The Full Wiki

Kaph: Wikis

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Yodh               Kaph               Lamedh
Phoenician Hebrew Aramaic Syriac Arabic
Kaph כ,ך Kaph ܟܟ ﻛ,ﻙ
Greek Latin Cyrillic
Phonemic representation: k, x
Position in alphabet: 11
Numerical (Gematria/Abjad) value: 20

Kaph (also spelled Kap or Kaf) is the eleventh letter of many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew Kaf כ, Arabic alphabet Kāf , Persian alphabet ک. Its value is IPA: [k] (the voiceless velar plosive).

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Kappa (Κ), Latin K, and the equivalent in the Cyrillic alphabet (К).


Origin of Kaph

Phoenician alphabet
(ca. 1050–200 BCE)
𐤀    𐤁    𐤂    𐤃    𐤄    𐤅
𐤆    𐤇    𐤈    𐤉    𐤊    𐤋
𐤌    𐤍    𐤎    𐤏    𐤐
𐤑    𐤒    𐤓    𐤔    𐤕
Semitic abjads · Genealogy
Hebrew alphabet
(400 BCE–present)
א    ב    ג    ד    ה    ו
ז    ח    ט    י    כך
ל    מם    נן    ס    ע    פף
צץ    ק    ר    ש    ת
History · Transliteration
Niqqud · Dagesh · Gematria
Cantillation · Numeration
Syriac alphabet
(200 BCE–present)
ܐ    ܒ    ܓ    ܕ    ܗ    ܘ
ܙ    ܚ    ܛ    ܝ    ܟܟ    ܠ
ܡܡ    ܢܢ    ܣ    ܥ    ܦ
ܨ    ܩ    ܪ    ܫ    ܬ
Arabic alphabet
(400 CE–present)
ا    ب    ت    ث    ج    ح
خ    د    ذ    ر    ز    س
ش    ص    ض    ط    ظ    ع
غ    ف    ق    ك    ل
م    ن    ه    و    ي
History · Transliteration
Diacritics · Hamza ء
Numerals · Numeration

Kaph is thought to have been derived from a pictogram of a hand (in both modern Arabic and modern Hebrew, kaph means palm).

Hebrew Kaf

Orthographic variants
Various Print Fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
כ כ כ Hebrew letter Kaf handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kaf-nonfinal Rashi.png

Hebrew Pronunciation

The letter Kaf is one of the six letters which can receive a Dagesh Kal. The six are Bet, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Pe, and Tav (see Hebrew Alphabet for more about these letters).

There are two orthographic variants of this letter which alter the pronunciation:

Name Symbol IPA Transliteration Example
Kaf כּ /k/ k kangaroo
Chaf כ /x/ or /χ/ ch or kh loch

Kaph with the dagesh

When the Kaph has a "dot" in its center, known as a dagesh, then it represents a voiceless velar plosive ([k]). There are various rules in Hebrew grammar that stipulate when and why a dagesh is used.

Kaph without the dagesh (Chaph)

When this letter appears as כ without the dagesh ("dot") in its center then it represents a voiceless velar fricative (IPA: [x]); like the ch in German "Bach".

In modern Israeli Hebrew the sound value of Chaph is the same as that of Heth, but many communities have differentiated between them.

Final form of Kaf

Orthographic variants
Various Print Fonts Cursive
Standard Sans-serif Serif
ך ך ך Hebrew letter Kaf-final handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kaf-final Rashi.png

If the letter is at the end of a word the symbol is drawn differently. However, it does not change the pronunciation or transliteration in any way. The name for the letter is, Final Kaf (Hebrew: Kaf Sofit‎). There are five Hebrew letters that take final forms, Tsadi, Mem, Nun, and Pei. Like Kaf can be written in English with "ph" instead of "f", so can the word sofit.

Name Alternate Name Symbol
Final Kaf Kaf Sofit ךּ
Final Chaf Chaf Sofit ך

No longer commonly used in modern Hebrew, biblical Hebrew had a Kaph Sophit (Final Kaph):

Both the final forms of Chaph and Kaph take vowels. It is the only Hebrew final letter in which a vowel is necessary, and it is also the only vowel-taking final in which the consonant sound is pronounced first. The two vowels a final Chaph or Kaph takes are sh'va and chataf kamats. In most Hebrew fonts they are written directly inside the curve rather than in line with the vowels that precede them.

Significance of Kaph in Hebrew

In gematria, Kaph represents the number 20. Its final form represents 500 but this is rarely used, Tav and Qoph (400+100) being used instead.

As a prefix, Kaph is a preposition:

  • It can mean "like" or "as". This is an abbreviation of כּמו, k'mo (like/as)
  • In colloquial Hebrew, Kaph and Shin together have the meaning of "when". This is a contraction of כּאשר, ka'asher (when).

Arabic kāf

The letter is named kāf, and is written is several ways depending in its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Initial Medial Final
Form of letter: ك كـ ـكـ ـك

Kaf is almost universally pronounced as the voiceless velar plosive /k/, but in Iraqi and Kuwaiti Arabic it is sometimes pronounced as a voiceless postalveolar affricate /tʃ/ (possibly under Persian influence).

Kaf is used as a prefix meaning "like", "as", or "as though", as in كطائر, kaṭā'ir, "like a bird"/"as though a bird" (as in Hebrew, below). Unlike the Hebrew, the word is not a contraction; the prefix كَـ ka is one of the Arabic words for "like" or "as" (the other, مثل mithl, is unrelated). The /ka/ prefix has been sometimes added to other words to create fixed constructions; for instance, it is prefixed to ﺫلك ḏālik "this, that" to form the fixed word ﻛﺫلك kaḏālik "like so, likewise."

Kāf is used as a possessive suffix for second-person singular nouns (feminine taking kaf-kasra كِ, /ki/ and masculine kaf-fatḥa كَ /ka/); for instance, كتاب kitāb ("book") becomes كتابكَ kitābuka ("your book", where the person spoken to is masculine) كتابكِ kitābuki ("your book", where the person spoken to is feminine). At the ends of sentences and often in conversation the final vowel is suppressed, and thus كتابك kitābuk ("your book"). In several varieties of vernacular Arabic, however, the kāf with no harakat is the standard second-person possessive, with the Standard Arabic harakah shifted to the letter before the kāf: thus masculine "your book" in these varieties is كتابَك kitābak and feminine "your book" كتابِك kitābik.

Persian Kaph

In Persian alphabet "Kaph" has a slightly different final form from the Arabic (ک as opposed to ك) and thus takes a different codepoint in Unicode.

Position in word: Isolated Initial Medial Final
Form of letter: ک کـ ـکـ ـک

See also

Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address