- LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 November 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0119
- LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
- LAST MODIFIED: 30 November 2015
- DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199840731-0119
The term anthroponym includes given names and surnames. The science of given names and surnames and toponyms is onomastics, derived from the Greek word for name—onoma. This field acknowledges the fact that given names are the most personal words to humans in every language, with different philosophical, psychological, cultural, and linguistic perspectives. This article does not address Jewish toponyms; it focuses on Jewish anthroponyms—given names and surnames. The uniqueness of onomastics relates to the habit of child naming, a process creating a bond between the name givers and the child—parents’ link to the future. At the same time, in many cultures the process of naming a person connects the name giver (or givers) to the past. The Jewish Bible is a prime source of the Jewish culture in many ways, including onomastically, so the science of Jewish onomastics starts with biblical names. Nevertheless, Jews used many more names during their long history, some Hebrew, others from various Jewish languages from different cultures.
Jews used many Hebrew given names throughout time, most of them biblical, so they are transparent to Hebrew speakers as explained in Stamm 1972. Numerous works, such as Dan 1998, show that Hebrew letters and Hebrew names have been considered to be mystic tools. However, Jews used throughout the generations also non-Hebrew names, as pointed out in Zunz 1837. Surnames became mandatory for Jews, like all citizens in many countries, thus most Jews got surnames in local languages, and only a few insisted on Hebrew surnames. A significant body of work has been dedicated to descriptions of Jewish onomastics in general, including These Are the Names (Demsky, et al. 1997 and Demsky 1999–2011) and a website of Jewish onomastics, Lawson 2005. The journal Avotaynu reviews mostly Jewish genealogy; Sack and Mokotoff 2004, contains articles in a variety of subjects in the field of Jewish onomastics and Jewish genealogy. Following the pioneering work Zunz 1837 (reprinted in 1876), many works have been devoted to onomastics, including the bibliographies Singerman 2001, Lawson 2003, and Lawson 2008.
Dan, J. Jewish Mysticism. 4 vols. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, 1998.
Volumes 1–3 include chapters presenting the mysticism of Hebrew letters, numbers, and names. “The book of names” by Rabbi Eleazar of Worms is discussed in the 2nd volume, and volume 3 presents names of deities, god, and language issues related to Jewish mysticism.
Demsky, A., ed. These Are the Names. Vol. 2–5. Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1999–2011.
This series of five volumes dedicated to studies of Jewish onomastics is devoted primarily to various perspectives of different types of Jewish given names, in various periods of time and geographical locations. Papers are written in English and Hebrew, Hebrew papers contain English abstracts.
Demsky, A., J. A. Reif, J. Tabory, eds. These Are the Names. Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 1997.
The first volume contains reviews of Jewish given names and surnames from a variety of geographical locations and historical periods.
Lawson, E. D. “Some Jewish Personal Names—2.” In These Are the Names. Vol. 4. Edited by A. Demsky, 174–335. Ramat Gan: Bar-Ilan University Press, 2003.
An annotated bibliography paper presenting studies of various topics of Jewish anthroponomy.
Lawson, E. D. Jewish Onomastics. 2005.
Presents a concise general description of Jewish onomastics, given names, and surnames in several communities worldwide throughout history.
Lawson, E. D. Jewish Personal Names Bibliographies. Lawson Bibliographies. 2008.
A broad annotated bibliography of various perspectives of Jewish given names and surnames based on previous annotated bibliographies published by this author, including Lawson 2003; Demsky, et al. 1997; and Demsky 1999–2011.
Sack, S. A., and G. Mokotoff, eds. Avotaynu—Guide to Jewish Genealogy. Bergenfield, NJ: Avotaynu, 2004.
Includes papers on different topics concerning Jewish genealogy and onomastics, and contains a short summary of Jewish surnames.
Singerman, R. Jewish Given Names and Family Names, a New Bibliography. Edited by D. L. Gold. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2001.
A new version of the bibliography of Jewish given names, surnames, and the naming process published first in 1977. This book is considered the most comprehensive bibliography on the topic. The book starts with a wide section related to biblical materials and addresses issues such as Judeophobia and Jewish names. The last section contains references to names classified according to geographical areas.
Stamm, J. J. “Names: In the Bible.” In Encyclopedia Judaica. Vol. 14. Edited by Fred Skolnik and Michael Berenbaum, 764–766. Jerusalem: Keter, 1972.
The encyclopedia contains general explanations for biblical names, definitive entries for most biblical figures, and general explanations on names in the Talmud, including linguistic origin, changes over time and unique qualities of Israelite names.
Zunz, L. Names of Jews: A Historical Research. Leipzig: L. Fort, 1837.
In German. Second edition enlarged and corrected: Gesammelte Schriften von Dr. Zunz 2, 1–82. Berlin: L.Gerschel Verlagsbuclihaadluug, 1876. A comprehensive list of given names in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, German, and other languages, used by Jews along the generations. Zunz emphasized the fact that Jews carried non-Hebrew names since antiquity, as a reaction to a Prussian law from the beginning of the 19th century forcing Jews to use only Jewish names.
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.
How to Subscribe
Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.
