Certainly we can all agree that it’s an eight-day Festival of Lights celebration, but can we agree on the proper spelling of Hanukkah? Or should I say Chanukah? Or perhaps Chanuka, Chanukkah, Channukah, Hanukah or Hannukah? With nearly 15 variations in spelling out there, rest assured that you aren’t the only one confused by which version to use. So why do we have so many options and which, if any, is technically correct?
In the Hebrew language, Hanukkah is pronounced with the letter “chet” which makes a sound that doesn’t have an exact English equivalent, making the linguistics of this holiday just a little tricky! The letter “chet” makes a sound that can best be described as a guttural or throaty noise, somewhat like the “ch” in “Bach.” The letter “H” is the closest the English language comes to matching the “chet” sound, which is why Hanukkah is the most mainstream of the spelling choices. The runner-up in this spelling popularity contest is Chanukah, which linguists landed on because the sound represented by “ch” in words like “loch” is similar to the sound the original Hebrew word makes.
The good news is that with so many spelling variations all being technically correct, take a wild guess and you’re likely to spell it correctly. Rest assured, whether you write Chanukah or Hanukkah, we’re excited to celebrate this same holiday and more importantly, we wish you and your family a happy one!