Unusual Israeli Baby Names

'Baby' photo (c) 2006, M Glasgow - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/Readers from overseas come here to find out whether a Hebrew or Israeli name they have chosen “fits” here in Israel. I think that the parents who chose the following names would have been discouraged by readers.

Some of the “weird” names suggestedby readers (via Facebook) are actually common, like Nehorai, Keshet or Maytav (my daughter has 3 in her third-grade class). That’s because my readers are English speakers and tend not to connect with the trendy Israeli names.

My all-time favorite unusual girl’s name is Kefira. The parents saw the feminine form of lion on a list of baby names. Unfortunately, Kefira has a much more comon meaning–heresy.

My favorite boys’ name is Hidai (pronounced hee-dai), which even Israelis find unusual. The  parents didn’t invent it–II Samuel 23:30 mentions Hidai as one of King David’s warriors. It fits right in with the more popular -ai endings like Itai and Nehorai. We also knew an Ilai, another of David’s warriors mentioned in I Chronicles, 11:29.

Soon, Israeli names may have to pass through a government committee for approval:

The so-called Public Names Committee would include an educator, a psychologist and a social worker. The panel would advise the interior minister in the event that a Population Registry clerk is concerned about the name parents have selected for their newborn; in that case, the parents could also consult the committee.

I’m not sure I’m in favor of this. Israelis are so diverse–what kind of committee could make fair decisions? So many trendy names today would  never have gotten through this panel.

Here are a few more unusual names. Let us know what you think! (Just don’t be mean, as parents are reading.)

Unusual Boys’ Names

Snir (name of a river in the Hula valley)

Yaal (moving upward? Not to be confused with the girls’ name Yael.)

Amizakai (My nation is pure?)

Unusual Girls’ Names

Achzava (disappointment). Reader Leah says that this girl, one of a long line of sisters, actually lives in Beit Shemesh.

Har and Aretz (mountain and land). The reader wasn’t sure if they are boys or girls.

Shuvi Shabbat Shalom Joya

Vayehi Or Bracha (let there be light . . . of blessing)

Bat-Yiftah, daughter of Yiftah. (Yiftah made a pledge to sacrifice the first thing he saw in battle, and it was his daughter.

Seorit (sounds like Seorah, barley).

Diglit

Meirit, Aviella, Yochana – all uncommon feminizations of boys’ names.

Heichal (palace)

I’m sure I haven’t hit the tip of the iceberg here. What can you add to the list?

More baby name posts:

Israeli Baby Name Queries December 2012

Top 20 Israeli Baby Names for Girls

Top 20 Israeli Baby Names for Boys

Best Bloopers by New Olim

Israeli Baby Names Page

 

Comments

  1. The name Ris always makes me laugh. Why would you name your daughter “Eyelash”???

    My sister knows of a kid named Tzlil.

    I know Aviellas, it doesn’t sound weird to me. Aviel does.

  2. As funny as Snir sounds in English, it is actually quite common in Israel.

  3. Someone really named their daughter Achzava? It’s exactly names like that that this government committee should prevent. How terrible (you forgot to let readers know that the name means “disappointment”)

  4. I’m not surprised that at least one of my friends’ kids’ names is on the list. How about my ulpan teacher’s granddaughter: Malchut David.

  5. I know a boy named Gilon (variation of Gil, happiness). It’s also a place in Israel, up north. He dislikes using his full name, got some teasing about it in school. Fortunately, he can go by Gil, which is a much more common, acceptable name.

    A girl’s name that is pretty rare is Kalanit (the flower, anemone). One I know gets a lot of positive feedback from English-speakers on the sound of it. Kah-lah-neet.

  6. achzava is a horrible name. how can a parent do that to a child?

  7. Marcy Tatelbaum says

    We named our daughter Techelet ????

    People tell us that it’s hippie and are surprised we named our daughter Techelet. I think of it as Hashems favorite color.

    • The first Techelet I met is over 20 years old now. Her parents chose the name for basically the same reason that you did. They are extremely academic in both religious and secular studies, not at all hippies. On a more sad note Devai (pain, suffering, anguish, sadness) has been given as a girl’s name.

      • Funny – I know that Techelet. At the time I remember all the Israelis looking at them like they were nuts and the Americans all saying “oh, that’s beautiful!”

      • My sister’s middle name is Davi, which my mother invented from taking off the dalet in David. Unfortunately it actually spells devai. I didn’t know this word until I was having a jeweler engrave a bracelet for my sister with her name and the jeweler looked at me funny and tried to talk me out of it or convince me I was wrong about the spelling (“Do you mean Debbie?? With a bet?????”)

