The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Thursday, March 08, 2007

What's In A Yiddish Name

I've always found it interesting to note non Germanic words in Yiddish . . .
(See here, here and here)

Below is a list of various Yiddish names and their sources

  • Basha: A Slavic name (though it's used as a pet-name for Basyah)
  • Beila: From the French Belle
  • Bunim: From the French Bonhomme -good man
  • Charna: From the Slavic for black
  • Faivish/Faivel: From the Greek Φοιβος (Phoibos) -"bright, pure" [Though since I've seen it coupled with the name Shaul I have theorized that it might be from the name Paul -as in the Slavic Pavel]
  • Kalonymos: Occurs in Greece, Italy, and Provence. It is thought to be a translation of the Hebrew "Shem-Tov" or from the Latin "Cleonymus"
  • Sprintza: From the Late Latin name Sperantia -sperans "hope".
  • Yentl: From French nickname Gentille, -"noble, aristocratic".
  • Zlota: From the Slavic word for gold

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A Simple Jew said...

This raises the question, at what time does a name become a Jewish name? When will Irving, Marvin, and Max become accepted Jewish names?

Alex said...

@ a simple jew:

When there's a Jewish ceremony at which such names are given.

Pretty much all of the names that Mottel mentioned are in the category called "shem chol" - a name of non-Hebrew/Aramaic derivation that was paired with a specifically Jewish name ("shem kodesh"). Thus Simcha was the shem kodesh, Bunim the corresponding shem chol; similarly with Shaul and Faivish, and so forth. The idea was that the shem kodesh would be used for religious purposes (e.g., being called to the Torah), and the shem chol for day-to-day use. Eventually the distinction was lost, so that today all of these are used interchangeably as Jewish names.

The old German-Jewish communities had a custom called Hollekreisch (see here), where the shem chol would be given to the baby.

By contrast, names such as Irving, Marvin, and Max have never been "naturalized" in this way.

Mottel said...

At the same time when a baseball cap replaces the Shtreimal of Polish nobility and Rock & Roll Russian drinking songs.
Jews have uplifted names in the past -look back to Purim with names like Mordechai and Esther, to the names of the Tannaim and Amoriam- but such things must be based on actions accepted by Klal Yisroel and the Rabbonim of our generation.

Chaim said...

Bela was also the name of an 11th century czech king. Was that also from the french?

Mottel said...

It also means white in Russian . . .

I'm Haaretz, Ph.D. said...

Very interesting. How about all those foreign names that "became" yiddish names without any change: Luba, Mariasha, Sosha, Musia, etc. It really is so arbitrary.

Mottel said...

In general it seems that women were more likely to have 'goyishe' names -maryasha etc. then men.