We need a (Jewish) baby girl name!
May 20, 2015 9:44 AM   Subscribe

I thought we had locked down the girl name for our baby due next month (Lila) but my husband is having cold feet. We are stuck! Please help.

Our criteria: Jewish girl names. At least generally considered acceptable as Jewish girls names. (No Nathalie, despite Natalie Portman, which is a name I love, because it really means nativity.) Not super popular these days. Not the kind of name that would be very hard to spell. Not princess-y. Ideally it would work well for a child and for a professiona adult. Doesn't sound too too odd to Americans. (No Osnot.) My name is very unusual and hard to spell and I constantly have to have the same conversation with people about how to spell it and what it means and what my heritage is and it drives me absolutely batty. I don't want that for my kiddo. (We're good on the boy name I think.)

Names we like:

- Naomi (not an option because a family member is named Naomi)
- Lila (may be ruled out because there are currently three possibly common spellings - Lila, Lilah, Lyla (currently the most popular spelling of this name), and maybe even Leila, Layla)
- Arielle (but Disney princess connotations)
- Maya (but maybe too hippy ish for us)
- Isabella (but Twilight and also it is very popular right now)
- Ella (but very popular right now)
- Sophia (but very popular right now)
- Yael (but probably will be annoying to spell for people)
- Anna (out because a family member is named Anna)

The middle name is an old fashioned name that begins with an A - a deceased family member's name. Think Mabel.

I don't love a lot of popular Jewish women's names like Leah, Hannah, Ruth. I am having trouble pin pointing why - I think they feel a little stodgy to me. Shoshanna is out because a family member has that name. Ditto Abigail. I like Daphna but my husband is worried any Daffy Duck connotations. I like the slightly exotic (almost "fragrant" if that doesn't sound nuts) feeling I get from a lot of the names we like. Or the Old World feel of some of the others on our list. But we're stuck with issues with all of them. We used our other favorite girl's name last time!
posted by semacd to Grab Bag (94 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Rebecca / Rebekah?
posted by easter queen at 9:47 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Ayala is a beautiful name.
posted by rue72 at 9:48 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

posted by rabbitrabbit at 9:48 AM on May 20, 2015

Shifra. Miriam. Rivka. Elisheva. Devorah. Aviva. Tamar. Eliana. Ilana.
Also, Isabella and Sophia and Anna don't read as particularly Jewish to me.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:48 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

posted by kimberussell at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2015 [15 favorites]

posted by Lyn Never at 9:50 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

posted by gaspode at 9:51 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by vegartanipla at 9:52 AM on May 20, 2015

Ever since I read The Red Tent I've thought Dinah was a great name.
posted by greenish at 9:53 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Tova. Ahuva. Malka.
posted by needs more cowbell at 9:54 AM on May 20, 2015


Did you already rule out Elizabeth? (Is that New Testament?)
posted by spelunkingplato at 9:54 AM on May 20, 2015

A friend's daughter is named Miriam. She is called Miri by her family. I think it's lovely and distinct from all the Kylie's, Kayla's, and Emma's in her class.
posted by cecic at 9:55 AM on May 20, 2015 [7 favorites]

Liora. Samara. Nava. Danielle/a. Ellie. Dvora. Noa. Rena. Nisya. Ada. Davida. Basya. Hadassah (Dasi).
posted by femmegrrr at 9:57 AM on May 20, 2015

Jael. Esther.
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 9:59 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Isabella is a nice name but if you're looking for Jewish names the primary historical associations with that name may not make it the best choice.
posted by griphus at 10:00 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also this list of Israeli film actresses may be of some use.
posted by griphus at 10:03 AM on May 20, 2015

Aviva (my favourite baby name!)
posted by DarlingBri at 10:04 AM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've always thought Esther was a lovely underused classy name, and also an awesome Jewish character.
posted by ClaireBear at 10:09 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also Hedy, Delilah, or if you want something modern, Abby or Eliza.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:11 AM on May 20, 2015

Eve. Rebecca/Rebekah. Rachel. Deborah. Delilah (connotations are less good with this one, but would fit in with your love of "Lila").
posted by ClaireBear at 10:16 AM on May 20, 2015

I have an Israeli friend named Liron (prounounced lee-ROHN), which I think is a beautiful and unique name, and another Israeli friend named Orly (ditto). Was also going to suggest Ayelet.
posted by holborne at 10:17 AM on May 20, 2015

posted by Thing at 10:19 AM on May 20, 2015

All your choices are great. Everybody has to spell their name (my common name has about seven alternate spellings) but far less than they have to say it or hear it. Call your little girl the name that sounds best to you. Mazel tov!
posted by firstdrop at 10:21 AM on May 20, 2015

Yael is on your list. Go with Yael. It's a great name. It's short, simple, but is also a strong-sounding name (a lot of short girl names end in vowel sounds, which is fine, no judgment, but they can come off kind of cutesy).

