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Kikayon (קִיקָיוֹן) is the Hebrew name of a plant mentioned in the Biblical Book of Jonah.


The first use of the term kikayon is in the biblical book of Jonah, Chapter 4:

And God created a kikayon, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to save him from his evil. And Jonah was exceeding glad because of the kikayon. But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it ate the kikayon, that it withered.

Jonah was deeply upset

And it came to pass, when the sun arose, that God prepared a strong east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, he became faint, and requested that he might die, and said: 'It is better for me to die than to live.'
And God said to Jonah: You are angry for the kikayon?' And he said: 'I am greatly angry, even unto death.'
And God said: 'You had pity on the kikayon, which you did not labor over, did not make it grow, which came up in a night, and perished in a night; and should not I have pity on Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than six score thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand, and also much cattle?'


The word kikayon is only referenced in the book of Jonah and there is some question as to what kind of plant it is. Some hypotheses include a gourd and a castor oil plant. The concurrent Hebrew usage of the word refers to the castor oil plant.

A well-known argument between Jerome and Augustine concerned whether to translate kikayon as "gourd" or "ivy", although Jerome indicates that in fact the plant is neither:

I have already given a sufficient answer to this in my commentary on Jonah. At present, I deem it enough to say that in that passage, where the Septuagint has gourd, and Aquila and the others have rendered the word ivy (κίσσος), the Hebrew manuscript has ciceion, which is in the Syriac tongue, as now spoken, ciceia. It is a kind of shrub having large leaves like a vine, and when planted it quickly springs up to the size of a small tree, standing upright by its own stem, without requiring any support of canes or poles, as both gourds and ivy do. If, therefore, in translating word for word, I had put the word ciceia, no one would know what it meant; if I had used the word gourd, I would have said what is not found in the Hebrew. I therefore put down ivy, that I might not differ from all other translators.[1]


  1. ^ Letter from Jerome to Augustine, dated 404, reproduced at