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A theophoric name (from Greek: θεόφορος, theophoros, literally "bearing or carrying a god") embeds the name of a god, both invoking and displaying the protection of that deity. For example, names embedding Apollo, such as Apollonios or Apollodorus, existed in Greek antiquity.
Theophoric personal names, containing the name of a god in whose care the individual is entrusted (or a generic word for god), were also exceedingly common in the ancient Near East and Mesopotamia. Some names of theophoric origin remain common today, such as Theodore (theo-, "god"; -dore, origin of word compound in Greek: doron, "gift"; hence "God's gift"; in Greek: Theodoros) or less recognisably as Jonathan (from Hebrew Yonatan/Yehonatan, meaning "Yahweh has given").
Classical theophoric names
- Demetrius and its derivatives mean "follower of Demeter."
- Dennis, in Latin Dionysius, and its relatives mean "of Dionysus."
- Martin and its relatives mean "of Mars."
- Zeno and Diodoros or Diodorus from Zeus (genitive of Zeus is 'dios'); Poseidonios from Poseidon; Athenodoros/Athenodora from Athena and Minervina from Minerva; Apollodoros/Apollodora and Apollonios from Apollo; Artemisia and Artemidoros/Artemidora from Artemis; Aphrodesia from Aphrodite; Hephaistion from Hephaistos; Aria from Ares; Hermione from Hermes; Heliodoros/a from Helios; Fortunatus from Fortuna; Serapion from Serapis and Isidoros or Isidora from Isis.
- Certain names of classical gods are sometimes given as personal names. The most common is Diana and its variants, such as Diane; others include Minerva, Aphrodite, Venus, Isis, or Juno. The first pope to take a regnal name, Pope John II, had the given name Mercurius and changed his name as he considered it inappropriate for the Pope to have the name of a pagan deity.
Christian theophoric names
- Amadeus: (Latin) "lover of God"
- Bogdan: (Slavic) "Godgiven"
- Bogomil: (Slavic) "dear to God"
- Bozhidar: (Slavic) "gift of God"
- Christian: (Greek) "believer in Christ"
- Christopher: (Greek) "Christ-bearer".
- Deodatus/Deusdedit: (Latin) "God-given"
- Dorotheus/Dorothea: (Greek) "gift to God"
- Fürchtgott: (Germanic) "God-fearing"
- Gottfried: (Germanic) "God's peace"
- Gottlieb: (Germanic) "God's love"
- Philothea/Philothei/Philotheos: (Greek) "lover of God"
- Shenouda: (Coptic) "son of God"
- Theodore/Theodora: (Greek) "gift of God"
- Theodosius/Theodosia, Theodotos/Theodotē and Dositheus/Dosithea: (Greek) "God-given"
- Theodotus: (Greek): "given by God"
- Theophilus: (Greek) "one who loves God"
- Theognis: (Greek) "God-knowing"
- Theophanes/Theophania, Tiffany: (Greek) "manifestation of God"
- Theophrastus: (Greek) "godly speech"
- Theaetetus: (Greek) "one who pleads to God"
- Timothy/Timotheus: (Greek) "one who honors God"
Germanic theophoric names
- Os, meaning "god"
- Thor, the god of thunder
- Ing, an old name for Freyr (an epithet meaning "lord")
Rarely, Germanic names contain the element Wod (such as Woðu-riðe), potentially pointing to an association with the god Odin. In connection, numerous names containing wulf "wolf" have been taken as totemistic, expressing association with Odin in the earliest period, although -ulf degenerated into a mere suffix from an early time (Förstemann 1856).
Some traditional Hindu names honor Hindu gods or goddesses. Often, the same name is ascribed to multiple deities.
It is not uncommon to find Hindus with names of gods. Shiva, Krishna, Ganesh, Durga, Radha, and Sita are all names of Hindu gods or goddesses as well as being personal names for Hindus. Hindu gods themselves have multiple names, so it is not always apparent if an Indian name is the name of a god or not.
- Abdullah: "servant of God" or "slave of God"
Judaism and biblical
- names referring to El, a word meaning might, power and (a) god in general, and hence in Judaism, God and among the Canaanites the name of the god who was the father of Baal.
- names referring to Yah, a shortened form of Yahweh.
- names referring to Levantine deities (especially the storm god, Hadad) by the epithet Baal, meaning lord.
In later times, as the conflict between Yahwism and the more popular pagan practices became increasingly intense, these names were censored and Baal was replaced with Bosheth, meaning shameful one. However the name Yahweh does not appear in theophoric names until the time of Joshua, and for the most part is very rare until the time of King Saul, when it began to be very popular.
