The origin of the glyph shape of qōp () is uncertain. It is usually suggested to have originally depicted either a sewing needle, specifically the eye of a needle (the Hebrew קוף means "hole"), or the back of a head and neck (qāf in Arabic meant "nape"). According to an older suggestion, it may also have been a picture of a monkey and its tail.
Besides AramaicQop, which gave rise to the letter in the Semitic abjads used in classical antiquity, Phoenician qōp is also the origin of the Latin letter Q and Greek Ϙ (qoppa) and Φ (phi).
The Oxford Hebrew-English Dictionary transliterates the letter Qoph (קוֹף) a transliteration as q or k; and, when word-final, it may be transliterated as ck. The English spellings of Biblical names (as derived from Latin via Biblical Greek) containing this letter may represent it as c or k, e.g. Cain for Hebrew Qayin, or Kenan for Qenan (Genesis 4:1, 5:9).
Qof in gematria represents the number 100. Sarah is described in Genesis Rabba as בת ק' כבת כ' שנה לחטא, literally "At Qof years of age, she was like Kaph years of age in sin", meaning that when she was 100 years old, she was as sinless as when she was 20.
The Maghrebi style of writing qāf is different: having only a single point (dot) above; when the letter is isolated or word-final, it may sometimes become unpointed.
The Maghrebi qāf
Position in word:
Form of letter:
The earliest Arabic manuscripts show qāf in several variants: pointed (above or below) or unpointed. Then the prevalent convention was having a point above for fāʼ and a point below for qāf; this practice is now only preserved in manuscripts from the Maghribi, with the exception of Libya and Algeria, where the Mashriqi form (two dots above: ق) prevails.
Within Maghribi texts, there is no possibility of confusing it with the letter fāʼ, as it is instead written with a dot underneath (ڢ) in the Maghribi script.
^Travers Wood, Henry Craven Ord Lanchester, A Hebrew Grammar, 1913, p. 7. A. B. Davidson, Hebrew Primer and Grammar, 2000, p. 4. The meaning is doubtful. "Eye of a needle" has been suggested, and also "knot" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology vol. 45.
^Isaac Taylor, History of the Alphabet: Semitic Alphabets, Part 1, 2003: "The old explanation, which has again been revived by Halévy, is that it denotes an 'ape,' the character Q being taken to represent an ape with its tail hanging down. It may also be referred to a Talmudic root which would signify an 'aperture' of some kind, as the 'eye of a needle,' ... Lenormant adopts the more usual explanation that the word means a 'knot'.
^Qop may have been assigned the sound value /kʷʰ/ in early Greek; as this was allophonic with /pʰ/ in certain contexts and certain dialects, the letter qoppa continued as the letter phi. C. Brixhe, "History of the Alpbabet", in Christidēs, Arapopoulou, & Chritē, eds., 2007, A History of Ancient Greek.
^Muhammad Ghoniem, M S M Saifullah, cAbd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires & cAbdus Samad, Are There Scribal Errors In The Qur'ân?, see qif on a traffic sign written ڧڢ which is written elsewhere as قف, Retrieved 2011-August-27