Is there a "ch" sound in Hebrew?

I’m not referring to the gutteral “ch” sound in “Chanukah,” but to the actual “ch” sound, as in “church.” Does it exist in Hebrew?


Yes. For example, when Hebrew speakers pronouce the number “19”, “chai-esrei” they say “chai” (“ch” as in “church”,) though with the tongue in a slightly different position from way American English speakers say “church.”

“chai-esrei” is usually transliterated as “tschai-esrei” so that the reader won’t inadvertently pronounce the gutteral “ch”.

There is another word in Hebrew slang, but very common: “choop-chik”, it refers to the orthographic sign put over the Hebrew letter “tsadee” to show that it refers to the ‘“ch” as in church sound.’ This is used when a non-Hebrew word like “Churchill” or “Chechnya” is transliterated into Hebrew.

No words other than “19” and “choop-chik” come to mind.

To add to that, the “ch” sound in English is, I believe, a combination of “t” and “sh” sounds. (And “sh” is just our representation of a phoneme that we don’t have a single letter for.)

Clarification: In traditional, ancient Hebrew (prayer Hebrew), no, there is no soft ch-sound. Neither is there a j-sound: Joseph, in ancient Hebrew, is actually Yosef.
In modern Hebrew, however, yes, there is both a soft ch-sound and a j-sound. The soft j-sound is made by an accent mark next to the hard g-sound to indicate softening. I don’t remember myself, but I assume the same is done with the ts-sound to make it ch-ish. These were basically added when Hebrew was modernized to become a living language used in a modern society, as opposed to just being used for prayer or study of ancient texts. The need to be able to transliterate English into Hebrew required the addition of new sounds, but not new alphabet letters.

This page on the Omniglot lists seven “Common orthography additions (mainly for foreign borrowings)” in the Hebrew abjad.

I don’t have any specific knowledge of Hebrew, but here isa map of its consonants from Wikipedia. Read the discussion beneath, also. In the map itself I don’t see the “ch” sound that we as English speakers are familiar with, but the “ts” sound is very similar and not part of English, and we could easily interpret it as “ch.”

Also, since /ch/ is a Yiddish sound, there are plenty of borrowed words that Hebrew speakers use, spelled with a tsadi and accent mark.

CKDex and Shoshana said pretty much what I wanted to say, which is that there is no native “ch” sound in Hebrew. It does occur frequently in words which have been borrowed from other languages.

It is pretty much an exact parallel to the guttaral “ch” in English: It exists in exactly zero native English words, but often occurs in words which have been borrowed from other languages which have it, such as German or Hebrew.

I won’t argue with Lynwood Slim’s example of “chai-esrei”, except to say that the “ch” sound there is not represented by a single Hebrew letter, but by two, the first of which has a “t” sound, and the second has a “sh” sound. In my admittedly old-fashioned view, the “t” and “sh” are properly pronounced as two separate syllables, with a slight pause (the “shewa” lack of sound) between them, and it is only a modern slurring which causes them to sound like the English “ch”. If anyone wants to say that this has become a legitimate [oh, what’s the word for a two-lettered consonant? I know that a two-lettered vowel is a dipthong, but I can’t remember the corresponding word for consonants] in modern Hebrew, I’ll grumble, but I won’t argue.

Consonant cluster?


Digraph. Like the “ph” in “digraph.” From the Greek meaning ‘two letters’.

Traditionally (particularly in Yiddish), ‘ch’ was represented by a tes and shin (‘t’ and ‘sh’). For example, “mentsh”. You still see that sometimes in modern Hebrew. However, modern Hebrew has also come up with a shortcut: place an apostrophe after a tzaddik (‘tz’ sound as in ‘platz’).

Well, I wouldn’t call a slang word for “orthographic sign” particularly widespread.

A slang word now become part of daily vocabulary in almost all conversational registers is “chick-chock,” for getting something done quickly and expeditiously, “1-2-3.”

ETA [nitpick]: Isn’t the number “19” universally pronounced “cha-esrei,” or is that the way I hear it when it is said fast?

[just saw I was talking to a revenant.]

No, 19 = תְֹּשַע-עֶשְֹרֵה (with a t-sh and an 'ayn), but it could plausibly approach what you wrote if said fast. “Cha” does not exist in classical Hebrew, though, so there is no chance of anyone misunderstanding what was said.

[this is a zombie (or maybe a ch’ombie :slight_smile: ) thread; but , hey , answers to grammar and language questions don’t change much in 12 years.]

The simple answer is :
Classical Hebrew has no “ch” sound (as in church). There are no proper ,authentic Hebrew words containing the “Ch”, and there is no letter in the classical Hebrew alphabet to express this sound.
But Modern Hebrew does have the ch sound: not in Hebrew words, but in slang words, and words that have been adopted from other languages.
And also, as mentioned above, in the the semi-slang pronunciation of the word for the number 19. (In proper Hebrew,the number 19 is “teesha-esray”.In common speech, this gets shortened to “T’sh-esray”, with the “t-sh” pronounced like the ch in church.
The modern Hebrew alphabet created a letter to write this sound–by adding an apostrophe to the letter Tzadi.

Also the ch sound is used in lots of slang/adopted words.
For example, the phrase “Chick-chock”, and the diminutive ending “chick”,which can be appended lots of words.

Username/OP topic note.

ETA: Previous sightings of zombies above are worth reading too.
ETA: Maybe not a revenant, but a dybbuk. Definitely not a golem.