Ever wonder what Israelis name their kids? On December 20, the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics released its report about the most popular names of 2020, as it does every year, and while there are a lot of familiar contenders from recent years, some of the names on the list are a surprise.
As an Israeli living abroad, I’m always fascinated by the most popular names in Israel and how they stack up with my own babies’ names (and honestly, I’m always hoping to see my name on the list, though it never seems to make it, boo). Here are a few highlights from the report:
Just like in 2019, the most popular name in Israel was Muhammad — it was the most popular name among Muslim boys, though the name’s popularity waned slightly in 2020, according to the bureau of statistics.
Yosef, the name of the biblical son of Jacob (and the wearer of the coats of many colors!) and its variants were popular among both Jews and Arabs, making it the second most popular name in the country.
Ariel, which means means “lion of God,” was the third most popular name in the country, having been given to 1,802 newborns in 2020 — 1,223 boys and 579 girls, all of them Jewish.
For the fifth year in a row, Tamar is the most popular name among girls. The beautiful name refers to the palm tree and its fruit, and is also the name of a biblical figure from Genesis. The name is sometimes shortened to Tami. Some famous Israeli Tamars include Knesset member Tamar Zandberg and gifted Israeli musician Tamar Eisenman. In 2020, 1,116 Israeli girls were given this name.
After Tamar, the most popular name was Maya, a name that means “brook” and that has consistently stayed in the top 10 list, with fluctuations. Maya is the name of Israeli actress Gal Gadot’s middle daughter. Other famous Israeli Maya’s include singer Maya Buskila and Israeli actress Maya Wertheimer, who is delightful in the hit Israeli show “Shababnikim” and is the wife of former Israeli minister and recently appointed consul general in New York, Asaf Zamir.
Abigail, or Avigail, was the third most popular girl’s name. It means “father’s joy” and is also the name of one of King David’s wives. The fourth most popular girl’s name is Noa, which means “movement” and is also a biblical name. It’s the name of breakout Israeli pop star Noa Kirel and the queen of Israeli TV, Noa Koler.
Adel is also constantly in the top 10 and is especially popular among Ethiopian Jews, of whom the three most popular names for girls in 2020 were Hodaya, Noya and Adel. It is also the name of popular Israeli model and reality contestant Adel Bespalov, who was a contestant on Israeli “Big Brother” and who in 2021 won the reality TV show “Power Couple VIP” with her husband, restaurateur Mach Abed.
The most popular name for Jewish boys was David, after the biblical king. The name was given to 1,536 boys in 2020. The second most popular name among Jewish boys was Lavi, which means “lion” in Hebrew.
Among Jewish Ethiopian boys, the most popular name was Raphael, then Emanuel and Noam.
Some names which were fairly rare in previous years rose in popularity in 2020.
Among them are Liv (the name of Bar Rafaeli’s daughter!), Leni, Arbel, and Alma — which means “young lady” and is also the name of our lovely partner site! It’s also the name of Gal Gadot’s oldest child.
Reef (or Riff — they’re both spelled the same in Hebrew, and mean what they do in English) is a unisex name that also rose in popularity in 2020 among girls, possibly because it is the name of Reef Neeman, the breakout star of “Beauty Queen of Jerusalem.”
The most popular girls name among Muslim girls in Israel were Maryam and Shaam. Other popular names among Muslim boys include Ahmad, Adam, Yosef, Omar, Ali, Abed, Amir, Ibrahim and Mahmoud.
Israel’s official Twitter account also shared the most popular names for 2021, showing the top five names were very much the same for girls in 2021 as they were in 2020:
In case you're wondering, these were the most popular names for newborns 🍼 in Israel in 2021.
What baby names were popular last year in your country?
Tag a friend with any of these names 💬 pic.twitter.com/Fl4y85fy1e
— Israel ישראל (@Israel) January 2, 2022
As always, if you’re looking for even more naming inspiration, check out Kveller’s Jewish baby name guide!