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Jewish name

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Jewish names, specifically one's given name, have varied over time and by location and ethnic group. Other types of names used by Jewish people include the surname and the religious name known as the Hebrew name.

Given names[edit]

Given names, also known as "first names," have a range of customs within different Jewish ethnic groups. Common given names, however, remain similar in many parts of the Jewish community, with many of them based on figures in the Hebrew Bible or honoring relatives.[1] These are distinguished from the Hebrew name, which retained the original formulation of Jewish names.

Sephardi customs[edit]

Sephardim have often named newborn children in honor of their living grandparents. This practice typically uses these names in a specific order: the father's father, the father's mother, the mother's father, the mother's mother.[2]

Ashkenazi customs[edit]

In stark contrast to Sephardi customs, Ashkenazim have a longstanding superstition about naming a child after a living person. Instead, only a deceased relative's name may be used. According to this superstition, naming a child after a living person could appear as though you are waiting for that person to die. This practice is rooted in Jewish custom and has no standing in Jewish law.[3] While not many Jewish people necessarily believe in the superstition per se, the lack of precedence makes practices such as a (living) father naming his son after himself an unusual occurrence for Ashkenazim.[2][4]


While many surnames are associated with Jewish people in the United States, there are only three surnames rooted in ancient Jewish culture: Kohen (or Cohen), Levy, and Israel. These names originate with the Israelite tribes which bear the same name. Variations on these names are common and most often reflect different ways of transliterating the Hebrew version.[4]

Apart from these original surnames, the surnames of Jewish people of the present have typically reflected family history and their ethnic group within the Jewish people. Sephardic communities began to take on surnames in the Middle Ages (specifically c.10th and 11th centuries), and these surnames reflect the languages spoken by the Sephardic subset of the Jewish diaspora, including Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. Ashkenazi communities of Northern and Eastern Europe, however, did not take on surnames until later (c.14th and 15th centuries). As with many other European communities, it was not unusual for a surname of this time period to reflect patrilineal relationships (e.g. Abraham's son --> Abramson, Abramsohn, etc.).[4][5]

Hebrew name[edit]

The Hebrew name is a Jewish practice rooted in the practices of early Jewish communities and Judaism.[4] This Hebrew name is used for religious purposes, such as when the child is called to read the Torah at their b'nei mitzvah.

The baby's name is traditionally announced during the brit milah (circumcision ceremony) for male babies, typically on the eighth day after his birth.[6] Female babies may also have a naming ceremony, known by several different names, including zeved habat, b'rit bat, and b'rit chayim.[7][8] This may be held between 7 and 30 days after her birth.[9]

The Hebrew name follows a particular format that reflects gender:[10]

  • Male: [Hebrew given name] ben [parents' Hebrew given names]
    • Example: Abraham ben David v'Sarah
  • Female: [Hebrew given name] bat [parents' Hebrew given names]
    • Example: Leah bat David v'Sarah
  • Neutral: [Hebrew given name] mibeit or mimishpachat [parents' Hebrew given names]
    • Example: Lior mibeit David v'Sarah OR Lior mimishpachat David v'Sarah

The chosen Hebrew name can be related to the child's secular given name, but it does not have to be. The name is typically Biblical or based in Modern Hebrew.

For those who convert to Judaism and thus lack parents with Hebrew names, their parents are given as Abraham and Sarah, the first Jewish people of the Hebrew Bible. Those adopted by Jewish parents use the names of their adoptive parents.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jewish Naming Practices". Kveller. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  2. ^ a b "Naming Traditions". www.jewishgen.org. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  3. ^ "named after non-Jewish grandparents Archives". Central Conference of American Rabbis. Retrieved 2024-03-05.
  4. ^ a b c d "Jewish Names - Judaism 101 (JewFAQ)". www.jewfaq.org. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  5. ^ "Jewish Surnames Through the Ages:An Etymological History". Commentary Magazine. 1956-09-01. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  6. ^ "Circumcision- Brit Milah". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  7. ^ "B'rit Bat: Ceremony for Welcoming a Baby Girl | Reform Judaism". www.reformjudaism.org. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  8. ^ "La Fijola: Naming Baby Girls at Home · Exploring Sephardic Life Cycle Customs · Exploring Sephardic Life Cycle Customs". jewishstudies.washington.edu. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  9. ^ "Welcoming Baby Girls Into Judaism". www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org. Retrieved 2024-03-04.
  10. ^ "How Are Hebrew Names Formatted? | Reform Judaism". reformjudaism.org. Retrieved 2024-03-03.
  11. ^ "Picking a Hebrew Name | American Jewish University". www.aju.edu. Retrieved 2024-03-03.


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