This is for all us Jews who are interested in where our last names came from. HOW WE ARRIVED AT OUR DESCRIPTIVE NAMES.... (How Jews got their Names....) DON'T MISS THE YIDDISH POEM AT THE END. Other than aristocrats and wealthy people, Jews did not acquire surnames in Eastern Europe until the Napoleon years of the early 19th century. Most of the Jews from countries captured by Napoleon, Russia, Poland, and Germany were ordered to acquire surnames strictly for tax purposes. After Napoleon's defeat, many Jews dropped these names and returned to "son of" names, such as: MENDELSON, JACOBSON, LEVINSON, etc. During the so-called "Emancipation," Jews were once more ordered to take surnames. In Austria, The Emperor Joseph made Jews take last names in the late 1700's. Poland 's had to take last names in 1821, and in Russia Jews acquired surnames in 1844. It's probable that some of our families have had last names for 175 years or less. In France and the Anglo Saxon countries surnames went back to the 16th century. Also Sephardic Jews had surnames stretching back centuries. Spain, prior to Ferdinand and Isabella, was a golden spot for Jews. They were expelled by Isabella in the same year that Columbus left for America. A coincidence? Or was Columbus himself a Jew and "expelled"? In any case, the earliest American Jews were Sephardic. In general there were five types of names. People had to pay for their choice of names, whereas the poor were assigned their names. Choices were: 1-- Names that were descriptive of the head of household Examples: HOCH (tall), KLEIN (small), COHEN (rabbi), BURGER (village dweller), SHEIN (good looking), LEVI (temple singer), GROSS (large), SCHWARTZ (dark or black), WEISS (white), KURTZ (short) 2 -- Names describing occupations. Examples: HOLTZ (wood) HOLTZKOCKER (wood chopper), GELTSCHMIDT (goldsmith), SCHNEIDER (tailor), KREIGSMAN (warrior), MALAMED (teacher) EISEN (iron), FISCHER (fish) 3-- Names from city of residence: BERLIN, FRANKFURTER, DANZIGER, OPPENHEIMER, DEUTSCH (German) POLLACK (Polish), BRESLAU, MANNHEIM, CRACOW, WARSHAW 4 -- Preferred names that had to be bought. Examples -- GLUCK (luck), ROSEN (roses), ROSENBLATT (rose paper or leaf), ROSENBERG (rose mountain), ROTHMAN (red man), DIAMOND, KOENIG (king), KOENIGSBERG (king's mountain), SPIELMAN (spiel is to play), LIEBER (lover), BERG (mountain), WASSERMAN (water dweller), KERSHENBLATT (church paper), STEIN (glass). 5-- Assigned names which were usually undesirable, for good reason! Examples: PLOTZ (to die), KLUTZ (clumsy), BILLIG (cheap)
Original Birth Names of Jewish Performers: Woody Allen --- Alan Stewart Koenigsberg June Allyson --- Ella Geisman Lauren Bacall --- Betty Joan Perske Jack Benny --- Benjamin Kubelsky Irving Berlin --- Israel Baline Milton Berle --- Milton Berlinger Joey Bishop ---Joseph Gottlieb Karen Black --- Karen Blanche Ziegler Victor Borge --- Borge Rosenbaum Fanny Brice --- Fanny Borach Mel Brooks --- Melvin Kaminsky George Burns --- Nathan Birnbaum Eddie Cantor --- Edward Israel Iskowitz Jeff Chandler --- Ira Grossel Lee J. Cobb --- Amos Jacob Tony Curtis --- Bernard Schwartz Rodney Dangerfield --- Jacob Cohen Kirk Douglas --- Issue Danielovich Demsky Melvyn Douglas --- Melvyn Hesselberg Bob Dylan --- Bobby Zimmerman Paulette Goddard --- Marion Levy Lee Grant --- Lyova Geisman Elliot Gould --- Elliot Goldstein Judy Holliday --- Judith Tuvim Al Jolson --- Asa Yoelson Danny Kaye --- David Daniel Kaminsky Michael Landon --- Michael Orowitz Steve Lawrence --- Sidney Leibowitz Jerry Lewis --- Joseph Levitch Peter Lorre --- Lazlo Lowenstein Elaine May --- Elaine Berlin Yves Montand --- Ivo Levy Mike Nichols --- Michael Peschkowsky Joan Rivers --- Joan Molinsky Edward G. Robinson -- Emanuel Goldenberg Jane Seymour --- Joyce Penelope Frankenburg Simone Signoret --- Simone-Henriette Kaminker Beverly Sills --- Belle Silverman Sophie Tucker --- Sophia Kalish Gene Wilder --- Gerald Silberman YIDDISH ~~~THE SECRET CODE Yiddish was the secret code, therefore I don't farshtaist, A bisseleh maybe here and there, the rest has gone to waste. Sadly when I hear it now, I only get the gist, My Bubbeh spoke it beautifully; but me, I am tsemisht. So och un vai as I should say, or even oy vai iz mir, Though my pisk is lacking Yiddish, it's familiar to my ear. And I'm no Chaim Yonkel , in fact I was shtick naches, But, when it comes to Yiddish though, I'm talking out my tuchas. Es iz a shandeh far di kinder that I don't know it better (Though it's really nishtkefelecht when one needs to write a letter) But, when it comes to characters, there's really no contention, No other linguist can compete with honorable mentshen: They have nebbishes and nebechels and others without mazel, The n, too, schmendriks and schlemiels, and let's not forget schlemazel. These words are so precise and descriptive to the listener, So much better than 'a pill ' is to call someone 'farbissener'. Or - that a brazen woman would be better called chaleria, And you'll agree farklempt says more than does hysteria. I'm not haken dir a tsheinik and I hope I'm not a kvetch, But isn't mieskeit kinder, than to call someone a wretch? Mitten derinnen, I hear Bubbeh say, 'It's nechtiker tog, don't fear, To me you're still a maven, zol zein shah, don't fill my ear. A leben ahf dein keppele, I don't mean to interrupt, But you are speaking narishkeit..... And A gezunt auf dein kup!' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ GLOSSARY Farshtaist = (Do You?) Understand Bisseleh = A little Tsemisht = Con fused or mixed up Och un vai = Alas and alack Oi vai iz mir = Woe is me Pisk = mouth Naches = Joy, Gratification Shandeh far di kinder = A pity/shame for the children Nishtkefelecht = Not so terrible Nebbishes = A nobody or simpleton Nebechels = A pititful person or playing the role of being one Schlemiel = Clumsy bungler, an inept person, butter-fingered; dopey person Schmendrik = Nincompoop; an inept or indifferent person; same as chlemiel Schlemazel = Luckless person. Unlucky person; one with perpetual bad luck (it is said that the shlemiel spills the soup on the Shlimazel!) Farbissener = Embittered; bitter person Chaleria = Evil woman. Probably derived from cholera. Farklempt = Too emotional to talk. Ready to cry. Haken dir a tsheinik = Don't get on your nerves (Lit.., Don't bang your teapot!) Kvetch = Whine, complain; whiner, a complainer Mieskeit = Ugly Mitten derinnen = All of a sudden, suddenly Nechtiker tog! = He's (it's) gone! Forget it! Nonsense! (Lit., a night's day) Zol zein shah! = Be quiet. Shut up!! Leben ahf dein keppele = Words of praise like; Well said! Well done! (Lit., A long life upon your head.) Narishkeit = Nonsense
Aharon [ M ]
Aharon was the first High Priest, and Moses' brother. Aharon was known for "loving peace and pursuing peace." Aharon means "mountain" or "shining." (variation: Aaron)
Abba [ M ]
Abba means "father." This name first gained popularity in the Talmudic era. The most famous Abba was a 4th-century Babylonian-born scholar who settled in Israel. (Talmud - Brachot 24b)
Avraham [ M ]
Avraham was the first patriarch of the Jewish people, who dedicated his life to teaching the world about one God. Avraham was a master of kindness. Avraham means "father of many nations." (see Genesis 17:5) (variations: Abraham, Abe, Avram)
Adam [ M ]
Adam was the first man. Adam means "ground." (see Genesis 2:7)
Akiva [ M ]
Akiva shares the same letters as Yaakov (Jacob), meaning "held by the heel." The famous Rabbi Akiva lived in Talmudic times. He had been a 40-year-old shepherd who could not even read the Aleph-Bet. One day, he came across a stone that had been holed out by a constant drip of water. He concluded: If something as soft as water can carve a hole in solid rock, how much more so can Torah -- which is fire -- make an indelible impression on my heart. Rabbi Akiva committed himself to Torah study, and went on to become the greatest sage of his generation, with 24,000 students learning under him at one time. (variation: Akiba)
Alexander [ M ]
This name originated with Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia. The Talmud relates that upon meeting the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem, Alexander dismounted and bowed to him. (Alexander rarely, if ever, bowed to anyone.) Alexander explained that he had seen the High Priest in a dream, which he interpreted as a good omen. Alexander thus peacefully absorbed the Land of Israel into his growing empire. In tribute, the Sages decreed that Jewish boys born that year (333 BCE) be named Alexander. It remains a popular Jewish name today. (variation: Sender)
Alon [ M ]
Alon means "oak tree." The name Alon appears in the Bible as a grandson of Jacob (1-Chronicles 4:37).
