The promissory note a husband gives his wife when they wed is called a כתובה.

In my experience, people usually pronounce/vowelize this word "כְּתֻבָּה / k'suba". Such a form (mishkal) exists in Hebrew: for example, "גְּדֻלָּה / g'dula". And don't let the presence of a ו (vav) in the usual spelling ("כתובה") throw you: such additions are common. (Consider, again, "גדולה / g'dula".)

But I've long suspected that the correct pronunciation/vowelization of "כתובה" is "כְּתוּבָה / k'suva". This is with very little basis — specifically, the form of "גְּדֻלָּה" seems to me rather rare, so positing it doesn't show up here seems somewhat sensible, and the meaning of "כְּתוּבָה" is "written", which also makes some sense. I wonder, though, whether it's true.

Thus, is there any evidence (besides "everyone says it thus") for any pronunciation/vowelization of "כתובה"?

1 Answer 1


The form 'כְּתוּבָה' certainly exists, as you state; it is the passive participle of the root כתב, and means "written", as in: "נבואתו כתובה על הקיר" = "his prophecy is written on the wall".

However, this is not the same as the noun which designates a "marriage contract". Although there are exceptions, for the most part nouns with specific meanings are not derived via the appropriation of participles, but rather they are derived by setting a root to one of the nominal mishqalim. In this case, the relevant mishqal used is the קְטֻלָּה mishqal; hence כְּתֻבָּה.

The original poster suggests that this mishqal is rather rare; however, that is not the case. Many nouns in Biblical, Mishnaic, and Modern Hebrew are formed from this mishqal. Here is a sampling:

אֲגֻדָּה, אֲחֻזָּה, אֲלֻמָּה, אֲסֻפָּה, אֲפֻדָּה, אֲצֻלָּה, אֲרֻבָּה, גְּאֻלָּה, גְּדֻלָּה, הֲמֻלָּה, חֲלֻקָּה, חֲנֻכָּה, חֲנֻפָּה, חֲתֻנָּה, יְרֻשָּׁה, כְּבֻדָּה, כְּהֻנָּה, כְּתֻבָּה, נְקֻדָּה, סְגֻלָּה, עֲבֻדָּה, עֲרֻבָּה, פְּלֻגָּה, פְּעֻלָּה, פְּקֻדָּה, קְדֻשָּׁה, קְוֻצָּה, קְצֻבָּה, קְצֻנָּה, שְׁדֻלָּה

Finally, in order to demonstrate that our earliest sources do indeed reflect a pronunciation of the marriage contract as 'כְּתֻבָּה', it is sufficient to look at Ms. Kaufmann 50, the authoritative vocalized manuscript of the mishnah, to see to that the word is consistently written with a dagesh in the bet (the word appears there in the left column, third line).

So, to summarize: just as it does with so many other roots, so too the Hebrew language conveniently distinguishes within the root כתב between the past participle and the specific noun by the use of two separate forms, כְּתוּבָה and כְּתֻבָּה: the first is the past participle, while the second is the noun meaning "marriage contract".

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    Curious: why do you use ק.ט.ל. to denote the mishqal's generic form?
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 4:11
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    @DoubleAA: I'm not sure why, but that is the default grammatical example. See this from Aiding Talmud Study by Aryeh Carmell: books.google.co.cr/… (page 56 of the 5th edition) -
    – Menachem
    Commented Aug 29, 2013 at 4:31
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    @DoubleAA Unlike the more common פע״ל, the letters in קט״ל can all take dagesh, and there are no gutterals, thus making it easier to display the common patterns. I was taught with קט״ל. Why קט״ל, though, and not, say, כת״ב, is a mystery to me.
    – magicker72
    Commented Apr 18, 2016 at 15:01
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    @magicker72 They also all don't have confusing Degeishim Kalim. You also don't want Eitanm which are commonly used in conjugation as prefixes. Removing bgdkft (and shin/sin), matres lectionis, ha'ach-rei'a, eitanm, that'd leave us with: זטלסצק.
    – Double AA
    Commented Aug 25, 2016 at 17:29

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