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Popular Jewish Names for Boys

Updated on August 3, 2012
Brainy Bunny profile image

Brainy Bunny is married to a Conservative rabbi and has extensive experience with living an observant Jewish life.

What will be the perfect name for this Jewish baby boy?
What will be the perfect name for this Jewish baby boy? | Source

When you find out that you're going to have a child, you have so many things to think about and plan for. One of the most important decisions you'll have to make is what to name him: do you want to be traditional, and name him after a deceased relative; choose a secular name and a separate religious name; or choose something funky and different altogether? Whichever route you decide on, here are some popular Jewish and Hebrew boys' names to consider for your new son.

Best Baby Names for Jewish Children
Best Baby Names for Jewish Children

This comprehensive book includes thousands of names and helpfully offers Hebrew equivalents for secular names.

 

Most Popular Biblical Jewish Baby Names for Boys in the US

Many of the most popular names in the United States are of biblical origin, which makes it easy to choose a name that honors your heritage yet stays current with trends. More than a dozen biblical names are on the list of most popular baby names during the past 100 years (from 1912–2011), and more than two dozen are currently in the top 100 according to Social Security. This list includes all the popular biblical names from that data (during the past 100 years, past decade, and currently).

(Note: For the most part these names have been Anglicized through the years; you can use the Anglicized version as a secular name and the original Hebrew version as a religious name.)

  • Jesse
  • Jonathan
  • Joseph
  • Joshua
  • Josiah
  • Levi
  • Matthew
  • Michael
  • Nathan
  • Nathaniel
  • Noah
  • Samuel
  • Seth
  • Zachary

  • Aaron
  • Adam
  • Benjamin
  • Caleb
  • Daniel
  • David
  • Eli
  • Elijah
  • Ethan
  • Gabriel
  • Isaac
  • Isaiah
  • Jacob
  • Jeremiah
  • Jeremy

Popular Hebrew Names

Biblical names are great, but what if you want something a little different? There are hundreds of Hebrew names derived from the natural world, and one might be perfect for your son. Or you may want something with a strong religious meaning. In either case, read on for a sampling of popular Hebrew boys' names.

Names from Nature
Meaning
Religious Names
Meaning
Alon
oak tree
Ariel
lion of God
Amir
top branch of a tree
Avi
my Father
Ari
lion
Ben-Ami
son of my people
Aviv
springtime
Chaim
life
Barak
lightning
Doron
gift
Carmel
vineyard
Elazar or Eliezer
God has helped
Dov
bear
Elnatan
gift of God
Even
stone
Ezekiel
God will strengthen
Ilan
tree
Gad
lucky
Itamar
island of palms
Gilad or Gilead
hill of testimony
Jordan (Yarden)
descent (Israel's river)
Hillel
praised, famous
Lev
heart
Joel
God is willing
Ofer
young deer
Malachi
my messenger
Oren
pine tree
Matan
gift
Ra'anan
fresh, flourishing
Melech
king
Ron
song, joy
Micah or Micha
Who is like God?
Shachar
morning, dawn
Mordechai
warrior
Shalom
peace
Raphael or Refael
God has healed
Tal
dew
Reuben
behold, a son!
Tzvi
deer, gazelle
Simon
to hear or to be heard
Yonah (Jonah)
dove
Tikvah
hope
Zev
wolf
Yaron
he will sing
 
 
Yedidyah
friend of God

Jewish Naming Options

Example: The relative you want to name after is your Great-Grandpa Morris (Hebrew first name: Mordechai).

  • Option 1: Use Morris as your son's first or middle name in direct tribute. Use Mordechai as his Hebrew name or choose something different like Melech or Micah.
  • Option 2: Name your son a popular secular name like Mason or Max, and use Mordechai as his Hebrew name.
  • Option 3: Morris means "dark" or "swarthy," so you could choose a secular name like Cole with the same meaning. Then either find a Hebrew name that also means something similar, like Kedar or Pinchas, or stick with Mordechai for religious purposes.