People are going to have trouble spelling any name you choose. Heck, my name is Jennifer--the most popular girl's name for a decade--and I can't tell you how many times I've gotten Jenifer, Jenniffer, Jinnifer, etc etc. Unless I've been pronouncing it wrong my whole life, Yael has the added benefit of being spelled exactly how it sounds, so she's actually got a leg up in that department. Also, none of her friends will ever misspell Israel as Isreal because they'll know.
posted by phunniemee at 10:22 AM on May 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

If it's not Tamar (which I like), maybe Sharon?
posted by Namlit at 10:24 AM on May 20, 2015

Lots of good suggestions - but I'll add in one anyway: Ida
posted by mumimor at 10:29 AM on May 20, 2015

My Jewish husband's mother and aunts are Lisa, Rebecca, and Sarah. All fairly ordinary, but as someone who has a stodgy weird name (Agatha isn't that weird you'd think, but it's like there's a generational switch of people who have heard of Agatha Christie, and those who think it's an alien's name...), ordinary is kinda nice.
posted by aggyface at 10:29 AM on May 20, 2015

Response by poster: Lots of great ideas. Thank you and carry on!

Also, Isabella and Sophia and Anna don't read as particularly Jewish to me.

Agreed for sure - but they're on some Jewish baby girl name lists so they are names we're willing to consider.

Isabella is a nice name but if you're looking for Jewish names the primary historical associations with that name may not make it the best choice.

This is a very good point and much appreciated. I don't think of that particular Isabella first, and supposedly it is a Hebrew name, but I take your point and we should probably rule it out for reasons other than popularity. Too bad - I love it!

I like Rebecca but it's out for family reasons. Ditto other nice options like Tamar, Esther, Danielle, Deborah, Aviva (which we also love!) and Abby.

What do people think of Liat? That was on our list last time.
posted by semacd at 10:31 AM on May 20, 2015

I'm also going to vote for Yael. People will misspell any name more complicated than "Bob", so don't worry about that. The worst names for misspellings are names that have lots of variations (Kris, Chris) or that have other similar sounding names (Jan, Jen). People aren't going to try to wing the spelling of Yael, they'll ask.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:34 AM on May 20, 2015

Miriam, Zipporah

Wikipedia has a list of Women in the Bible that might provide a few names. (obviously this includes some non-Jewish associated names).
posted by sciencegeek at 10:41 AM on May 20, 2015

Elena, Michaela, Sarah, Johanna, Shoshanna
posted by hrj at 10:42 AM on May 20, 2015

Just as I think of Isabella as Catholic, I definitely think of Sophia as Eastern Orthodox Christian.

Not sure about Liat but "Leah" or "Lia" I like. Or I would even like "Liata" if you can bear a creative modification.

I love Orly/Orli, Shira, Shana, Elisheva (call her Eli - I know this is less "pronounceable"), Gila, Idit/Edith, Liba/Leeba, Lora, Meira, Moira, Tova, Salome
posted by amaire at 10:47 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like Yael quite a bit (better than Liat, though that is ok), though it has been pretty popular as a girl's name in Israel in recent years. There is also Yaela.

I will offer up
as an alternative to Maya - Maayan - it means a spring ( stream/ water) in Hebrew

Also, I will echo everyone who says that you will always need to spell even the most simple of names, so pick a name you like. Mr. gudrun has a friend with a name almost as simple as John Smith. He still has to spell out his name to people fairly often or John becomes Jon and Smith could be Smythe.
posted by gudrun at 10:52 AM on May 20, 2015

Orly, Miriam, Leah, or Aviva.
posted by hush at 10:55 AM on May 20, 2015

Sarah seems to age very well. It would be my pick. I'm a big fan of boring first names.

Everything on your list is good.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:56 AM on May 20, 2015

We've been having the same conversation in our house lately and the two names we've agreed upon are Mia and Zahara. We like the fact that they have Hebrew meaning as well as meaning in other languages / cultures.
posted by doublenelson at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2015

Tikvah - Hope
Aviva - Spring
Yael is a total favorite as is Chana or Chani.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:57 AM on May 20, 2015

Adele, Chava, Ruth, Batya (daughter of god, the name Pharaoh's daughter chose when she left Egypt with Moses), Daphna.

