About Me

Per EVie's suggestion: Here is some information about me: Since personal names currently in use are derived from a multitude of languages and sources, no one can be an expert in all of them. My PhD is in Old and Middle English and Old Icelandic, and I also have had formal training in almost all the Germanic languages (Old and Middle High German, Old Saxon, Gothic, Old Low Franconian, Middle Dutch, Yiddish, Modern German, and Netherlandic/Flemish). In addition I learned Hebrew, Latin, and French before I left high school. Cobbling together my French and Latin, I know something about some of the other Romance languages (including Old French, Anglo-Norman, and Occitan), but I am no expert in Romance philology, although I have had formal training in Germanic philology. So that gives me a better than average background in many of the languages from which our current namestock is derived. However, what I know about Greek and Greek-derived , Balto-Slavic and Celtic names comes from my general knowledge of Indo-European philology, and my general knowledge of Indo-European philology does not really cover names from Sanskrit and other Indian languages and Persian. Knowing Hebrew gives me a bit of insight into cognate Arabic names, but I know nothing about Finno-Ugaric (happily we have our Hungarian sisters for that), Chinese, Japanese, the many indigenous languages of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

My Favorite Names

No favorite names yet.

My Recent Blog Comments
January 17, 2018 01:36 PM

Since 3mrys and Roland are both medieval literary figures, perhaps another? Gavin, Tristan, Arthur, Kai

January 16, 2018 03:36 PM

And there's Joyce as in Kilmer, even more British.

What about Leslie/Lesley? I had a male colleague named Leslie who went by Les.

One of my Hebrew school classmates was Lawrence who went by Lawrie.

January 15, 2018 07:26 PM

Or the Spanish pro golfer Jose Maria Olazabul

January 15, 2018 10:48 AM

The Julius family of names is probably the most popular group of Roman names among Jews. Think Groucho Marx.

Roman names were common among the women of my family. My grandmothers chose Cecilia and Celia and my mother was Sylvia.

January 15, 2018 10:36 AM

Merle Haggard, male; Merle Oberon, female

Anton/Anthony not generally used by Jews

January 14, 2018 10:50 AM

I think there are two large categories of names that meet those criteria: the old Roman Latin names and the bithematic Germanic names which have variants in most/all European languages. E.g., Julius, Jules, Julio, Julian and William, Willem, Wilhelm, Guillaume, Guillermo, Liam, etc.

January 14, 2018 09:55 AM

Issa is not only an Arabic male name, it is the Arabic variant for Jesus. This may or may not matter, but it is something to consider.

If Isabel is too popular, perhaps Isabeau...

January 13, 2018 07:30 PM

I don't know about gender-neutral, but there are the Arabic names Salma, Salima, Selima, which come from a root for safe.

January 13, 2018 09:27 AM

Lucy is English, Lucie French. If you are in the UK, then Lucy.

January 13, 2018 07:54 AM

Yes, there is a lot of confusion, even among those who should know better. I once had an online exchange with someone purporting to be a rabbi. We were discussing an article about father and son,  both named Haim. The rabbi claimed that the article must be bogus because father and son cannot have the same name. Um, they were Sephardim, and Sephardim name their children after the living. The rabbi didn't know that.

in general, assimilated American Jews have a vague notion of Jewish naming customs. If they are Ashkenazim, they know that children are named for the deceased family members, and they have the idea that "naming after" means choosing a name with the same initial. In fact, the son should be given the shem kodesh of the deceased forebear and if needed, a shem kinnui that usually refers to the shem kodesh by sound or by meaning. Girls can be named for the deceased or really anything at all. For example, there was a medieval woman named Licorice (yes, like Twizzlers) of Winchester, not exactly biblical.

There is no reason to boycott John and Mary while accepting other Greek variants of Hebrew names (James, Joseph). I would certainly not use Christopher or Christian. In fact, Christian/Chretien was a name given to converts during the Middle Ages. OTOH my classmates who were born in Europe during WWII were given names like Anthony and Patrick as camouflage. 

Names are not pareve. I gather the author means names that are not English variants of Hebrew biblical names on the one hand or specifically associated with another religion OTOH. He apparently means that names derived from pagan gods are in the same no-no category as Christopher. To put it mildly, he is not well informed. Mordechai, the name of a major character in the Book of Esther and a popular name to this day, is derived from the name of the god Marduk. Presumably Mordechai had a shem kodesh, but AFAIK it hasn't been preserved. OTOH we know that Esther, an Indo-European "star" name, had a Hebrew name as well, Hadassah, the word for the myrtle plant.




January 12, 2018 11:38 PM

I have a whole bunch of bones to pick with the website EVie notes. First of all, Jewish names fall into two categories, shem kodesh (holy names) and shem kinnui (vernacular names), not the mish-mash that author invents. Every male Jewish infant should receive a shem kodesh, selected from the roughly 150 accceptable names, at the time of his circumcision. Not all biblical names are accceptable--pre-Abrahamic names and the names of "bad" characters were not used.  Shortly after the founding of the State of Israel, people started to use names like Yuval and Nimrod, because it was felt in some quarters that Yitzhak and Moshe were literally too ghetto. Then the child could receive a shem kinnui, a vernacular name, if the family interacted with the broader non-Jewish culture. Female children could be named anything, since female names do not have religious significance.

Then there are errors in the discussion of specific names. For example, John is the English form of Yohanon and is just as suitable as Solomon for Shlomo. Mary/Maria are used for Miriam: remember it doesn't much matter what girls are named. Jews in the medieval Islamic world did use the name of the Prophet as a shem kinnui. That, of course, would not fly today.

However, the explanation of Alexander is correct. The article could have noted that among Ashkenazim Alexander usually appears as the Yiddish Sender, as in the surname Senderowitz, and of course there is Bernie Sanders.

January 12, 2018 06:13 PM

There is an African-American actor named Omari.

January 12, 2018 06:09 PM

My association with Omar is Gen. Omar Bradley fwiw.

January 12, 2018 05:00 PM

Omri is the name of the child protagonist in the popular children's book and film The Indian in the Cupboard. The name is not in much use in the US, but should be familiar from the book and film.

January 12, 2018 12:26 PM

Issa is the Arabic form of Jesus. I don't think that's what the Dorit family is looking for. Rather than Amri, perhaps Omri which is a biblical name, but not a well-known and obvious one.

January 12, 2018 12:22 PM

 In place of Elliott, perhaps Ellis which, like Elliot, is also a form of Eliyahu/Elijah.

January 12, 2018 09:46 AM
In Response to Asele

A like the letter and sell

January 12, 2018 08:43 AM
In Response to Asele

I had a neighbor named Aysel. In her case it was a Turkish name.

January 9, 2018 02:49 PM

I ALWAYS call my son Edward, speaking and writing. I will never ever call him Ed.

January 9, 2018 02:14 PM

Throughout my life my nickname has been written far more than my formal name. My son's nickname is written almost 100% of the time: on his books, his website, his twitter feed, his wikipedia page, his facebook pages, and so forth. About the only time his formal name is written is when I address his birthday card.