Alter [ M ]
Alter means "old" in Yiddish. Traditionally, if a child was born sickly, he was given the name Alter, as a blessing that he should grow to old age.
Amos [ M ]
Amos is one of the 12 minor prophets in the Bible. Amos means "loaded" or "crowded," referring to his vast wisdom.
Amram [ M ]
Amram was the father of Moses, and the leader of the Jewish people in the generation preceding the Exodus from Egypt. Amram means "mighty nation." (see Exodus 6:18)
Ariel [ M ]
Ariel means "lion of God" (Isaiah 29:1). Ariel is another name for Jerusalem, and specifically the altar in the Holy Temple (Ezekiel 43:15). Ariel is also the name of an angel with a mission of peace (Isaiah 33:7).
Aryeh [ M ]
Aryeh means "lion," the king of beasts. The lion symbolizes a go-getter, who pounces on the opportunity to do a mitzvah (see Code of Jewish Law O.C. 1). Aryeh is the nickname given to Judah, as a blessing that he will be the tribe of Jewish kings (see Genesis 49:9). (variations: Ari, Arieh)
Asher [ M ]
Asher means "blessed" or "fortunate." Asher is one of the 12 tribes, the son of Jacob. (see Genesis 30:13) (variation: Osher)
Avi [ M ]
Avi means "my father." Avi is short for Avraham, the first patriarch of the Jewish people. (see Genesis 17:5)
Avishai [ M ]
The name Avishai is a baby boy name, comes from the Hebrew origin. In Hebrew The meaning of the name Avishai is: Gift from God.
Avigdor [ M ]
Avigdor means "the father of the one who established boundaries" for the Jewish people. In this sense, Avigdor is traditionally one of the names of Moses. The name Avigdor is mentioned in the Bible, in 1-Chronicles 4:4.
Avner [ M ]
Avner means "my father is light." Avner appears in the Bible as King Saul's uncle and army commander (1-Samuel 14:50). (variations: Abner, Aviner)
Azriel [ M ]
Azriel is the name of an angel, meaning "helper of God." The name Azriel also appears in the Bible as the father of a leader of the tribe of Naftali (1-Chronicles 27:19), and also in Jeremiah 36:26.
Adina means "gentle."
Ahuva means "beloved." The word appears in the Bible, in Deuteronomy 21:15 and Nechemia 13:26.
Aliza means "joy." In kabbalah, Aliza signifies the joyful ability to rise above nature.
Anat means "to sing." Anat appears in the Bible in the book of Judges 3:31.
Ariella means "lioness of God." The variant form "Ariel" is another name for Jerusalem, and specifically the altar in the Holy Temple (Ezekiel 43:15). (variations: Ariel, Arielle)
Atara means "crown." It is sometimes used for naming after a Kreindel, a Yiddish name of the same meaning.
Avigail means "father's joy." Avigail appears in the Bible as King David's wife (1-Samuel 25:42). (variations: Abigail, Avigayil)
Avishag means "father's joy." Avishag appears in the Bible as attending to King David in his old age (1-Kings 1:3).
Avital appears in the Bible as King David's wife (2-Samuel 3:4). Avital means "father of dew," referring to God as sustainer. In kabbalah, Tal signifies Divine nourishment in a hidden manner, just as dew descends unseen to water the plants.
Aviva means "springtime."
Ayala means "deer." The name is often associated with the biblical Naftali, who is compared to a swift deer (Genesis 49:21).
Ayelet means "musical instrument," as in Psalms 22:1.
Jewish Names [Back to Top]
Barak [ M ]
Barak means "lightning." Barak appears in the Bible as the husband of the great prophetess Devorah. (see Judges ch. 4)
Baruch [ M ]
Baruch means "blessed." The name Baruch appears in the Bible as assistant to the prophet Jeremiah. (see Jeremiah ch. 32)
Betzalel [ M ]
Betzalel means "shadow of God." Betzalel appears in the Bible as the builder of the Tabernacle, the portable sanctuary which accompanied the Jewish people during their 40 years of wandering in the desert. (Exodus 31:2).
Benyamin [ M ]
Benyamin means "son of my right hand," connoting strength. Benyamin is one of the 12 tribes of Israel, the youngest of Jacob's sons (Genesis 35:18). (variations: Benjamin, Binyamin)
Ben-Tzion [ M ]
Ben-Tzion means "son of Zion" or "son of excellence." The name Ben-Tzion appears in the Talmud (Eydiot 8:7). Benzion, Ben-zion, Ben zion, Bentzion, Ben-Tziyon
Berel [ M ]
Berel is a derivative of the word "bear." It connotes strength, and is a nickname for the Hebrew name Dov (bear). (variation: Beryl)
Boaz [ M ]
Boaz means "swiftness." Boaz appears in the Bible as Ruth's husband, and King David's great-grandfather. (Ruth 2:1)
Bat Sheva means "daughter of seven." Bat Sheva appears in the Bible as King David's wife (2-Samuel 11:27), and the mother of King Solomon (2-Samuel 12:24). (variant spellings: Batsheva, Batsheba)
Batya means "daughter of God." Batya was the daughter of Pharaoh, who rescued baby Moses from the Nile River (Exodus 2:5). (variations: Batia, Basya)
Bat-Tziyon means "daughter of Zion," or "daughter of excellence." (variant spellings: Bat-Tzion, Bat-zion)
Bayla means "beautiful." It may also be related to the name Bilhah, who was the mother of Dan and Naftali, two of the 12 tribes of Israel. (Genesis 29:29 and 30:3) (variant spelling: Baila)
Bina means "understanding, intelligence, wisdom."
Bracha means "blessing."
Bruriah means "clarity of God." Bruriah was a great Torah scholar during Talmudic times, the wife of Rabbi Meir.
[Jewish Names Back to Top]
Calev [ M ]
Calev means "like a heart." Calev appears in the Bible as one of the 12 spies sent to scout out the Land of Israel (Numbers 13:6). Calev was the husband of Miriam, Moses' sister. (variations: Caleb, Kalev)
Carmi [ M ]
Carmi means "my vineyard." The name Carmi appears in the Bible as the grandson of Jacob (Genesis 46:9). (variation: Karmi)
Chagai [ M ]
Chagai means "my festival." Chagai was one of the 12 minor prophets in the Bible. A variant form of the name appears in the Bible as a grandson of Jacob (Genesis 46:16). (variation: Hagai)
Chaim [ M ]
Chaim means "life." The name first appears in Jewish writings during the 12th century as one of the Tosafot commentators on the Talmud. Tradition says that the Messiah will be named Chaim. (variations: Chayim, Hyam)
Chanan [ M ]
Chanan means "He was gracious." The name Chanan appears in the Bible as a leader of the tribe of Benjamin (1-Chronicles 8:23). (variation: Hanan)
Chananya [ M ]
Chananya means "God bestows charm." The name Chananya appears in the Bible as one of the prophets (Jeremiah 28:1).
