Hebrew first names first started being used after the Exile to Babylon. During the Talmudic period, a large proportion of names were of Greek origin and came from the Bible. During the Talmudic period, the Hebrew tradition of using double names was first introduced as an attempt to translate the Hebrew names into Greek names.
During the Post-Talmudic period, as the Jews spread throughout the lands bordering the Mediterranean, they drew upon other languages for their personal names while still preserving Biblical ones. This is when the use of non-Jewish first names first became normalized. There are over, a whopping, 3,000 Biblical Hebrew names in use today. Today, it is customary for Jewish babies to be named after a friend or relative, but they don’t have to be. Many babies are also given a Hebrew name in addition to their first name in order to carry on the tradition. We decided to look at some classic Hebrew baby names for boys that have been in use for centuries but still sound bright and amazing today. Here are 25 Jewish baby names for boys that we think all parents will love.
The origin of the name Aaron is debated. Some say it was derived from Hebrew, while others claim it originated in Ancient Egypt. In the Old Testament, Aaron, the older brother of Moses who was appointed by God to be his brother’s spokesman, was the first High Priest of the Israelites. The Hebrew version is Aharon, in Yiddish, it can be Aaran, and the name appears in Arabic as Haroun or Harun. The name means “high mountain” or “exalted” or “enlightened.”
This short form of Ariel, Ari is a charming Hebrew name that means “lion.” Ari Ben Canaan is the main character in the Leon Uris novel Exodus, played by Paul Newman on screen. Ari is a top 500 name for boys in the US, which means that many, many parents are loving little Aris these days.
Benjamin is a time-tested classic that comes from Hebrew Binyāmīn. Benjamin was the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob and Rachel in the Book of Genesis, and he was one of the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. This beloved name was a top 10 choice in 2019 and it means “son of the right hand.”
David is descended from the Hebrew name Dawid, which evolved from the element dod, meaning “beloved.” The second king of Israel who, as a boy, slew the giant Philistine Goliath with his slingshot, David grew up to become a wise and highly cultivated leader who enjoyed music and was a poet, later providing inspiration to such great sculptors as Michelangelo and Donatello. The Star of David is the symbol of Judaism so this beautiful name should resonate deeply.
While you won’t hear it too often in the US, Dov is very common in Israel, where an endearing pet form is Dubi. Dov has a gentle sound, but a tough meaning: “bear.”
This Hebrew version of Ethan, also a place-name in southern Israel, works well. It’s a top 10 pick in Isreal and we’d love to hear it more often in the US. The name means “strong” or “firm.”
li derives from the Hebrew ’aly, meaning “high.” Eli was the high priest and last judge of Israel, who trained the prophet, Samuel. While Eli is a full name on its own, it can be a shortened form of Elijah, Elias, Eliezer, or even Elliot. In the US, this name is in the top 100 and has recently become a popular gender-neutral option as well.
Ephraim is the second son of Joseph and the founder of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. This ancient name means “fruitful.” Ephraim took 100 years off of the name popularity charts in the US before returning to the top 1000 in 2018. Parents often play with the spelling of this name and it can become Efrem or Ephram.
Ezra is potentially an abbreviation for the Hebrew phrase Azaryahu, meaning “Yah helps.” The Latin name Esdras derives from Ezra. Ezra led a group of fifteen hundred Israelites out of slavery in Babylon and back to Jerusalem. This is currently an it-name with Jewish parents propelling it into the top 50 in the US. It sounds both fresh and classic.
Gamliel was Prince of the tribe of Manasseh and a name shared by several sages in the Talmud. This Hebrew name means “reward of God.” Gamliel is a name that’s belonged to a number of influential individuals including several Rabbinical authorities.
Haviv is a different form of Chaviv. Both make for excellent names! Haviv means “loved one” which is why we chose it for this list. This name is perfectly fine in the US, but you might find it problematic in the UK where a “chav” is a derogatory term for a thuggish individual. You’ll be safe with Haviv either way.
