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- For the article on Jewish given and last names, see Jewish name. For Hebrew surnames, see Hebraization of surnames.
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Hebrew names are names that have a Hebrew language origin, classically from the Hebrew Bible. They are mostly used by people living in Jewish or Christian parts of the world, but some are also adapted to the Islamic world, particularly if a Hebrew name is mentioned in the Qur'an. When Hebrew-speaking Muslims[clarification needed] give names, they do not use specifically Christian or Jewish names. A typical Hebrew name can have many different forms, having been adapted to the phonologies of many different languages. An integral facet of the Jewish religion worldwide is to give a Hebrew name to a child that is used religiously throughout his or her lifetime.
Not all Hebrew names are strictly Hebrew in origin; some names may have been borrowed from other languages since ancient times, including from Egyptian, Aramaic, Phoenician, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Spanish, German, and English.
Names of Hebrew origin
Hebrew names used by Jews (along with many Hebrew names used in Christendom) often come from the Jewish Tanakh, which contains the Torah: The Five Books of Moses, which are also the first five books in the Christian Old Testament, along with two other collections of books, Nevi'im: The Prophets, and Kethuvim: The Writings.
Many of these names are thought to have been adapted from Hebrew phrases and expressions, bestowing special meaning or the unique circumstances of birth to the one who receives that name. An example of a name with a special personal meaning is יהודה Yəhûḏāh (Judah). An example of a name indicating circumstances of birth is ראובן Rəʼûḇēn (Reuben), which means "Look, a son."
Hebrew devotion to God is often indicated by adding an abbreviated form of the Tetragrammaton as a suffix; the most common abbreviations used by Jews are יה -yāh/-iyyāh and יהו -yāhû/-iyyāhû/-ayhû, forming names such as ישׁעיהו Yəšaʻªyāhû (Isaiah), צדקיהו Ṣiḏqiyyāhû (Zedekiah) and שׂריה Śərāyāh (Seraiah). Most of Christendom uses the shorter suffix preferred in translations of the Bible to European languages, primarily Greek -ιας -ias and English -iah, producing names such as Τωβιας Tōbias (Tobias, Toby) and Ιερεμίας Ieremias (Jeremiah, Jeremy).
In addition to devotion to Elohim and YHWH, names could also be sentences of praise in their own right. The name טוביהו Ṭôḇiyyāhû means "Good of/is the LORD."
Names of Aramaic origin
At the end of the First Temple Period, the Kingdom of Judah was destroyed, and its inhabitants were taken into captivity in Babylon. While they were there, the Jews ceased to speak Hebrew as their daily language, and adopted Aramaic instead. Judæo-Aramaic was the vernacular language at the time of Jesus, and was also the language used to write parts of the Book of Daniel, the Book of Ezra, and the entire Jewish Babylonian Talmud. Aramaic remained the lingua franca of the Middle East until the time of Islam.
Due to the Hellenisation of the Eastern Mediterranean and the movement of Jews around the area, many names were adapted to Greek, reinforced by the translation of the Tanakh in the Septuagint with many Hellenized names.
Such Hebræo-Greek names include Ιησους Iēsous (originally from ישׁוע Yēšûªʻ), Νωη Nōē (originally from נח Nōªḥ), Ισαιας Isaias (originally from ישׁעיהו Yəšaʻªyāhû), Ισραήλ Israēl (originally from ישראל Yiśrā’ēl which can mean "person (mind) seeing God. Emmanuēl (originally from Hebrew עִמָּנוּאֵל ʻImmānûʼēl "God [is] with us" or Greek Εμοί εν Ηλ(ί) or εν εμοί ο Ήλιος or within me is God.
Also, some Jews of the time had Greek Gentile names themselves, such as the Christian Luke (Greek Λουκας Loukas). Though used by some Jews at the time, these names are generally not associated with Jews today, and are considered characteristically Greek and largely confined to use by Christians. Hebrew forms of the names exist, but they are extremely rare.
Many Hebrew names were adapted into Latin, but mostly through Greek, as Greek was the language of the first Christian Septuagint. Such names include Jesus (from Greek Ιησους Iēsous) and Maria (from Greek Μαριαμ Mariam, originally from Hebrew מרים Miryām).
