Cholam (Hebrew: חוֹלָם ḥolam, Modern Hebrew: [ħoˈlam], Biblical Hebrew: [ħoˈlam]) is a Hebrew niqqud vowel sign represented by a dot above the upper left corner of the consonant letter. For example, here the Cholam appears after the letter mem מ: מֹ. In modern Hebrew it indicates the mid back rounded vowel, [], and is transliterated as an o.

IPA o or
Transliteration o
English example shore
Similar sound Qamatz qaṭan, ḥataf qamatz
Ḥolam Example
The word noʿar (youth) in Hebrew. The first vowel (the dot above the letter) is the ḥolam.
Ḥolam male Example
The word ḥolam in Hebrew. The letter vav ו with the dot above it is the Ḥolam male itself.
Other Niqqud
Shva · Hiriq · Tzere · Segol · Patach · Kamatz · Holam · Dagesh · Mappiq · Shuruk · Kubutz · Rafe · Sin/Shin Dot

The mater lectionis letter which is usually employed with Cholam is vav, although in a few words, the letters alef or he are used instead of vav. When it is used with a mater lectionis, the Cholam is called Cholam malei (Modern: [ħoˈlam maˈle], Biblical: [ħoˈlam maˈle], "full ḥolam"), and without it the Cholam is called Cholam chaser (Modern: [ħoˈlam ħaˈser], Biblical: [ħoˈlam ħaˈser]).


Cholam without mater lectionis after it or with the letter He, as in פֹּה (/po/, "here"), is written as a dot above the upper left corner of the letter after which it is pronounced. Letter-spacing is not supposed to be affected by it, although some buggy computer fonts may add an unneeded space before the next letter.

If the mater lectionis is vav, the Cholam appears above the vav. If the mater lectionis is alef, as in לֹא (/lo/, "no"), it is supposed to appear above the alef's right hand, although this is not implemented in all computer fonts, and does not always appear even in professionally typeset modern books, so Cholam with alef may, in fact, appear in the same place as a regular Cholam chaser. If the alef itself is not a mater lectionis, but a consonant, the Cholam appears in its regular place above the upper left corner of the previous letter, as in תֹּאַר (/ˈto.aʁ/, "epithet").

If Cholam chaser is written after vav, as in לִגְוֺעַ (/liɡˈvo.a/, "to agonize"), it may appear above the vav, or slightly further to the left; this varies between different fonts. In some fonts Holam merges with the Shin dot, in words such as חֹשֶׁךְ (/ˈħoʃeχ/, 'darkness') or with the Sin dot, as in שֹׂבַע (/ˈsova/, 'satiation'). (These dots may or may not appear merged on your screen, as that depends on your device's Hebrew font.)


Cholam malei is, in general, the most common way to write the /o/ sound in modern spelling with niqqud. If a word has Cholam malei in spelling with niqqud, the mater lectionis letter vav is without any exception retained in spelling without niqqud, both according to the spelling rules of the Academy of the Hebrew Language and in common practice.

The use of Cholam chaser is restricted to certain word patterns, although many common words appear in them. In most cases the Academy's spelling rules mandate that the vav will be written even when the spelling with niqqud does not have it. The normative exceptions from this rule are listed below. It must also be noted that the Academy's standard is not followed perfectly by all speakers, and common deviations from it are also noted below.

In Biblical Hebrew the above rules are not followed consistently, and sometimes the vav is omitted or added.[1]

For further complications involving Kamatz katan and Hataf kamatz, see the article Kamatz.

