I've often found that the Tetragrammaton (Shem Havayah) is often vowelized in siddurim and sefarim. Since we b'davkah don't say the Shem Havayah how it is spelled, why are the vowels included?

Also, are the vowels usually included an accurate reflection of how it was pronounced?

I've noticed that in Artscroll siddurim, they do spell out the yud, then heh, then vav, then heh, albeit without the nikkudos. This seems to make sense to me, as then someone reading it would have to go out of their way to pronounce it.

I do understand the difference in vowelization on whether it's Hashem/Elokim verses just Hashem/Ado-noi, but why do we print them in places other than a chumash or a tanach?

  • related: judaism.stackexchange.com/q/9751/759
    – Double AA
    Mar 26, 2012 at 23:31
  • 2
    Not sure if this is the reason why, but (B"H) this coming Yom Kippur we'll need to know how to say it. Mar 26, 2012 at 23:40
  • I have no doubt that this is a question which editors and publishes will answer subjectively as even the decision to print the yod-kay-vav-kay is also variable (some siddurm just use the double yod). It might be as a reminder that one is specifically NOT supposed to pronounce it in any way other than the transposed nekudot of "adonai" (though with the proper shva replacing the initial kamatz as the yod replaces the aleph) but I don't think it is a function of anything other than editorial choice.
    – rosends
    Mar 26, 2012 at 23:43
  • @Dan still, think of it like this: according to those who see use in vowelizing it, what purpose does it serve? Mar 27, 2012 at 0:00
  • As guessed, as a reminder of what we should NOT be saying. Instead of focusing on the letters and imagining or trying to intuit the shem, we are reminded to say the replacement and move on. Purely psychological, not halachik, but it satisfies a need for some.
    – rosends
    Mar 27, 2012 at 0:06

2 Answers 2


There some times where (according to kabala or something) one should have a certain vowelization of the name in mind (while still saying "Adonay" of course). You'll sometimes see the name with four tzeres or with four sh'vas or the like then. I know nothing more about this than I've just written.

Otherwise, the vowelization seems to be to point to its pronunciation as "Adonay" or as "Elohim": it has the appropriate vowels for whichever pronunciation should be used. (Note that a chataf patach and a chataf segol are variations on the sh'va, so appear as a sh'va under a yod.)

  • Those other vocalizations are associated with tzirufim, or permutations of the letters and vowels based on their appearance in other words - often surrounding the Tetragrammaton in a pasuk or some other context - which contribute to the kavanos one has when reciting them.
    – WAF
    Mar 27, 2012 at 2:22

One can also look into the connection of vowels with sefirot (chased, gevurah, tifferet, etc), different aspect/attributes of Hashem

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