Or maybe you'll be inspired by one of these Jewish Celebrities...
Molly Picon
Sophie Tucker
Fanny Brice
Sadie Fields
Bette Midler
Theda Bara
Stella Adler
Bea Arthur
posted by brookeb at 10:59 AM on May 20, 2015

What do people think of Liat? That was on our list last time.

Might be some spelling/pronunciation issues, if that's an issue.

I know an awful lot of Russian Jewish Darias, to the point where the name itself just feels Jewish to me even though I know it's not. I'm personally very fond of Tova/Tovah/Tove because it was my great-grandmother's name and she was an amazing person who lived an amazing life.

Or maybe you'll be inspired by one of these Jewish Celebrities...

Throw in the great Maya Plisetskaya, who just passed.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 11:06 AM on May 20, 2015

Melilla, Ronit, Riva, Chaya, Haya, Delilah, Lisbet?
posted by TwoStride at 11:09 AM on May 20, 2015

P'nina and Ma'ayan are also pretty.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:10 AM on May 20, 2015

I'm mentally going through names of my friends :)

Stav, Shiri, Shira?
posted by gaspode at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2015

How about Chava/Hava?
posted by carrioncomfort at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2015

Rather than Rebecca, you can do Rivka.
posted by Sophie1 at 11:11 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a beautiful Jewish friend Shelly, great name. Avital and Aviv are my other favorites.
posted by Cygnet at 11:21 AM on May 20, 2015

I like Lila a lot. But since your husband is getting cold feet about it, I posit my very own name as a substitute: Laura. It's not particularly Jewish, but it's definitely not not Jewish, and I have known quite a few Jewish Lauras (I'm one of them). It has a similar cadence to Lila; it's not "princess-y" (I always think of my name as one of those "serious" girl names along with Elizabeth or Katherine or, less syllabic-ally, Karen or Rachel), and no one is naming their daughter Laura anymore, possibly because everyone was doing it about 33 years ago, when I was born. I have thoroughly enjoyed being a Laura.
posted by millipede at 11:22 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have a unique Arabic name (with a Hebrew meaning as well, as mentioned on this thread) that is becoming increasingly popular recently, judging by the handful of celebrity babies that share my name as well as a globally ubiquitous Spanish clothing store. There's a few different ways to spell it ranging from a simple phonetic pronunciation to the addition of (what I think) are superfluous H's to emphasize the vowel sounds.

Yes, people have some difficulty spelling it, and in general will ask me the correct way to say it so they don't rudely butcher it (I think that says a lot about people that they want to be well-mannered in doing so). Some culturally sensitive, intelligent people get it right the first time.

But you know what? Almost universally, when asked my name, I have people tell me how pretty and unique it is. And that's quite a compliment.

IMHO, pick out a pretty name for your daughter that has a beautiful meaning and is unlikely to be the subject of ridicule (kids can definitely be mean with things like that). And, while I get that you want your daughter to have a name that will not cause her difficulty in the future, she may turn out to be one of the many people that cherish their unique, charming names and she may enjoy talking about her heritage and why her parents chose that name for her.

That said, all of your names and most of the suggestions upthread are utterly lovely... I love Liat and Yael!
posted by Everydayville at 11:23 AM on May 20, 2015

Thinking through Jewish names I know -- Chava, Tovah, Devorah, Rivka, Tzipporah, Talia, Rachel, Judith, Sharon, Feige, Leetal, Sigalit, Orly, Livia, Galit, Leora, Shira, Tamar.

Isabella and Sophia hit me as not Jewish. (Not that they are necessarily actively un-Jewish.)
posted by jeather at 11:26 AM on May 20, 2015

Miriam, nicknamed Mia.
posted by sciencegeek at 11:27 AM on May 20, 2015

I went to school with an Ayelet and I love that name. So beautiful. I also like Noa.
posted by Lescha at 11:34 AM on May 20, 2015

Dara (or Darah, although I like it without the h better).
posted by Neely O'Hara at 11:37 AM on May 20, 2015

Chaya or Katya?
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:42 AM on May 20, 2015

I love Yael! I also love Ayelet, Talia, Rinat, Alina, and Ilana. What about Lior as an alternative to Liat (which I don't love personally)? I also know Israeli girls named Maya, Alona, and Atalya. I actually would assume an Isabella or a Sophia would not be Jewish.
posted by tatiana wishbone at 11:45 AM on May 20, 2015

Some of my favorites are missing still:
Dalia (or Dahlia, if you prefer)
Mori / Moria

I would argue against Delilah - would be a bit like asking for Christian names and going with Judas.
posted by Mchelly at 11:50 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of my Jewish great-grandmothers was Sarah, the other was Dora. My aunt was named Dorothy after Dora. Dorothea, maybe? I had a friend when I was a kid named Dor-Lee.
posted by mareli at 11:53 AM on May 20, 2015

Isabella is Jewish in that it comes, like Elizabeth, from the Hebrew root name Elisheva, but I wouldn't consider it a Jewish name at this point. Sophia is originally a Greek name, and not really Jewish at all.

