I am a Ba'al Kri'ah. I am quite confused regarding the rules of "kamatz katan". Another Ba'al Kri'ah explained that a kamatz katan occurs when a kamatz is used in a word (usually a verb) when the root of the verb usually has a cholam. Examples are "shomru" (originally "shomer") "roshei" (originally "rosh") and "chodsheichem" (from "chodesh").

I can understand how to follow this rule. However, I understand that the kamatz katan applies to people's names as well as in "Ochran" and "Kozbi". There may be other rules as well. Overall, I'm confused. Is there any general rule or clear document that explains how kamatz katan works?

  • try Hebrew grammar by J Wiengreen Isbn 0 19815422 4 Element of Hebrew by William Rainey Harper Isbn 0-226-31681-5
    – preferred
    May 23, 2014 at 17:54
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    ראשי is a Kamatz Gadol as is שמרו.
    – Double AA
    May 23, 2014 at 20:35
  • @preferred That is a whole book and you haven't even given a chapter reference let alone a page reference. Are you sure that those two books mention it? If not you may as well just give a link to a bunch of biblical hebrew books somebody could buy and check, but that is really unhelpful to an answer.
    – barlop
    Jul 20, 2017 at 11:14
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    The Tikkun Simanim notes where there is a kamatz katon, as well as many other grammatical features. That's what I use when I'm looking over leining, myself. Aug 9, 2017 at 14:30
  • @NoachMiFrankfurt I just saw an image of a page in judaism.stackexchange.com/a/61701/5275. Scimonster convinced me. I'll see if I can find this in my local bookstore.
    – DanF
    Aug 9, 2017 at 14:40

4 Answers 4


If you know a letter has a kamatz beneath it, then you know it's a kamatz katan if (and only if) it's in an unstressed syllable that ends with a consonant. (By "stress" I include the stress of a meseg.) Thus, chochma (because of the sh'va nach closing the syllable). There are some exceptions according to the m'sora, and the word batim ("houses"; and its construct forms) is always an exception (if indeed its first syllable ends in a consonant; I'm not sure).

  • Can you provide a source for your answer about closed unstressed? And when you say stress, do you mean only primary stress or do you mean to count meteg as stress too?
    – barlop
    Jul 20, 2017 at 11:12
  • Can you provide a source for your answer about closed unstressed? And when you say stress, do you mean only primary stress or do you mean to count secondary stress, i.e. meteg, too?
    – barlop
    Jul 20, 2017 at 11:19
  • @barlop, I've edited in clarification, and I've no source at the moment, sorry.
    – msh210
    Jul 20, 2017 at 11:25
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    For Batim, the first syllable doesn't end in a consonant. So it's no exception. The Feldheim Tanach Simanim which marks dagesh chazak as bold, and dagesh kal as regular, marks it as a dagesh kal in the tav. So the kamatz under Bet is in an open syllable. I don't think there is any exception with the kamatz katan rule.
    – barlop
    Aug 9, 2017 at 6:30

@Msh210's answer is completely correct! If you would still like a book, I would refer you to an entire book on the subject: The ohs and ahs of Torah reading: a guide to the kamatz katan in the Torah. There should also be an explanation in any good Hebrew or Biblical grammar book.

  • Go figure that someone wrote a book on exactly this subject. I'll explore it. Thanks @Noam
    – DanF
    May 23, 2014 at 20:16
  • That book might be more for modern hebrew than biblical or pre israeli hebrew, so I don't know how much detail it'd go into on the actual rule sephardi grammarians us I understand it has some footnotes related to pre modern israeli hebrew but whether that describes the rule in detail I don't know. Also it's out of print.
    – barlop
    Jul 20, 2017 at 11:17
  • @barlop I'm not sure why you think a book that has the word "Torah" twice in its title is not about Biblical Hebrew. This book is designed precisely for Torah readers and other non-academics (the fact that it's out of print is unfortunate indeed). If you're looking for a more academic explanation of the precise grammatical rules involved, any textbook of Biblical Hebrew will have a chapter on the rules of the qamatz qatan. Jul 21, 2017 at 12:54
  • @NoamSienna I heard that it's primarily not regarding traditional ah/oh. Often non-orthodox people (and even some modern orthodox), will lein from the Torah(the Torah), in modern israeli hebrew. And i'm not guessing based on a book title, I heard from somebody that IIRC read it, that if it does mention traditional ah/oh it's as a footnote.
    – barlop
    Jul 21, 2017 at 17:35
  • It was not written by an orthodox person. And they used to post on usenet or google groups under the name Yodan. And it has been mentioned a number of times there that that book is for modern. So that's how I know it's only for modern hebrew. The author only really cares to lein in modern.. And you clearly haven'treadit or you would be able to verify for yourself.
    – barlop
    Dec 16, 2022 at 9:27