    • Techelet 🙂 that’s so awesome

  8. Any of those names are better than one I heard many years ago for a female: ”alte henne” which translates into ”old hen”.

  9. My Israeli brother in law just named his daughter Manhattan. Really.

  10. My sister’s husband is from Israel and soon they are expecting a baby. Still they have not decided what name to give her. ( it will be a girl, according to the ultrasound), but they want something nontraditional. I will tel them to look here. Thank you for hopefully helping picking up my niece a name:)

  11. Uri – I don’t think that Henna means “hen”. It seems to be a Yiddish version of Chana = grace.
    We have friends whose children have the most beautiful names, but they are so unusual that if I say what they are, everyone who knows them will know who I am talking about!

  12. Regular Anonymous says

    We don’t need more government interference in our lives, so I hope that committee idea is nixed.

    I knew somebody whose last name was Snir.

    Some of the names are just weird, but parents who name their daughter Achzava are asking for trouble. (I know you said not to be mean; this is the least mean comment I came up with).

    • I appreciate your efforts, RA. 🙂

    • You say that we don’t need any more interference, but then you see how horrible choices some parents can make. If the committee is indeed made of psychologist and a social worker, and is more of an advice body than a law, I think it’s a great idea. It is not fair toward the children to give names which could cause them pain and suffering. It could be a form of an emotional abuse.

      • Yoanna, I agree that some names shouldn’t be used. But who gets to decide? That is what worries me.

      • Regular Anonymous says

        I know many social workers and psychologists both personally and professionally.

        Many of them do not favorably impress me.

        We cannot let the government micromanage parenting decision.

  13. I once met a set of twin girls named “Revi” and “Tal” … I thought it was a little strange that their parents split a full name between them 🙂

  14. About ten years ago I knew a religious family who called their daughter Chuldah – which means rat but apparently is also the name of a place. She should be a young woman now & I often wonder if she ever changed her name.
    A lot of religious families choose the childs’ name from the Parasha that they were born on.

    • Still a respectable biblical name–a prophetess. See II Kings 22:14.

      • When we wanted to name one of our daughters after one of Tzelophchad’s daughters we didn’t choose Hogla, because a toilet paper company has that name and we didn’t choose Machla, because without vowels the name is spelled identically to machala, disease. Out of the remaining three we chose No’a, if anyone is interested.
        Prophetess or not, a hulda is rodent (not exactly a rat), and a different prophetess would have been better. Hulda is also a place.

  15. What would assume if you heard the name Eliora? (Religious background etc) Is it used in Israel?

    • I would assume national-religious and not any particular group within the nat-rel types. I’m nat-rel and though I’ve never heard it, if one of my neighbors named a daughter Eliora I wouldn’t think it strange and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that it has been used. I also wouldn’t be surprised if she had to keep reminding people that her name is Eliora and not Liora. Concerning meaning the El/Eli is Hashem, and the end, whether Liora or Ora, relates to light. The meaning of the entire name can be fine-tuned.

    • My teen daughter says Elior or Liora, not Eliora. And Liora is a bit old-fashioned.

      • I polled my teen daughters. They have an Elior at school, but have never heard of an Eliora.

        • Thanks so much to both of you! Would Elior still be used as a girl’s name, or does that make it masculine?

          • It’s used as both. My husband just reminded me of a man named Elior, and a few came up in a Google search.

          • BookishIma says

            I checked a few name sites for you – I found Elior on two, one that lists it as either masculine or feminine and one that suggests it as a name for a girl specifically.

      • sylvia_rachel says

        There’s an Elliora (2 ells) at my daughter’s school (not in Israel — I live in Canada). I’m afraid my immediate assumption was that the parents made it up.

    • I have friends with a baby named Eliora, they are modern orthodox and live in the US.

    • I would think you are American olim. Only American modern orthodox Jews seem to use that name, it’s not popular with Israelis at all, nor do I think it has ever been so.

  16. BookishIma says

    I also know (for sure, sadly, not a rumor) of a little girl named Achzava in a different town. I hear Ilai around a lot. I think the most…peculiar…name I’ve heard is Esav. Not much surprises me any more, but that one did. I think I mentioned Yated before as an unusual name.

