Hebrew Pronunciation and Transliteration

This website can display Hebrew words transliterated into English in one of two ways: sephardic, as in Shabbat, or ashkenazi, as in Shabbos. Click on one of the buttons on the left and it will switch. If you have cookies enabled, this setting will be remembered the next time you visit.

Try it now:

Shabbos/Shabbat is the holiest day of the week.
Click on one of the Havarah buttons to watch it change. Note that some ISP's and browsers may cache the original page, so you may have to click it twice, or reload the page.


There are two main dialects of Hebrew pronunciation, or havarah (הברה) in common use in the United States. One is called sephardic, and is an Americanized version of the official Hebrew pronunciation of the State of Israel. The other is called ashkenazi, and is an Americanized version of the Hebrew and Yiddish pronunciation in the great European yeshivas.

There are three main differences:

  • The letter tav (ת) without a dagesh (the dot in the middle): in sephardic, pronounced like /t/; in ashkenazi, pronounced like /s/.
  • The vowel kamatz (ָ) at the end of the syllable or when in the stressed syllable: in sephardic, pronounced like /a/ in father; in ashkenazi, pronounced like /aw/ in paw. Most Americans who use the sephardic pronuciation always say /a/, but techinically a "short" kamatz (in an unstressed syllable that ends with a consonant) should be pronounced /aw/.
  • The stress: in sephardic pronuciation, the stress is on the last syllable or rarely on the second-to-last; in ashkenazi pronunciation the stress is on the first or second syllable.
Thus, the Hebrew word for the sabbath, שַׁבָּת, is pronounced shabBAT in sephardic pronuciation and SHABbos in ashkenazi pronunciation.

For more information, please see the Encyclopedia Judaica articles on Pronunciation of Hebrew, Hebrew grammar and Eliezer Ben-Yehuda.

Because of the different origins of the dialects (yeshiva vs. modern Israel), how one pronounces the words has implications about one's political orientation in the Jewish world. We at Young Israel are open and nonjudgmental, and so offer you a choice.

Technical notes

Firefox does not seem to render Hebrew correctly; the vowels are to the left of the letters rather than underneath.

The switch works by changing the class of the body element, either with Javascript (document.body.className = 'Ashkenazi') or with PHP if Javascript is not enabled (<body class="<?= $havarah ?>" >). Both transliterations are present in the underlying HTML code, but in separate spans with different classes. The transliteration that should not be shown is made invisible with a CSS of body.Ashkenazi .seph { display:none; } body.Sephardic .ash { display:none; } to make it invisible. For browsers that don't support styles (or Mozilla-based ones with styles off) there is also an invisible slash between the words, so it comes out looking like Shabbos/Shabbat. The code altogether is:
<span class=ash>Shabbos</span><span class=invis>/</span> <span class=seph>Shabbat</span> . One side effect is that if you select the entire word and copy it to the clipboard, the invisible text is copied as well. So you think you are copying Shabbat but when you paste, it comes out Shabbos/Shabbat.