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All About Jewish Names in Brief

All About Jewish Names in Brief


Names are more than convenient labels; going by your Jewish name is a statement of pride in your Jewish heritage. The Jews of ancient Egypt, tradition tells us, kept their Jewish names. That’s one of the ways they remained a cohesive people and merited redemption.

There’s more: Your Jewish name is the channel by which life reaches you from Above. In fact, the Kabbalists say that when parents name a child, they experience a minor prophecy—because, somehow, that child’s destiny is wrapped up in the combination of Hebrew letters that make up his or her name.

Granting a name in the presence of the Torah infuses the name with blessing

A girl gets her name at the Torah reading in the synagogue. The rabbi or Torah reader recites a prayer for the health of mother and child, and the father provides the name that the parents have chosen. Since the Torah is the source of all good things, granting a name in the presence of the Torah infuses the name with blessing.

A boy is named at his brit milah (circumcision), when he enters into the covenant of Abraham and becomes a full-fledged member of the Jewish nation.

Some Details:

  • Never got a Jewish name? Converting to Judaism? Select a Jewish name that resonates with you. Often, people choose a name that is similar to their non-Jewish name in sound, in meaning, or both.
  • Traditionally, Jews name their children after relatives or holy people. Sephardic Jews will sometimes name a child after a living ancestor; not so Ashkenazic Jews. Click here for more details.
  • When we pray for someone, we have in mind that person’s Jewish name and that of his or her mother. But when we call a man for an aliyah to the Torah, we use his Jewish name and that of his father.
  • A change in name can result in a change of fortune. That’s why, if someone is dangerously ill, we might provide him an additional name.
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Discussion (54)
October 20, 2015
My name
I was born to two traditional jews (who were both born frum but later became less observant). I was given a names using the initials of both my deceased grandfathers.
My father (OBM) didn't name me in shul,.
I became frum and used my middle name as my Hebrew name because it was Sharon( supposedly a jewish name) but I hated it. I grew to dislike my first name too and I felt quite 'rootless'.
I had at the time 7 children and totally committed to my jewishness. My rabbi suggested that I write to the Rebbe for advice.
On the day of my 38th birthday (both days were the same as my original birthdate) I received a fax from the Rebbe.
I had a name! My whole life changed, I needed a new Kesuva, I felt that I was now know in shemayim correctly.
Interestingly in previous correspondence to the Rebbe, he never referred to me by name only as 'your wife' to my late husband.
My parents (OBM) only called me by my new name. I was totally new.
Bellevue Hill
October 20, 2015
Adam means "Red" and "Earth", not "Man"; Methuselah actually means "Man of the Spear", not "his death brings it". The latter is a myth of the Evangelical movement.
June 21, 2015
Hebraic meanings of first names in Genesis
It seems to me that the non-Jews who began from Creation must all have significance. 'Adam obviously means "Man". Noach obviously means "rest". Methusalach means "his death brings it" - and he was translated the year before the Flood. No one disputes these meanings. But what do the other names mean in Hebrew? I would love illumination to this mystery.
As a second note, is it not enlightening to observe that Hebrew was, thus, the initial language from the Garden? The 70 nations were a confounded and fractured mess at Babel, but the original language is eternal, it seems.
Bless Hashem!
I would greatly appreciate direction regarding the meanings of those first 11 generations.
Jim Stewart
N Phoenix, AZ, USA
May 26, 2015
do you know anyone from the town of David Harodok
saul mednick dmd
January 25, 2015
Almost there -
Great article! Gave me an idea. What "exactly" do Nachum and Shmiyah mean?

Between you and me.
January 1, 2015
Is the last name Kosnar Jewish? My ancestors came to the U.S. from Czechoslovakia in the late 1870's.
San Jose, CA
October 17, 2014
why did Elimelech and naomi name their children mahlon and kilion
April 28, 2014
Both "ben Avraham" as well as using one's mother's father's names are both commonly done when one's father is not Jewish. Speak to your local Rabbi to find out the accepted local practice.
Yisroel Cotlar
Cary, NC
April 21, 2014
If one's father is not Jewish (and therefore has no Hebrew name), does this person become "ben Avraham"? In some contexts, can the child get the name of his maternal grandfather?
March 17, 2014
Do I have a Jewish name?
My last name is Bingenheimer,which is similar to Oppenheimer and Guggenheim. Do you think this is a German-Jewish name