    I have to admit I shudder at Chuldah – I just can’t get away from the meaning. Like the name Hunter in English, same problem. Also, Caleb (nothing against dogs, but…)

    Hadassa, Tchelet does sound New Age-y to me, but if you love it and it has such a positive connotation, that’s what’s important. Z, I feel like names ending in an “-ah” sound tend to feel a little old-fashioned. Elior sounds more current than Eliora, but I don’t personally know of kids named either one.

    • I would definitely say that Techelet is “modern”, but more rebirth-of-Israel-let’s-give-our-children-new-names-with-ancient-meanings than hippie. I don’t “love” it, but I do value its connotations. We give our children names from Tanach, but made one exception. We “had” to give a daughter a name that started with a “B” in honor of a grandmother who had recently passed away and didn’t have a Hebrew name. The Biblical names weren’t right for her/us, so we went with Beruria, which, yes is considered “old-fashioned”- oldie but goodie!

  17. Ms. Krieger says

    Quebec used to vet children’s names. I am not sure if there was a list of acceptable ones or a committee that would proclaim yes or no. It led to a lot of unhappiness and strife (and a lot of bizarre combinations of saints’ names, just to be different yet allowed, because of course saints names were always acceptable.) Quebec was, and still is to some degree, a paternalistic Catholic country. In some ways Israel is analogous. I hope the naming committee does not really happen.

  18. I once heard of sisters named Chaya and Behaima (acronym for Baruch Haba Melech Hamashiach, but still seems pretty mean). Also, my daughter met a girl named Eidut Hashem, which I imagine could be a bit awkward. But Eliora (a name mentioned previously) is one I have seen a few times, though I am not sure if any were in Israel.

  19. I had an Israeli friend Keshet when I was in high school. Yes, her parents were American hippies. 🙂

    • I was stuck in a waiting room with a TV on a few years ago. The setting for the show was a secular Israeli high school and one of the main characters was named Keshet (rainbow). Her twin (not identical) was named Devash (honey). Neither character was the child of olim.

  20. I knew a woman called Huldah, but she lived in chutz la’aretz where the first connotation would be the prophetess rather than the rodent. She went as Huldi. We were considering using Serach for a baby at one point – we asked several people across the religious/political spectrum in Israel, and they all said no! ( in the end the baby was a boy anyway.)
    My husband and I both thought Techelet was such a beautiful name that maybe we should have another baby:)
    Our children all have at least one quite standard Tanach name, as well as some more unusual names, both Tanach and not. It’s very interesting to see how location makes a difference. When our oldest child was born and we called her Michal, there were only about 3 in the whole town we were living in and people thought it was quite “modern”. When we moved to NW London we discovered that virtually every family has a Michal – last year there were 5 in her class. We always call her Michali, and we do a rota (carpool) with another family who have a Michali born within a week of ours, who also thought it would be quite unusual when they named her!

  21. we’re not israeli and i can’t comment if it’s suited for israel, but our daughter is ????? ???
    people either love it or hate it (they’ve told us so, so i won’t take any offense here at negative comments.)

  22. We have neighbors with a daughter named Tzofia Keshet. Yes, hippies 😉

  23. what about Israelis (usually zabars ) who give their kids foreign names like Sean or Kim
    and than there are Hebrew names who sound unfortunate in other languages like Nimrod or Moran.
    I have a cousin, a boy named Lian which is the initials of his parents and two sisters names, his sisters are actually named Yuval (that’ll be the I) and Ofir (and the A) more common for boys.
    but finally objectors to the Israeli names committee would be forced to compare the country to Norway: http://everything2.com/title/Norwegian+names

  24. abbasrantings says

    my cousin once told me about a girl named neta because she was an IVF baby
    this was about 15 years ago. i don’t know if it caught on.

  25. The couple Moshe and Reha Freier named their 3 sons, born in the beginning of the 20th century: Shalhevet (flame), Amud (post, pole) and Zerem ( electric current flow)…

  26. My son’s name is Snir. I think it’s a beautiful name and also quite common in Israel.

  27. I like Vayehi. It sounds good to me and the meaning behind it is good as well.

  28. Some of these are so hilarious! I have nothing to add I am afraid but I had a great time reading this! 🙂

  29. Phil E Stein says

    In my youth (about 30 years ago!) I went out briefly with a girl named ????? (yes, with a ?)!

    In 17th century England, under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, there was a member of parliament with the glorious name of “Praise G-d Barebones”.

    • Phil E Stein says

      It would appear that this blog is averse to Hebrew letters, so here is an Anglicized version of my earlier comment:

      In my youth (about 30 years ago!) I went out briefly with a girl named Hanifa (yes, with an initial ‘hey’ and not a ‘chet’)!