Hosea was the author of the book of prophecies bearing his name, whose underlying message was a promise of restoration. The Talmud claims that he was the greatest prophet of his generation. Hosea Williams was an important civil rights leader in the US with the name. Hosea has a gorgeous meaning: “salvation.”
Ilan is a common name for boys born around Tu Bishvat, the “Birthday of the Trees.” Which is why this name means “tree.” Ilan has not enjoyed the same favor in the US as it sees in Isreal and elsewhere and we think that’s a shame. If you’re after an econame that’s also a Hebrew gem, you could do no better.
Isaac is known as the second patriarch of the Children of Israel, son of patriarch Abraham and matriarch Sarah. Isaac is more popular today in the US than it was 100 years ago. This handsome name means “laughter.” How could you go wrong with that?
Jacob is known as the third patriarch of the Children of Israel and the younger son of patriarch Isaac and matriarch Rebecca. Jacob comes from the Latin name Iacobus, which was ultimately derived from the Hebrew name Ya’aqov. This name has consistently ranked as one of the most popular names for boys in the US since records began in the 1880s. The name means “follower.”
Joel was one of King David’s “mighty men” and the name was adopted by the Puritans of the sixteenth century. Joel sounds both exotic and perfectly stoic. This Hebrew name means “Jehovah is his God.” While its popularity has slipped in recent years, it’s still a top 200 name in the US.
Levi is known as the third son of the patriarch Jacob and the matriarch Leah. Matthew McConaughey, Sheryl Crow, and Sara Gilbert all chose the name for their sons. It is suspected that Levi derives from the Hebrew word yillaweh, meaning “he will join.” The name is more popular today than it’s ever been in the US.
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is a Hebrew name, mostly for males, coming from the word gift and literally means “giving.” It is part of the title of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot that is also known as “Z’man Mattan Torah” meaning the “time [of the] giving [of the] Torah.” You’ll also find this name spelled Mattan. Unfortunately, this name has never taken off in the US, but we think it’s about time. It makes for a great alternative to Matthew or Matteo.
Micah is the name of a prophet who denounced oppression by the ruling classes and was used fairly frequently by the seventeenth-century pilgrims. This is another Hebrew name that’s now more popular today than ever before in the US. This beautiful name means “who is like the Lord.”
If Mattan isn’t doing it for you, perhaps Natan will? Natan is known as a prophet during the reign of King David. Natan hasn’t taken hold in the US yet, but it’s very popular across Europe. It’s currently most popular in Poland and Israel. This Hebrew name (and palindrome) means “given.”
Noah was derived from the Hebrew name Noach, which itself came from the root nuach, meaning “rest.” Noah surprised the baby name world in 2013 to become the new number 1 among baby boy names, unseating Jacob after a 13-year reign, and it maintained its top ranking for three years before dropping to number 2 in 2017.
Samuel was derived from the Hebrew name Shemu’el, meaning “told by God.” Samuel was one of the great judges and prophets of the Israelites, destined for a holy life from birth. He established the Hebrew monarchy, anointing both Saul and David as kings. This name has consistently ranked in the top 100 for over 100 years in the US. Who doesn’t love the nickname, Sam?
Jewish parents, in particular, may be drawn to this quiet, composed name of the first king of Israel and the name of Saint Paul before his conversion. In modern times, it has been affiliated with Nobel Prize-winning novelist Saul Bellow. The name has been in the top 1000 names in the US since record-keeping began. It means “prayed for.”
Uri is known as the father of Bezalel, an artisan blessed with the skill to create the meeting tent and ark of the covenant for Moses. You’ll also find the name attached to the father of Geber, one of the twelve officials who provided nourishment for Solomon. Uri is a symbolic name for boys born on Hanukkah. The name means “my light.”
Zachary is the English variation of Zacharias, which itself is derived from the Hebrew name Zechariah. The name means “the Lord has remembered.” The name feels both ancient and modern, somehow, and it has been a favorite of parents in the US for decades. We love this Z-name!
There you go! 25 Hebrew baby names for boys that all parents will love. If you’d like to honor your Jewish heritage or faith, these names will be perfect choices. If you’re simply attracted to these names because they’re marvelous, that’s completely understandable too!