- Abraham Isaac Kook
- Agudat Yisrael
- Ahad Ha' am
- American Hebrew Literature
- American Jewish Artists
- American Jewish Literature
- American Jewish Sociology
- Ancient Anti-Semitism
- An-sky (Shloyme Zanvil Rapoport)
- Anthropology of the Jews
- Anti-Semitism, Modern
- Apocalypticism and Messianism
- Archaeology, Second Temple
- Archaeology: The Rabbinic Period
- Art, Synagogue
- Austria, The Holocaust In
- Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1867-1918
- Biblical Archaeology
- Biblical Literature
- Bratslav/Breslev Hasidism
- Buber, Martin
- Bukharan Jews
- Central Asia, Jews in
- Chagall, Marc
- Classical Islam, Jews Under
- Cohen, Hermann
- Culture, Israeli
- David Ben-Gurion
- David Bergelson
- Dead Sea Scrolls
- Death, Burial, and the Afterlife
- Debbie Friedman
- Dietary Laws
- Dubnov, Simon
- Dutch Republic: 17th-18th Centuries
- Early Modern Period, Christian Yiddishism in the
- Eastern European Haskalah
- Environment, Judaism and the
- Ethics, Jewish
- Ethiopian Jews
- Folktales, Jewish
- Frank, Jacob
- Gender and Modern Jewish Thought
- Germany, Early Modern
- Ghettos in the Holocaust
- Goldman, Emma
- Graetz, Heinrich
- Hasidism, Lubavitch
- Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) Literature
- Hebrew Bible, Blood in the
- Hebrew Bible, Memory and History in the
- Hebrew Literature and Music
- Hebrew Literature Outside of Israel Since 1948
- History, Early Modern Jewish
- History of the Holocaust
- Holocaust in France, The
- Holocaust in Germany, The
- Holocaust in Poland, The
- Holocaust in the Netherlands, The
- Holocaust in the Soviet Union, The
- (Holocaust) Memorial Books
- Holocaust Museums and Memorials
- Holocaust, Philosophical and Theological Responses to the
- Holocaust Survivors, Children of
- Humor, Jewish
- Ibn Ezra, Abraham
- Indian Jews
- Isaac Bashevis Singer
- Israel Ba'al Shem Tov
- Israel, Religion and State in
- Israeli Economy
- Israeli Film
- Israeli Literature
- Israel's Society
- Italian Jewish Literature (Ninth to Nineteenth Century)
- Jewish American Women Writers in the 18th and 19th Centuri...
- Jewish Bible Translations
- Jewish Culture, Children and Childhood in
- Jewish Diaspora
- Jewish Economic History
- Jewish Folklore, Chełm in
- Jewish Genetics
- Jewish Heritage and Cultural Revival in Poland
- Jewish Names
- Jewish Studies, Dance in
- Jewish Territorialism (in Relation to Jewish Studies)
- Jewish-Christian Polemics Until the 15th Century
- Joseph Ber Soloveitchik
- Josephus, Flavius
- Kalonymus Kalman Shapira
- Kibbutz, The
- Languages, Jewish
- Late Antique (Roman and Byzantine) History
- Latin American Jewish Studies Latin American Jewish Studie...
- Law, Biblical
- Law in the Rabbinic Period
- Life Cycle Rituals
- Literature Before 1800, Yiddish
- Literature, Hellenistic Jewish
- Literature, Holocaust
- Literature, Latin American Jewish
- Literature, Medieval
- Literature, Modern Hebrew
- Literature, Rabbinic
- Magic, Ancient Jewish
- Maimonides, Moses
- Maurice Schwartz
- Medieval and Renaissance Political Thought
- Medieval Anti-Judaism
- Medieval Islam, Jews under
- Meir, Golda
- Menachem Begin
- Mendelssohn, Moses
- Messianic Thought and Movements
- Middle Ages, the Hebrew Story in the
- Minority Literatures in Israel
- Modern Germany
- Modern Hebrew Poetry
- Modern Jewish History
- Modern Kabbalah
- Moses Maimonides: Mishneh Torah
- Music, East European Jewish Folk
- Music, Jews and
- Nathan Birnbaum
- Nazi Germany, Kristallnacht: The November Pogrom 1938 in
- New York City
- North Africa
- Orthodoxy, Post-World War II
- Palestine/Israel, Yiddish in
- Palestinian Talmud/Yerushalmi
- Philo of Alexandria
- Poetry in Spain, Hebrew
- Poland, 1800-1939
- Poland, Hasidism in
- Poland Until The Late 18th Century
- Politics and Political Leaders, Israeli
- Politics, Modern Jewish
- Prayer and Liturgy
- Purity and Impurity in Ancient Israel and Early Judaism
- Queer Jewish Texts in the Americas
- Rabbi Yeheil Michel Epstein and his Arukh Hashulchan
- Rabbinic Exegesis (Midrash) and Literary Theory
- Rashi's Commentary on the Bible
- Reform Judaism
- Ritual Objects and Folk Art
- Rosenzweig, Franz
- Russian Jewish Culture
- Sacrifice in the Bible
- Sarah Schenirer and Bais Yaakov
- Scholem, Gershom
- Second Temple Period, The
- Sephardi Jews
- Sexuality and the Body
- Shlomo Carlebach
- Shmuel Yosef Agnon
- Shulhan Arukh and Sixteenth Century Jewish Law, The
- Sociology, European Jewish
- South African Jewry
- Soviet Union, Jews in the
- Space in Modern Hebrew Literature
- Spinoza, Baruch
- Sutzkever, Abraham
- Talmud and Philosophy
- Talmud, Narrative in the
- The Druze Community in Israel
- The Early Modern Yiddish Bible, 1534–1686
- The General Jewish Workers’ Bund
- The Modern Jewish Bible, Facets of
- Theater, Israeli
- Theme, Exodus as a
- Tractate Avodah Zarah (in the Talmud)
- Translation in Hebrew Literature, Traditions of
- United States
- Weinreich, Max
- Wissenschaft des Judentums
- Women and Gender Relations
- World War II Literature, Jewish American
- Yankev Glatshteyn/Jacob Glatstein
- Yemen, The Jews of
- Yiddish Avant-garde Theater
- Yiddish Linguistics
- Yiddish Literature since 1800
- Yiddish Theater
- Ze’ev Jabotinsky
- Zionism from Its Inception to 1948