      In 17th century England, under the rule of Oliver Cromwell, there was a member of parliament with the glorious name of “Praise G-d Barebones”.

  30. Yeah, nobody beats the Puritans for wacky names.

    • There’s a record of an eighteenth-century gentleman named, if I recall correctly, “Through Much Tribulation We Enter The Kingdom of Heaven Clapp”.

      I have often wondered what Mr. Clapp was called in school. “Trib”?

  31. I know a Ne’eman (boy). His parents named him that to express the (real and wished-for) faithfulness of the relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people.

  32. My daughter’s called Keshet. So far we’ve only had positive reactions and comments. It’s a name with many meanings/interpretations, however, we chose it primarily to remember the promise that went with the first rainbow in history according to the Tanach. 🙂

  33. ruth cohen says

    my ex was good for making pretty babies and giving them fabulous names
    nesya – miracle of yah
    levavy – heart of the father
    elida – god knows, known by god – king david has a son with this name we discovered later on
    all hebrew names
    levavy passed away as a tiny baby and her fathers heart broke and never healed. she was the most angelic baby i have ever seen in my life. something ext raordinary.

  34. I was wondering about Emet (Emette). I have heard of a girl named Emet, but is this name used in Israel at all??

    • Not exactly common, Lans, but definitely used in religious Zionist circles

      • Thank you! What about Aderet and Atira? Also, is Emuna used in religious Zionist circles?

        • Aderet and Emuna are both used. Have heard of Ateret but not Atira.

          • There’s Atara, also a girls’ name. Ateret is actually the compound form of Atara and grammatically needs to be followed by a word, but when used as a name usually isn’t.

          • I ahve heard of the name Atira from ATAR (prayer) like used in Tanach by Yitzchak praying for Rivka to have children children (entreated Hashem). Just wanted to know if it was used in Israel, but apparently not. Thanks so much!

  35. Posting without my name says

    What do we think about Savione, like the flower?

  36. Posting without my name says

    As a girl’s name.

  37. We have at least three friends with babies or toddlers named Emuna (all religious zionists living in Israel). I also see it a lot on the Mazal Tov lists of various alumnae publications I receive.

  38. I was thinking about names that have to do with music, like Tzlil, Gitit, and Zimra. What music related names that are common in Israel?

    • Shir – for boys and girls, Shira, Zimrat is used as well as Zimra. Hallel (boys and girls) and Tahel/Tehila are related being as hallel and tehilim are often sung. Longer names such as Tehallelyah are becoming fairly popular in some circles.

      • Elisheva says

        There’s also Renana, Tzahala, Shir, variations like Shir’li, Shir’el, (all girls names)…

        • I thought of a whole bunch of “Ron” names this morning. Ron, Roni, Rani, Ronit, Yaron, Yareen, Ronini (nickname) and then there are the longer names like Roni-bat-Tzion. I think I’ve even seen a Bat-Ron. Oh and we haven’t mentioned Shiri.

    • Elisheva says

      Rena, Tzahala, Shir and variations (Shir’li, Shir’el…)- all girls’ names.

  39. ruth alfasi says

    I don’t get the charm in “Rom” for a girl. It just sounds like Rome, to me, and well, that conjures visions of the Vatican, so surely a Jewish parent could find something more suitable than that.

    For a boy – Har El. I haven’t really met any that are much into anything but internet and computer games, and soccer, ironcially, rather than scaling the heights of the Mountain of God, as the name might imply.
    Oh, did I write this before? Roi, Ro-Ee. Roy. I know it’s got a great meaning, Hashem sees, but for an american, it still sounds like a good ol’boy from the Ozarks, spelled wrong, at that.

  40. Is Shalhevetya too uncommon/ too much of a mouthful? It has the same number of syllables as some more standard Hebrew names but wanted to know…

    Is Shalhevet used more in Israel?

  41. anonymous says

    Does anyone in Israel use Nevona? (fem. of Navon?)

  42. My husband and me met as volunteers in Israel and would love to give our child a hebrew / israeli name.
    Our favorite is Abigail. Unfortunately here in Germany “…gail” sounds like “geil” which means randy / horny and is used as “awesome” in teenage slang.
    So what about Abigal, is it also common?
    For a boy we like Amos. Is it old-fashioned? Or somehow negative because of the prophet’s harsh message?
    Thanks for any advice!

    • Never heard of Avigal–I think it’s too close to Avigail to be used.
      I know an Amos in his early 20s. It doesn’t sound old-fashioned to me.