There's a long discussion in Joshua Jacobson's Chanting the Hebrew Bible: The Complete Guide to the Art of Cantillation (2002), and a shorter but still helpful discussion in the condensed student edition of that same work (2005).


I am a Ba'al Kri'ah. I am quite confused regarding the rules of "kamatz katan".

The answer you accepted only gives a book name(ah and ohs), and the book they gave, applies only to modern israeli hebrew and their answer doesn't state the rule only to look in that book.

The rule in Sephardi hebrew is very simple. A kamatz in a closed unstressed syllable, is kamatz katan. Primary or secondary stress counts. So a meteg (secondary stress) when with a kamatz, denotes secondary stress that makes it not unstressed, so, whether open or closed, it's then not closed unstressed, so it's then a kamatz gadol. I don't think there are any exceptions to this. msh210 tried to suggest one but it's not an exception(as I commented to him).

Ashkenazi hebrew doesn't have two kamatz sounds for the one kamatz mark.

The rule in modern israeli hebrew I don't know the details of, it may take into account the binyan and tense/aspect of the verb when the word is a verb.

Another Ba'al Kri'ah explained that a kamatz katan occurs when a kamatz is used in a word (usually a verb) when the root of the verb usually has a cholam. Examples are "shomru" (originally "shomer") "roshei" (originally "rosh") and "chodsheichem" (from "chodesh")

this sounds like something to do with the modern israeli rule for when a kamatz is kamatz katan. For example Gen 9:21 Aleph Heh Lamed Heh . The Aleph has a kamatz but there's a difference between sephardi and modern israeli hebrew as to whether it's kamatz gadol or kamatz katan. Sephardi hebrew would say Ahola. Modern Israeli Hebrew would say kamatz katan Ohhola and for modern israeli hebrew it's to do with the fact that the word it comes from Ohel has a cholam to make the Oh.

Feldheim use the sephardi rule, whereas I have heard that Koren use the modern israeli rule.

The sephardi rule for kamatz katan is very simple, all over the place online and easily verified on any word in e.g. the Feldheim tanach simanim that marks them.

  • A qamatz qatan is actually a longer vowel than the usual qamatz gadol in every accent that has / had two distinct sounds. I figured the intent was that it is a qamatz serving as a short vowel (a vowel in a closed syllable) stand-in for a cholam. Dec 15, 2022 at 11:52
  • @MichaBerger I didn't ever use the word long or short. So what do you mean by long and short (Do you mean a grammatical classification, or something that relates to the length of the sound, or both, or something else?). And what, if anything, of what I wrote do you disagree with? (preferably without using the word long/short unless I am clear what you mean by it!). I once heard there might even be a debate over whether long/short is just a grammatical classification, or if it has something to do with how long the sound is held. And I wonder if some use it to mean something else too!
    – barlop
    Dec 15, 2022 at 23:46
  • @MichaBerger linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/45784/…
    – barlop
    Dec 16, 2022 at 2:43
  • I mean long vs. short vowel; the effect on the vowel of being the end of a syllable vs flowing into a consonant. The vowels that turn the following sheva into a pronounced sheva na are long vowels. Because a sheva na has a schwa sound and can be the vowel of the next syllable. So, you can have a qamatatz gadol, which is the end of a syllable, followed by letter that begins the next syllable. And if it has a sheva, it must be na. A similar syllable, if closed, would likely have a patach, or sometimes a segol. (Qamatatz is the long vowel version of the patach.) Dec 26, 2022 at 15:37
  • Whatez a qamatz qatan is a short-vowel version of the cholam. Thus, the name "qatan". Meaning the next consonant sound must be in the same syllable. If it is followed by a sheva, the sheva would either be nach, or the letter would have a dageish so that the letter can both close this syllable and have a sheva na's schwa sound for the next syllable. Dec 26, 2022 at 15:40

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