In Genesis it says that Adam named all the animals. My question is: If you translate the Hebrew literally, does it mean that Adam named the species—i.e., dog, cat, lion, etc.—or did he give them each personal names—i.e., Spot, Fluffy, etc.? Or did he give them both species names and personal names?

Is there any way to tell from the original Hebrew exactly what was meant or would it be open to guessing, interpretation and personal opinion?

I have been wondering about this for quite some time now and would deeply appreciate finally knowing the answer.


Thank you for your question.

Adam gave each species its Hebrew name.

But these weren't random names picked out of a hat, mind you. According to the Kabbalah, the name of every creation is its life-source. The Hebrew letters carry a G‑dly power, and, when put together in different formations, they give life wherever they are applied. Thus, all created things are directly affected by their Hebrew names, and the letters of which they are composed.

Here is a quote from the Midrash to Genesis 2:19:

When the Holy One, blessed be He, was about to to create humankind, He consulted with His ministering angels, saying, "Let us make Adam." The angels responded, "What's so wonderful about this Adam?" So He brought each creature before the angels and asked them, "This creature, what is its name?" But they did not know. Then He brought the creatures before Adam and asked him, "This creature, what is its name?" To which Adam responded, "This is shor [Hebrew for ox], this is chamor [donkey]..."

Adam was able to perceive the spiritual components of the creative spirit that brought every animal into being, and named each animal in conjunction with its spiritual configuration.

For more on Adam naming the animals and the Hebrew letters, see Naming with Divine Inspiration, Letters of Lights, and my favorite, The Adam Files.