      • How is Amos pronounced in Israel? Ay-moss/Ay-muss (ie rhymes with famous) or Ah-Moss or Ah-Muss? I love it as a name but only certain pronunciations. If it is pronounced as I like it in Israel, I would feel more comfortable using it outside of Israel and just teaching people how to say it. But if I am the only one who pronounces it my way (in Israel and out!), then that might not be so fair on the child. Is it a common name?

  43. I LOVE ISRAELI NAMES! I have never heard of the Israeli names that u listed. They are great. Right now i’m only 15 but I plan to give my kids Israli names. My sons would be Ofek and Etai my daughters would be Shanee and Zohar

  44. Sarah B. says

    Anyone heard of Kelilah (Kuh-lee-lah not Kuh-Lie-lah)? It is listed in on Hebrew baby name websites. Is it really? I have never heard it before. Would it be used in Israel?

  45. I have met some Kelilah’s–who are in their 50s now. Not sure how it sounds to others–I think the sound isn’t bad but to me it sounds like it means “lightweight.” It also makes me think of the Hebrew word Klalah–curse. But those associations might just be mine alone.

    • Sarah B. says

      Do you know what the actual meaning of the word Kelilah is? Supposedly it means crown of victory. At least that is what the online name sites say.

      • Kelilah can be spelled in two ways in Hebrew, with a “kaf” ? or with a “kuf” ? . With a “kuf” the name is related to “kal”, meaning either lightweight or easy or “k’lalah” meaning curse, as Miriam stated above. However with a “kaf” the name is related to “k’lal”, the whole. Am Yisrael is also called K’lal Yisrael and many in the national-religious crowd refer to themselves as being “k’lali”. The Kelilah with whom I am acquainted is about nine years old, spells her name with a “caf”, and has parents who pride themselves on being “k’lali”.

  46. Any thoughts about Hallel for a girl? Need to name after a Hillel, but a girl 🙂 Thanks!

    • Hallel has become a fairly common name in the national-religious crowd, mainly for girls, but I have seen it used occasionally for boys. Other similar names Tehallelya, for example, are sometimes used now that Hallel is becoming more common and has lost the uniqueness it once had.

  47. What about ?????
    Is this used as a name?
    Looking for more music related names…

    • That is supposed to say Makeila like as is choir/chorus…

    • Years ago I met a little girl named Meitar, pronounced Maytahr, which means

      chord; cord, string, wire, bowstring; sinew, tendon, gut

      The mother told me it meant string as in guitar or harp or violin string.

      It’s also a smaller, specialized unit in the army.

  48. no name for this post! says

    I’m pregnant right now and we’re trying to decide on a name. I think we have one, but there’s one thing I’m unsure about. I have one son already, and his name, which I adore, ends in -el. We’re having another boy, and the name we’re considering for him also ends in -el. We live in Israel, and they are Israeli names, so the ‘el’ is properly pronounced, not a throwaway end of word like it would be in the Anglicized versions of such names as Daniel and Michael. I also don’t know if we’ll have any more kids, as we started relatively late.

    The first syllables of each name are totally different to each other, so I think it’s ok, I’m just concerned it’s a bit weird to have the last syllable the same in both boys’ names. But it’s just about the only name my husband and I can agree on and really like. If we’d been having a girl we had a name all picked out, but another boy has really had us stumped! I guess I’m looking for reassurance!

    Thanks

    • Shalom!
      If the names are different enough, don’t worry about the ending. I know a family with three children: Neriya, Odaya and Moriya, no-one thinks it’s strange and I’m sure they’re not the only family like that.

  49. Hi, we are expecting our second child next April and cannot decide on a girls name…I (Australian) love the name Sophia/Tzofia, but my Israeli husband says he cannot like it as it sounds to him like Sof – end ya- G-d …so “end of G-d” would this be what most Israelis would think or is this name alright in Israel?

    • Hi Jess, Tzofia is quite popular in Israel now among religious Jews. Since it is spelled with a tzadi Israelis would not make the association with “sof.” It’s also a word in the national anthem “Hatikva.”

    • Shalom!
      Tzofia is a very popular girls’ name in Israel and I have never heard of anyone associating it with sof – y-a. Israelis differentiate automatically between the tzadi “tz” and the samech “s”. Israelis who sing “Ashet Chayil” every week on Shabbat associate the name with “tzofia halichot beita” and it’s also associated with tzofeh legeula and many other positive things.

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