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Phonemic representationq, g, ʔ, k
Position in alphabet19
Numerical value100
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician
GreekϘ (Ϟ), Φ
CyrillicҀ, Ф

Qoph (Phoenician Qōp Phoenician qoph.svg) is the nineteenth letter of the Semitic abjads. Aramaic Qop Qoph.svg is derived from the Phoenician letter, and derivations from Aramaic include Hebrew Qof ק‎, Syriac Qōp̄ ܩ and Arabic Qāf ق.

Its original sound value was a West Semitic emphatic stop, presumably [] . In Hebrew gematria, it has the numerical value of 100.


The origin of the glyph shape of qōp (Phoenician qoph.svg) is uncertain. It is usually suggested to have originally depicted either a sewing needle, specifically the eye of a needle (Hebrew קוף and Aramaic קופא both refer to the eye of a needle), or the back of a head and neck (qāf in Arabic meant "nape").[1] According to an older suggestion, it may also have been a picture of a monkey and its tail (the Hebrew קוף means "monkey").[2]

Besides Aramaic Qop, which gave rise to the letter in the Semitic abjads used in classical antiquity, Phoenician qōp is also the origin of the Latin letter Q and Greek Ϙ (qoppa) and Φ (phi).[3]

Hebrew Qof[edit]

The Oxford Hebrew-English Dictionary transliterates the letter Qoph (קוֹף‎) as q or k; and, when word-final, it may be transliterated as ck.[citation needed] The English spellings of Biblical names (as derived from Latin via Biblical Greek) containing this letter may represent it as c or k, e.g. Cain for Hebrew Qayin, or Kenan for Qena'an (Genesis 4:1, 5:9).

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


In modern Israeli Hebrew the letter is also called kuf. The letter represents /k/; i.e., no distinction is made between Qof and Kaph.

However, many historical groups have made that distinction, with Qof being pronounced [q] by Iraqi Jews and other Mizrahim, or even as [ɡ] by Yemenite Jews under the influence of Yemeni Arabic.

Qoph is consistently transliterated into classical Greek with the unaspirated〈κ〉/k/, while Kaph (both its allophones) is transliterated with the aspirated〈χ〉/kʰ/. Thus Quph was unaspirated /k/ where Kaph was /kʰ/, this distinction is no longer present. Further we know that Qoph is one of the emphatic consonants through comparison with other semitic languages, and most likely was ejective /kʼ/. In Arabic the emphatics are pharyngealised and this causes a preference for back vowels, this is not shown in Hebrew orthography. Though the gutturals show a preference for certain vowels, Hebrew emphatics do not in Tiberian Hebrew (the Hebrew dialect recorded with vowels) and therefore were most likely not pharyngealised, but ejective, pharyngealisation being a result of Arabisation.[citation needed]


Qof in gematria represents the number 100. Sarah is described in Genesis Rabba as בת ק' כבת כ' שנה לחטא‎, literally "At Qof years of age, she was like Kaph years of age in sin", meaning that when she was 100 years old, she was as sinless as when she was 20.[4]

Arabic qāf[edit]

The main pronunciations of written ⟨ق⟩ in Arabic dialects.

The Arabic letter ق is named قاف qāf. It is written in several ways depending in its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ق ـق ـقـ قـ

Traditionally in the scripts of the Maghreb it is written with a single dot, similarly to the letter ف is written in Mashreqi scripts:[5]

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
ڧ ـڧ ـڧـ ڧـ

It is usually transliterated into Latin script as q, though some scholarly works use .[6]


According to Sibawayh, author of the first book on Arabic grammar, the letter is pronounced voiced (maǧhūr),[7] although some scholars argue, that Sibawayh's term maǧhūr implies lack of aspiration rather than voice.[8] As noted above, Modern Standard Arabic has the voiceless uvular plosive /q/ as its standard pronunciation of the letter, but dialectical pronunciations vary as follows:

The three main pronunciations:

  • [q]: in most of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, Southern and Western Yemen and parts of Oman, Northern Iraq, parts of the Levant (especially the Alawite and Druze dialects). In fact, it is so characteristic of the Alawites and the Druze that Levantines invented a verb "yqaqi" /jqæqi/ that means "speaking with a /q/". However, most other dialects of Arabic will use this pronunciation in learned words that are borrowed from Standard Arabic into the respective dialect or when Arabs speak Modern Standard Arabic.
  • [ɡ]: in most of the Arabian Peninsula, Northern and Eastern Yemen and parts of Oman, Southern Iraq, some parts of the Levant (within Jordan), Upper Egypt (Ṣaʿīd), Sudan, Libya, Mauritania and to lesser extent in some parts of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco but it is also used partially across those countries in some words.[9]
  • [ʔ]: in most of the Levant and Egypt, as well as some North African towns such as Tlemcen and Fez.

Other pronunciations:

  • [ɢ]: In Sudanese and some forms of Yemeni, even in loanwords from Modern Standard Arabic or when speaking Modern Standard Arabic.
  • [k]: In rural Palestinian it is often pronounced as a voiceless velar plosive [k], even in loanwords from Modern Standard Arabic or when speaking Modern Standard Arabic.