Holam chaser which is written as vav in text without niqqud

For details on the transcription of Hebrew, see Help:IPA/Hebrew and Hebrew phonology
  • In words, in which the penultimate syllable has the vowel /o/ and is stressed (sometimes called segolate):
    • קֹטֶר ('diameter') /ˈkoteʁ/
    • זֹהַר ('radiance', Zohar), /ˈzohaʁ/
    • נֹגַהּ ('brightness', Nogah), /noˈɡa/
    • דֹּאַר ('mail'), /ˈdo.aʁ/ or /ˈdoʔaʁ/.
Some people tend to spell some of these words without the vav, e.g. דאר instead of דואר, although the Academy mandates דואר. The tendency is especially strong when the words can be used as personal names.
  • When Kubutz is changed to Holam before guttural letters in the passive binyan Pual due to tashlum dagesh (a vowel-change due to the inability of guttural letters to carry a dagesh):
    • מְפֹאָר ('fancy'), /məfoˈʔaʁ/
    • פֹּרַשׁ ('was explained'), /poˈʁaʃ/. Without niqqud: מפואר, פורש.
  • In words which have the pattern /CaCoC/ in the singular and become /CəCuCCim/ with Kubutz in the plural, especially names of colors:
    • כָּתֹם ('orange'), /kaˈtom/, pl. כְּתֻמִּים /kətumˈmim/
    • עָגֹל ('round'), /ʕaˈɡol/, pl. עֲגֻלִּים /ʕaɡulˈlim/.
  • When the last letter of the root is guttural, Cholam chaser is preserved due to tashlum dagesh:
    • שָׁחֹר ('black'), /ʃaˈħoʁ/, pl. שְׁחֹרִים /ʃəħoˈʁim/.
    Without niqqud: כתום, כתומים, עגול, עגולים, שחור, שחורים.
  • A similar pattern, in which the last letter of the root is not doubled in declension, has Cholam malei in the base form, which is preserved in declension:
    • sg. גָּדוֹל ('big'), /ɡaˈdol/, pl. גְּדוֹלִים /ɡədoˈlim/.
  • In three words Cholam malei is changed to shuruk in declension:
    • מָגוֹר ('place of living'), /maˈɡoʁ/, pl. מְגוּרִים /məɡuˈʁim/[2]
    • מָנוֹס ('escape'), /maˈnos/, pl. מְנוּסִים /mənuˈsim/;[3]
    • מָתוֹק ('sweet'), /maˈtok/, pl. מְתוּקִים /mətuˈkim/.[4]
  • Similar to the above is the pattern /CəCaCCoC/, with reduplication of the second and third letters of the root:
    • פְּתַלְתֹּל ('crooked'), /pətalˈtol/, pl. פְּתַלְתֻּלִּים /pətaltulˈlim/. Without niqqud: פתלתול, פתלתולים.
  • In the future, infinitive and imperative forms of most verbs in binyan Qal:
    • אֶסְגֹּר ('I shall close'), /ʔesˈɡoʁ/, לִסְגֹּר ('to close'), /lisˈɡoʁ/, סְגֹר ('close!'), /səɡoʁ/. Without niqqud: אסגור, לסגור, סגור.
  • In words, whose roots' second and third letter are the same, in which case in declension the Cholam changes to Kubutz after which there will be a dagesh:
    • כֹּל all, /kol/, decl. כֻּלּהּ /kulˈlah/ ('all of her'), root כ־ל־ל[5]
    • רֹב ('most'), /rov/, decl. רֻבּוֹ /rubˈbo/ ('most of him'), root ר־ב־ב
    • תֹּף ('drum'), /tof/, pl. תֻּפִּים /tupˈpim/, root ת־פ־פ
    • מָעֹז ('stronghold'), /maˈʕoz/, pl. מָעֻזִּים /maʕuzˈzim/, root ע־ז־ז
The standard spelling without niqqud for all of them except כָּל־ in construct state is with vav: כול, כולה, רוב, רובו, תוף, תופים, מעוז, מעוזים. Despite this, some people occasionally omit the vav in some of those words and spell רב, תף etc.
  • Several common words are spelled with Cholam chaser in the Bible, but the Academy mandates that they be spelled with Cholam malei in modern Hebrew, among them:
    • כֹּחַ/כּוֹחַ ('force'), /ˈkoaħ/
    • מֹחַ/מוֹחַ ('brain'), /ˈmoaħ/
    • יַהֲלֹם/יַהֲלוֹם ('a precious stone', in modern Hebrew 'diamond'), /jahaˈlom/
    • מְאֹד/מְאוֹד ('very'), /məʔod/
    • פִּתְאֹם/פִּתְאוֹם ('suddenly'), /pitˈʔom/
    Some people still spell them without vav, but the standard spelling is with vav.[6]
  • The participle of most verbs in binyan Qal is often written with Cholam chaser in the Bible, but always with Cholam malei in modern Hebrew.
    • For example, in the Bible appear both חֹזֶה and חוֹזֶה ('seer'), /ħoˈze/, but in modern Hebrew only חוֹזֶה.