- Ariel: "lion of God"
- Daniel: "God is my judge" or "justice from God"
- Elijah: "my God is YHWH"
- Elihu: "He is my God"
- Elisha: "my God is salvation"
- Elisheba (Elizabeth): "my God is an oath" or "my God is abundance"
- Immanuel: "God is with us"
- Ezekiel: "God will strengthen"
- Gabriel: "God is my strength"
- Ishmael: "God listens"
- Israel: "who struggles with God"
- Joel: "YHWH is God"
- Lemuel: "Dedicated/Devoted to God"
- Michael: "Who is like God"
- Nathaniel: "God-given" or "gift of God"
- Raphael: "God heals/God is great"
- Samuel: "God heard"
- Uriel: "God is my light"
The name of the Israelite deity YHWH (usually shortened to Yah or Yahu, and Yeho or Yo) appears as a prefix or suffix in many theophoric names of the First Temple Period. For example, Yirme-yahu (Jeremiah), Yesha-yahu (Isaiah), Netan-yah, Yedid-yah, Adoni-yah, Nekhem-yah, Yeho-natan (Jonathan), Yeho-chanan (John), Yeho-shua (Joshua), Yeho-tzedek, Zekharya (Zechariah).
"Yahū" or "Yah" is the abbreviation of YHWH when used as a suffix in Hebrew names; as a prefix it appears as "Yehō-", or "Yo". It was formerly thought to be abbreviated from the Masoretic pronunciation "Yehovah". There is an opinion that, as Yahweh is likely an imperfective verb form, "Yahu" is its corresponding preterite or jussive short form: compare yiŝtahaweh (imperfective), yiŝtáhû (preterit or jussive short form) = "do obeisance".
- Abijah: "my father is YHWH"
- Hezekiah: "YHWH strengthens"
- Isaiah: "YHWH is salvation"
- Jedediah: "friend of YHWH"
- Jeremiah (Jeremy): "YHWH will raise"
- Jonathan: "YHWH has given"
- Joseph: "YHWH shall increase"
- Josiah: "YHWH saves"
- Matityahu (Matthew): "gift of YHWH"
- Micah/Micaiah: "who is like YHWH?"
- Nehemiah: "YHWH comforts"
- Obadiah: "servant of YHWH"
- Toviyahu (Tobias): "the goodness of YHWH"
- Uriah: "YHWH is my light"
- Uzziah: "YHWH is my strength"
- Yehoshua (Joshua)/Yeshua (Jesus): "YHWH will save"
- Yohanan (John): "graced by YHWH"
- Zechariah (Zachary): "YHWH has remembered"
- Zephaniah: "hidden by YHWH"
However, the name Judah (Yehūdah) is not an example. The name Judah, comes from the root word Yadah = Yud-Dalet-Hey, which means "praise". The letter Yud is also a prefix pronoun in Hebrew, thus not every name or word beginning with Yud or Yud-Hey is theophoric.
In the table below, 13 theophoric names with "Yeho" have corresponding forms where the letters eh have been omitted. There is a theory by Christian Ginsburg that this is due to Hebrew scribes omitting the "h", changing Jeho (יְהוֹ) into Jo (יוֹ), to make the start of "Yeho-" names not sound like an attempt to pronounce the Divine Name.
|Strong's #||the name||other element||English conventional form|
|long form||short form||long form||short form||long form||short form|
|3059||3099||יְהוֹאָחָז||Yᵉhow'achaz||יוֹאָחָז||Yow'achaz||achaz [# 270]||Jehoachaz||Joachaz|
|3060||3101||יְהוֹאָש||Yᵉhow'ash||יוֹאָש||Yow'ash||'esh [# 784]||Jehoash||Joash|
|3075||3107||יְהוֹזָבָד||Yᵉhowzabad||יוֹזָבָד||Yowzabad||zabad [# 2064]||Jehozabad||Jozabad|
|3076||3110||יְהוֹחָנָן||Yᵉhowchanan||יוֹחָנָן||Yowchanan||chanan [# 2603]||Jehochanan||Jochanan|
|3077||3111||יְהוֹיָדָע||Yᵉhowyada||יוֹיָדָע||Yowyada||yada [# 3045]||Jehojada||Jojada|
|3078||3112||יְהוֹיָכִין||Yᵉhowyakiyn||יוֹיָכִין||Yowyakiyn||kuwn [# 3559]||Jehojakin||Jojakin|
|3079||3113||יְהוֹיָקִים||Yᵉhowyaqiym||יוֹיָקִים||Yowyaqiym||quwm [# 3965]||Jehojakim||Jojakim|
|3080||3114||יְהוֹיָרִיב||Yᵉhowyariyb||יוֹיָרִיב||Yowyariyb||riyb [# 7378]||Jehojarib||Jojarib|
|3082||3122||יְהוֹנָדָב||Yᵉhownadab||יוֹנָדָב||Yownadab||nadab [# 5068]||Jehonadab||Jonadab|
|3083||3129||יְהוֹנָתָן||Yᵉhownathan||יוֹנָתָן||Yownathan||nathan [# 5414]||Jehonathan||Jonathan|