Marginal Pronunciations:

Velar gāf[edit]

It is not well known when the pronunciation of Qāf ⟨ق⟩ as a velar [ɡ] occurred or the probability of it being connected to the pronunciation of Jīmج⟩ as an affricate [d͡ʒ], but in most of the Arabian peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and parts of Yemen and Oman) which is the homeland of the Arabic language, the ⟨ج⟩ represents a [d͡ʒ] and ⟨ق⟩ represents a [ɡ], except in western and southern Yemen and parts of Oman where ⟨ج⟩ represents a [ɡ] and ⟨ق⟩ represents a [q], which shows a strong correlation between the palatalization of ⟨ج⟩ to [d͡ʒ] and the pronunciation of the ⟨ق⟩ as a [ɡ] as shown in the table below:

Language / Dialects Pronunciation of the letters
ج ق
Proto-Semitic [g] []
Parts of Southern Arabia1 [g] [q]
Most of the Arabian Peninsula [d͡ʒ]2 [g]
Modern Standard Arabic [d͡ʒ] [q]


  1. Western and southern Yemen and parts of Oman.
  2. [ʒ] can be an allophone in some dialects.
The Maghribi text renders qāf and fāʼ differently than elsewhere would

Maghrebi variant[edit]

The Maghrebi style of writing qāf is different: having only a single point (dot) above; when the letter is isolated or word-final, it may sometimes become unpointed.[12]

The Maghrebi qāf
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Form of letter: ڧ
ـڧـ ڧـ

The earliest Arabic manuscripts show qāf in several variants: pointed (above or below) or unpointed.[13] Then the prevalent convention was having a point above for qāf and a point below for fāʼ; this practice is now only preserved in manuscripts from the Maghribi,[14] with the exception of Libya and Algeria, where the Mashriqi form (two dots above: ق) prevails.

Within Maghribi texts, there is no possibility of confusing it with the letter fāʼ, as it is instead written with a dot underneath (ڢ) in the Maghribi script.[15]


Character information
Preview ק ق ܩ
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 1511 U+05E7 1602 U+0642 1833 U+0729 2066 U+0812
UTF-8 215 167 D7 A7 217 130 D9 82 220 169 DC A9 224 160 146 E0 A0 92
Numeric character reference ק ק ق ق ܩ ܩ ࠒ ࠒ

Character information
Preview 𐎖 𐡒 𐤒
Encodings decimal hex decimal hex decimal hex
Unicode 66454 U+10396 67666 U+10852 67858 U+10912
UTF-8 240 144 142 150 F0 90 8E 96 240 144 161 146 F0 90 A1 92 240 144 164 146 F0 90 A4 92
UTF-16 55296 57238 D800 DF96 55298 56402 D802 DC52 55298 56594 D802 DD12
Numeric character reference 𐎖 𐎖 𐡒 𐡒 𐤒 𐤒


  1. ^ Travers Wood, Henry Craven Ord Lanchester, A Hebrew Grammar, 1913, p. 7. A. B. Davidson, Hebrew Primer and Grammar, 2000, p. 4. The meaning is doubtful. "Eye of a needle" has been suggested, and also "knot" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology vol. 45.
  2. ^ Isaac Taylor, History of the Alphabet: Semitic Alphabets, Part 1, 2003: "The old explanation, which has again been revived by Halévy, is that it denotes an 'ape,' the character Q being taken to represent an ape with its tail hanging down. It may also be referred to a Talmudic root which would signify an 'aperture' of some kind, as the 'eye of a needle,' ... Lenormant adopts the more usual explanation that the word means a 'knot'.
  3. ^ Qop may have been assigned the sound value /kʷʰ/ in early Greek; as this was allophonic with /pʰ/ in certain contexts and certain dialects, the letter qoppa continued as the letter phi. C. Brixhe, "History of the Alpbabet", in Christidēs, Arapopoulou, & Chritē, eds., 2007, A History of Ancient Greek.
  4. ^ Rabbi Ari Kahn. "A deeper look at the life of Sarah". aish.com. Retrieved May 9, 2020.
  5. ^ al-Banduri, Muhammad (2018-11-16). "الخطاط المغربي عبد العزيز مجيب بين التقييد الخطي والترنح الحروفي" [Moroccan calligrapher Abd al-Aziz Mujib: between calligraphic restriction and alphabetic staggering]. Al-Quds (in Arabic). Retrieved 2019-12-17.
  6. ^ e.g., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition
  7. ^ Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Language, pg. 131. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001. Paperback edition. ISBN 9780748614363
  8. ^ Al-Jallad, Ahmad (2020). A Manual of the Historical Grammar of Arabic (Draft). p. 47.
  9. ^ 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 [q] is more preserved but can also be sometimes pronounced [ɡ] or as a simple [k] under Berber and French influence.
  10. ^ Bruce Ingham (1 January 1994). Najdi Arabic: Central Arabian. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 90-272-3801-4.
  11. ^ Lewis jr. (2013), p. 5.
  12. ^ van den Boogert, N. (1989). "Some notes on Maghrebi script" (PDF). Manuscript of the Middle East. 4. p. 38 shows qāf with a superscript point in all four positions.
  13. ^ Gacek, Adam (2008). The Arabic Manuscript Tradition. Brill. p. 61. ISBN 90-04-16540-1.
  14. ^ Gacek, Adam (2009). Arabic Manuscripts: A Vademecum for Readers. Brill. p. 145. ISBN 90-04-17036-7.
  15. ^ Muhammad Ghoniem, M S M Saifullah, cAbd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires & cAbdus Samad, Are There Scribal Errors In The Qur'ân?, see qif on a traffic sign written ڧڢ which is written elsewhere as قف, Retrieved 2011-August-27

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