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All About Hebrew Names
Are you trying to find out how to translate your English name into Hebrew or your Hebrew name into English? Do you know what your Hebrew name means? Here are some of today's most common questions about Hebrew names: Where do Hebrew names come from? What do Hebrew names mean? How do I pronounce my Hebrew name? How do I choose a Jewish baby name? What's the difference between a Biblical name and a Modern Israeli name? Why do some people have a secular name and a Hebrew name? Where did my Jewish name originate? Is there such a thing as a Hebrew nickname? Where can I find a list of Hebrew names for girls and a list of Hebrew names for boys? To learn all about Hebrew names and Jewish naming customs, read on…
Hebrew Names for Religious Purposes
Certain rituals in the Jewish religion require a Hebrew name. Prayers for the sick, memorial prayers, and legal documents such as the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) use a person's Hebrew or Jewish name, and Hebrew names are also used in synagogue to call someone to recite a blessing over or read from the Torah. In these instances, a person's patronymic name is used, taking the form of:
Given Name + Ben (son of)/Bat (daughter of) + Father's Hebrew name
Secular and Hebrew Given Names
Many Orthodox Jews and Israelis give their children a Hebrew name which is used all the time – both for everyday purposes and for religious rituals. Other Jewish parents often give their children two names: a secular name for everyday activities, a Hebrew name for religious matters. A person's secular name and Hebrew name sometimes match in sound or in meaning, i.e., Linda/Leah, Ralph/Reuven, or Jacob/Ya'kov, Eva/Chava; however sometimes there is no connection between the English and Hebrew versions, i.e. Eli/Shalom.
How to Choose a Hebrew Name
There are several types of Hebrew naming customs:
1) Naming a baby after a personality from the Bible (Biblical Hebrew names), i.e. Adam, Joseph, Abraham, Isaac, Sarah, Judith, Esther.
2) Naming a child after a relative; note that the Ashkenazi custom is to name a baby after a deceased relative (to honor the deceased person's name and to keep their memory alive). In the Sephardic tradition children can be named after living relatives.
3) Giving a baby a Modern Hebrew or Israeli name, which often reflects some aspect of Israel or Israeli culture, or which is composed by parents simply because they like it.
Hebrew Name Translations
The rule when it comes to translating Hebrew names into English is that there aren't any rules! In theory, one's Hebrew and secular names don't need to be connected at all. However, many times Hebrew names and secular names are in fact connected, as follows:
— Names whose Anglicized and Hebrew versions are the exactly the same (although pronounced somewhat differently), i.e. Sarah, Rachel, Ruth, David, Daniel, Benjamin.
— Hebrew names which are 'translated' into English i.e., Rivka/Rebecca; Yosef/Joseph; Shoshana/Rose.
Modern Hebrew and Israeli Names and Meanings
Here is a breakdown by categories of many of today's most popular Modern Hebrew and Israeli names.
1) Hebrew/Israeli Nature Names: Erez (cedar tree); Alon (tree); Carmit (derived from kerem or vineyard); Dalya (name of a flower); Hadas/Hadassah (myrtle); Lilach (lilac)
2) Hebrew/Israeli Astrological Names: Hila (radiance); Kochava (Star); Mazal (luck, fortune, fate, zodiac sign); Nogah (the planet Venus; light, glow); Sahar (moon)
3) Hebrew/Israeli Geographical Names: Zur (rock); Guy (valley); Ma'ayan (spring/fountain); Ofek (horizon); Rama (height/tall/exalted)
4) Hebrew/Israeli Mineral/Precious Stone Names: Paz (pure gold); P'nina (pearl); Margalit (precious object); Sapir (sapphire/precious stone of the High Priest's breastplate); Zahava (gold)
5) Hebrew/Israeli Musical Names: Liron, Ran, Ron, Ronen, Yaron, Ronit, Roni, Renana, Rina, Rinat (From la'ron, to sing, joyful sounds); Shir, Shira, Shirit, Shir'el, Shiraz, Shirli (related to song/poem)
6) Hebrew/Israeli Names Containing the Word "God": Adiel, Aviyah, Achya, Ana'el, Ariel, Ariella, Bar-El, Azriel, Batya, Betzalel, Eliad, Eli, Elior, Elichai, Elisheva, Eliraz
7) Hebrew/Israeli Agriculture-Related Names: Amir (sheaf); Nir, Nirit (plowed field); Dalit (rising vine); Bar (grain/cereal); Einav (grape); Eshkol (cluster of grapes); Omer, Omri (sheaf); Yaniv (he will bear fruit/produce)
8) Hebrew/Israeli Jerusalem/Zion-related Names: Ben Tziyon, Bat-Tziyon, Tziyon, Tziyona, Har'el, Moriah, Dvir, Ami, Amichai, Bat-Ami, Ben Ami
9) Hebrew/Israeli Ocean-related Names: Gal, Galit, Galya (wave); Almog (coral); Yam (sea/ocean)
10) Hebrew/Israeli Zoological Names: Aryeh (lion); Ayala, Ayelet (deer); D'vorah (bee); Dov (bear); Dror (freedom/sparrow); Gur (cub); Yonah (dove); Ofer, Ofrah (fawn); Kfir (young lion)
11) Hebrew/Israeli Light & Color Names: Avior, Ya'ir, Ta'ir, Me'ir, Me'irah, Maor, Nir, Nerli, Or, Orah, Ori, Orit, Or'el, Lior, Liora (light/illumination); Shachar (dawn); Shalhevet (flame); Shani (scarlet); Sigal, Sigalit (violet); T'chelet (pale blue); Uri, Uriel, Uriah (my fire); Vardit, Varda, Vered (rose); Ziv, Ziva, Zohar (light/brilliance); Tzel, Tzilah (shaded place)
12) Hebrew/Israeli Personality Trait Names: Adina (gentle); Adir (mighty); Adiv, Adiva (gentle/generous); Ahuva (loved); Aliza (happy); Baruch, Bracha (blessed); Eyal (strength/courage); Eitan (strong/steadfast) Eden, Edna (pleasure); Ezer, Azari, Ezrah (helper/supporter); Gila, Galit, Gili, Gil (joy); Chaviv, Chaviva (loved/amiable); Chedva (joy); Chen (charm); Noam, Na'ama (pleasant/gracious); Nachum, Nechama (consoling); Nava (pretty); Osher, Oshri, Oshrat (happiness); Oz (strength); Rachamim, Ruchama (compassion); Ram, Rami, Sagi, Sagiv, Sagit (tall/lofty); Sasson, Simcha (joy); Shalom, Shalva, Shlomit (peace/tranquility); Tehila (praise/glory); Tikvah (hope); Temima (pure/innocent); Tova (good); Yaffa, Yafit, Yiff'at (pretty); Tzadok (righteous/justice)
Hebrew Name Resources
Go online to find scores of Hebrew name directories featuring databases containing thousands of Hebrew names for boys and girls (and their English correlates), lists of Jewish baby names, Hebrew name meanings, and more.
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