One of the letters of the hebrew alphabet is the letter 'צ'.

When I was taught the hebrew alphabet, this letter was introduced as 'צד"י'. I believe this to be the generally accepted name of the letter, and the way it is referred to in the Gemara (Shabbos 103b).

I have seen and heard reference to this letter as 'צדיק'. Is this an accurate variation, and where did it originate?

Edit: According to wikipedia, 'צדיק' is the Yiddish name of the letter. Is there any source for this? And do any other letters have a Yiddish alternative?

5 Answers 5


In Talmud Yerushalmi Megillah Ms. Leiden (פרק א, משנה ח) there is a discussion of the names of G-d, which includes the the earliest spelling of the letter צ to my knowledge: צד'י בי'ת מצבאות.

Other early sources include manuscripts of Bavi Shabbat 12:3 ("צד'י"), Bereshit Rabbat 1:11 ("צאד'י"), Sefer Yetsirah 52 ("צד'י") and some Masoretic manuscripts. Some later sources (e.g. Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer) have the form צ(א)'ד as in Arabic. This is also the name of the letter in the tradition of Yemeni Jews.

Manuscripts of Alphabet of Ben Sira (and some of the Talmud) are the earliest sources I can find with צדי'ק.

Some manuscripts of the Septuagint---the second-temple-era Greek translation of the Tanach---spell out the letters of the alphabet in Hebrew acrostics in Ps. 119 and in Eicha 1-4. There, we find צ spelled σαδη (sade) or τιαδη (tiade), both pointing to a form without the final kof. See Beiträge zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft from page 126-9.

Granted, all these manuscripts could have suffered from degrees of corruption. However, given the overwhelming sources, it is almost certain that the final kof is secondary.

In Yiddish, צדי"ק appears to be the norm. For instance, Beinfeld and Bochner's Comprehensive "Yiddish-English Dictionary" and Weinreich's dictionary transliterate the letter as "tsadek." Harkavy's Yiddish-Hebrew-English has צדי'ק as the main entry for the letter.

  • It's also worth noting Iraqi's also pronounce it as Sad צ(א)'ד like Yemenites.
    – Aaron
    Nov 25, 2020 at 0:01

From The Wisdom of the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael Munk, page 189:

The proper name of the eighteenth letter of the Aleph-Beis is צדי, tzaddi, but is commonly called צדיק, tzaddik. According to Magen David, the tzaddik results from a run-on pronunciation of the two letters tzaddi kuf, which, when spoken rapidly, sounds like tzaddik-kuf. An additional source of this name for the letter is the Talmud (Shabbos 104a) which speaks of the allusions of the two forms of the letter with the words: צדי כפופה וצדי פשוטה צדיק כפוף צדיק פשוט, the bent tzaddi [and] the straight tzaddi [symbolize] the bent tzaddik [righteous person] and the erect tzaddik. The bent from, צ, is used at the beginning and in the middle of a word, while the straight ץ is used at its end. As we shall see below, the letter symbolizes the righteousness of God and devout human beings - another reason for the tzaddik pronunciation.

  • I'm adding this as a comment because it's not directly related to the answer, but I felt the need to share. The word "God" in the final sentence has a typo in the book, it's spelled "Cod", as in "the righteousness of Cod".
    – Jake
    Nov 24, 2020 at 3:43
  • 1
    Thank you! And the original form of the letter looked like a trap. (From the root "tzad.")
    – Shalom
    Nov 24, 2020 at 8:31

Ibn Ezra refers to it as "tzadik", e.g. in his commentary to Exodus 2:3.

ונדגש צדי"ק הצפינו כדגשות קו"ף אם יקרך עון לדבר בם צחות ובעבור היות הצדי"ק בשו"א נע נרפה הפ"א שהיה ראוי להדגש והוא שם הפועל מהבנין הכבד הנוסף

  • 1
    Did Ibn Ezra really write that or is that some editor expanding out the letter names
    – Double AA
    Nov 24, 2020 at 15:10

It's worth looking at the "alef binah" agadata gemara over there in Shabbos 104a:

צד"י כפופה וצד"י פשוטה ־ צדיק כפוף צדיק פשוט. היינו נאמן כפוף נאמן פשוטִ
Rashi: נאמן כפוף ־ אדם כשר צריך להיות כפוף ועניו, וסופו להיות פשוט וזקוף לעולם הבא
"Bent tzadi, straight tzadi [= final tzadi], a tzaddik bent over, a tzaddik standing straight: Trustworthy bent over, trustworthy when straight."
Rashi: "A kosher person has to be bent over and humble - and in the end will be straightened up in the World to Come."


The Gemara (Shabbos 103b) refers to the letter as צד"י.

וכתבתם שתהא כתיבה תמה שלא יכתוב אלפין עיינין עיינין אלפין ביתין כפין כפין ביתין גמין צדין צדין גמין וכו'

The earliest source I have found for the variant spelling is Rashi (Menachos 29b), who refers to the letter as צדי"ק.

והוא הדין לצדיק כפופה ולנון פשוטה

  • 2
    Did rashi really write that or is that some editor expanding out the letter names
    – Double AA
    Nov 22, 2020 at 13:24
  • 2
    That gemara doesn't really refer to it as צדי. It just uses the plural form צדין. You wouldn't similarly conclude the third letter of the alphabet is called גם in hebrew.
    – Double AA
    Nov 22, 2020 at 15:11

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