Brainy Bunny is married to a conservative rabbi and has extensive experience with living an observant Jewish life.
As an expectant parent, you've got a lot of important details to think about, from making sure you're eating right to finding a good pediatrician. But don't forget one of the most important decisions of all: what to name your daughter!
In Jewish tradition, we give each child a name to use for religious purposes. That name can be the same as her secular name (if you choose a biblical or Hebrew name to serve double duty), or you can choose a name that has special meaning to you. Whichever path you choose, here are plenty of options to get you thinking.
Most Popular Jewish Baby Names in the US
Girls have many more secular name options than boys, but unfortunately biblical names account for a much higher percentage of the most popular boys' names than the most popular girls' names. Only 10 biblical names have made the Social Security list of Top 100 Girls' Names (combining current data and the lists for the most popular names of the past decade and century). And the winners are:
- Sara or Sarah
Of course, there are plenty of other women in the Bible with beautiful names (and strong characters!). If the ones above don't appeal to you, consider Miriam, Esther, Dina, Judith (Yehudit), Michal, Tzipora, or Yael.
Popular Names in Israel
In Israel, names deriving from nature are extremely popular. You can choose one of these beautiful names as your daughter's name for religious purposes, or even as the name on her birth certificate, since unusual names are more readily accepted in the U.S. for girls than for boys.
|Names from Nature||Meaning|
Ariel or Ariella
lioness of God
Ayala or Ayelet
deer or gazelle
Gali or Galit
Hadas or Hadassah
Laila or Leila
peace or rest
young mountain goat
coral or pearl
to flow down (like the Jordan river)
Did you know?
The sheva brachot (seven blessings) that are recited at a Jewish wedding contain a list of eight good things that God has created on this earth. These can be also used as girls' names (if you may want a large brood, plan ahead!). They are:
- Gila: happiness
- Rina: song
- Ditzah: joy
- Chedva: cheerfulness
- Achavah: friendship
- Ahavah: love
- Shalom: peace
- Reut: companionship
Religious Names for Girls
If the options for girls' names seem endless, that's because they nearly are. We haven't even touched on another category yet: religious names. Here are a few, along with their meanings, to give you an example.
- Amalia: work of God
- Azriela: God is my help
- Batsheva: daughter of an oath
- Bracha: blessing
- Daniela (Danielle): God is my judge
- Emuna: faith
- Lior: I have a light
- Nechama: comfort, consolation
- Refaela: God has healed
- Tikva: hope
Jewish Naming Customs
In Ashkenazi Jewish practice, it is customary to name a baby only after a relative who has already passed away. This is a wonderful way to remember someone dear to your heart, like a grandmother or a great-aunt. The drawback is that you then have to figure out how to use a name like Tillie or Bertha!
There are three common methods you can use for choosing a name that honors a deceased loved one: you can use her actual names in both English and Hebrew; you can use her actual Hebrew name for religious purposes, but choose a secular name that starts with the same letter or sound for secular purposes; or you can choose names with the same meanings.
Let's say you want to honor your great-aunt Bertha (Hebrew name: Bracha), of blessed memory, by naming your newborn daughter after her. Here are three ways:
- Name your daughter Bertha in English and Bracha in Hebrew as a direct tribute. (Your daughter wouldn't have to worry that anyone else in her class would have the same name!)
- Choose a secular name that starts with the same letter, such as Bridget or Brooke. Then use Bracha as her religious name.
- Bertha means bright or famous, so choose a contemporary name with those meanings, such as Clarissa. Then use Bracha as a Hebrew name, or choose one that uses the meaning of secular name again (in this case, Behira or Zahara).
Baby Naming Ceremony
While most people know about the brit milah ceremony for boys, not as many people know that naming ceremonies for Jewish girls are rising in popularity. The baby naming (called a simchat bat) is sometimes done in a synagogue during a Saturday morning service, but can also be done at home. There are several variants; the most common type is to have the parents wrap the baby in a tallit while reciting blessings for her and the new mother. Other family members can also do readings or recite special blessings. The liturgy is not set in stone, so you can add meaningful verses from the Torah or Psalms. If you do the simchat bat as part of a Shabbat service, you may also be called to the Torah. You can invite friends and extended family and sponsor the kiddush (social hour after services) in honor of your new baby girl.
A book like Anita Diamant's The New Jewish Baby Book will help you plan this special ceremony for your daughter. Think about what kind of ceremony you might want now, because ideally it will take place within a month after your daughter's birth (although some people wait up to a year). Consult your rabbi as well, so that you can choose a date and work together to plan the details of the service.
Diamant, Anita. The New Jewish Baby Book. Woodstock, Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing, 1994.
Kolatch, Alfred J. Best Baby Names for Jewish Children. New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 1998.
Sidi, Smadar Shir. The Complete Book of Hebrew Baby Names. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 1989.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
babynology from New York on July 18, 2013:
I admire Jewish baby names. Each name comes with information on any known meaning. If you would like to find out the meaning or origin any of the names, you can simply search over the internet.
Brainy Bunny (author) from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania on August 08, 2012:
Hi, clevercat. Organic is a lovely way to describe the nature names that are so popular among Israelis, thank you. You've picked some of my favorites from the list! I'm also partial to Ayelet and Yael.
Rachel Vega from Massachusetts on August 07, 2012:
I'm extremely partial to the names Rachel and Miriam :^) but I just love Ariel, Batsheva, Laila, Shira, and Tamar. So lyrical and organic!
Great hub! Voted up, beautiful, and interesting.