Chananel [ M ]
Chananel means "God is compassionate." The name appears in the Bible, where reference is made to the "tower of Chananel" (Jeremiah 31:37).
Chanoch [ M ]
Chanoch means "education" or "dedicated." The name Chanoch appears in the Bible as a son of Cain (Genesis 4:17, 5:18). (variation: Henoch)
Chizkiyahu [ M ]
Chizkiyahu means "God is my strength." Chizkiyahu appears in the Bible as a righteous king of Israel (2-Kings ch. 19-20). (variations: Chizkiya, Chizkia, Hezekiah)
Carmel means "vineyard, garden, orchard." (variations: Carmela, Carmelit, Carmiela, Carmit, Carmiya)
Chana means "grace." This name is associated with the ability to create beautiful prayers; Chana appears in the Bible as praying to God, and then giving birth to the prophet Samuel. (1-Samuel ch. 1) (variant spellings: Hana, Hannah)
Chava means "life." Chava appears in the Bible as the first woman. (Genesis 3:20) (variations: Eve, Hava)
Chagit means "festive, celebration." Chagit appears in the Bible as King David's wife (2-Samuel 3:4). (variant spelling: Hagit)
Chaviva means "beloved."
Chaya means "alive, living." Chaya is related to the name Chava, who appears in the Bible as the first woman. (Genesis 3:20)
[Jewish Names Back to Top]
Dan [ M ]
Dan means "judge." Dan appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes, the fifth son of Jacob (Genesis 30:6). (variation: Don)
Daniel [ M ]
Daniel means "God is my judge," connoting the harmony of God's compassion and justice. Daniel served in the court of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and was saved from the lion's den, as recorded in the biblical Book of Daniel. (variation: Doniel)
David [ M ]
David means "beloved." David was the second king of Israel, and is the ancestor of all future kings, including the Messiah. (see 1-Samuel 17:12). (variation: Dovid)
Doron [ M ]
Doron means "gift."
Dov [ M ]
Dov means "bear." Dov appears in the Bible as a reference to cunning and strength (Lamentations 3:10). (variations: Dov-Ber, Dubi)
Dafna means "laurel."
Dalia means "flower." A variant form of the name appears in the Bible, in Ezra 2:60.
Dalit means "to draw water."
Daniella means "God is my judge."
Devorah means "to speak kind words." Devorah appears in the Bible as the great prophetess and judge who led a revolt against the Canaanite king (see Book of Judges). A different Devorah was the nurse of Rebecca (Genesis 35:8). (variations: Devora, Debra, Deborah)
Dinah means "judgment." Dinah appears in the Bible as the daughter of Jacob and Leah. (Genesis 30:21) (variant spellings: Dina, Deena)
[Jewish Names Back to Top]
Ephraim [ M ]
Ephraim means "fruitful." Ephraim appears in the Bible as the second son of Joseph, and grandson of Jacob (Genesis 41:52). (variations: Efrayim, Efraim)
Ehud [ M ]
Ehud means "beloved." The name Ehud appears in the Bible as one of the Judges of Israel (Judges 3:15).
Eitan [ M ]
Eitan means "strongly flowing" (see Deut. 21:4). The name Eitan appears in the Bible as a grandson of Judah (1-Chronicles 2:6). The Midrash says that Eitan is also a nickname for Abraham, the first Jew. (variation: Ethan)
Elchanan [ M ]
Elchanan means "God is gracious." The name Elchanan appears in the Bible as a warrior in King David's army, who won a key battle against the Philistines (2-Samuel 21:19).
Eldad [ M ]
Eldad means "beloved of God." The name Eldad appears in the Bible as a Jew who prophesied during the time of Moses (Numbers 11:26).
Elazar [ M ]
Elazar means "God has helped." The name Elazar appears in the Bible as a son of Aaron the high priest (Exodus 6:23).
Eliezer [ M ]
Eliezer means "my God has helped." Eliezer appears in the Bible as Abraham's servant (Genesis 15:2), and also as the son of Moses (Exodus 18:4). (variations: Lazer, Laser)
Eli [ M ]
Eli means "ascend" or "uplifted." Eli appears in the Bible as a High Priest, and the last of the judges in the days of Samuel (1-Samuel ch. 1).
Elimelech [ M ]
Elimelech means "my God is King." Elimelech appears in the Bible as the husband of Naomi (Ruth 1:2).
Elisha [ M ]
Elisha means "God will help," or "God will listen [to our prayer]." Elisha appears in the Bible as a prophet who was the main disciple of Elijah the Prophet. (see Second Book of Kings)
Eliyahu [ M ]
Eliyahu means "toward God." Eliyahu appears in the Bible as a prophet who ascended to heaven alive, and revisits the Jewish people at every circumcision and every Passover Seder. (see Book of Kings) (variation: Elijah)
Elyakim [ M ]
Elyakim means "my God will establish." Elyakim appears in the Bible as the manager of the king's palace (2-Kings 18:18).
Emanuel [ M ]
Emanuel means "God is with us." Emanuel appears in the Bible as the name of a Jewish savior (Isaiah 7:14), and also refers to the tribe of Judah (Isaiah 8:8). Tradition says that the Messiah will be named Emanuel. (variation: Immanuel)
Ezra [ M ]
Ezra means "helper." Ezra led the Jewish people's return from Babylonian exile, and spearheaded the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, as recorded in the biblical Book of Ezra.
Efrat means "honored, distinguished." Efrat appears in the Bible as the wife of Caleb (1-Chronicles 2:19). (variant spelling: Ephrat)
Eliana means "My God has answered me."
Elisheva means "God is my oath." Elisheva appears in the Bible as the wife of Aaron the High Priest (Exodus 6:23). (variations: Elisheba, Elizabeth)
Emunah means "faith." (variant spelling: Emuna)
Esther means "hidden" in Hebrew, and "star" in Persian. Esther saved the Jews in the Purim story from Haman's genocidal plot, as recorded in the biblical Book of Esther. Esther was known to be a very beautiful woman (she was chosen to be queen), yet her "hidden" internal qualities were even more beautiful. (variant spelling: Ester)
[Jewish Names Back to Top]
Fivel [ M ]
Fivel means "suckling" or "nursing" in Yiddish. Fivel also has a connotation of "light" or "candle." (variations: Fivish, Faivish, Feishiv, Feivel, Fayvel)
Faige means "bird" in Yiddish, and also is related to the Yiddish word for the fruit "fig." (variations: Faigy, Faigel, Faiga)
Freida means "joy" in Yiddish. (variations: Freda, Freeda, Freyde, Freydel)
Fruma means "pious" in Yiddish.
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Gad [ M ]
Gad means "good luck." Gad appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes of Israel, the son of Jacob (Genesis 30:11).
Gamliel [ M ]
Gamliel means "God is my reward." Gamliel appears in the Bible as a leader of the tribe of Menashe (Numbers 1:10), and in Talmudic times as a revered Jewish leader.
Gavriel [ M ]
Gavriel means "God is my strength." Gavriel appears in the Bible as the angel who foretold the birth of Isaac (Genesis 18:10), who overturned Sodom (Genesis ch 19), and who appeared to Daniel (Daniel 8:16). Traditionally, this angel stays by our left side as we sleep at night. (variation: Gabriel)
Gedaliah [ M ]
Gedaliah means "God is great." Gedaliah appears in the Bible as a leader of the Jewish people who was tragically murdered (2-Kings 25:22; Jeremiah chs. 40-43).
Gershom [ M ]
Gershom means "stranger." Gershom appears in the Bible as the son of Moses. (Exodus 2:22)
Gershon [ M ]
Gershon means "to chase away." Gershon appears in the Bible as the son of Levi. (Genesis 46:11)
Gidon [ M ]
Gidon means "mighty warrior." Gidon appears in the Bible as one of the Judges of Israel, and a war hero who defeated the Midianites (Judges 6:11). (variation: Gideon)
Gil [ M ]
Gil means "joy" in Hebrew.
