How Do You Spell Hanukkah?
12/21/2011 - 13:47
Rabbi Jason Miller
There are so many spellings of Hanukkah. Which one's the most common?
There are so many spellings of Hanukkah. Which one's the most common?

The #1 question during Hanukkah is: What is the correct way to spell the name of this holiday? As I blogged about last year, "Since it's a Hebrew word that is transliterated into English, there are several acceptable spellings. But people still want to know if there is a consensus."

Just as there is no consensus as to how to spell the name of the late Libyan leader Gaddafi (or is it Kadhafi or Qaddafi?), there is certainly no consensus on how to spell Hanukkah. What better way to find out what is the most common spelling than to look at Google statistics. On his blog, Joe Maller did just that. He found that there are 16 prevalent variations of the Hanukkah spelling on the Web (which doesn't include the Spanish "Januka"). Here are his conclusions:

 

Hanukkah : 8,470,000 hits.

Chanukah : 3,390,000 hits.
Hanukah : 862,000 hits.
Hannukah : 677,000 hits.
Chanuka : 335,000 hits.
Chanukkah : 274,000 hits.
Hanuka : 192,000 hits.
Channukah : 128,000 hits.
Chanukka : 116,000 hits.*
Hanukka : 86,300 hits.
Hannuka : 51,400 hits.
Hannukkah : 37,300 hits.
Channuka : 33,600 hits.
Xanuka : 992 hits.
Hannukka : 686 hits.
Channukkah : 508 hits.
Channukka : 489 hits.*
Chanuqa : 25 hits.

With the exception of a few wild cards, there are 16 different spellings, based on four phonetic variations:

  • The word starts with “H” or “Ch”

  • Second consonant is “nn” or “n”

  • Third consonant is “kk” or “k”

  • The word ends with “ah” or “a”

I think I must have grown up with “Chanukah”, because it look most right to me. At Lila’s pre-school Hanukkah party, there were three different spellings within 10 feet of one another. In the interest of ending the ridiculousness of the dozens of spellings, I’m going forward with “Hanukkah” which is the preferred spelling used by the Library of Congress. At least it’s always the same in Hebrew: חֲנֻכָּה

This would be a fun thing to make dynamic, even chart over time. If only I had time… Jeremy Blachman did the same Hanukkah spelling thing in 2004, interesting to see how much bigger the Google indexes have grown in 12 months.

See results for other years:  20102009200820072006.

Melissa Bell, writing on the Washington Post's blog, recalls that NPR's "All Things Considered" addressed this very question back in 2005. They quoted Rabbi Daniel Zemel of the Temple Micah in Washington who said, "There's no uniformity in transliteration." Rabbi Zemel ordered a steering committee at his synagogue to come up with a uniform spelling. They decided on: Chanukkah. But then Bell noticed that this year, Zemel's synagogue website was using "Hanukkah." When she asked him what ever happened to his resolute steering committee's decision, he explained that he was overruled and "an editor in the congregation made the convincing push to adopt the spelling used by the Reform Jewish movement in North America. Transliteration is an art, not a science."
 
I've been using the "Hanukkah" spelling and I believe that this has become the most accepted option based on Twitter. While some might do a Google search to determine which spelling of Hanukkah appears the most, I just looked at Twitter where #Hanukkah was one of the trending terms last night on the first night of the holiday.
 
​Rabbi Jason Miller blogs at Blog.RabbiJason.com and is on Twitter @rabbijason. He is president of Access Computer Technology, an IT and social media marketing company based in Michigan.

Comments

...Hannukah, spelled correctly with doble "n denotes the two miracles, 8 letters for the lamp in the Holy Temple Yerushalym lit * days from a days suppy of sacramental olive oil.

I prefer Chanukah

I ran a Google search for "spelling for Hanukkah" because I've always been confused as to how I should spell it in the English language. I found this article in the Top 10 Hits. It's a good article and well-written. Thank you for this.

However, I am still so confused....

Um, you've got the Hebrew spelling wrong; there's a shuruk after the nun.

Comment Guidelines

The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.

Add comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.