Israeli Culture

Naming

Naming Conventions

  • Israelis tend to have a personal name, followed by a surname (e.g. Ariel PEREZ).
  • Modern Ashkenazi Israeli family names often stem from new immigrants voluntarily changing their names into Hebrew. Moreover, some families may choose a name that is used as either a given name or family name, which sometimes leads to confusion (e.g. Barak ALON or Alon BARAK).
  • Some Sephardic/Mizrahi families may change their names from Arabic into Hebrew, but this process tends to be easier since both languages are closely related.
  • Sometimes names may have the conjunctive word ‘ben-’ (‘son of’) or ‘bat-’ (‘daughter of’) between two names, for example, David Ben-ARTZI.
  • Those with Sephardic Jewish ancestry may use the Arabic word ‘ibn’ in their name as ‘son of’.
  • It is common for Israeli Jews to name their child after family members. Ashkenazi Jews only name a child after a relative who has recently died. However, Sephardi/Mizrahi Jews may name their children after relatives who are either alive or deceased.
  • Sephardi families tend to name the eldest son after the grandfather, and the eldest daughter after the grandmother.
  • Jewish parents often give their child both a Hebrew name (i.e. a religious name) and a name.


Names

  • Many given names are based on the names of figures from Jewish texts (e.g. Aaron, Yeshayahu or Rebekah) or Hebrew words relating to nature or geography (e.g. Aviv meaning ‘spring’, or Alon meaning ‘oak’).
  • Many modern Hebrew names tend to be unisex or gender-neutral. For example, Amit, Bar, Shai, Tal and Yuval. There are also feminine versions of traditionally male names, such as Aviva (instead of Aviv).
  • Many Israeli names that end with the diminutive ‘-i’ or ‘-y’ tend to be nicknames rather than formal given names. This is especially the case for those with long given names. For example, Benjamin becomes Benny or BenjiGershon becomes Gigi, or Yehezkial becomes Hezi.
  • Yiddish nicknames add ‘-le’, ‘-ik’ or ‘-ka’ to the end of a given name. For example, Moshe becomes Moshik, and Zvi becomes Zvika.
  • Some names are very flexible in their English spelling. For instance, the names Ido, Edo and Eido are all pronounced the same.
  • Those who convert to Judaism adopt a new name. They will choose a Hebrew personal name, while their surname becomes ‘ben-AVRAHAM’ or ‘bat-SARAH’.

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