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Title: Dagesh  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Niqqud, Hebrew diacritics, Romanization of Hebrew, Kubutz and Shuruk, Kaph
Collection: Hebrew Diacritics, Hebrew Grammar, Niqqud
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IPA Biblical ḥazaq: [ː] (gemination)
qal: [v]~[β]→[b], [ɣ]→[ɡ],
[ð]→[d], [x]~[χ]→[k],
[f]~[ɸ]→[p], [θ]→[t]
Israeli [v]~[β]→[b], [x]~[χ]→[k], [f]→[p]
Transliteration Biblical ḥazaq: doubling of consonant
qal: none
(SBL transliteration system[1])
Israeli v→b, kh→k, f→p
Same appearance mappiq, shuruk
"Dagesh" in Hebrew. The first diacritic (the centre dot) is a dagesh.
Other Niqqud
Shva · Hiriq · Zeire · Segol · Patach · Kamatz · Holam · Dagesh · Mappiq · Shuruk · Kubutz · Rafe · Sin/Shin Dot

The dagesh (דָּגֵשׁ) is a diacritic used in the Hebrew alphabet. It was added to the Hebrew orthography at the same time as the Masoretic system of niqqud (vowel points). It takes the form of a dot placed inside a Hebrew letter and has the effect of modifying the sound in one of two ways.

An identical mark called mappiq, has a different phonetic function, and can be applied to different consonants; the same mark is also employed in the vowel shuruk.

Dagesh and mappiq symbols are often omitted in writing. For instance, בּ is often written as ב. The use or omission of such marks is usually consistent throughout any given context. The two functions of dagesh are distinguished as either kal (light) or ḥazak (strong).


  • Dagesh kal 1
    • Pronunciation 1.1
  • Dagesh hazak 2
  • Rafe 3
  • Unicode encodings 4
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Dagesh kal

A dagesh kal or dagesh qal (דגש קל, or דגש קשיין, also "dagesh lene", "weak/light dagesh", opposed to "strong dot") may be placed inside the consonants ב bet, ג gimel, ד dalet, כ kaf, פ pe and ת tav. Historically, each had two sounds: one "hard" (plosive) and one "soft" (fricative), depending on the position of the letter and other factors. When vowel diacritics are used, the hard sounds are indicated by a central dot called dagesh, while the soft sounds lack a dagesh. In Modern Hebrew, however, the dagesh only changes the pronunciation of ב bet, כ kaf, and פ pe (traditional Ashkenazic pronunciation also varies the pronunciation of ת tav, and some traditional Middle Eastern pronunciations carry alternate forms for ד dalet).

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

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

** The letters gimmel (ג) and dalet (ד) may also contain a dagesh kal. This is believed to have indicated an allophonic variation of the phonemes /ɡ/ and /d/ at the time niqqud was introduced, a variation which no longer exists in modern Hebrew pronunciation. The variations are believed to have been: גּ=[ɡ], ג=[ɣ] or [ʝ], דּ=[d], ד=[ð].

The Hebrew spoken by the Jews of Yemen (Yemenite Hebrew) still has unique phonemes for these letters with and without a dagesh.[4]


In Israel's general population, the pronunciation of some of the above letters has become identical to the pronunciation of others:

Letter(s) pronounced like Letter
(without dagesh) like ו
(without dagesh) like ח
or ת
(with or without dagesh) like ט
(with dagesh) like ק

Dagesh hazak

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

The following letters, the gutturals, almost never have a dagesh: aleph א, he ה, chet ח, ayin ע, resh ר. (A few instances of resh with dagesh are masoretically recorded in the Hebrew Bible, as well as a few cases of aleph with a 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:

  • The letter follows a definite article. For example, שָׁמָיִם shamayim "heaven(s)" in Gen 1:8 is הַשָּׁמַיִם Hashshamayim "the heaven(s)" in Gen 1:1. (Occasionally, the letter following a He used to indicate a question may also receive a dagesh, e.g. Num 13:20 הַשְּׁמֵנָה הִוא Hashshmena he? - "whether it is fat").
  • The letter follows the prefix mem- with the hirik vowel (i); where this prefix is an abbreviation for the word min, meaning "from". For example, the phrase "from your hand", if spelled as two words, would be מִן יָדֶךָ min yadecha. In Gen. 4:11, however, it occurs as one word: מִיָּדֶךָ miyyadecha.
  • It marks a missing double letter. For example, compare Ex. 6:7 לָקַחְתִּי lakachti with Num 23:28, where the first letter of the stem ("ל") has been elided: וַיִּקַּח vayyikkach.
  • If the letter follows a vav consecutive imperfect (sometimes referred to as vav conversive, or vav ha'hipuch), which, in Biblical Hebrew, switches a verb between perfect and imperfect. For example, compare Judges 7:4 יֵלֵךְ yeilech "let him go" with Deu. 31:1 וַיֵּלֶך vayyeilech "he went".
  • If it is a marker of the binyan. For example:
    • It is placed in the first letter of the root of a word in the imperfect form in the binyan niphal;
    • It is placed in the second letter of the root of a word in the binyan piel (e.g. Ex. 15:9 אֲחַלֵּק achalleik "I shall divide") or the binyan pual;
    • It is placed in the second letter of the root of a word in the binyan hithpael, e.g. Gen. 47:31 וַיִתְחַזֵּק vayitchazzeik, "he strengthened himself".


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. Here are Unicode examples:

bet + dagesh: בּ בּ = U+05D1 U+05BC
kaf + dagesh: כּ כּ = U+05DB U+05BC
pe  + dagesh: פּ פּ = U+05E4 U+05BC
bet with dagesh: בּ בּ = U+FB31
kaf with dagesh: כּ כּ = U+FB3B
pe  with dagesh: פּ פּ = U+FB44

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

See also


  1. ^ Resources for New Testament Exegesis – Transliteration Standards of The SBL Handbook of Style
  2. ^ "ךּ" is rare but exists, e.g. 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. second word in Proverbs 30 6 (משלי פרק ל׳ פסוק ו׳) in the word "תּוֹסְףְּ" – see here
  4. ^

Further reading

  •  §12 Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar,, §13
  • M. Spiegel and J. Volk, 2003. “Hebrew Vowel Restoration with Neural Networks,” Proceedings of the Class of 2003 Senior Conference, Computer Science Department, Swarthmore College, pp. 1–7: Open Access Copy

External links

  • Hebrew
  • Alphabetic presentation
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