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What’s in a name?

Ever wonder what is really in a name? What does it mean and why was it chosen?

Girl with her Hebrew Name necklace (photo: Courtesy)
Girl with her Hebrew Name necklace (photo: Courtesy)

Do you know what your name (shem – שם) means in Hebrew? Some names have more than one meaning. A great example is the name “Karen” – קרן. In Hebrew, “קרן” means “ray” (as in ray of sunshine), “horn” or “antler”, “foundation”, and is a free kick in soccer!

In Judaism, a name is important and is meant to be a description of a person’s personality or traits, however this applies to nearly all languages and religions. Choosing a name is a long and often difficult process.

So how do you choose?

There are a few common ways to choose a name:

  1. Some names are chosen simply because they sound nice. Many parents like going through name books and simply choosing a few names that have the “right” ring to them. Usually though, after that’s done, many like to check what the name means in various languages – just to be sure.
  2. It is common in many cultures around the world to name a child after a loved one who has passed away. In some cases, children are even named after a living relative.
  3.  Many people choose a name that means something – either by its literal meaning in a certain language, or who it represents in the bible.

Here are a few common names and their meanings in Hebrew:

Abigail – אביגיל – my father is joy

Adam – אדם – man

Barak – ברק – lightening or shine

Daniel – דניאל – God is my judge

Ella – אלה – goddess

Ethan – איתן – strong

Jacob – יעקב – he will follow

Jessica – יסכה – foresight (the power to see the future)

Natalie – נטלי – a  gift from God (from the abbreviation “נתן טוב לי ה'”)

Nathan – נתן – he gave

Noah – נח – rest, comfort

Want to learn what your name means in Hebrew? Sign up to eTeacherHebrew and join students like yourself from around the world. Learn from the best teachers in Israel, all from the comfort and convenience of your own home. Click here to sign up today.

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