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A friend today told me that the word חשמונאי traditionally pronounced "Chashmonai" should really be pronounced "Chashmunai" with the vav being read as a shuruk vowel instead of a cholom.

Is this true? How would one know? And if so, when and why did it change?

NOTE: Since this is an issue where many people feel very connected to their received pronunciation, a clear online source that anyone can read is highly recommended.

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3 Answers 3

"Chashmunai" is the spelling in the old siddurim i.e. the siddurim in manuscript (see the research in 'Azor Eliyahu'). It was changed to Chashmonai about 200 years ago. Wether the name Chashmun is the name of the grandfather or of the whole family is disputed.

Re: "Chashmonay" vs. "Chashmona'i"- Modern ivrit uses "...a'i" everywhere, such as Chashmona'i, barka'i... rather than the old barkay, based on the assumption that there are two nekudot- patach and chirik. However the original nikud in manuscripts has only 'patach' no "chirik".

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alius, Welcome to Judaism.SE, and thanks very much for this information! I look forward to seeing you around. Would it be possible to edit in some more information about your references, including Azor Eliyahu, to help people who want to look up the same information? – Isaac Moses Dec 20 '11 at 14:56
I don't have it next to me now, "Azor Eliyahu" is a siddur which has traced the original nusach ashkenaz (and the Gr"o nusach). It states who made the change to chashmonai, I can't remember who it was. – alius Dec 20 '11 at 17:30
They also use the original "ay" - Chashmunay, not a'i". – alius Dec 20 '11 at 17:37
I checked and found that the change to Chashmonai with a cholom was made by Rav Wolf Heidenheim. @H'Gabriel it could be that the haskamot were given based on the halachot and overall nusach, most siddurim do not research manuscripts. – alius Dec 21 '11 at 11:36
Some manuscripts have shuruk some kubutz. – alius Dec 21 '11 at 12:36

It is definitely not true - the family name is taken from the grandfather, who's name was חשמון "Chashmon", with a cholom.
(It could be your friend is referring to the non-Hebrew, yeshivish/Yiddish type of mangled pronounciation).

However, there is an actual common mis-pronounciation in that, it is usually pronounced "Chashmonay" when in fact it should be "Chashmona'i".

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Do you have a source for your claims? – Double AA Dec 20 '11 at 14:27
Huh. I had thought that it was well established that the ancestor's name was Chashmon, however when I went looking for a source I discovered that I was mistaken - as @alius said, this is disputed. I can't speak to his research, but I am/was familiar with different set of conclusions... Consider this retracted, while I do some more research... – AviD Dec 20 '11 at 19:49

No, the correct pronunciation is Chashmonai (see Sidur Abodat Hashem in Al Hanisim. This siddur has Haskamot with Rav Ovadia Shelita and Rav Meir Mazuz Shelita).

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