Etymology – Behind the name of people

  This page provides the source of Biblical people’s names. Most of the biblical names have a meaning, and this page provides some explanations and references to biblical texts.

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   This page provides an explanation to some of the names of persons that appear in The names origin is in most cases from Hebrew, and some names from other sources (Aramaic, Greek, Latin and Arabic).                          

Exploring their roots provides an interesting view.  Even the Bible in many cases provides an explanation of the names, sometimes with a colorful story that portraits the name, for example the explanation of the name “Moses”.

    Note that throughout most of the sites we review, we provide an Etymology section in most of the places, in order to provide an explanation of the names associated with that site. This page provides additional names that deserve an explanation into the source of the word.

   Many of our readers share these common names, and in most cases do not know what their name really means. If you would like us to research your name, please contact us.

* * * Note:   This new page is under construction . We are constantly adding more names ***

A to Z:

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z <–Click on the letter to get to a specific word.



Abraham – The Great Patriarch, father of Jewish nation. Initially he was called Abram. The source of name in Hebrew is Avram, and the name is composed from two words: Av (father) + Ram (large, great), or: “Great Father”.

The “Ha” in the second word was added, according to the Bible, after Abraham was elevated to the a higher level – father of many nations. Thus, the meaning of the name is “Great father of nations”.

 Biblical reference: In this text God renames Abraham from Abram, his birth name. Genisis 17:5: “Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee”.

Absalom – In Hebrew: Av-Shalom, where Av is father, and Shalom is peace. Thus the name means “Father of peace”. His tomb is in Kidron valley.

Biblical Reference: 2 Samuel 3:3 “And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;”


BenJamin – one of the tribes of Israel, son of Jacob.  Ben in Hebrew is “son”, Yamin in Hebrew is “right” (in direction). Since the right side was the sword side and regarded as the side of your alley and friend, the meaning of the name was “the son who was an alley”.

Biblical reference: Genesis 35:18  “And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin”.     See also: tomb of Benjamin.



Dan – one of the twelve tribes, and name of other people and places. Source in Hebrew: Dan – judged. The bible interprets the name “God hath judged me”.

Biblical references: : Genisis 30: 6: “And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan”.

Daniel – The Book of Daniel, written in the Babylonian exile, contains visions. Source of name is in Hebrew: Dani – judged me, El- God, hence the name means: “God has judged me”.

Biblical references: Daniel 1:6: “Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah”. 2:46: “Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel…”.

David – The Great King. Source of name in Hebrew is David, and the meaning of the name may be from the root name “Dod” or the word Yadid”, which means: friend. In the context of a name, this can be interpreted as “friend of God”.

 Biblical reference: there are many references. Example: 1 Samuel 16:13: “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah”.

Dayan – In Hebrew – judge. The word appears only in the Talmud and later, and is a common Hebrew family name (such as late General Moshe Dayan).


Elijah – The prophet.  In Hebrew: Eliyahu. Means in Hebrew: Eli (my God) + Yahu (the Lord, the Hebrew God). Thus the name means “The Lord is my God”. Elijah came from a place called Tishbi, in the region of Gilad – east to the Jordan river.

   Biblical reference: 1 Kings 17:1: “And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word”.

Emmanuel – The source of the name in Hebrew: Immanu-El, meaning God (El) + Immanu (with us), or “God is with us”. This is also explained in Mt 1:23: “…and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us”. This name refers to Jesus, and relates to prophet Isaiah’s prophecy (7:14):  “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”. Isaiah further describes Emmanuel’s acts in 8:8: “And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel”.

Ezekiel – Hebrew: “God will strengthen”; Based on:  Yechezek – will strengthen; El -God. Biblical References: Ezekiel 1 3: “The word of the LORD came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the LORD was there upon him”.

Ezra – A scribe from the period of the Babylonian exile, wrote the book of Ezra. The name was derived from Aramaic and Hebrew: Ezer – help, assist, aid. The name Ezra may be a short form of his ancestor, Azariah – aid of God.

    Biblical references: Ezra 7:1: “Now after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah”. Nehamiah 8:1: “And all the people gathered themselves together as one man into the street that was before the water gate; and they spake unto Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded to Israel”.





Iscariot – Judas Iscraiot, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, who betrayed Jesus. Iscraiot is from Hebrew : Ish-Krayioth, which is composed from two words: Ish (man) + Krayioth (towns, suburbs). Thus the meaning of Iscariot is “towns man” – if translated explicitly.  However, a better interpretation is that Krayioth is an ancient city in Samaria, 2 KM East of Shiloh, and Judas or his ancestors, came from that place.

   Biblical references:

    (1) In the Bible, Krayioth can be found in Jermiah 48: 21-24: ” And judgment is come upon the plain country… And upon Kerioth”.

    (2) Matthew 10: 2-4: “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these… and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

Isaiah – The Prophet, son of Amotz (2 Kings 19: 2). From Hebrew: Yeshayahu, means: salvation of God.  The name is composed from two words: “Yeshah” which means salvation+ “Yahu” suffix means “God”.

