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.


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, 2011 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, 2011 at 17:30
  • They also use the original "ay" - Chashmunay, not a'i".
    – alius
    Dec 20, 2011 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, 2011 at 11:36
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    Tefilloh Sefas Yisroel (Minhag Frankfurt) uses Chasmonai, which implies that the Rava"h did not invent that particular nusach, as they were makpid to follow older girsaot in Frankfurt. May 24, 2016 at 1:46

Josephus transliterates the name as Ἀσαμωναίος. The transliterated form ω corresponds to long o (see Brønno, "Some nominal types in the Septuagint" in Classica et Mediaevalia 3 and Studien über Hebräische Morphologie und Vokalismus auf Grundlage der Mercatischen Fragmente der zweiten Kolumne der Hexapla des Origines). For example, יוֹנָתָן is transliterated as Ἰωνάθην. It would appear, therefore, that Josephus used the form commonly used today. Though it would be worthwhile to read Adolf Schlatter's Die hebräischen Namen bei Josephus on reconstructing original names in Hebrew from Josephus' Greek, I do not have access to this work.

Nevertheless, old mss agree with u in the name. MS Kaufman A50 (Italy[?], c. 11th cent.), widely considered to be the best extant Mishnah ms, has חַשְׁמוּנַּיִי (e.g. Middot 1:5). Though it is hard to see, it appears that MS Parma 3173 (1073 CE) agrees with this vocalization. The eleventh century MS Bibliotheque Nationale 649 also has this form, but without the dagesh and with the ending אי-. The medial form חַשְׁמוּנַּאי appears in the Cairo Genizah document T-S AS 105.17 (1r). Against these vocalizations, Targum Yerushalmi to 1 Sam. 2:4 has the form חַשמַנַאי, with a patah.

Thus, many (but not all) early mss attest to the form with shuruq. Perhaps multiple traditions for the pronunciation exist.

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    What do we know about the accuracy of the nikud in the targumim? I know that the nikud in Onkolus is not so accurate in the standard chumashim, and that there are some editions that try to be more precise, but did anyone make a critical edition of the Targum Yonasan?
    – Mordechai
    Dec 13, 2020 at 20:02

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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