Gavriella means "God is my strength." (variation: Gabriella)
Geula means "redemption."
Gila means "joy." In kabbalah, Gila means "to reveal God," which is a great source of joy.
Golda means "gold" in Yiddish. (variation: Goldie)
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Hirsh [ M ]
Hirsch means "deer" in Yiddish. The name is often associated with the biblical Naftali, who is compared to a swift deer (Genesis 49:21). (variations: Herschel, Hersh, Hershel, Heshel)
Hillel [ M ]
Hillel means "praise." Hillel appears in the Bible as the father of a Jewish leader (Judges 12:13). Hillel is also known in the Talmud as one of the greatest rabbinic sages.
Hadassah is the Hebrew name of Esther, who saved the Jews in the Purim story from Haman's genocidal plot, as recorded in the biblical Book of Esther. Hadassah means "myrtle tree." (variations: Hadas, Hadasa, Dassa, Dassi)
Hadar means "splendid, ornamented, beautiful."
Hinda is Yiddish for "deer." The name is often associated with the biblical Naftali, who is compared to a swift deer (Genesis 49:21).
Hodaya means "praise God."
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Ilan [ M ]
Ilan means "tree."
Issur [ M ]
Issur is the Yiddish nickname for "Israel." (variation: Isser)
Itamar [ M ]
Itamar means "island of palms." Itamar appears in the Bible as Aaron's youngest son (Exodus 6:23).
Idit means "choicest." (variation: Edith)
Ilana means "tree." In kabbalah, the numeric value of Ilana (96) equals the "throne of God." (variations: Elana, Ilanit)
Irit means "daffodil."
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Kalman [ M ]
Kalman, short for Kalonymos, is a Hungarian name meaning "merciful."
Kalonymos [ M ]
Kalonymos is a Hungarian name meaning "merciful."
Keren means "ray [of sunlight]." (variation: Karen)
Kinneret is another name for the Sea of Galilee, or Lake Tiberias.
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Leib [ M ]
Leib is Yiddish for "lion." The lion is the symbol of Judah, the tribe of Jewish monarchy. (variation: Leibel)
Levi [ M ]
Levi means "one who accompanies or attends," alluding to the Levites' role as servants in the Holy Temple. Levi appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes, the son of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 29:34).
Leah means "to be tired." Leah appears in the Bible as the wife of Jacob, the mother of six of the 12 tribes of Israel. (Genesis 30:19)
Leeba means "beloved" in Yiddish.
Levana means "white" or "moon."
Levona means "frankincense," a spice used in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (Exodus 30:34).
Lila means "night." (variations: Leila, Leilah)
Liora means "I have light." (variation: Lior)
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Malka [ M ]
Malka - a girls' name is of Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Malka is "queen".
Malkiel [ M ]
Malkiel means "God is my king." Malkiel appears in the Bible as a grandson of Asher (Genesis 46:17).
Manoach [ M ]
Manoach means "resting place." Manoach appears in the Bible as the father of Samson (Judges 13:2).
Matitiyahu [ M ]
Matitiyahu means "gift of God." Matitiyahu is a key figure in the Chanukah story, as the leader of the Maccabees. In kabbalah, Matitiyahu has the same numeric value (861) as Beit HaMikdash, the Holy Temple. (variation: Mattisyahu)
Medad [ M ]
Medad means "friend." Medad appears in the Bible as a leader and prophet in the time of Moses (Numbers 11:26).
Meir [ M ]
Meir means "one who gives light." Rabbi Meir appears in the Talmud as a great 2nd century sage. (variation: Meyer)
Menachem [ M ]
Menachem means "comforter." Menachem appears in the Bible as a Jewish king (2-Kings 15:14). Tradition says that the Messiah will be named Menachem. (variation: Menahem)
Menashe [ M ]
Menashe means "causing to forget." In kabbalah, Menashe holds the power to chase away evil. Menashe appears in the Bible as the son of Joseph. (Genesis 41:51) (variation: Manasseh)
Mendel [ M ]
Mendel is a Yiddish form of Menachem, meaning "comforter."
Meshulam [ M ]
Meshulam means "paid for."
Micha [ M ]
Micha means "Who is like God?" Micha appears in the Bible as one of the twelve Minor Prophets.
Michael [ M ]
Michael means "who is like God?" Michael appears in the Bible as a member of the tribe of Asher (Numbers 13:13). Michael is also the name of an angel and messenger of God, whose task is to act as the "defense attorney" for the Jewish people. Michael stays on our right side as we sleep at night; the right side is always associated with mercy and kindness. (variation: Michoel)
Mordechai [ M ]
Mordechai means "warrior." Mordechai appears in the Bible as a prophet and the husband of Queen Esther, who saved the Jews in the Purim story from Haman's genocidal plot. (variations: Mordecai, Motty, Motti)
Moshe [ M ]
Moshe was the greatest prophet ever, who led the Jewish people in the Exodus from Egypt, and at the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. Moshe means "drawn out [of the water]" (Exodus 2:10), for in a deeper sense, Moshe's destiny was to draw the Jewish people out of slavery. (variations: Moishe, Moses)
Maya means "water" in Aramaic (Talmud - Brachot 25b).
Mayan means "spring, oasis."
Mazal means "constellation" or "luck."
Meira means "one who gives light." A variant form, Mira, is a nickname for Miriam.
Meirav means "to maximize." Meirav appears in the Bible as the daughter of King Saul (1-Samuel 14:49).
Menucha means "tranquility" in Hebrew.
Michal means "Who is like God?" Michal appears in the Bible as King Saul's daughter (1-Samuel 14:49), and the first wife of King David (1-Samuel 18:27).
Milka appears in the Bible as one of the five daughters of Tzelofchad. (Numbers 26:33)
Miriam appears in the Bible as a prophet and the sister of Moses and Aaron (Exodus 15:20). Miriam means "bitter sea," because she was born at a time when the Egyptians embittered the lives of the Jews. Miriam, however, remained sweet despite the hardships around her, giving Jews courage in those difficult times. (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni - Exodus 165) (variations: Mirel, Mirele, Mimi)
Moriah means "God teaches." Mount Moriah is the site of the binding of Isaac (Genesis 22:2), and of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem (2-Chronicles 3:1).
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Nachshon [ M ]
Nachshon means "diviner." Nachshon appears in the Bible as the brother-in-law of Aaron, and the prince of the tribe of Judah, who was the first Jew to enter the Red Sea before it split (Exodus 6:23).
Nachman [ M ]
Nachman means "comfort." Nachman appears in the Talmud as a great sage who lived in Babylon. In kabbalah, Nachman has the same numeric value (148) as Netzach -- eternity.
Nachum [ M ]
Nachum means "comfort." Nachum appears in the Bible as one of the twelve Minor Prophets. (variation: Nahum)
Naftali [ M ]
Naftali means "to wrestle." Naftali appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes of Israel, the sixth son of Jacob (Genesis 30:8).
Natan [ M ]
Natan means "He gave." Natan appears in the Bible as a prophet and contemporary of King David (2-Samuel 5:15). (variations: Noson, Nathan)
Nechemia [ M ]
Nechemia means "comforted by God." Nechemia was a leader of the Jewish people during the return from Babylonian exile, as documented in the biblical Book of Nechemia.
Netanel [ M ]
Netanel means "gift of God." Netanel appears in the Bible as a brother of King David (1-Chronicles 2:14). (variation: Nathaniel)
Nissan [ M ]
Nissan is the name of the Hebrew month of Springtime, when Passover falls each year. Nissan means "banner."
Nissim [ M ]
Nissim means "miracles."
Noam [ M ]
Noam means "pleasant."
Noach [ M ]
Noach means "tranquility" (Genesis 5:29). Noach appears in the Bible as the builder of the Ark, whose family survived the Flood. In kabbalah, Noach is another name for Shabbat, the day of rest and tranquility. (variation: Noah)
Naama means "pleasant."