My favorite Jewish girl's name has always been Shira. It's a beautiful name with a long history that's easy for English speakers to spell.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:55 AM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like Liat.

The most common baby names for 2013 [in Israel] included Noa, still the most popular girl’s name for 15 years, followed by Shira, Tamar, Talia, and Maya, which were also the top five names for 2012. Yael, Adele, Sara, Avigail, and Ayala rounded off the top 10 most popular girl names.
posted by zarq at 12:02 PM on May 20, 2015

I think that a Liat would probably go through life having to explain that her name is Liat, L-I-A-T, and not Leah. Not necessarily a big deal, but since you mentioned that kind of issue as something you're specifically trying to avoid...

I thought Lior was a guy's name? Or at least all the Liors I know are guys.
posted by phoenixy at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2015

I've always loved the name Rachel.
With a middle name beginning with 'a', you might not want a first name that ends with an 'a' sound, like Lila. Just a thought from someone whose first name ends with 'a' and whose last name starts with 'a'-- it all sort of runs together unless I enunciate like a proper English speaker. YMMV, of course.
posted by tuesdayschild at 12:05 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, Shira is fun. I was born in the 80s and my sisters managed to veto it as a name due to the popularity of He-Man, but y'know, on the whole I think being able to shout, "I am She-Ra, Princess of Power!" as often as you like is a feature, not a bug.

Suzanne is a good one that hasn't been mentioned.
posted by phoenixy at 12:12 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I know Lila (meaning is lilac from what I read) has been mentioned but what about a tangential naming in Susanna. That link is for a Christian disciple, here's one for the righteous one. It also means "lily".

Keeps it floral, and it's a nice name IMO. Most of the Susans I know are 40+ but it's not yet made a huge comeback so it's classic and unique.
posted by tilde at 12:13 PM on May 20, 2015

Sophie (plus many of the other names already mentioned). Are you looking for "Jewish" or "Israeli" or either/both? There is definitely overlap, but I tend to think of them as distinct.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 12:15 PM on May 20, 2015

I like Lila a lot! I wouldn't worry too much about alternate spellings, that happens with so many names. My first name is Jennifer and I'm very often asked to spell it. The more crucial thing is it's clear how to say Lila to the average person so your child won't have to constantly explain that.

Ella is also a cute name.

I would not be so deterred by popularity, if I were you. These days even the most popular names are used only a fraction as much as in prior decades (20,000 for the top name today versus 200K or something like that, I'm sorry I can't find specifics right now). You likely won't have six Lilas per class like my experience with my name. One example of this is my son's daycare has 12 toddlers (with some kids leaving and some new kids the past few months) and there has never been a duplicate name situation there.
posted by JenMarie at 12:27 PM on May 20, 2015

Like Shana a lot as a first name. Goes well with Punim as a middle name.
posted by Rob Rockets at 12:43 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by mermayd at 12:51 PM on May 20, 2015

posted by gaspode at 12:56 PM on May 20, 2015

A good list of Jewish names, both male and female.

And my personal votes for Sigal/Sigalit, or Vered.
posted by GreenEyed at 1:12 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

posted by wintersweet at 1:13 PM on May 20, 2015

Liora is the feminine version of Lior.
I don't know how popular it is in Israel today, but my parents' Hebrew baby name book listed Balfour/a in honor of the English lord.
posted by brujita at 1:39 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've always like Margalit, or Galit, as mentioned above.
posted by Polyhymnia at 1:40 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Tovah, because I know a nice smart woman named Tovah. Anything you pick will be butchered in ways you can't even imagine. I, like phunniemee, and named Jennifer, and I was born in 1984 when approximately 67% of newborn girls were named Jennifer and I have been called Gwennifur, Jen-fur, Jenny-if-fur, zhenni-fair, etc.
posted by WeekendJen at 1:57 PM on May 20, 2015

Aviva is also the name of a big insurance company. This may be a geographical thing, but I do no longer think of it as a Jewish name.
posted by kariebookish at 2:38 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Miriam (Miriam) or Sharon.

No no to Liat or Yael - they read like boys names and I could not spell or pronounce "Yael" even though I am very proficient in such things, usually.

My husband has a difficult to spell first name, and our last name is only easy if we drop the Mc/El/Mac - type prefix part. Otherwise, oof. Such a hassle. Yep. Endless questions and repeating the spelling.

