Hanukkah or Chanukah? How Do You Spell This Holiday?

(Last Updated On: December 5, 2017)

Hanukkah or Chanukah

What Does Hanukkah Mean?

Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that lasts eight nights. It commemorates the second century B.C. re-dedication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Commonly, the word “Hanukkah” is translated as meaning “dedication.”

Hanukkah or Chanukah? How Do You Spell It?

As the eight-day Jewish festival of lights approaches, people want to know, how do you spell the name? Acceptable spellings include (in order of frequency of use according to Oxford Dictionaries):

  • Hanukkah;
  • Chaunukah;
  • Hannukah;
  • Hanukah;
  • Chanukkah;
  • Channukah;
  • Hanuka;
  • Chanuka;
  • Hannukkah;
  • Hanukka; and
  • Other variations.

Why So Many “Acceptable Spellings”?

Hanukkah is not originally an English word. Instead, Hanukkah is a Hebrew word. To translate the word from Hebrew to English, translators relied on transliteration, the system for converting words from one alphabet to another.

Part of the difficulty in agreeing on a single spelling of the word stems from the fact there are two different approaches to transliteration. In the first system for converting words from one alphabet to another, the goal is to capture the sound of the word, to the greatest degree possible. In the other, the allegiance is to best capture the spelling of the word. “Chanukah” most closely mimics the sound of the word in Hebrew. “Hanukkah” most accurately stays true to the Hebrew spelling of the word. While there is a scholarly basis for the double “K”, there is no corresponding basis for the use of a double “N”. Instead, it is believed the double N is merely a misspelling, however, continued use has rendered the double N an acceptable spelling as well.

So Which Spelling is Correct?

The Library of Congress uses “Hanukkah” as their official spelling of the word. However, experts widely agree, because there is more than one right way to spell the word, you can’t go wrong with either Hanukkah or Chanukah.

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About the Author:

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Mark Heald is the Managing Editor of Sporcle.com. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.