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Category: Yiddish language

posted by: Nephele View all posts by this author
Jewish baby names

By Nephele

Yiddish names have a rich history, rooted in an older generation of Jewish people belonging to the Ashkenazic (from Germany and Eastern Europe) community. The Yiddish language evolved during medieval times from High German (influenced by Hebrew and some eastern European languages), and the word “Yiddish” itself literally means “Jewish.” Genealogists familiar with old U.S. Federal Census records will have noticed many a census record where the census taker recorded an immigrant’s language as being “Jewish” when it more properly should have been recorded as “Yiddish.”

While many fondly associate Yiddish names with their beloved grandparents and great-grandparents, Yiddish is nonetheless making a comeback. California‘s San Francisco Bay area is home to Der Bay, a widely circulated Anglo-Yiddish newsletter of events, and such movies as Fiddler on the Roof and the animated An American Tail (both featuring Yiddish-named characters) are fondly familiar to mainstream America.

Accounting for the many spelling variations of Yiddish names is the fact that Yiddish is a language written in Hebrew letters, which then may be transliterated into the letters of the Roman alphabet for English language readers and speakers. In Yiddish names, “creative spellings” (a frequent complaint on Internet baby name discussion boards) are not only common, but necessary!

Here are some Yiddish names (with their variations) worth considering:

GIRLS

BIELKA, BIELKE — “beautiful, white.”

BLIMA, BLUMA — “flower.”

BREINDEL –”brunette.”

CHANI– derived from Chanah, Hannah, mother of the prophet Samuel in the Bible.

CHAVA, CHAVELE, KHAVA, KHAVE – “life,” the name of Adam‘s wife (known as Eve in English).

DAVRUSHA –“ form of Deborah, the Biblical prophetess and judge.

FREIDEL– “joy.”

GOLDA, GOLDE — “gold.”

HINDA, HINDE –  “hind, doe.”

HODEL — form of Hadassah, the Hebrew name of the heroine Esther in the Bible.

KAILA, KAYLA, KEILA –  possibly from the Hebrew Kelila: “crown.”

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