Naomi means "pleasant." Naomi appears in the Bible as the mother-in-law and inspiration for Ruth, as recorded in the Book of Ruth. In kabbalah, the numeric value of Naomi (170) represents goodness ("tov") on all levels.
Netanya means "gift of God." It is related to the name Natan, which appears in the Bible as a prophet and contemporary of King David (2-Samuel 5:15).
Nava means "beautiful." The word appears in the Bible, in Song of Songs 2:14.
Nechama means "comfort."
Noa means "vigorous motion," as in Isaiah 7:2 and Psalms 107:27. Noa appears in the Bible as one of the daughters of Tzelofchad. (Numbers 26:33)
Nurit is a flower, the buttercup.
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Oren [ M ]
Oren means "pine." It appears once in the Bible as a tree name (Isaiah 44:14), and once as a proper name (I Chronicles 2:25), one of the sons of Yerachme'al of the Tribe of Judah.
Ovadia [ M ]
Ovadia means "servant of God." Ovadia appears in the Bible as one of the twelve Minor Prophets. (variations: Ovadiah, Obadiah)
Ora means "light." (variation: Or, Orit)
Orli means "I have light." (variation: Orly)
Orna is related to the word meaning "pine tree."
Osnat is an Egyptian name meaning "belonging to God." Osnat appears in the Bible as the wife of Joseph, and mother of Ephraim and Menashe (Genesis 41:45). (variations: Asnat, Asnas, Osnas)
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Paltiel [ M ]
Paltiel means "created by God." Paltiel appears in the Bible as a descendant of the tribe of Issachar (Numbers 34:26).
Peretz [ M ]
Peretz means "burst forth." Peretz appears in the Bible as the son of Judah (Genesis 38:29).
Pesach [ M ]
Pesach means "to pass over." Pesach is the Hebrew name for Passover, the holiday celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt, when God "passed over" the Jewish homes during the plague of the first born.
Pesachya [ M ]
Pesachya comes from the root "petach" which means opening or door. The biblical Mordechai was also called "Pesachya" because he revealed hidden matters (i.e. “opened the door”) and knew 70 languages. Pesachya is also related to Pesach (Passover), when the Jews put blood on their “doorposts” during the plague of the first born. Pesachya is also mentioned in the Talmud as being in charge of the collection boxes for Temple offerings.
Pinchas [ M ]
Pinchas appears in the Bible as a High Priest, the grandson of Aaron. Pinchas' bravery stopped a deadly plague, for which God awarded him the Covenant of Peace (see Numbers ch. 25). Tradition says that the soul of Pinchas was reincarnated as Elijah the Prophet. (variation: Phinehas)
Penina means "pearl." Penina appears in the Bible as Elkanah's wife (1-Samuel 1:2). In kabbalah, Penina is related to the word penimi, meaning "inner," alluding to inner depth and purity – just as a pure pearl is produced internally. (variations: Perle, Perel)
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Rachamim [ M ]
Rachamim means "compassion."
Rafael [ M ]
Rafael means "God heals." Rafael is the angel of healing, who visited Abraham after his circumcision (Genesis ch. 18). Traditionally, Rafael stays behind us as we sleep at night. (variations: Raphael, Rafoel)
Reuven [ M ]
Reuven means "behold, a son!" Reuven appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes, Jacob's firstborn son (Genesis 29:32). Reuben
Rachel means a "female sheep," a symbol of purity. Rachel appears in the Bible as one of the four matriarchs – the wife of Jacob and mother of Joseph (Genesis 29:16). Rachel was buried in Bethlehem so that her soul could pray for the Jews who in the future would be led into exile.
Raizel is a Yiddish variant of "Rose." (variations: Rose, Raisal, Raisa, Risa)
Rina means "joy." The letters of Rina can be rearranged to spell "the candle of God." (variation: Rinat)
Rivka means "to tie." Rivka appears in the Bible as one of the four matriarchs, the wife of Isaac and the mother of Jacob. Rivka was known for her great kindness, e.g. when she drew well-water for Abraham's servant and all his camels. (see Genesis ch. 24) (variations: Rifka, Rebecca)
Ruth means "sweet and pleasant." Ruth appears in the Bible as a righteous convert, and ancestor of King David, as recorded in the Book of Ruth. (variations: Rut, Rus)
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Selig [ M ]
Selig means "blessed, happy" in Yiddish. (variation: Zelig)
Seth [ M ]
Seth means "appointed." Seth appears in the Bible as the son of Adam, born after the death of Abel (Genesis 5:3).
Shabtai [ M ]
Shabtai is a derivative of "Shabbat." The name Shabtai appears in the Bible as a Levite during the time of Ezra (Ezra 10:15).
Shalom [ M ]
Shalom means "peace." A derivative form Shalum appears in the Bible as a king of Israel (2-Kings 15:13). Shalom is also traditionally one of the names of God.
Shaul [ M ]
Shaul appears in the Bible as the first king of Israel (1-Samuel 9:2). Shaul means "borrowed," as in borrowed by God to serve the Jewish people. (variation: Saul)
Shay [ M ]
Shay means "gift," and is also a nickname for Yeshayahu (Isaiah). Yeshayahu was a prophet during the First Temple era in Jerusalem (8th century BCE), as documented in the biblical Book of Isaiah. (variation: Shaya)
Shimshon [ M ]
Shimshom means "powerful as the sun." Shimshom appears in the Bible as a strong and courageous judge, who grew long hair as a Nazerite, and led successful battles against the Philistines (Judges 13:24). (variation: Samson)
Shimon [ M ]
Shimon means "to hear." Shimon appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes, the second son of Jacob (Genesis 29:33). (variation: Simon)
Shlomo [ M ]
Shlomo means "his peace." Shlomo appears in the Bible as the son of King David and successor to the throne at age 12. Shlomo built the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and reigned during a time of unparalleled peace and prosperity. (see First Book of Kings) (variation: Solomon)
Shmuel [ M ]
Shmuel means "God is His name." In the Bible, a woman named Chana prayed fervently and she was blessed with a baby, Shmuel. Shmuel grew to become a great prophet, who had the honor of anointing the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, as recorded in the biblical Book of Samuel.
Shmariyahu [ M ]
Shmariyahu means "God's protection." A variant form, Shmariya, appears in the Bible as one of King David's loyalists (1-Chronicles 12:6).
Shneur [ M ]
Shneur is a Yiddish name meaning "two lights."
Shraga [ M ]
Shraga is an Aramaic word that appears in the Talmud, meaning "light" or "candle."
Simcha [ M ]
Simcha means "joy."
Sarah means "princess." Sarah appears in the Bible as a great prophet, the first of the matriarchs – wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac. (Genesis 17:15) (variations: Sari, Sarit, Sarita)
Sarai means "my princess." Sarai appears in the Bible as the original name of Sarah – wife of Abraham and mother of Isaac (Genesis 11:29).
Serach means "free of restraint." Serach appears in the Bible as the granddaughter of Jacob (Genesis 46:17).
Sharon is a region in Israel, known for being especially plentiful and nourishing (see Metzudot Tzion, Isaiah 33:9). (variations: Sharona, Sharonit)
Shayna means "beautiful" in Yiddish. (variations: Sheina, Shaindel)
Shifra means "improved." Shifra appears in the Bible as a Hebrew midwife who disobeyed Pharaoh's orders to kill Jewish babies. (Exodus 1:15)
Shira means "song" in Hebrew.
Shoshana is the Hebrew word for "rose." Shoshana appears in the Bible in Song of Songs 2:2, as "standing out like a rose amongst the thorns." In kabbalah, Shoshana has the same numeric value (661) as Esther, the hero of the Purim story who lived in the city of Shushan (related to "Shoshana"). (variation: Shani)
Shlomit means "peaceful." Shlomit appears in the Bible in Leviticus 24:11.
Shulamit means "peaceful." Shulamit appears in the Bible in Song of Songs 7:1.
