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What transliteration or anglicisation should we use for Hebrew words? Sometimes words are in the dictionary and have accepted spellings. Other times Hebrew words (names especially) have English versions of them that don't sound at all like the Hebrew.

There are also cases where there is not one settled spelling for the Hebrew word.

Examples:

  • Menorah - this is the only spelling I've seen.
  • Channukah, Chanukah, Chanuka, Channuka, Hannukah, Hanukah, Hanuka, Hannuka - I think this is every possibility.
  • Abraham vs Avraham - the English is quite similar
  • Esau vs Eisav - different
  • Rebecca vs Rivka - even more different
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For words that have no standard anglicization, in my opinion (1) (as I've mentioned before) we are unlikely ever to come to an agreement on a transliteration; (2) if we do, people won't abide by it, leaving it to others to edit to conform; and (3) there's little benefit in doing so, since people will search the site using other transliterations. So either we can continue the current practice of using whatever transliteration one wants (and generally honoring a poster's transliteration scheme in editing his post), or we can switch to using the original Hebrew (in Hebrew characters, I mean). I'm not sure which is wiser.

For words with a standard anglicization — like יצחק (Isaac) and משה (Moses) — I see some benefit in using it (or, again, the original Hebrew) over using a transliteration: hopefully, searchers will search for the English terms. On the other hand, I know that when I'm searching the Web for Torah, I don't use Moses as a search term, since I know that Torah sites are likely to have Moshe. So it's a tough call.

(I also don't use משה as a search term, so so much for my idea that using the original Hebrew is a good idea.)

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    The primary language of discourse on MY is English, so I don't think it makes sense to replace transliterations with Hebrew characters. In some cases, of course, having both is great - especially for extended quotations, which ought to be accompanied by full translations. – Isaac Moses Dec 11 '12 at 14:53
  • @IsaacMoses Sorry to bump this question, but in almost 6 years the number of questions have fortunately rised significantly, so search efficiency is an issue. Shouldn't we create a transliteration recommendation in the help section that is suggested to users, but is not obligatory (to avoid the huge edit burden)? – Kazi bácsi Jul 11 '18 at 12:42
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    @Kazibácsi All three of the issues listed in this answer are still operative. Even if we could agree on a standard transliteration scheme and get a large percentage of future posts to honor it (both unlikely), the existing base of 20K+ Q&As with varying transliterations would make searches that rely on that scheme unfortunately blinkered. – Isaac Moses Jul 11 '18 at 13:15
  • @Kazibácsi I'm still running into this. I chose to write one transliteration so a whole host of questions that were related (including one I was duplicating) didn't come up as related when I searched. – rosends Aug 11 '19 at 16:28
  • @rosends I'm not perfectly sure that I can follow your point. – Kazi bácsi Aug 11 '19 at 16:43
  • @Kazibácsi search efficiency is a major issue. I searched using my transliteration and didn't find the question I eventually duped because it used a different system. I recommended system or a standard (or a more flexible search intelligence) is still needed. – rosends Aug 11 '19 at 16:45
  • @rosends Once I was advocating this, but no-one seemed to care. Although enforcing such a policy is an immense workload, and on the other head I'm not sure whether the SE search engine is suitable for search synonyms. But still, it's a huge issue as you've also experienced. – Kazi bácsi Aug 11 '19 at 18:35

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