A primer on Hebrew names

A wide variety of Hebrew names are in usage today. Generally, the traditional Biblical names are seen as old-fashioned and tend to be most used among very religious families, while the more modern names are used among a wider range of people. Many modern Hebrew names are also unisex. People who came to Israel during the first major waves of aliyot (immigration) tended to take these kinds of modern, empowered names, and shed their old shtetl identities.

Transliteration is obviously going to vary, but I personally use the standard, modern Sephardic style in use in modern Israel. Depending on the word or name, I’ll varyingly render the “ey” sound as ei or ey. There are also a few other transliteration choices I make depending on the common style and my own personal aesthetics. For example, some names look better without the H on the end, while others can go either way. The one transliteration style I shy away from is the dated, archaic Ashkenazic style (with the exception of a handful of words I either use myself, like Shabbos vs. Shabbat, or can at least tolerate, like bris vs. b’rit). That’s just not correct, accurate, modern pronunciation.

Modern Hebrew tends to put the stress on the final syllable of a word or name. CH is the guttural sound found in familiar words like loch and Chanukah.

Common Hebrew names:

Unisex:

Adi (Jewel; Ornament)
Agam (Lake)
Almog (Coral)
Amit (Friend)
Anat (Answer)
Aviv (Spring)
Aviya (My father is God)
Chesed (Mercy)
Dar (Mother-of-pearl)
Dikla (Palm grove)
Dor (Generation)
Eden
Gal (Wave)
Gili (My joy)
Hadar (Glory)
Hed (Echo)
Keshet (Rainbow)
Li (To me)
Lior (My light)
Liron (My song)
Maayan (Spring of water)
Mor (Myrrh)
Moran (Viburnum shrub)
Nitzan (Flower bud)
Noam (Pleasantness)
Nogah (Brightness)
Noy (Beauty)
Ofir
Ofra (Fawn)
Or (Light)
Ori (My light)
Paz (Gold)
Ravid (Ornament; Necklace)
Raz (Secret)
Ron (Song; Joy)
Rotem
Shachar (Dawn)
Shaked (Almond)
Shalev (Tranquil; Calm)
Shani (Red)
Simcha (Celebration)
Stav (Autumn)
Tal (Tali) (Dew)
Tam (Honest; Innocent)
Tom (The End)
Tovia (God is good)
Yarden (Jordan)
Yuval (Stream)
Ziv (Radiant; Bright)
Zohar (Brilliance)

Female:

Achinoam (My brother is pleasant)
Adara (Noble)
Adina (Gentle; Delicate)
Adva (Ripple)
Ahavah (Love)
Ahuvah (Belovèd)
Aliyah (To go up; To ascend)
Alizah (Joyful)
Alona (Oak tree)
Amira (Treetop)
Ariella (Lion of God)
Atara (Crown)
Avigayil (Abigail)
Aviva (Spring)
Ayala (Doe)
Ayelet (Gazelle)
Ayla (Oak tree)
Batya, Batel (Daughter of God)
Batsheva
Bracha (Blessing)
Bosmat, Basmat (Fragrance)
Chagit (Festive)
Chana (Chani) (Hannah, Anna, Anne)
Chava (Eve)
Chaya (Life)
Cherut (Freedom)
Dafna (Laurel)
Dalit (To draw water)
Dalya (Branch)
Devorah, Dvora (Bee)
Dorit (Generation)
Drorit (Sparrow; Freedom)
Efrat (Fruitful place)
Elah (Oak tree)
Eliana (My God has answered)
Eliora (My God is my light)
Elisheva (Elizabeth)
Elke (God has purchased)
Galya, Galit (Wave)
Gila (Joy; Happiness)
Hadassah, Hadas (Dassah) (Myrtle tree) (Esther)
Hila (Halo)
Ilana, Ilanit (Tree)
Inbal (Tongue of a bell)
Inbar (Amber)
Irit (Asphodel flower)
Kalanit (Anemone) (my almost-15-year-old spider plant’s name)
Kelila (Crown of laurels)
Keren (Horn)
Kineret (Hebrew name for the Sea of Galilee)
Leah, Lea (pronounced like Princess Leia’s name in Hebrew, not Lee-a)
Liat (You are mine)
Libi (My heart)
Lichi (She is mine)
Lilach (Lilac)
Liora, Liorit (My light)
Lital (My dew)
Livna, Livnat (White)
Livya, Livia (Lioness)
Malka (Queen)
Marganita (Scarlet pimpernel flower)
Margolit, Margalit, Margalita (Pearl)
Marni (Rejoice)
Maya (Water)
Maytal, Meital (Dewdrop)
Meira, Meirit (Giving light)
Menucha (Tranquility)
Merav, Meirav, Meyrav (Abundant)
Michal (Micha) (Brook)
Miriam
Naama (Pleasant)
Nachal (Stream)
Naomi (Pleasantness)
Nava (Beautiful)
Nessa (Miracle)
Neta (Shrub; Plant)
Nitza (Flower bud)
Noa (Motion)
Noya (Divine beauty)
Nurit (Buttercup)
Ora, Orit (Light)
Orli (My light)
Orna (Pine tree)
Penina
Ra’anana (Fresh; Invigorating)
Rachel (pronounced with a guttural CH)
Rani (My song; My joy)
Raziella (God is my secret)
Reut (Friend)
Rina, Rinat (Joy)
Rivka (Riva) (Rebecca)
Rona, Ronit (Song; Joy)
Rut (Ruth)
Sagit (Sublime; Elevated)
Sarah (Princess)
Segulah (Treasure)
Shifra (Beautiful)
Shira, Shir (Song)
Shiri (My song)
Shlomit, Shulamit (Peaceful)
Shoshana (Means both “rose” and “lily” in modern Hebrew)
Sigal (Purple; Violet)
Sigalit (Violet flower)
Smadar (Blossom)
Talya (God’s dew)
Tamar (Palm tree)
Tehilla (Psalm)
Tikva (Hope)
Tirzah, Tirtzah (Favorable)
Tova (Good)
Tzilla (Shade)
Tzipporah, Tziporah, Tzipora, Zipporah, Ziporah, Cipora (Bird)
Tzivia (Deer)
Tzofiya (Watching)
Tzufit (Hummingbird)
Tzvia (Deer)
Uriella (My light is God)
Uziela, Uzziella (My weapon is God)
Vered (Varda) (Rose)
Yaara (Honeycomb; Honeysuckle)
Yachna (She establishes)
Yael (Mountain goat)
Yaen (Ostrich)
Yaffa (Beautiful)
Yakira (Precious)
Yardena (Jordana)
Yarona (To sing)
Yehudit (Judith)
Yocheved (God is glory)
Yonit, Yonina (Dove)
Zahara (Brilliance)
Ziva, Zivit (Bright; Radiant)