Sigal, Sigalit, Sigalia
Sigal means "treasure" (see Deuteronomy 26:18). Sigalit also means "violet."
Simcha means "joy."
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Tamir [ M ]
Tamir means "tall, upright" and relates to the word tamar, a date palm (see Song of Songs 7:8).
Tanchum [ M ]
Tanchum means "consolation." The name Tanchum appears in the Talmud as a great sage who lived in Babylon.
Tuvia [ M ]
Tuvia means "God is good." The name Tuvia appears in the Bible as one who returned to Israel from the Babylonian Exile (Zechariah 6:10). In kabbalah, Tuvia has the same numeric value (32) as Lev, heart, and it is traditionally one of the names of Moses. (variations: Tovia, Tobiah, Tevye)
Tzion [ M ]
Tzion means "excellence." The name Tzion also appears dozens of times in the Bible as a reference to Jerusalem.
Tzvi [ M ]
Tzvi means "deer." The name is often associated with the biblical Naftali, who is compared to a swift deer (Genesis 49:21). (variation: Zvi)
Tzadok [ M ]
Tzadok means "justice." Tzadok appears in the Bible as assisting King David in stopping a rebellion (2-Samuel 15:27). (variation: Zadok)
Tzemach [ M ]
Tzemach means "plant." Tzemach appears in the Bible in Zechariah's prophecy (Zechariah 3:8).
Tzephania [ M ]
Tzephania means "protected by God." Tzephania appears in the Bible as one of the twelve Minor Prophets.
Tzuriel [ M ]
Tzuriel means "God is my rock." Tzuriel appears in the Bible as the leader from the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3:35).
Tal means "dew." In kabbalah, Tal signifies Divine nourishment in a hidden manner, just as dew descends unseen to water the plants.
Talia means "dew from God." In kabbalah, Tal signifies Divine nourishment in a hidden manner, like dew that descends unseen to water the plants.
Tamar means "palm tree," denoting righteousness. Tamar appears in the Bible as the wife of Judah, and the ancestor of King David. (Genesis 38:6)
Techiya means "revival."
Tehilla means "song of praise."
Tikva means "hope."
Tirtzah means "agreeable." Tirtzah appears in the Bible as one of the daughters of Tzelofchad. (Numbers 26:33)
Tova means "God's goodness." (variations: Tovat, Tovit, Tovah)
Tzipporah means "bird." Tzipporah appears in the Bible as the wife of Moses (Exodus 2:21). In kabbalah, Tzipporah has the same numeric value (376) as Shalom, peace. (variation: Tzipora)
Tziona means "excellent."
Tzivia means "assembly of God." Tzivia appears in the Bible as the mother of a Jewish king (2-Kings 12:2).
Tzofiya means "guardian."
Tzviya means "deer, gazelle." The name is often associated with the biblical Naftali, who is compared to a swift deer (Genesis 49:21).
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Uri [ M ]
Uri means "my light." Uri appears in the Bible as a leader of the tribe of Judah (Exodus 31:2).
Uriel [ M ]
Uriel means "God is my light." Uriel appears in the Bible as a descendent of Levi (1-Chronicles 6:9). Uriel is also is the name of the angel in charge of the element of air, who stays before us as we sleep at night.
Uziel [ M ]
Uziel means "God is my strength." Uziel appears in the Bible as a grandson of Levi (Exodus 6:18).
Uriella means "light of God."
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Velvel [ M ]
Velvel means "wolf" in Yiddish. Velvel is often associated with the tribe of Benjamin, who is described in the Bible as a wolf, i.e. a mighty and fearless warrior (Genesis 49:27).
Vered means "rose" in Aramaic, the language of the Talmud. (variations: Varda, Vardit)
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Yair [ M ]
Yair means "he will shine." Yair appears in the Bible as the grandson of Joseph. (Deut. 3:14) (variation: Jair)
Yaakov [ M ]
Yaakov means "held by the heel." Yaakov appears in the Bible as the third Patriarch, who fathered the 12 tribes of Israel (Genesis 25:26). In kabbalah, Yaakov represents completion and harmony. (variation: Jacob, Yaacov, Yakov, Yacov, Yankel, Yanki)
Yechezkel [ M ]
Yechezkel means "God will strengthen." Yechezkel was a prophet who was taken into Babylonian captivity. Yechezkel foretells the rebuilding of Jerusalem, as documented in the biblical Book of Yechezkel (6th century BCE). (variation: Ezekiel, Yehezkel, Chezy, Chatzkel, Haskel)
Yechiel [ M ]
Yechiel means "may God live." Yechiel appears in the Bible as a Jewish leader during the Babylonian exile (Ezra 8:9).
Yedidya [ M ]
Yedidya means "beloved of God." Yedidya appears in the Bible as the name that God chose to call King Solomon (2-Samuel 12:25). (variation: Yedidia)
Yehoshua [ M ]
Yehoshua means "God is salvation." Yehoshua appears in the Bible as Moses' prime disciple, and leader of the Jewish people after Moses' death (Deuteronomy ch. 31). Joshua conquered the Land of Israel from the Canaanites, as documented in the biblical Book of Joshua.
Yehuda [ M ]
Yehuda means "God will be praised." The English word, Jew, is derived from Yehuda (Judah). Yehuda appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes, who is blessed with the role of kingship (Genesis 29:35). The royal line of King David, Solomon and the Messiah all descend from Yehuda. The name Yehuda also appears as a leader in the Chanukah story -- Judah the Maccabee.
Yeshayahu [ M ]
Yeshayahu means "God is salvation." Yeshayahu was a prophet during the First Temple era in Jerusalem (8th century BCE), as documented in the biblical Book of Isaiah. (variation: Isaiah, Yeshaya, Yishayahu )
Yigal [ M ]
Yigal means "he will redeem." Yigal appears in the Bible as one of the 12 spies sent to scout out the Land of Israel (Numbers 13:7).
Yerachmiel [ M ]
Yerachmiel means "God will have mercy." Yerachmiel appears in the Bible as the son of a Jewish king (Jeremiah 36:26).
Yirmiyahu [ M ]
Yirmiyahu means "God will uplift." Yirmiyahu was a prophet who warned about the destruction of Jerusalem, as documented in the biblical Book of Jeremiah. (variation: Yirmiya, Jeremy)
Yitzhak [ M ]
Yitzhak means "he will laugh" (Genesis 21:6). Yitzhak appears in the Bible as the second of the three Patriarchs, who was bound on the altar at Mount Moriah (Genesis ch. 22). In kabbalah, the name Yitzhak indicates the ability to transcend and control the physical world. (variation: Yitzchak, Itzik, Itzhak, Isaac)
Yisrael [ M ]
Yisrael means "wrestled with God." Yisrael appears in the Bible as the new name given to Jacob, the father of the 12 tribes (Genesis 32:28). (variation: Yisroel, Israel)
Yissachar [ M ]
Yissachar means "there is a reward." Yissachar appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes, the son of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 30:18). (variation: Issachar)
Yochanan [ M ]
Yochanan means "God is gracious." Yochanan appears in the Bible as the son of a Jewish king (2-Kings 25:23), and as an army officer (Jeremiah 40:13). Yochanan was also the High Priest during the Chanukah story, who led the Maccabees in rededicating the Holy Temple.
Yoel [ M ]
Yoel means "God is willing." Yoel appears in the Bible as one of the twelve Minor Prophets. (variation: Joel)
Yom Tov [ M ]
Yom Tov means "holiday."
Yosef [ M ]
Yosef means "(God) will increase." Yosef appears in the Bible as one of Jacob's 12 sons, who was sold into slavery and later served as the prime minister to Pharaoh in Egypt (Genesis 30:24). In kabbalah, Yosef represents the power of unification, as he reunited all 12 brothers together in Egypt. (variation: Yoseph, Yossi, Joseph)
Yona [ M ]
Yona means "dove." Yona appears in the Bible as one of the twelve Minor Prophets, who was swallowed alive by a giant fish. (variation: Jonah)
Yonatan [ M ]
Yonatan means "God's gift." Yonatan appears in the Bible as King Saul's son and the best friend of King David (1-Samuel chs. 18-20). (variation: Yehonatan, Jonathan, Yoni, Yonason)
Yoram [ M ]
Yoram means "God will raise him up." Yoram appears in the Bible as the son of a king (2-Samuel 8:10).