Holam with other matres lectionis

  • The most common occasion for not writing the /o/ sound as a vav in text without niqqud is when in text with niqqud the mater lectionis is Alef (א) or He (ה) instead of vav. In the Bible some words are irregularly and inconsistently spelled with ה as a mater lectionis:
    • זֹה alongside זוֹ, e.g. בֵּיתֹה alongside בֵּיתוֹ, etc.
    but the number of these irregularities was brought to minimum in modern Hebrew.
  • In the future forms of several verbs whose roots' first letter is Alef:
    • תֹּאכַל ('you shall eat'), /toˈχal/, root א־כ־ל, without niqqud תאכל.
    • The prefix of the first person singular is itself Alef and in spelling with niqqud only one Alef is written: אֹמַר ('I shall say'), /ʔoˈmaʁ/, root א־מ־ר, and in spelling without niqqud a vav is added: אומר. This always happens in the roots א־ב־ד ('perish'), א־ב־י ('wish'),[7] א־כ־ל ('eat'), א־מ־ר ('say'), אפי ('bake') and less consistently in the roots א־ה־ב ('love'), א־ח־ז ('hold'), א־ס־ף ('collect'), א־ת־י ('come').[7] In the root א־מ־ר a Holam male with vav is used in the infinitive in Mishnaic and modern Hebrew:
    • לוֹמַר /loˈmaʁ/.[8]
  • In the infinitive form of a small number of verbs whose roots' last letter is Alef: בִּמְלֹאת ('upon becoming full'), /bimˈlot/, root מ־ל־א.[9]
  • In the following words the mater lectionis is always Alef (א):
    • זֹאת ('this' fem.), /zot/
    • לֹא ('no'), /lo/[10]
    • מֹאזְנַיִם ('scales'), /mozˈnajim/, without niqqud מאזניים
    • נֹאד ('wineskin'), /nod/[11]
    • צֹאן ('sheep' or 'goats'), /t͡son/
    • רֹאשׁ ('head'), /ʁoʃ/
    • שְׂמֹאל ('left'), /səmol/[12]
  • In the following words the mater lectionis is always He (ה):
    • כֹּה ('such'), /ko/
    • פֹּה ('here'), /po/
    • אֵיפֹה ('where?'), /eˈfo/[13]
  • In the absolute infinitive form of verbs which end in He: הָיֹה (/haˈjo/ 'be'). This form is common in the Bible, but in modern Hebrew it is not productive and it is preserved only in fossilized sayings. For example, a common opening for fairy tales, הָיֹה הָיָה ('there once was'), /haˈjo haˈja/ is written היה היה without niqqud.

Cholam without vav in personal names

Some examples of usage of Cholam without vav in personal names:

  • The names Pharaoh (פַּרְעֹה, /paʁˈʕo/), ('Moshe') (מֹשֶׁה)[14] and Shlomo (שְׁלֹמֹה)[15] are never written with vav. Shilo (שִׁילֹה) is sometimes written with vav in the Bible, but always with He in modern Hebrew. Note also that the adjectives פַּרְעוֹנִי, שִׁילוֹנִי are written with vav and with a nun in the suffix.
  • The name Aharon (אַהֲרֹן) is spelled with Cholam chaser in the Bible. In modern Hebrew both אהרן and אהרון are used.
  • The name Noah (נֹחַ) is spelled with Cholam chaser in the Bible, but it is sometimes written with the vav in the Mishna[16] and in modern Hebrew.
  • Several other names of places and people are spelled with Holam and Alef in the Bible include Yoshiyahu (יֹאשִׁיָּהוּ, Josiah), Dor (דֹּאר, in modern Hebrew דּוֹר) and No Amon (נֹא אָמוֹן, the Hebrew name of Thebes).
  • The word כֹּהֵן ('priest'), /koˈhen/ is spelled with Cholam chaser in the Bible. It is a common Jewish last name, Cohen. The Academy mandates Cholam malei for the noun כּוֹהֵן, but allows the omission of vav for spelling the personal name.[17]
  • Some personal names, such as Ohad (אֹהַד), Zohar (זֹהַר) and Nogah (נֹגַהּ), are sometimes spelled without vav in modern writing without niqqud, although this varies from person to person.
  • God's name Adonai (אֲדֹנָי) is written with Cholam chaser to distinguish it from the word "Lord" (אָדוֹן) used for humans.[18] When the Tetragrammaton is written with niqqud, it follows that of Adonai, so it is written with Cholam chaser, too. For religious reasons writing Adonai and the Tetragrammaton is avoided in modern religious texts except in direct quotes from the Bible. They rarely appear in secular modern Hebrew texts and their spelling there is inconsistent.
  • The name Elohim (אֱלֹהִים) is written with Cholam chaser in the Bible, although its singular form Eloah (אֱלוֹהַּ) is usually written with Cholam malei. In modern Hebrew Elohim is a common word for "God" and it is usually spelled with the vav, which is also the Academy's recommendation.


