[DWJ] Re: Hebrew names

Colin Fine colin at kindness.demon.co.uk
Wed Sep 27 18:05:08 EDT 2006

Gili Bar-Hillel wrote:
> Names ending in "Allah" in Arabic are indeed equivalent to names ending in
> "El" in Hebrew, but also to names ending in some truncated form of the
> explicit name of the Lord, such as "ia" or "ja": Josia (Yehoshayahu), Elijah
> (Eliyahu), Abiyah/Aviya, Hezekia/Ezekias (Hizkiyahu). The "s" at the end of
> names like "Elias" or "Ezekias" is not from Hebrew at all, it's some result
> of the transliteration; the "hu" which for some reason does not survive in
> transliteration means roughly "he is", thus Elijah=Eliyahu=Eli+ya+hu=My God
> Ya he is. Arabic Abdallah would be equivalent to Hebrew
I don't believe that origin for the -s at all. I'm pretty sure it comes 
from the Latin version of the name. Hebrew names in -ah or -ahu were 
generally taken into the first declension (-a stems). That normally ends 
in -a in the nominative; but it's usually feminine. (The only 
significant group of masculine first declension nouns is some 
occupational words like 'nauta' (sailor) and 'agricola' (farmer).
But Biblical names were taken over as -as rather than (or perhaps as 
well as) -a. Why?
Well, as the Latin for 'is' is 'est', I don't think that explanation 
will work. My guess is that the -h (which sound didn't exist in Latin) 
was heard as a fricative, and they substituted another fricative - and, 
moreover, one that occurs in the nominative singular of the majority of 
Latin nouns.


> Obadiah/Obadias/Ovadya. I think in this context Abd/Oved is more properly
> translated "worshipper" rather than "slave".
> And I concur, the name Abel is not Ab+el but rather Hevel, meaning breath or
> vanity. But there are names such as Aviel and Eliav that mean roughly what
> Sally thought Abel means.
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