Jewish Naming Customs

It is customary among Ashkenazi Jews to name children only after deceased relatives, not after anyone still living. (This is not a Jewish law, however; Sephardi Jews did not develop this superstition and do name babies after living relatives.) If you want to honor your great-grandpa Morris or Irving, but don't want to use an old-fashioned name, consider using his Hebrew name as your son's Hebrew name for religious purposes, and choose a secular name that is similar, starts with the same letter, or has the same meaning.

A Jewish boy traditionally receives his name at his brit milah, or bris, eight days after he is born. You will need to fill out the paperwork for his birth certificate before that, but you may want to keep his name a secret from all but the closest relatives until his big reveal on the eighth day. That way you can announce it to all your friends and family together and explain why you have chosen the name you did. If your son is named after a deceased relative, the bris is an ideal time to talk about the values or accomplishments your son's namesake showed that you hope will manifest in the new generation.

Bibliography

Kolatch, Alfred J. Best Baby Names for Jewish Children. New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 1998.

Sidi, Smadar Shir. The Complete Book of Hebrew Baby Names. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989.

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    • profile image

      win-winresources 4 years ago from Colorado

      Hi BB-

      Since my wife and I have common secular names we wanted our children to have unique names. But not, a burdon of a name like "sweet butterfly jones" or "Dwezil" or "Moon unit" (thanks Frank Zappa). So we made up their secular names, figuring if they didn't like them they could always use their religious name or a nickname. Big son's religious name is Chaim Mordechai (after a deceased great uncle and great great grandfather) Big daughter is Tiertza Adina, after a great grandmother and great great aunt.

      They both managed to survive just fine with their unique secular names (even though they went to Jewish Day School) and actually enjoyed being the only child on the playground to turn around when their name was called.

      Today, one a lawyer and the other holds an advanced degree and works at a large university.

      I'm a lucky man.

      -DW

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Those are beautiful Hebrew names you chose for your children, DW. I'm glad they grew up comfortable with their secular names, too. When I was born, my parents didn't give me a Hebrew name, so I chose my own as a child, and then insisted on only being called by it for the next three years before going back to my secular name in junior high. (I was a pain in the neck!) For my own kids, we decided to give them dual-purpose names, so they could feel their Jewish and secular identities were integrated. Seems to be working so far . . .

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Personally, one of my favorite names is Judah (not on the list!) but I love Ari and Benjamin too. And you can really never go wrong with Joshua.

      A fun read! Voted up and interesting.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Oh, Judah! I knew I forgot a good one. There are so many wonderful Jewish names that I could have gone on for pages. I didn't even list some of my personal favorites, like Asher. Thanks for reading, clevercat!

    • theclevercat profile image

      Rachel Vega 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Oh, Asher is great, too! :-)

    • babynology profile image

      babynology 4 years ago from New York

      I admire jewish baby names. Each name comes with information on any known meaning. If you would like to find out the meaning or origin any of the names, you can simply search over the internet.

    • Robert Levine profile image

      Robert Levine 16 months ago from Brookline, Massachusetts

      Is Michael ever actually mentioned in the Hebrew Bible?

      Avi is usually an abbreviation for Avraham.

      Why do you call the Ashkenazi practice of naming children for deceased relatives a "superstition"?

    • Brainy Bunny profile image
      Author

      Brainy Bunny 16 months ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Michael appears in Ketuvim, in the book of Daniel. Avi can be a nickname, but it is also used as a standalone name. The practice of not naming children for living relatives is a superstition because there is/was a belief that the angel of death could come for the wrong person and take the baby when it was actually the older relative's time. I don't think too many people literally believe that in that these days, but the practice of only naming for already-deceased relatives lives on.

    • Robert Levine profile image

      Robert Levine 16 months ago from Brookline, Massachusetts

      Interesting, I never knew the superstitious side of that tradition--I'd always assumed it was simply as a memorial to the deceased. And thank you for the Book of Daniel citation.

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