2. ^ "ךּ‎" is rare but exists, e.g. the last word in Deuteronomy 7:1 (דברים פרק ז׳ פסוק א׳) in the word "מִמֶּךָּ", see here.
  3. ^ "ףּ‎" is rare but exists, e.g. the second word in Proverbs 30:6 (משלי פרק ל׳ פסוק ו׳) in the word "תּוֹסְףְּ" – see here.


  1. ^ "Transliteration Standards of the SBL". Retrieved 2024-03-29.
  2. ^ "הכתיב המלא" [The Complete Spelling] (in Hebrew). Archived from the original on 10 December 2023. Retrieved 10 December 2023.
  3. ^ "Vocalization of Hebrew Alphabet". Archived from the original on 2015-04-28. Retrieved 2018-09-20.
  4. ^ "Genesis 1 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre". Retrieved 2024-03-29.
  5. ^ "Genesis 1 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre". Retrieved 2024-03-29.
  6. ^ Weingreen, J. (1963-03-26). A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew. OUP Oxford. pp. 23 (§16). ISBN 978-0-19-815422-8.
  7. ^ "Numbers 13 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre". Retrieved 2024-03-30.
  8. ^ "Numbers 23 / Hebrew - English Bible / Mechon-Mamre". Retrieved 2024-03-30.

Further reading