This article possibly contains original research. (December 2010)
A theophoric name (from Greek: θεόφορος, theophoros, literally "bearing or carrying a god") embeds the word equivalent of 'god' or God's name in a person's name, reflecting something about the character of the person so named in relation to 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 Greek and Roman theophoric names
|Hermaphroditus||"Hermes and Aphrodite"|
|Apollo||Apollodorus, -a||"gift of Apollo"|
|Apollonides||"son of Apollo"|
|Artemidorus||"gift of Artemis"|
|Athenagoras||"man in Athena's market"|
|Athenodorus, -a||"gift of Athena"|
|Demetrodorus||"gift of Demeter"|
|Dionysus||Dionysius, later Dennis|
|Dionysodorus, -a||Gift of Dionysus|
|Dionysikles||Glory of Dionysus|
|Helios||Heliodorus||"gift of the Sun"|
|Hera||Heracles||"glory of Hera"|
|Herodotus||"given by Hera"|
|Hermes||Hermaphroditus||"Hermes and Aphrodite"|
|Hermippus||"horse of Hermes"|
|Hermocrates||"strength of Hermes"|
|Hermolaus||"people of Hermes"|
|Isis||Isidorus, Isidora||"gift of Isis"|
|Mene (Selene)||Menodora||"gift of the Moon"|
|Nymphs||Nymphodora||"gift of the nymphs"|
|Poseidon||Poseidippus||"horse of Poseidon"|
|Poseidorus, -a||"gift of Poseidon"|
|Themis||Themistocles||"glory of Themis"|
|Zeus||Diocles, Diocletian||"glory of Zeus" (gen. Dios)|
|Diodorus||"gift of Zeus"|
|Zeno||of Zeus (gen. Zenos)|
|Zenobius, Zenobia||"might of Zeus"|
|Zenodotus||"given by Zeus"|
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
- Abdelmasih: (Arabic) "servant of the Messiah"
- Abdisho: (Syriac) "servant of Jesus"
- Ahadabui, also Ahidabu: (Syriac) "brother to the Father"
- Ahischema: (Syriac) "brother of the schema"
- Aitillaha: (Syriac) "God exists"
- Amadeus: (Latin) "lover of God"
- Attallah: (Arabic) "gift of God"
- Bakhtishu: (Syriac) "redeemed by Jesus"
- Bogdan: (Slavic) "God given"
- Bogomil: (Slavic) "dear to God"
- Bozhidar: (Slavic) "gift of God"
- Christian: (Greek) "believer in Christ"
- Christopher: (Greek) "Christ-bearer".
- Daniel: (Hebrew) "God is my Judge"
- Deodatus/Deusdedit: (Latin) "God-given"
- Dorotheus/Dorothea: (Greek) "gift to God"
- Fürchtgott: (Germanic) "God-fearing"
- Geoffrey/Gottfried: (Germanic) "God's peace"
- Gottlieb: (Germanic) "God's love"
- Ishodad: (Syriac) "given by Jesus"
- Ishosabran or Sabrisho: (Syriac) "patient for Jesus"
- Ishoyahb or Yahbisho: (Syriac) "Jesus has given"
- Marnazka: (Syriac) "the Lord has conquered"
- Michael: (Hebrew) "who is like God"
- Philothea/Philothei/Philotheos: (Greek) "lover of God"
- Sabrisho or Ishosabran: (Syriac) "patient for Jesus"
- Shubhalisho, also Shubhisho: (Syriac) "praise to Jesus"
- Shenouda: (Coptic) "son of God"
- Slibazka: (Syriac) "the Cross has conquered"
- Raphael: (Hebrew) "God has healed"
- 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"
- Yahballaha: (Syriac) "God has given"
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).
The personal names of almost all gods and goddesses of various deities from the polytheistic Hindu pantheon are considered common and traditional names for people from region. Many traditional Hindu names are in fact from various names or epithets of Hindu gods or goddesses. This is in addition to compound theophoric names using the name of a deity in addition to possessive qualifiers.
- Names of gods which are also used as personal names, include
- Personal names using a deity's name as the base
- Vaishnavi, meaning "a worshipper of Vishnu"
- Shivansh, meaning "a part of Shiva"
Brahma, the Hindu creator god, is one of the only deities of the pantheon whose name is rarely if ever used as a personal name or as a base for theophoric personal names.
Some seemingly theophoric names, may in fact be more related to the original etymology of the deity's name itself. For example, both Lakshmi (fortune, success, prosperity) and Lakshman (prosperous, principal, marked) are names of a deity and an avatar respectively, which are related to lakṣ meaning "to mark or see".
