The two terms seem to mean the same thing, both referring to lashes. Even in Mishnayos, they seem to be used interchangeably. For instance, in Makkos 1:2:

מְעִידִין אָנוּ בְאִישׁ פְּלוֹנִי שֶׁחַיָּב לַחֲבֵרוֹ מָאתַיִם זוּז, וְנִמְצְאוּ זוֹמְמִין, לוֹקִין וּמְשַׁלְּמִין, שֶׁלֹּא הַשֵּׁם הַמְבִיאוֹ לִידֵי מַכּוֹת, מְבִיאוֹ לִידֵי תַשְׁלוּמִין, דִּבְרֵי רַבִּי

"We testify about so-and-so, that he owes his friend 2000 zuz," and they were found to be Zomemim – they are lashed (לוקין) and pay, for the name which brings him to lashes (מכות) does not bring him to payment; these are the words of Rebbe.

In general, the term מכות seems to be used more often in Mishnayos than the term מלקות; Sefaria gives 8 hits for מכות, but just one for מלקות; as verbs, לוקין gets 3 hits, while מכין gets none in the context of lashes.

In the Torah itself, the term מכות seems to be exclusively used (Devarim 25:2-3):

וְהָיָה אִם־בִּן הַכּוֹת הָרָשָׁע וְהִפִּילוֹ הַשֹּׁפֵט וְהִכָּהוּ לְפָנָיו כְּדֵי רִשְׁעָתוֹ בְּמִסְפָּר׃ אַרְבָּעִים יַכֶּנּוּ לֹא יֹסִיף פֶּן־יֹסִיף לְהַכֹּתוֹ עַל־אֵלֶּה מַכָּה רַבָּה וְנִקְלָה אָחִיךָ לְעֵינֶיךָ׃

And it will be if the guilty one is flogged [הכות], the judge will lay him down and hit him [והכהו] before him according to his wickedness in number. Forty shall he hit him [יכנו]; he shall not add, lest he continues to hit him [להכתו] on these a great blow [מכה] and your brother is denigrated1 before your eyes.

Is this just a linguistic difference, that the term מלקות began creeping in over the generations, or is there an actual difference between the two terms?

1That's ונקלה, not ונלקה; thus the term מלקות is not used in this passage.


3 Answers 3


Here is a summary of an article I wrote on this topic (available on ohr.edu and jewishpress.com):

  • According to Even-Shoshan, malkut and makkot essentially mean the same thing, just in different languages.
  • Rabbi Eliyahu HaBachur (1468-1549) writes in his works Meturgaman and Sefer HaTishbi that whenever the Torah uses an expression of makkah in the sense of “hitting” somebody as a means of punishing him or chastising him, then the Targum there translates that makkah- based word into a lakah-based word. However, when somebody “hits” another simply to hurt him or even to kill him, then the makkah-based word is translated into Aramaic words unrelated to lakah. HaBachur also notes that the verb lakah is not a perfect translation of makkeh because the latter refers to one who “hits” another, whereas lakah refers to one who “was hit” by another.
  • Rabbi Shmuel Taieb (d. 1956) in Shemen Tov writes that in many instances the Talmud uses the term malkut to refer to lashes ordained by the Torah, and the term makkot to refer to flogging ordained by rabbinic decree.
  • Tiferes Yisrael seems to say that the term Makkot is more specific and directly refers to “flogging" as opposed to just hitting.
  • While others say the exact opposite: malkut only refers to physical “hitting,” while makkot refers to any sort of painful ordeal through which one might have to suffer.

מכות, "blows" is a more general term than מלקות, which only refers to lashes. For instance, the 10th plague is called מכת בכורות, but clearly no lashes were given by Hashem to the Egyptians that night! Similarly, someone who strikes "המכה" their father or mother gets the death penalty (Shemot 21:15), and it doesn't matter if they used their fist or any type of weapon.

The source in the Torah for the corporal punishment of someone who violated a לאו refers to מכות, (Devarim 25:1-3). But from 25:3 and the oral tradition we learn that the judicial form of מכות is in fact מלקות (rather than, for instance, punching the criminal 40 times, which would be מכות but not מלקות).

  • Are these your own thoughts, or did you see this somewhere?
    – DonielF
    Apr 5, 2019 at 14:12
  • לוקה is used to refer to all kinds of non-lashes types of strikes. Consider Bava Kama 3:1. Or references to the world being לקה, such as Bava Metzia 59b. Apr 5, 2019 at 19:11

Acc. To Even Shoshan לקה is an Aramaic translation of הכה, it is only used since the Mishnah:

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  • No, according to Even Shoshan לקא is an Aramaic translation of the Hebrew לקה, which sometimes is synonymous with הכה.
    – DonielF
    Apr 4, 2019 at 21:11
  • #1 looks like a straight translation to me. That's why it is used interchangeably in the Mishna just like many other words.
    – Al Berko
    Apr 4, 2019 at 21:14
  • I'm only disagreeing with your point that לקה is Aramaic, not that it's synonymous with הכה. (I didn't give the -1.)
    – DonielF
    Apr 4, 2019 at 21:15
  • If it appears first in the Mishnah it cannot be originally Hebrew. It does not appear in the writings. it was Hebrewised (with ה) and like we do for English words nowadays (לבלף, or אני מבלף from bluffing for example)
    – Al Berko
    Apr 4, 2019 at 21:21
  • It could be Mishnaic Hebrew and not Lashon HaKodesh. I think our disagreement is whether the chicken or the egg came first – was לקה later turned into לקא, or vice versa?
    – DonielF
    Apr 4, 2019 at 21:23

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