Jewish baby names

Looking for an Italian and Jewish Baby Name

Happy baby girl sitting in a meadow, holding a buttercup flower.

Hi, I’m Nina, and I inadvertently became Kveller’s official baby namer after I ran out of my own babies to name. I expressed my desire on both nameberry.com and Kveller to name other peoples’ babies and I’ve been corresponding with parents (mostly Jewish ones) unable to settle on a name ever since. The most recent email I received was so specific and organized that I thought Kveller readers would enjoy considering the challenge together.


Dear Nina,

I thought you might like this challenge. I’m 30 weeks pregnant and we’re nowhere close to even shortlisting potential baby names. Here are our seemingly impossible criteria:

1. Female name.

2. Preferably of Jewish origins or easily convertible to Hebrew. Grandparents to name for, if possible, this time are: Hazel/Chaya and/or Herman/Chaim. Could be just a loose association or as the middle name. For reference, we named our first child (boy) Matteo/Matan.

3. Preferably Italian or easily pronounceable in Italian. My husband is from Italy, his whole family lives there, and we visit often. We currently live in New York City, but will likely move to Europe at some point in the future. The letter H doesn’t exist in Italian so Hazel would be tough. (I’m Sarah and in Italian I’m just “Sara”!)

4. Not in the top 10 (OK fine, at least not in the top three) baby name popularity rankings in either the US or Italy. We love all the names that are trending now (Sophia, Olivia, Emma, etc.) but we don’t want her to be one of 10 Olivias in her kindergarten class. As a “Sarah” from the 1980s, I can attest to that!

5. We want a name that matches well with the family. Our surname is short, just two syllables. Our first child has an M name, so although we like the name Miriam, I worry about that choice committing us to stick with M names for any future child.

So, what do you think? Will we need to drop some of these criteria? Please help!

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Sarah


Dear Sarah,

Impossible? I think not. I love a baby name assignment and seeing your preferences neatly laid out made me do a little happy dance. I will try to keep my suggestions equally organized. And guess what? I have three semesters of college Italian under my belt. I took those classes (ahem) 20 years ago, but hopefully that will help me keep the “Italian but also Jewish” challenge in mind.

1. “LIFE” NAMES

Since Chaya and Chaim both relate to the word “life,” how about some other names with a similar meaning? In this case, using the meaning of your grandparents’ Hebrew names seems like a closer honor of their memories than choosing a random name that also starts with a ‘C.’

Eva (from Eve, meaning life)

Mika (Hebrew, meaning gift from God, and “life” is the greatest one.)

Liora (Variation of the Hebrew Leora, meaning light, which connects to life.)

2. NATURE NAMES

Playing off the name Hazel, which won’t work in Italian, how about a different nature name?

Aviva (Hebrew for “springlike, fresh, dewy”)

Bluma (Yiddish for flower)

Dafna (Hebrew for laurel)

Devora (Hebrew for bee)

Elena (Seems to be the Spanish for Helen, but it has an international, even Hebrew sound. Means bright shining sun.)

Tamara (date, palm tree)

3. BIBLICAL NAMES

Keeping big brother Matteo in mind, how about a biblical names that sounds nice in the Italian form? Perhaps you could use Hazel or Chaya, which are both such pretty names, as the middle name. It’s OK if some of the relatives struggle with the middle name, right?

Avital (King David’s wife)

Daniella (female of Daniel)

Gabriela (Italian spelling female form of Gabriel, for God is my strength)

Lia (Italian version of Leah)

Mira (short for Miriam; I address your concern with M names below)

Riva (nickname for Rivka/Rebecca but works on its own)

4. PRETTY HEBREW NAMES

Again, for this category I’m thinking you could use Hazel or Chaya as the middle name, which allows you to choose a pretty Hebrew name for the first name that will also be easy for Italian speakers to say.

Adina (gentle)

Aliza (joy)

Ariella (lioness of God)

Nava (beautiful)

Tova (God’s goodness)

5. THE ‘M’ QUESTION

As I mentioned in my most recent baby name challenge for Kveller, I do not believe that following a pattern for two kids means you have to stick with it for subsequent kids. Three of my kids have biblical names and one does not. And my parents gave my two oldest sisters popular names (Karen and Lisa) while donning me with a more unusual one (Nina). So I say don’t worry about it.

My vote is for Mira Hazel (or Mira Chaya, but the double ‘a’ ending is not ideal for me.)

OK, Kveller readers, what do you think? Let’s name this baby!

Check out our baby name finder for more Jewish names. 


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The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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