Sharon or Miri(am)
posted by jbenben at 2:39 PM on May 20, 2015

Samara. Talia. Tamar. Adina. Carmel. Zemira.
posted by gnutron at 2:56 PM on May 20, 2015

Well, Sarah was our choice if our kiddo was a girl (he wasn't), so I'll put that out there. I don't know why, but I love that name. You said Tamar is out, but what about Tamara?
posted by mollweide at 3:01 PM on May 20, 2015

Nora! Some people like the Norah spelling better, but I think no-H is the way to go. Every Nora I know is rad.
posted by Charity Garfein at 3:51 PM on May 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

My daughter Rebekah's Hebrew middle name is Sarit.
posted by Ruki at 4:08 PM on May 20, 2015

As much as I like unusual names, I think your kid might be in for a headache with Yael or Chana (and I think both of those are beautiful).

Why is Lila out? I definitely think of L-I-L-A as standard spelling, if spelling is a concern.

FWIW, I also have an aversion to Leah, Hannah, and Ruth, although I can't figure out why.
posted by radioamy at 4:15 PM on May 20, 2015

posted by kitcat at 4:15 PM on May 20, 2015

You likely won't have six Lilas per class like my experience with my name.

This may depend on where you are, but my daughter has five Sophias in her immediate and near circle. Every story involving one results in the now-comical run-down of last names by my wife or I before we get to the one being discussed. The situation is similar with "Ella" and a few others.

We're not Jewish, but our neighborhood is. Some of my favorite female names from friends and neighbors (several have been mentioned already):

posted by jalexei at 4:22 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just voting for Liat and Rachel. Congrats
posted by leslievictoria at 4:57 PM on May 20, 2015

Aw. I'm a Jewish Natalie -- don't count us out! (Though I vaguely remember being told that my Orthodox grandmother was only OK with it because she had a very good friend with that name.) Said grandmother was a Muriel, though it looks like that's actually of Celtic origin.

Out of the ones that have been mentioned, I'm partial to Shira and Miriam.
posted by natabat at 5:49 PM on May 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think it may be more traditionally a masculine name, but I recently learned of a woman with the name Lael, which I think is lovely! Similar to Lila and Yael, too.
posted by singlesock at 5:57 PM on May 20, 2015

If you liked Lila, maybe you will like Liora and Liana. Liron is pretty but not as easy to pronounce in English. (I'm also not clear why Lila is out?)

Miriam is beautiful and elegant and unusual.

Not Isabella for a Jewish girl, sorry. Beautiful name, but whether you're hearkening to Isabel of Castile or Jezebel of the Canaanites, none of it is good. There's also the 50 Shades issue. Sophia is a Greek name, no Jewish provenance to it at all.

You know a Greek name that does have a respectable Jewish lineage though? Alexandra. For the Hasmonean queen Salome Alexandra.
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:02 PM on May 20, 2015

How about Leela? Variant of the name you like with a lovely Sanskrit meaning (play) and no pronunciation confusion.
posted by bq at 8:01 PM on May 20, 2015

I knew a girl named Ahava growing up and I always thought her name was beautiful.
posted by gatorae at 9:05 PM on May 20, 2015

posted by brujita at 11:56 PM on May 20, 2015

Amalia or Dalia?
posted by discopolo at 2:25 AM on May 21, 2015

I also liked the name "Liat" and there were 2 Yael's in one class I had in high school. I feel like once you see "Yael" you don't misspell it. And ppl named "Jaxsyn" etc will have a harder time.

Also beautiful names: Sonia, Zahava
posted by discopolo at 2:30 AM on May 21, 2015

posted by amy27 at 3:48 AM on May 21, 2015

posted by Otto the Magnificent at 4:44 AM on May 21, 2015

I'm immensely partial to Lila because it is my niece's name. She is four.


Easy to spell
Easy to say
"Lila" is not the popular spelling right now.

I don't know if these are particular Jewish, but some names with the feel of "Lila" include:


Also, The Name Voyager can be your friend. Scroll down to "More Options" beneath the graph. I did search for a name that starts with "L," ends with "a," that includes names from the Old Testament and includes names that are Jewish, and it came up with Liviya.

Give it a shot with your own parameters, and you might land on some ideas if "Lila" is definitely out (though I think you might try getting your husband to put his feet in a bowl of hot water, too).
posted by zizzle at 8:09 AM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everybody. I'm still hoping to win out on Lila, but we're giving serious thought to Dalia.
posted by semacd at 5:01 PM on May 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh also if nobody has suggested it: Davina.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:52 PM on May 22, 2015

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