In Ashkenazi Jewish naming tradition, as well as some Sephardic ones, it is customary to name a child after a relative who has died. That’s a beautiful thing, but that also means that it’s easy for some popular Jewish names to become repetitive.
As someone who is very connected to the Jewish community, I for one, know of certain common Jewish names I have ruled out because I know so many other people by those names. (Sorry to all my friends named Jacob! I still love you!) For this reason, many Jewish parents choose to honor their relatives by choosing a baby name that uses the same first letter — for example, my parents chose the name Madeline in honor of my grandmother, Marilyn. Additionally, the sound or meaning of a name can also be a way to honor a loved one; for example, baby Ari might be named for Great-Uncle Leon, as both names mean “lion.”
For expecting parents who are seeking something a little bit different, we compiled a list of meaningful and lesser-used Jewish names, in languages including Hebrew, Ladino, and Yiddish. See 21 of our favorite unique Jewish names below.
Dalit — This lovely Hebrew name means “to draw water.”
Gila — Gila means “joy” in Hebrew, reminding us of a quality that one can never have too much of.
Levana — Levana means “moon” in Hebrew, reminiscent of the peace of a clear night sky.
Lila — This name means “night” in Hebrew, making up half of a Hebrew expression you might know, “lila tov,” meaning “goodnight.”
Perla — Perla means “pearl” in Ladino. Given that pearls are the birthstone for those born in June, Perla could be the perfect name for those expecting in the next few months.
Yaara — Yaara means “woodland” in Hebrew. As spring approaches, this name is perfect to honor a family member who especially loved being in nature.
Zelda — Zelda is a Yiddish name that means “happiness.” Yiddish is the language that many Askhenazi Jews’ ancestors spoke, so Zelda is a lovely name to honor that history in a unique way.
Osher — Like Zelda, Osher means “happiness” in Hebrew.
Shir — Perfect for honoring a music lover in your life, Shir means ”song” in Hebrew.
Ziv — Ziv means “brilliance” or “glow” in Hebrew. Short and sweet, this name can be a spiritual and meaningful way to honor a loved one who has passed.
Eliel — Meaning “my God” in Hebrew, this familiar-yet-different Jewish name is on track to become more popular this year — but it is still quite unique.
Gideon — Gideon, whose Hebrew origins mean “mighty warrior,” honors one of the Judges of Israel. Though it is a classically biblical name, it is much more less common than Jacob or Joshua.
Mendel — Mendel means “he who comforts” in Yiddish. This uplifting name reminds us of a compassionate quality that is not conventionally fostered so much in boys. Go on, crush the patriarchy by choosing this name for your son!
Raviv — Raviv means “rain” in Hebrew. After this difficult year, this unique name is a cleansing reminder of good times to come.
Velvel — Velvel means “wolf” in Yiddish. Honoring this pack animal is a symbolic nod to the importance of one’s family, and one’s people.
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