Biblical references:

(1) Isaiah was the prophet at the times of Hezekiah, King of Judah: “And he sent Eliakim… to Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz”.

(2) Isaiah’s book starts with: “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah”.

Ittai – Head of the army from the city Gat who helped David during the Avhaslom (Absalom) mutiny. He was not a Hebrew, as the biblical text tells us. The meaning is not known, but close to the Hebrew word Itti (with me). He was a close allay to David, and with his 600 men helped to save his Kingdom.

Biblical References: 2 Samuel 15:19: “Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile”.


Je— – a common prefix to a biblical name, means in Hebrew: Ye: “God”.

Jesus – Jesus Christ. The source of the name in Hebrew is “Yeshua”, which means : Ye (God) + Shua (Salvation).  Thus the name means “God is Salvation”. Another form of the name is Joshua (see below).

Jo— – a common prefix to a biblical name, means in Hebrew: Yo – “God”.

John – the Baptist. from Hebrew, “Yochanan”, which means: Yo  (God) + Chanan (Pardoned). Thus the name in Hebrew means ” God has pardoned”.

    Biblical Reference: Mark 1 4,5: “John did baptize in the wilderness…in the river of Jordan”.

Jonathan – Means in Hebrew: “God had provided”, from Yo (God) + Nathan (delivered, provided).

Joram – There were two Israelite Kings with this name. The source of the name in Hebrew is Yoram, which means: Yo (God) + Ram (tall). Thus the name means “God is tall”. Another form is Jehoram, meaning the same.

   Biblical reference: there are many references. For example, 2 Kings 8: 16: And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah began to reign.

Joseph – Son of Hebrew Patriarch Jacob; foster father of Jesus. The source of the name in Hebrew is Yosef, which means Yo (God) + Sef (add). Thus the name means “God shall  add”. The Bible provides this meaning in the following Biblical reference: Genesis 30: 24: And she called his name Joseph; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son.

Joshua – The leader of the Israelites after Moses. The source of the name in Hebrew is Yehushua:  Yehu (God) + Shua (Salvation). Thus the name means “God is Salvation”.

Judas – Judas Iscraiot, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, who betrayed Jesus. Judas, or Judah, is from Hebrew : Yehuda, one of the tribes of Israel, son of Jacob. It is composed from two words: Yehu (God) + Ode (future tense of thank, praise). Thus the meaning of Jehuda is “praise God”.

   Biblical references:

1) This text provides the explanation of the name: Genesis 29 35: : “And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing”.
2)Matthew 10: 2-4: “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these… and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.




Mary – Mother of Jesus. The source of the name is in Hebrew: Miriam, which was the sister of Moses and Aaron. The exact meaning of Miriam is not clear; it may be originating from two Hebrew words: Mar (bitter) + Yam (sea). Thus the name means “bitter-sea”. It may also be “lady of the sea” if Mar is the feminine form of “sir”-mar in Hebrew (comment by P. Spitzer).

   Biblical reference: Exodus 15: 20: “And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances”.

Matthew – one of Jesus 12 Apostles, a tax collector (publican) in Capernaum. His Hebrew name was Matty (Matti),  short for Mattatiyahu. In Hebrew this is a combination of two words: Mattat (present, gift) + Yahu (God). Thus the name means “Gift of God”.

Biblical reference: Matthew 10: 2,3: “Now the names of the twelve apostles are these…Matthew the publican…”;

Moses – The great leader of the Hebrews, freed them from the Egyptian slavery and led them to the promised land. Source of the name is in Hebrew: Moshe. It means “taking out of the water”.

    The name was explained by the Bible text: Exodus 2:10: “And the child grew, and she brought him unto Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. And she called his name Moses: and she said, Because I drew him out of the water”.


Nehemiah – Servant of the Persian King, leader of the returning exiles. His name means in Hebrew: Nechem – to comfort, Yah – God, so the name means “comfort of God”. His father’s name is Hachaliah, from Hebrew: “waiting for God” or “Trust in God”.

 Bibical references:  Nehemiah 1:1: “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah”.





Rotem – In Hebrew, a plant that usually grows in the desert. In English this plant is called “broom”.

      The following text told us that prophet Elijah fled for his life from Queen Ezebel to the desert near Beersheba, and he hid under a Rotem tree (as written in the Hebrew bible). In KJV the name was translated to a different bush, Juniper, which is not the same bush type (this is a case of “lost in translation”…).

  1 Kings 19 4,5 “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers. And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.”


Solomon – The great King, son of King David. The source of the name in Hebrew is Shlomo. Shalom means peace in Hebrew, and Shlomo may mean “God gives him peace”.

    One of the Biblical references to King Solomon, son of King David: 2 Samuel 12: 24: “And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a son, and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him”.







Yehudasee Judas

Yoramsee Joram

Yosefsee Joseph


Zechariah – Hebrew: “God remembers him”, based on Zachar – remember. Zechariah was a prophet in the days of the return from exile in Babylon (6th C BC). Biblical reference: Zechariah 1,1: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,”.


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This page was last updated on June 30, 2011

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