Also, some Jews during Roman times also had Latin names for themselves, such as the Christian apostle Mark (Latin Marcus). As was the case with contemporary Jewish names of Greek origin, most of these Latin names are generally not associated with Jews today, and today retain a Roman and Christian character.
Hebrew Šəmûʼēl (Samuel), famous for his fidelity to his friends (the proverb says "more faithful than Samawʼal".)
With the rise of Islam and the establishment of an Arab Caliphate, the Arabic language became the lingua franca of the Middle East and some parts of Berber North Africa. Islamic scripture such as the Qurʼan, however, contains many names of Hebrew origin (often via Aramaic), and there were Jewish and Christian minorities living under Arab Islamic rule. As such, many Hebrew names had been adapted to Arabic, and could be found in the Arab world. Jews and Christians generally used the Arabic adaptions of these names, just as in the present English-speaking Jews (and sometimes Muslims) often use Anglicized versions (Joshua rather than Yəhôšúªʼ, for instance.)
Such Hebræo-Arabic names include:
- ʼAyyūb أيّوب (from Hebrew איוב ʼIyyôḇ) (Job)
- Yūsuf يوسف (from Hebrew יוסף Yôsēp̄) (Joseph)
- Dāʼūd داۇد (from Hebrew דוד Dāwiḏ) (David)
- ʼIsmāʻīl اسماعيل (from Hebrew ישׁמעאל Yišmāʻêl) (Ishmael)
- ʼIsḥāq اسحاق (from Hebrew יצחק Yiṣḥāq) (Isaac)
- Yaʻqūb يعقوب (from Hebrew יעקב Yaʻªqōḇ) (Jacob)
- ʼĀdam آدم (from Hebrew אדם ʼĀḏām) (Adam)
- Ḥawwāʼ حواء (from Hebrew חוה Ḥawwāh) (Eve)
The influence of Aramaic is observable in several names, notably ʼIsḥāq (Isaac), where the Syriac form is simply Îsḥāq, contrasting with more Hebraic forms such as Yaʻqūb (Jacob).
Some of these Arabic names preserve original Hebrew pronunciations that were later changed by regular sound shifts; thus Maryam corresponds to the form recorded by classical authors, whereas the second i in Miriam is the result of a later sound change (also observable in words such as migdal, recorded in the New Testament as Magdalene and in Palestinian Arabic as Majdala) which turned a in unstressed closed syllables into i.
Typically, Hebrew אל -ʼēl was adapted as ـايل -īl, and Hebrew יה -yāh as ـيا -yāʼ.
James I of England commissioned a translation of the Tanakh from Hebrew to English, which became the Old Testament component of the new King James Version of the Bible, or "KJV" Bible. The promotion of the KJV translation spawned a whole new variety of Hebrew names that were considerably closer to the Hebrew language than their Latin counterparts. Examples include Asshur from אשור ʼAššûr instead of Ασσυρια Assyria, and Shem from שם Šēm instead of Σημ Sēm.
Even so, many KJV Old Testament names were not entirely without New Testament Greek influence. This influence mostly reflected the vowels of names, leaving most of the consonants largely intact, only modestly filtered to consonants of contemporary English phonology. However, all KJV names followed the Greek convention of not distinguishing between soft and dāḡeš forms of ב bêṯ, ג gîmel and ד dāleṯ, as well as merging ג gîmel and ע ġáyin. These habits resulted in multilingually fused Hebræo-Helleno-English names, such as Judah, Isaiah and Jeremiah. Additionally, a handful of names were adapted directly from Greek without even partial translations from Hebrew, including names such as Isaac, Moses and Jesse.
Along with names from the KJV edition of the New Testament, these names constitute the large part of Hebrew names as they exist in the English-speaking world.
- List of Hebrew names at Wiktionary
- Customs relating to the naming of a child from the Chabad sect of Hassidic Ultra-Orthodox Judaism
- "Christian Names". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. – article on old testament naming from a Catholic perspective
- List of over 2500 Hebrew names used in Israel with pronunciation
- List of all first names used in Israel with pronunciation and statistics in Hebrew
- A list of all modern Hebrew names and their meaning