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Tsade               Qoph               Resh
Phoenician Hebrew Aramaic Syriac Arabic
Qoph ק Qoph ܩ
Greek Latin Cyrillic
Phonemic representation: kˁ, q
Position in alphabet: 19
Numerical (Gematria/Abjad) value: 100
This article contains special characters. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols.

Qoph or Qop (In modern Hebrew: Kuf, Arabic: Qāf) is the nineteenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Syriac, Hebrew ק and Arabic alphabet qāf ق (in abjadi order). Its sound value is an emphatic (pharyngealized) velar stop, IPA: [kˁ], or uvular stop /q/. The OHED (Oxford Hebrew English Dictionary) gives the letter Qoph a transliteration value of Q or a K and a final transliteration value as a ck. In Hebrew Gematria, it has the numerical value of 100.

It became over time the letter Q in the Latin alphabet, and the letter Qoppa in certain early varieties of the Greek alphabet.


Origins of Qoph

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

The origin of Qoph is usually thought to have come from a pictogram of a monkey, with the body and tail shown (In Hebrew, Qoph, spelled in Hebrew letters as קוף, means "monkey", and K'of in Old Egyptian meant a type of monkey).

Others have proposed that it originated from a pictogram of someone's head and neck (Qaf in Arabic meant the nape); qaw is also reconstructed as a proto-Afro-Asiatic word for neck (ḫḫ in Egyptian), and in some dialects of Arabic, qoph is pronounced as a [hamza] ء, a glottal stop in the back of the throat - similar to the part of the throat used to make the sound of the qoph. In hieroglyphs, two determinatives for neck, F10 and F11 [1] (F12 for "nape"), are both vertical lines topped with heads with horns. F10 is a line underneath an ox head (and a cross toward the bottom of the line), which could conceivably have evolved into the Arabic aleph with a hamza on top (the pronounced (and sometimes written) Egyptian Arabic way of saying qaf). The Arabic hamza far more closely resembles the earlier iterations of Aleph Aleph than does the aleph character itself, which is just a vertical line on top of which the hamza can sit [2].

Hebrew Kuf

Orthographic variants
Various Print Fonts Cursive
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
ק ק ק Hebrew letter Kuf handwriting.svg Hebrew letter Kuf Rashi.png

Hebrew Pronunciation

In modern Israeli Hebrew, Kuf usually represents /k/; i.e., no distinction is made between Kuf and Kaph. However, many historical groups have made that distinction, with Kuf being pronounced as a voiceless uvular plosive by Iraqi Jews and other Mizrahim (IPA: [q]) or even as a voiced velar plosive by Yemenite Jews (IPA: [ɡ]) (under the influence of Yemeni Arabic).

Significance of Kuf

Kuf in gematria represents the number 100. Sarah is described in Genesis Rabba as "בת ק' כבת כ' שנה לחטא", literally At Kuf years of age, she was like Kaph years of age in sin (i.e. when she was 100 years old, she was as sinless as when she was 20).

Kuf is used in an Israeli phrase: after a child will say something false, one might say "B'Shin Qoph, Resh" (With Shin, Qoph, Resh). These letters spell Sheqer, which is the Hebrew word for a lie. It would be akin to an English speaker saying "That's an L-I-E."

Arabic qāf

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

Position in word: Isolated Initial Medial Final
Form of letter: ق قـ ـقـ ـق
The text in the folio appears below in modern script. Note how the Qaf's and Fa's are rendered:

منكم فقد ضل سواء السبيل فيما نقضهم ميثـٰـقهم لعنـٰـهم وجعلنا قلوبهم قـٰـسية يحرفون الكلم عن مواضعه ونسوا حظاً مما ذكروا به ولا تزال تطلع

The letter qāf is matched only by ǧīm among Arabic consonants in the number of pronunciations applied to it dialectically. As noted above, Modern Standard Arabic has the voiceless uvular plosive Template:Voiceless uvular plosive as its standard pronunciation of the letter, but dialectical pronunciations vary as follows:

This variance has led to the confusion over the spelling of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi's name in Latin letters. In Western Arabic dialects the sound IPA: [q] is more preserved but can also be sometimes pronounced /ɡ/ or a simple /k/ under Berber and French influence.

In general, these pronunciations do not carry over into official speech in MSA. However, some Lebanese broadcasters have begun to use the pronunciation /ʔ/ while speaking on television and radio, much to the disapproval of purists and (oddly) Egyptians.

The Maghribi style of writing qaf is different. Once the prevalent style, it is now only used in Maghribi countries for writing Qur'an with the exception of Libya which adopted the Mashriqi form. There is no possibility of confusing it with the letter fa' as fa' is written with a dot underneath in the Maghribi script[1].

Maghribi qaf


  1. ^ Muhammad Ghoniem, M S M Saifullah, cAbd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires & cAbdus Samad, Are There Scribal Errors In The Qur'ân?, Retrieved 2008-March-20


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