The fourth letter of the Hebrew alphabet is "dalet" and not "daled." Why, then, do Ashkenazi Jews not pronounce it as "dales." I have heard an answer that "dales" sounds too much like "dalus", poverty but that doesn't make sense to me. Dalet sounds like dalut so nothing is gained. Is this indeed based on some religious consideration?

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    it is actually dol and dhol not dalet or daled. May 28, 2015 at 19:21
  • Wow, I like how that Forward guy put some serious thought into your question and brought evidence from a medieval text. Still speculation, but some high-end speculation!!!
    – Mike
    May 29, 2015 at 1:00
  • Another possible interesting proof for the correct spelling/pronunciation of the Hebrew letters is in the yotzer piyut for Shabbos Lifnei Shavuos. (hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=42897&st=&pgnum=823) May 29, 2015 at 9:02
  • @Yishai I was never happy with the answer in Forward and, once I discovered this group, hoped that I would get a more satisfying answer. May 29, 2015 at 16:47

2 Answers 2


Here's my best guess: because when it's taught to little children, it's much easier to sing

"Gimel/Daled/Hei ..."

Than to sing the accurate:

"Gimel/Dalet/Hei ..."

But both of those are far easier than trying to do:


If you end the middle letter with a fricative, you have to pause to breathe before the "h" in "Hei." Or else you'll call that letter "Sei."

And in Paleo-Hebrew, the symbol looked like a door. It's related to the word delet.

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    I serously doubt doubt that dales never caught on a thousand years ago because of a recent children's ditty. Although that might be the reason that tzadi ended up being called tzaddik by some. May 29, 2015 at 16:28
  • @MichaelKatz how do we know how they pronounced it a thousand years ago?
    – Shalom
    May 31, 2015 at 19:38
  • My question is that the pronunciation of bays, ches and tes came down to us in a certain way whereas dalet or dales did not. The question is why. I didn't think that your suggestion that dales would not work in a children's ditty was a realistic possibility. Jun 1, 2015 at 17:46
  • delet (door) is pronounced deles
    – hazoriz
    Jun 28, 2015 at 18:18
  • @MichaelKatz I have often heard that explanation for the letter "tzaddik" as well. However, this name for the letter is mentioned in the 11th century Midrash Lekach Tov (Exodus 12 and Esther 1). And by Ibn Ezra (also 11th century) long commentary to Exodus (2:3).
    – mevaqesh
    Aug 27, 2015 at 23:59

i'm not sure if there is a word that describes this phenomenon, but sometimes as the sounds of letters get lost, they get lost in interesting ways that show you funny things

So as Mori Doweed Yaaqob said in the comment, certain people have a tradition of saying dol/dhol. For the rest of us, the tradition is to spell it daleth, דלת. Now, according to scholars, and many older Middle Eastern Jewish communities, the sounds of ד and ת without dageshim are very closely related. They are made in the same place of the mouth, except one is voiced and one is not. In other words.

Think of the English word "the," say it to yourself and take note of how you pronounce the "th," that is the sound that many communities used to pronounce ד.

Think of the English word "theft," say it to yourself and take note of how you pronounce the "th," that is the sound that many communities used to pronounce ת.

And so when you have sounds that sound similar, some trail off, some replace others. And once people are used to spelling it this other way, then that way stays. So they were probably originally spelling it דלד with the daledh at the end being pronounced like the th in "the" and then once that sound was lost, they were left with the spelling of דלד and are now pronouncing it as a hard d sound.

In addition, many linguists claim that the more common Ashkenazic mispronunciation of the name of the letter ת is due to this same reason. The name of the letter ת is spelled תו. But since many Ashkenazim pronounce their v's and f's in the same place in their mouths (like the example above) but the v is vocalized and the f is not (like the example above) they mispronounce תו and pronounce it תף. i remember a Chabadnik getting into an argument over this issue as he claimed the letter was spelled תף and the only way to get the argument to end was to grab the Chabad siddur which as the letters spelled out in the first few pages to show him that it was spelled תו.

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