|3085||—||יְהוֹעַדָּה||Yᵉhow'addah||—||—||'adah [# 5710]||Jehoaddah||—|
|3087||3136||יְהוֹצָדָק||Yᵉhowtsadaq||יוֹצָדָק||Yowtsadaq||tsadaq [# 6663]||Jehotsadak||Jotsadak|
|3088||3141||יְהוֹרָם||Yᵉhowram||יוֹרָם||Yowram||ruwm [# 7311]||Jehoram||Joram|
|3092||3146||יְהוֹשָפָט||Yᵉhowshaphat||יוֹשָפָט||Yowshaphat||shaphat [# 8199]||Jehoshaphat||Joshaphat|
|3470a||3470||יְשַׁעְיָהוּ||Yᵉsha'yahuw||יְשַׁעְיָה||Yᵉsha'yah||yasha [# 3467]||Jeshajahu||Jeshajah|
|5418a||5418||נְתַנְיָהוּ||Nᵉthanyahuw||נְתַנְיָה||Nᵉthanyah||nathan [# 5414]||Nethanjahu||Nethanjah|
|138a||138||אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ||'Adoniyahuw||אֲדֹנִיָּה||'Adoniyah||'adown [# 113]||Adonijahu||Adonijah|
|452a||452||אֵלִיָּהוּ||'Eliyahu||אֵלִיָּה||'Eliyah||'el [# 410]||Elijahu||Elijah|
|3414a||3414||יִרְמְיָהוּ||Yirmᵉyahuw||יִרְמְיָה||Yirmᵉyah||ruwm [# 7311]||Jirmejahu||Jirmejah|
|—||5166||—||—||נְחֶמְיָה||Nᵉchemyah||nacham [# 5162]||—||Nechemjah|
Referring to other gods
- Jerubbaal, the alternate name of Gideon, variously translated as "Baal will contend"
- Abijam: "my father is Yam"
- Nebuchadnezzar (in Babylonian, Nabu-kudurri-usur)
- Ishbaal: "man of Baal".
- Mark: "dedicated to Mars".
- Jezebel: "glory to Baal".
Some names might be controversial theological statements: Bealiah could mean Baal is Yahweh and Elijah could mean Yahweh is El (and vice versa, respectively). On the other hand, as traditionally understood, these names simply mean "YHWH is Master" and "YHWH is God." (1 Chron. 12:5)
- "theophoric". Merriam-Webster online dictionary.
- θεόφορος. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
- Shendge, Malati J. The Language of the Harappans: From Akkadian to Sanskrit, 1997. p 24. "It may also be interpreted as theophorous names, i.e. the name of the god forming part of the name of an individual. The usage is theophorous because besides the eponymous Asura, each individual of high or low status has a personal name."
- Zadok, R. The Pre-hellenistic Israelite Anthroponymy and Prosopography, 1988. p 16. "The Period of the Judges (J) The theophorous names constitute a sizable minority (almost 40%). Many of the hypocoristica possibly originate from compound theophorous names (e.g., Abdon, Gerd, J21 1 1 1 1, 2141 12)."
- Benz, Frank L. Personal Names in the Phoenician and Punic Inscriptions. p 233. "Any one of the three major types of elements, divine name or theophorous, nominal, or verbal can make up a Phoenician-Punic hypocoristic name. The divine name hypocoristic is the least attested. The simplest formation is that of a single ..."
- Drijvers, H. J. W. Cults and Behafs at Edessa, 1980. p 21. "The proper names, which are mainly theophorous ones, may increase our knowledge of the religious feeling of the people of Edessa and of the cults practiced by them, insofar as their theophorous elements reflect existing beliefs."
- Mark Haughwout, "Personal Names Before Exodus 6:2-3"
- Anson F. Rainey, How Yahweh Was Pronounced Archived December 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, QUERIES & COMMENTS.
- Christian Ginsburg, Introduction To the Massoretico-Critical Edition Of The Hebrew Bible, p 369
- Scott Jones, Jehovah Archived December 15, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
- Beate Pongratz-Leisten, Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism Eisenbrauns 2011
- Lexicon of Greek Personal Names
- Ogden Goelet, "Moses' Egyptian Name"
- When Can Muslims Use the Name Mohammed?: Plus, why don't English speakers name their children Jesus? by Michelle Tsai
- How Theophoric Names prove who The Real Israelites are
- Slave Voyages