Male:

Adam (Man)
Adir (Mighty; Strong)
Adriel
Aharon (Aaron)
Akiva
Alon (Oak tree)
Amichai (My people are alive)
Amir (Treetop)
Amnon (Faithful)
Amos (Carried)
Ari, Aryeh (Lion)
Ariel (Arik) (Lion of God)
Asa (Doctor)
Asaf (Collector)
Asher (Happy)
Avi (My father)
Avidan (My father is judge)
Avihu (He is my father)
Aviram (My father is exalted)
Avishai (My father’s gift)
Avner (Father’s Light)
Avraham (Father of many)
Ayal (Stag)
Barak (Lightning)
Baruch (Blessed)
Binyamin
Boaz (Swiftness)
Chaim (Life)
Daniel (God is my judge)
David (Belovèd)
Dekel (Palm tree)
Dori (My generation)
Doron (Gift)
Dov (Bear)
Dror (Freedom; Sparrow)
Efrayim (Fruitful)
Ehud (Udi) (United)
Eiran, Eran (Watchful; Vigilant)
Eitan (Enduring) (Ethan)
Eli (Ascension; My God)
Eliezer (My God is help)
Elior (My God is my light)
Eliyahu (My God is God) (Elijah)
Elkanah, Elkan (God has purchased)
Erez (Cedar)
Eyal (Strength)
Ezra (Help)
Gavriel (God is my strong man)
Gideon, Gidon (Hewer)
Gil (Happiness)
Gilad (Monument of testimony)
Guryon (Gurik)
Hevel (Breath) (Abel)
Idan (Era)
Ilan (Tree)
Ira (Watchful)
Itay (With me)
Itamar (Palm island)
Kefir (Lion cub)
Lavi (Lion)
Lev (Heart)
Levi (Attached)
Malachi (My messenger)
Maor (Light)
Matan (Gift)
Meir, Meyer (Giving light)
Menachem (Comforter)
Menashe (Causing to forget)
Meshulam (Friend; Paid for)
Michael (Mee-Chah-EL)
Miron
Mordechai (Servant of Marduk)
Moshe (Moses)
Nachum (Comforter)
Nadav (Generous)
Namir (Leopard)
Natan
Nir (Plowed field)
Niv (Fang; Tusk; Speech)
Noach (Rest; Comfort)
Ofek (Horizon)
Ofer (Fawn)
Omer (Wheat measurement)
Omri (Servant)
Orel (Light of God)
Oren (Pine tree)
Osher (Happiness)
Ovadiyah (Servant of God)
Oved (Servant)
Oz (Strength)
Peleg (Channel)
Peretz (Breach)
Pinchas
Ra’anan (Fresh; Invigorating)
Reuven (Behold, a son)
Roi (Ro-EE) (My shepherd)
Ronen (Song; Joy)
Sagi (Sublime; Elevated)
Shay, Shai (Gift)
Shalom (Peace)
Shimon (He has heard)
Shimron
Shimshon (Sun) (Samson)
Shlomo (Solomon)
Sh’muel (Samuel) (Asked of God)
Tamir (Tall)
Tomer (Palm tree)
Tuvya, Tuvia (God is good)
Tzafrir (Zephyr)
Tzion
Tzvi, Tsvi, Zeev, Zeevie, Zev, Zvi (Deer)
Uri (My light)
Uriel (God is my light)
Uziel, Uzziel (God is my weapon)
Yaakov (Jakob)
Yachin (He establishes)
Yair (He shines)
Yaniv (He will prosper)
Yaron (Song)
Yechiel (God lives)
Yehudah (Judah)
Yishai (Gift)
Yisrael
Yitzchak (Isaac)
Yoav
Yochanan
Yoel
Yona (Dove) (Jonah)
Yonatan (Yoni) (Jonathan)
Yosef
Zavdiel, Zabdiel

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