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Previously I heard יקר מחוכמה מכבוד סכלות מעט but in the book קֹהֶלֶת I read

יָקָר מֵחָכְמָה מִכָּבוֹד, סִכְלוּת מְעָט

What is the difference between חוכמה and חָכְמָה ?

Are they just two different spellings of the same word or there is a difference in meaning?

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Short answer: It's two spellings of the same word.

Longer answer: Because vowels are diacritical marks on letters in Hebrew (not themselves letters), they're often omitted. When that happens, sometimes they're replaced with extra letters to make the words easier to read. Here, because the vowel between the ח sound and the כ sound is pronounced as if it were the letter ו, someone decided to rewrite חָכְמָה as חוכמה.

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The accepted answer is correct, but it doesn't tell the full story. חוכמה is a kind of written "slang" to leave little room for ambiguity when vowels aren't used. (You'll almost never see חוכמה in Tanakh or even modern Hebrew dictionaries.)

In other contexts, however, the vowel differences are significant. For example, שמרה /shomra/ means "(you) watch!" (masculine singular imperative) and שומרה /shomera/ means "(she) watches..." (feminine singular participle). Note that the vav is used as "slang" here too sometimes. So in a modern Hebrew newspaper, you might see both שומרה for both שמרה and שומרה even though they're two different words. And to make matters even more confusing... in Tanakh, you might see שמרה (albeit with holam) used in lieu of שומרה.

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    The only modern imperative is שמור and the participle/present is שומרת, so I doubt שומרה would appear with either of those meaning in a newspaper – b a Apr 16 at 8:04
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    pandichef, welcome to Mi Yodeya, and thanks very much for writing up this clarification! I hope you'll look around and find other material of interest, possibly in our grammar-dikduk section. See you around! – Isaac Moses Apr 16 at 15:49
  • @b a, all good points. Indeed, both שומרה and שמרה are relatively obscure Tanakh forms. You would not see either in the newspaper unless, perhaps, it was a quote from Tanakh. – pandichef Apr 17 at 1:01
  • Perhaps a better set of examples in modern Hebrew would be שמרי (feminine singular imperative) and שומרי (i.e., my guardian/protector). – pandichef Apr 17 at 1:08

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