Yuval [ M ]
Yuval means "stream." Yuval appears in the Bible as the son of Lemech (Genesis 4:21).
Yael means "to ascend" and "mountain goat." Yael appears in the Bible as the hero who saved the Jewish people by bravely killing the enemy general. (Judges ch. 4) (variations: Jael, Yaela)
Yaffa means "beautiful." In kabbalah, Yaffa has the same numeric value (95) as Malka, queen. (variation: Jaffa)
Yakova is the feminine form of Yaakov (Jacob), meaning "held by the heel." Yaakov was the father of the 12 tribes of Israel (Genesis 25:26). (variation: Jacoba)
Yardena means "to flow down," in reference to the Jordan (Yarden) River. (variation: Jordana)
Yehudit means "praise" (Genesis 26:34, 29:35), and is the female version of Yehudah. Yehudit appears as a hero of the Chanukah story who bravely killed the enemy general. (variation: Judith)
Yiskah means "to gaze." Yiskah appears in the Bible as the niece of Abraham (Genesis 11:29). Tradition says that Yiskah was another name for Sarah, so called because she "gazed" with prophetic inspiration, and because others "gazed" at her beauty.
Yocheved means "God's honor." Yocheved appears in the Bible as the mother of Moses, Aaron and Miriam. (Exodus 6:20)
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Zalman [ M ]
Zalman is the Yiddish form of Solomon. Solomon appears in the Bible as the son of King David and successor to the throne, who built the first Holy Temple.
Zechariah [ M ]
Zechariah means "remembering God." Zechariah appears in the Bible as one of the twelve Minor Prophets. (variation: Zachariah, Zachary)
Zev [ M ]
Zev means "wolf" in Hebrew. Zev is often associated with the tribe of Benjamin, who is described in the Bible as a wolf, i.e. a mighty and fearless warrior (Genesis 49:27). (variation: Zeev)
Zerach [ M ]
Zerach means "shining light." Zerach appears in the Bible as the son of Judah (Genesis 38:30).
Zevulun [ M ]
Zevulun means "to honor." Zevulun appears in the Bible as one of the 12 tribes, the son of Jacob and Leah (Genesis 30:20).
Zahava means "gold." (variation: Zahavit, Zehava)
Zissel means "sweet" in Yiddish. (variations: Sissel, Cecilia)
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The Origins and Meanings of Ashkenazic Last Names by Bennett Muraskin Ashkenazic Jews were among the last Europeans to take family names. Some German-speaking Jews took last names as early as the 17th century, but the overwhelming majority of Jews lived in Eastern Europe and did not take last names until compelled to do so. The process began in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1787 and ended in Czarist Russia in 1844. In attempting to build modern nation-states, the authorities insisted that Jews take last names so that they could be taxed, drafted and educated (in that order of importance). For centuries, Jewish communal leaders were responsible for collecting taxes from the Jewish population on behalf of the government, and in some cases were responsible for filling draft quotas. Education was traditionally an internal Jewish affair. Until this period, Jewish names generally changed with every generation. For example, if Moses son of Mendel (Moyshe ben Mendel) married Sarah daughter of Rebecca (Sora bas Rifke), had a boy and named it Samuel (Shmuel), the child would be called Shmuel ben Moyshe. If they had a girl and named her Feygele, she would be called Feygele bas Sora. Jews distrusted the authorities and resisted the new requirement. Although they were forced to take last names, at first they were used only for official purposes. Among themselves, they kept their traditional names. Over time, Jews accepted the new last names, which were essential as Jews sought to advance within the broader society and as the shtetles were transformed or Jews left them for big cities. The easiest way for Jews to assume an official last name was to adapt the name they already had, making it permanent. This explains the use of “patronymics” and “matronymics.” PATRONYMICS (son of…..) In Yiddish or German, it would be “son” or “sohn” or “er.” In most Slavic languages like Polish or Russian, it would be “wich” or “witz.” For example: The son of Mendel took the last name Mendelsohn; the son of Abraham became Abramson or Avromovitch; the son of Menashe became Manishewitz; the son of Itzhak became Itskowitz; the son of Berl took the name Berliner; the son of Kesl took the name Kessler, etc. MATRONYMICS (daughter of…) Reflecting the prominence of Jewish women in business, some families made last names out of women’s first names: Chaiken — son of Chaikeh; Edelman — husband of Edel; Gittelman — husband of Gitl; Glick or Gluck — may derive from Glickl, a popular woman’s name as in the famous “Glickl of Hameln,” whose memoirs, written around 1690, are an early example of Yiddish literature Gold/Goldman/Gulden may derived from Golda; Malkov from Malke; Perlman — husband of Perl; Rivken — may derive from Rivke; Soronsohn—son of Sarah. PLACE NAMES The next most common source of Jewish last names is probably places. Jews used the town or region where they lived, or where their families came from, as their last name. As a result, the Germanic origins of most East European Jews is reflected in their names. For example, Asch is an acronym for the towns of Aisenshtadt or Altshul or Amshterdam. Other place-based Jewish names include: Auerbach/Orbach; Bacharach; Berger (generic for townsman); Berg (man), meaning, from a hilly place; Bayer — from Bavaria; Bamberger; Berliner, Berlinsky — from Berlin; Bloch (foreigner); Brandeis; Breslau; Brodsky; Brody; Danziger Deutch/Deutscher — German; Dorf(man), meaning villager; Eisenberg; Epstein; Florsheim; Frankel — from the Franconia region of Germany; Frankfurter; Ginsberg; Gordon — from Grodno, Lithuania or from the Russian word gorodin, for townsman; Greenberg; Halperin—from Helbronn, Germany; Hammerstein; Heller — from Halle, Germany; Hollander — not from Holland, but from town in Lithuania settled by Dutch; Horowitz, Hurwich, Gurevitch — from Horovice in Bohemia; Koenigsberg; Krakauer — from Cracow, Poland; Landau; Lipsky — from Leipzig, Germany; Litwak — from Lithuania; Minsky — from Minsk, Belarus; Mintz—from Mainz, Germany; Oppenheimer; Ostreicher — from Austria; Pinsky — from Pinsk, Belarus; Posner — from Posen, Germany; Prager — from Prague; Rappoport — from Porto, Italy; Rothenberg — from then town of the red fortress in Germany; Shapiro — from Speyer, Germany; Schlesinger — from Silesia, Germany; Steinberg; Unger — from Hungary; Vilner — from Vilna, Poland/Lithuania; Wallach—from Bloch, derived from the Polish word for foreigner; Warshauer/Warshavsky—from Warsaw; Wiener — from Vienna; Weinberg. OCCUPATIONAL NAMES Craftsmen/Workers Ackerman — plowman; Baker/Boker — baker; Blecher — tinsmith; Fleisher/Fleishman/Katzoff/Metger — butcher; Cooperman — coppersmith; Drucker — printer; Einstein — mason; Farber — painter/dyer; Feinstein — jeweler; Fisher — fisherman; Forman — driver/teamster; Garber/Gerber—tanner; Glazer/Glass/Sklar — glazier; Goldstein — goldsmith; Graber — engraver; Kastner — cabinet maker; Kunstler — artist; Kramer — store keeper; Miller — miller; Nagler — nail maker; Plotnick — carpenter; Sandler/Shuster — shoemaker; Schmidt/Kovalsky — blacksmith; Shnitzer — carver; Silverstein — jeweler; Spielman — player (musician?); Stein/Steiner/Stone — jeweler; Wasserman — water carrier Merchants Garfinkel/Garfunkel — diamond