It’s that time of the year when all the Jewish folks light
candles around their houses to observe festival of lights called, Hanukkah… no,
wait Chanukah… Hold on a minute!
Is it Hanukkah or Chanukah?
Well, it’s not just us. Many English speakers often get
confused over the spelling of this festival. Perhaps it is because the name of
the holiday is a Hebrew word and its English translation is quite ambiguous.
There are around 24 spellings for Hanukkah according to the Oxford English
Dictionary. Starting from the evening of December 10th, it’s an eight-day Jewish celebration, in which celebrants light candles on a menorah to celebrate the successful rebellion of Jewish people against the Greeks in the Maccabean War in 162 BCE.
Hanukkah holds a great religious significance among all the holidays
Jewish holiday Hanukkah has been spelled differently even in
pop culture. For example, Woody Guthrie’s festive songs writes “Hanukah Tree”
and “Hanuka Gelt,” while Adam Sandler pronounce his series of Jewish celebrity
tunes “Chanukah Song.”
It’s high time we should clear this annoying spelling
confusion once and for all!
According to Google preferences, the search engine giant
always shows you the results with “Hanukkah,” even if you type in the
aforementioned three spellings. “Hanukkah” has been the most accepted and
widely used spelling for the past 15 years, with “Chanukah” being on second
place in the search engine.
Interestingly, we don’t see a red line underneath two of the
spellings as we type this in our word document… Looks like Word has already
given up on the confusion!
However, Jews usually prefer to spell the holiday with an H,
with one N, double K in the middle, and an H in the end.
Anyways, if you really want to go deep down and explore the
actual linguistics behind this word, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s
explore why the “Hanukkah” version is so popular:
Here’s everything you need to know about Hanukkah and Christmas!
should it be spelled with an H?
The word “Hanukkah” starts with the Hebrew letter “Chet” in
Hebrew. There’s no definite translation for this letter, though. Hanukkah has commonly
found to be written with an H in many Jewish books, and with an H and a dot
underneath it in some of the prayer books.
Instead of C-H, many Jewish people prefer to write Hanukkah
with an H, because the C-H usually denotes a different Hebrew letter, a “Chaf,”
while Chet illicit the similar sound to C-H in English. So, if you’re someone
who doesn’t care about the difference between Chef and Chaf, you should
probably stick with the English-letter version of the word, i.e. Hanukkah.
with the single n, then?
In Hebrew, the N sound in Hanukkah usually originates from a
single letter “Nun.” So, it’s widely accepted that the transliterated word
should also include one N to accurately constitute the said sound.
there be one K or two?
In Hebrew, the K sound in “Hanukkah” comes from the letter
“Kaf.” “Kaf” has a dot in the center of the letter when written in Hebrew; the
dot is called dagesh.
Hebrew linguistics prefer to use double K in Hanukkah
without any apparent reason. Though, if you write the word with one K, it’ll
still be correct, because one K doesn’t make any difference when it comes to
does it end with an H?
In Hebrew, the holiday ends with a Hebrew letter “Hei.” It
generates the same sound as H in English. H or not, it doesn’t change the
overall pronunciation of the word just like the name Sara/Sarah.
If Hebrew includes the silent Hei in the said word, it
completely justifies to add a silent H in English too.
Regardless of the spelling, it has the same meaning i.e.
“dedication.” Jewish festival Hanukkah is celebrated by lighting candles on a
nine-branched menorah over the period of eight nights. Other Hanukkah
celebrations include eating oil-based items such as potato pancakes called
latkes and jelly donuts called sufganiyot. Celebrants also indulge in other
traditional activities like spinning a top called dreidel to win chocolate
coins called gelt and also exchange gifts.
Holiday’s Happy Hanukkah to all those who’re celebrating!
Also here’s some viral memes and videos of Hanukkah vs Christmas!