- Abdullah: "servant 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"
- Uzziel: "God is my strength"
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"
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||Yᵉho'achaz||יוֹאָחָז||Yo'achaz||achaz [# 270]||Jehoahaz||Joahaz|
|3060||3101||יְהוֹאָש||Yᵉho'ash||יוֹאָש||Yo'ash||'esh [# 784]||Jehoash||Joash|
|3075||3107||יְהוֹזָבָד||Yᵉhozabad||יוֹזָבָד||Yozabad||zabad [# 2064]||Jehozabad||Jozabad|
|3076||3110||יְהוֹחָנָן||Yᵉhowchanan||יוֹחָנָן||Yochanan||chanan [# 2603]||Yehochanan||Jochanan|
|3077||3111||יְהוֹיָדָע||Yᵉhoyada||יוֹיָדָע||Yoyada||yada [# 3045]||Jehoiada||Joiada|
|3078||3112||יְהוֹיָכִין||Yᵉhoyakin||יוֹיָכִין||Yoyakin||kun [# 3559]||Yehoyakin||Joiakin|
|3079||3113||יְהוֹיָקִים||Yᵉhoyaqim||יוֹיָקִים||Yoyaqim||qum [# 3965]||Yehoyakim||Joakim|
|3080||3114||יְהוֹיָרִיב||Yᵉhoyarib||יוֹיָרִיב||Yoyarib||rib [# 7378]||Jehoiarib||Joiarib|
|3082||3122||יְהוֹנָדָב||Yᵉhonadab||יוֹנָדָב||Yonadab||nadab [# 5068]||Jehonadab||Jonadab|
|3083||3129||יְהוֹנָתָן||Yᵉhonathan||יוֹנָתָן||Yonathan||nathan [# 5414]||Yehonathan||Jonathan|
|3085||—||יְהוֹעַדָּה||Yᵉho'addah||—||—||'adah [# 5710]||Jehoaddah||—|
|3087||3136||יְהוֹצָדָק||Yᵉhotsadaq||יוֹצָדָק||Yotsadaq||tsadaq [# 6663]||Jehozadak||Jozadak|
|3088||3141||יְהוֹרָם||Yᵉhoram||יוֹרָם||Yoram||rum [# 7311]||Jehoram||Joram|
|3092||3146||יְהוֹשָפָט||Yᵉhoshaphat||יוֹשָפָט||Yoshaphat||shaphat [# 8199]||Jehoshaphat||Joshaphat|
|3470a||3470||יְשַׁעְיָהוּ||Yᵉsha'yahu||יְשַׁעְיָה||Yᵉsha'yah||yasha [# 3467]||Yeshayahu||Isaiah|
|5418a||5418||נְתַנְיָהוּ||Nᵉthanyahu||נְתַנְיָה||Nᵉthanyah||nathan [# 5414]||Netanyahu||Netaniah|
|138a||138||אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ||'Adoniyahu||אֲדֹנִיָּה||'Adoniyah||'adown [# 113]||Adoniyahu||Adonijah|
|452a||452||אֵלִיָּהוּ||'Eliyahu||אֵלִיָּה||'Eliyah||'el [# 410]||Eliyahu||Elijah|
|3414a||3414||יִרְמְיָהוּ||Yirmᵉyahu||יִרְמְיָה||Yirmᵉyah||rum [# 7311]||Yirmeyahu||Jeremiah|
|—||5166||—||—||נְחֶמְיָה||Nᵉchemyah||nacham [# 5162]||—||Nechemiah|
Referring to other gods
- Jerubbaal, the alternate name of Gideon, variously translated as "Baal will contend"
- Jezebel: "glory to Baal"
- Ishbaal: "man of Baal"
- Balthazar and Belshazzar (Babylonian): "Baal, protect the king"
- Abijam: "my father is Yam"
- Shalmaneser (Assyrian): "Shulmanu is foremost"
- Sennacherib (Assyrian): "Sîn has replaced the brothers"
- Pygmalion (Phoenician via Greek): "Pummay has given"
- Nebuchadnezzar (in Babylonian: Nabu-kudurri-usur): "Nabu, watch over my heir"
- Mordecai: "from Marduk"
- Ben-Hadad: in Hebrew means "son of Hadad", but his original Aramaic name is Hadadezer: "Hadad is help"
- Mark: "dedicated to Mars"
- "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."
- Madhuri Agrawal. Dictionary, Sanskrit English Dictionary Wilson.
- 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
- Gonzalo Rubio, Gods and Scholars: Mapping the Pantheon in Early Mesopotamia in Beate Pongratz-Leisten (ed.), 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