dealer; Holzman/Holtz/Waldman — timber dealer; Kaufman — merchant; Rokeach — spice merchant; Salzman — salt merchant; Seid/Seidman—silk merchant; Tabachnik — snuff seller; Tuchman — cloth merchant; Wachsman — wax dealer; Wechsler/Halphan — money changer; Wollman — wool merchant; Zucker/Zuckerman — sugar merchant Related to tailoring Kravitz/Portnoy/Schneider/Snyder — tailor; Nadelman/Nudelman — also tailor from “needle’; Sher/Sherman — also tailor from “scissors” or “shears”; Presser/Pressman — clothing presser; Futterman/Kirshner/Kushner/Peltz — furrier; Weber — weaver Medical Aptheker — druggist; Feldsher — surgeon; Bader/Teller — barber Related to liquor trade Bronfman/Brand/Brandler/Brenner — distiller; Braverman/Meltzer — brewer; Kabakoff/Krieger/Vigoda — tavern keeper; Geffen — wine merchant; Wine/Weinglass — wine merchant; Weiner — wine maker Religious/Communal Altshul/Althshuler — associated with the old synagogue in Prague; Cantor/Kazan/Singer/Spivack — cantor or song leader in shul; Feder/Federman/Schreiber — scribe; Haver — from haver (court official); Klausner — rabbi for small congregation; Klopman — calls people to morning prayers by knocking on their window shutters; Lehrer/Malamud/Malmud — teacher; Rabin — rabbi (Rabinowitz—son of rabbi); London — scholar, from the Hebrew lamden (misunderstood by immigration inspectors); Reznick — ritual slaughterer; Richter — judge; Sandek — godfather; Schechter/Schachter/Shuchter etc. — ritual slaughterer from Hebrew schochet; Shofer/Sofer/Schaeffer — scribe; Shulman/Skolnick — sexton; Spector — inspector or supervisor of schools PERSONAL TRAITS Alter/Alterman — old; Dreyfus—three legged, perhaps referring to someone who walked with a cane; Erlich — honest; Frum — devout ; Gottleib — God lover, perhaps referring to someone very devout; Geller/Gelber — yellow, perhaps referring to someone with blond hair; Gross/Grossman — big; Gruber — coarse or vulgar; Feifer/Pfeifer — whistler; Fried/Friedman—happy; Hoch/Hochman/Langer/Langerman — tall; Klein/Kleinman — small; Koenig — king, perhaps someone who was chosen as a “Purim King,” in reality a poor wretch; Krauss — curly, as in curly hair; Kurtz/Kurtzman — short; Reich/Reichman — rich; Reisser — giant; Roth/Rothman — red head; Roth/Rothbard — red beard; Shein/Schoen/Schoenman — pretty, handsome; Schwartz/Shwartzman/Charney — black hair or dark complexion; Scharf/Scharfman — sharp, i.e intelligent; Stark — strong, from the Yiddish shtark ; Springer — lively person, from the Yiddish springen for jump INSULTING NAMES These were sometimes foisted on Jews who discarded them as soon as possible, but a few may remain: Billig — cheap; Gans — goose; Indyk — goose; Grob — rough/crude; Kalb — cow ANIMAL NAMES It is common among all peoples to take last names from the animal kingdom. Baer/Berman/Beerman/Berkowitz/Beronson — bear; Adler — eagle (may derive from reference to an eagle in Psalm 103:5); Einhorn — unicorn; Falk/Sokol/Sokolovksy — falcon; Fink — finch; Fuchs/Liss — fox; Gelfand/Helfand — camel (technically means elephant but was used for camel too); Hecht—pike; Hirschhorn — deer antlers; Karp — carp; Loeb — lion; Ochs— ox; Strauss — ostrich (or bouquet of flowers); Wachtel — quail. HEBREW NAMES Some Jews either held on to or adopted traditional Jews names from the Bible and Talmud. The big two are Cohen (Cohn, Kohn, Kahan, Kahn, Kaplan) and Levi (Levy, Levine, Levinsky, Levitan, Levenson, Levitt, Lewin, Lewinsky, Lewinson). Others include Aaron — Aronson, Aronoff; Asher; Benjamin; David — Davis,Davies; Ephraim — Fishl; Emanuel — Mendel; Isaac — Isaacs, Isaacson/Eisner; Jacob — Jacobs, Jacobson, Jacoby; Judah — Idelsohn,Udell,Yudelson; Mayer-Meyer; Menachem — Mann,Mendel; Reuben — Rubin; Samuel — Samuels, Zangwill; Simon — Schimmel; Solomon — Zalman. HEBREW ACRONYMS Names based on Hebrew acronyms include: Baron — bar aron (son of Aaron); Beck — bene kedoshim (descendant of martyrs); Getz — gabbai tsedek (righteous synagogue official); Katz — kohen tsedek (righteous priest); Metz — from moreh tsedek (teacher of righteousness; Sachs, Saks — zera kodesh shemo (his name descends from martyrs); Segal — se gan levia (second-rank Levite) OTHER HEBREW- and YIDDISH-DERIVED NAMES Lieb means “lion” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names including Liebowitz, Lefkowitz, Lebush, and Leon. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew work for lion — aryeh. The lion was the symbol of the tribe of Judah. Hirsch means “deer” or “stag” in Yiddish. It is the root of many Ashkenazic last names including Hirschfeld, Hirschbein/Hershkowitz (son of Hirsch)/Hertz/Herzl, Cerf, Hart, and Hartman. It is the Yiddish translation of the Hebrew word for gazelle — tsvi. The gazelle was the symbol of the tribe of Naphtali. Taub means “dove” in Yiddish. It is the root of the Ashkenazic last name Tauber. The symbol of The dove is associated with the prophet Jonah. Wolf is the root of the Ashkenazic last names Wolfson, Wouk and Volkovich. The wolf was the symbol of the tribe of Benjamin. Eckstein — Yiddish for cornerstone, derived from Psalm 118:22 Good(man) — Yiddish translation of Hebrew work for “good”: tuviah Margolin — Hebrew for pearl INVENTED ‘FANCY SHMANCY’ NAMES When Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire were required to assume last names, some chose the nicest ones they could think of — and may have been charged a registration fee by the authorities. According to the YIVO Encyclopedia, “the resulting names often are associated with nature and beauty. It is very plausible that the choices were influenced by the general romantic tendencies of German culture at that time.” These names include: Applebaum — apple tree; Birnbaum — pear tree; Buchsbaum — box tree; Kestenbaum — chestnut tree; Kirshenbaum — cherry tree; Mandelbaum — almond tree; Nussbaum — nut tree; Tannenbaum — fir tree; Teitelbaum — palm tree. Other name , chosen or purchased, were combinations with these roots: Blumen (flower), Fein (fine), Gold, Green, Lowen (lion), Rosen (rose), Schoen/Schein (pretty) — combined with berg (hill or mountain), thal (valley), bloom (flower), zweig (wreath), blatt (leaf), vald or wald (woods), feld (field). Miscellaneous other names included Diamond; Glick/Gluck — luck; Hoffman — hopeful; Fried/Friedman — happiness; Lieber/Lieberman — lover. Jewish family names from non-Jewish languages included: Sender/Saunders — from Alexander; Kagan — descended from the Khazars, a people of Turkic speaking Jews from Central Asia; Kelman/Kalman — from the Greek name Kalonymous, popular among Jews in medieval France and Italy. It is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “shem tov” (good name); Marcus/Marx — from Latin, referring to the pagan god Mars. Finally, there were Jewish names changed or shortened by immigration inspectors or by immigrants themselves and their descendants to sound more American, which is why “Sean Ferguson” was a Jew. Let us close with a ditty: And this is good old Boston; The home of the bean and the cod. Where the Lowells speak only to the Cabots; And the Cabots speak Yiddish, by God! Bennett Muraskin is a contributing writer to Jewish Currents magazine and the author of The Association of Jewish Libraries Guide to Yiddish Short Stories and Let Justice Well Up Like Water: Progressive Jews from Hillel to Helen Suzman, among other books.
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