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

The letters pe פ and tsade צ are used in this table only for demonstration. Any letter can be used.

Symbol Name Pronunciation
Israeli Ashkenazi Sephardi Yemenite Tiberian Reconstructed
Cholam [o(ː)][oɪ ~ øɪ ~ eɪ ~ əʊ ~ ɐʊ ~ ɑʊ ~ oʊ][o(ː)][ɶ ~ ɤ ~ œ][o][oː][oː]
Cholam malei [o(ː)][oɪ ~ øɪ ~ eɪ ~ əʊ ~ ɐʊ ~ ɑʊ ~ oʊ][o(ː)][ɶ ~ ɤ ~ œ][o][oː][oː]

Vowel length comparison

These vowel lengths are not manifested in modern Hebrew. In addition, the short o is usually promoted to a long o in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation. As well, the short o (qamatz qaṭan) and long a (qamatz) have the same niqqud. As a result, a qamatz qaṭan is usually promoted to Cholam malei in Israeli writing for the sake of disambiguation.

Vowel Length IPA Transliteration English
Long Short Very Short
וֹ ָ n/a []o cone

Computer encoding

Glyph Unicode Name

In computers there are three ways to distinguish the vowel ḥolam male and the consonant-vowel combination vav + ḥolam ḥaser. For example, in the pair מַצּוֹת (/maˈt͡sot/, the plural of מַצָּה, matza) and מִצְוֹת (/miˈt͡svot/, the plural of מִצְוָה mitzva):[19]

  1. By using the zero-width non-joiner after the vav and before the Cholam: מִצְוֹת
  2. By using the Unicode character U+05BA HEBREW POINT CHOLAM CHASER FOR VAV: מִצְוֺת.
  3. By the precomposed character,[20] U+FB4B (HTML Entity (decimal) וֹ) מִצְוֹת

See also


  1. Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §1.3; Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, §8l
  2. Rarely used in the singular in Modern Hebrew.
  3. Rarely used in the plural in Modern Hebrew.
  4. Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §1.3.
  5. This word becomes כָּל־ in construct state, which is very common, so as another exception it is written without vav in spelling without niqqud: כל־האנשים ('all the people'), but היא יודעת הכול ('she knows all').
  6. The full list appears at Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §1.3.
  7. Rare in modern Hebrew.
  8. Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar, §68; the Even-Shoshan Dictionary for the modern forms.
  9. Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §3.5.
  10. This word is written לוֹא several times in the Bible, but such spelling never occurs in modern Hebrew. With the particle הֲ־ and only when it is used as a synonym of הִנֵּה ('here') it may be written both as הלוא and as הלא (Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §2.4.4), but this usage is rare in modern Hebrew.
  11. The word נוֹד is pronounced identically and means "wandering". It appears in the Bible and is rare in modern Hebrew. The Even-Shoshan dictionary also notes that it is an incorrect spelling for נֹאד.
  12. This word is actually spelled as שמאול several times in the Bible, but never in modern Hebrew. However, the intentionally wrong spelling סמול is often used as a disparaging term for the political left and is documented in Uri Orbach's lexicon of Religious Zionist slang.
  13. The Even-Shoshan Dictionary also registers the modern Hebrew word אֵיפֹשֶׁהוּ ('somewhere'), /efoʃehu/, which is based on אֵיפֹה and ־שֶׁהוּ, the ending of the indefinite pronouns משהו, כלשהו, ('some'). The Academy has not decided on a standard spelling of this word.
  14. The related participle מוֹשֶׁה ('pulling out of water') is written with vav in modern Hebrew. Modern diminutive forms of Moshe, such as Moshiko (מושיקו) are written with vav.
  15. A common modern diminutive version of this name is regularly spelled שלומי (Shlomi).
  16. For example, in Avot 5:2 in the Kaufmann manuscript.
  17. Academy Decisions: Grammar, 2nd edition, §1.3 fn. 55.
  18. According to The Brown–Driver–Briggs Hebrew Lexicon.
  19. This is the Biblical spelling in Jeremiah 35:18 (actually מִצְו‍ֺתָיו). The standard modern Hebrew spelling, with niqqud, is with ḥolam male: מִצְווֹת.
  20. Also known as a presentation form in Unicode.
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