Hanukkah Baby Names Glow Bright
Hanukkah baby names are typically thought of as those of the Maccabees — Judah (or Yehuda), his brothers Eliezer, Shimon, Yochanan, and Yonatan, and their father Mattathias. These are great, heroic names, but many parents — particularly in Israel — favor trim and tailored names with more contemporary sounds.
A more modern approach to Hanukkah baby names is to look for those with related meanings. You can home in on whatever aspect of the holiday resonates most. Maybe it’s the concept of miracles (try Nissim), or even gifts (Shai). Light is one of the most important symbols of Hanukkah, and there are many Jewish baby names with brilliant meanings perfect for a Hanukkah baby.
In honor of the eight nights of Hanukkah, we’re looking at eight Hebrew names with contemporary style and light-related meanings.
Eliora (“the Lord is my light”): feminine and strong, Eliora is a natural substitution for Eliana, a rising star among girl names. Eliora doesn’t have the same multicultural appeal, but for a Hanukkah baby, the stronger Hebrew connection may be a selling point.
Lior (“I have a light”): many Hebrew names are unisex, although in Israel as well as the US, a name will typically prevail for one sex over the other. Lior ranks among the Top 100 for Jewish boys in Israel. The traditional pronunciation puts the emphasis on the second syllable, but in practice, some Americans with this name pronounce it LEE-or.
Meyer (“bringer of light”): a variation of the more traditional spelling Meir, Meyer was a relatively popular name among Jewish-American baby boys at the turn of the century. It peaked in 1910, making it overdue for a comeback, according to the 100 Year Rule. Meyer is also a surname, both Jewish and gentile — the latter deriving from the German word for “bailiff.”
Nera (“candle”): perhaps the best-known Hanukkah tradition is lighting the menorah, a candelabra with nine branches, representing the miraculous eight days the Temple menorah burned on a single flask of oil in the story of Hanukkah (plus an extra branch for the shamash, the candle used to light the others). Nera’s holiday-specific meaning makes it a common choice for baby girls born during Hanukkah.
Orli (“light”): the Hebrew component or means “light,” so any name beginning with Or, including Ora, Orit, and Or itself, is a fitting choice for a Hanukkah baby. The most fashionable among them might be Orli, with its I-ending and upbeat, nickname-y sound.
Uriel (“God is my light”): the only name on this list to rank in the official US Top 1000, Uriel fits the trend of Old Testament (make that Tanakh) boy names ending in -iel. It’s the most common name beginning with U, followed by Uriah — another brilliant Hebrew name that sees an uptick around Hanukkah.
Yair (“he shines”): in the Tanakh, Yair, or Jair, was a ruling judge of Israel. Jair is the Anglicized variation and more popular in the US, where it is frequently used by Hispanic families. It’s also heard in South America. Yair is a Top 30 name among Jewish baby boys in Israel.
Zohar (“light, brilliance”): another unisex name, in this case used more often for baby girls in Israel. Zohar (emphasis on the second syllable) has extra significance among those who practice Kabbalah, or Jewish mysticism. The Zohar is a group of elemental Kabbalistic books that interpret the mystical elements of the Torah, published in the 13th century.
Chag Sameach! What are your favorite Hanukkah baby names?