Theophoric name

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A theophoric name (from Greek: θεόφορος , theophoros, literally "bearing or carrying a god") [1] [2] embeds the name of a god, both invoking and displaying the protection of that deity. For example, names embedding Apollo, such as Apollonios or Apollodorus, existed in Greek antiquity. [3]


Theophoric personal names, containing the name of a god in whose care the individual is entrusted (or a generic word for god), were also exceedingly common in the ancient Near East and Mesopotamia. [4] [5] [6] Some names of theophoric origin remain common today, such as Theodore (theo-, "god"; -dore, origin of word compound in Greek: doron, "gift"; hence "God's gift"; in Greek: Theodoros) or less recognisably as Jonathan (from Hebrew Yonatan/Yehonatan, meaning "Yahweh has given").

Classical theophoric names

Christian theophoric names

Some Christian saints have polytheistic theophoric names (such as Saint Dionysius, Saint Mercurius, Saint Saturninus, Saint Hermes, Saint Martin of Tours, Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki,).

Germanic theophoric names

Rarely, Germanic names contain the element Wod (such as Woðu-riðe), potentially pointing to an association with the god Odin. In connection, numerous names containing wulf "wolf" have been taken as totemistic, expressing association with Odin in the earliest period, although -ulf degenerated into a mere suffix from an early time (Förstemann 1856).


Some traditional Hindu names honor Hindu gods or goddesses. Often, the same name is ascribed to multiple deities.

It is not uncommon to find Hindus with names of gods. Shiva, Krishna, Ganesh, Durga, Radha, and Sita are all names of Hindu gods or goddesses as well as being personal names for Hindus. Hindu gods themselves have multiple names, so it is not always apparent if an Indian name is the name of a god or not.


Judaism and biblical

Much Hebrew theophory occurs in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. The most prominent theophory involves

In later times, as the conflict between Yahwism and the more popular pagan practices became increasingly intense, these names were censored and Baal was replaced with Bosheth, meaning shameful one. However the name Yahweh does not appear in theophoric names until the time of Joshua, and for the most part is very rare until the time of King Saul, when it began to be very popular. [7]



The name of the Israelite deity YHWH (usually shortened to Yah or Yahu, and Yeho or Yo) appears as a prefix or suffix in many theophoric names of the First Temple Period. For example, Yirme-yahu (Jeremiah), Yesha-yahu (Isaiah), Netan-yah, Yedid-yah, Adoni-yah, Nekhem-yah, Yeho-natan (Jonathan), Yeho-chanan (John), Yeho-shua (Joshua), Yeho-tzedek, Zekharya (Zechariah).

"Yahū" or "Yah" is the abbreviation of YHWH when used as a suffix in Hebrew names; as a prefix it appears as "Yehō-", or "Yo". It was formerly thought to be abbreviated from the Masoretic pronunciation "Yehovah". There is an opinion [8] that, as Yahweh is likely an imperfective verb form, "Yahu" is its corresponding preterite or jussive short form: compare yiŝtahaweh (imperfective), yiŝtáhû (preterit or jussive short form) = "do obeisance".

However, the name Judah (Yehūdah) is not an example. The name Judah, comes from the root word Yadah = Yud-Dalet-Hey, which means "praise". The letter Yud is also a prefix pronoun in Hebrew, thus not every name or word beginning with Yud or Yud-Hey is theophoric.

In the table below, 13 theophoric names with "Yeho" have corresponding forms where the letters eh have been omitted. There is a theory by Christian Ginsburg that this is due to Hebrew scribes omitting the "h", changing Jeho (יְהוֹ) into Jo (יוֹ), to make the start of "Yeho-" names not sound like an attempt to pronounce the Divine Name. [9] [10]

Strong's #the nameother elementEnglish conventional form
long formshort formlong formshort formlong formshort form
30593099יְהוֹאָחָזYᵉhow'achazיוֹאָחָזYow'achazachaz [# 270]JehoachazJoachaz
30603101יְהוֹאָשYᵉhow'ashיוֹאָשYow'ash'esh [# 784]JehoashJoash
30753107יְהוֹזָבָדYᵉhowzabadיוֹזָבָדYowzabadzabad [# 2064]JehozabadJozabad
30763110יְהוֹחָנָןYᵉhowchananיוֹחָנָןYowchananchanan [# 2603]JehochananJochanan
30773111יְהוֹיָדָעYᵉhowyadaיוֹיָדָעYowyadayada [# 3045]JehojadaJojada
30783112יְהוֹיָכִיןYᵉhowyakiynיוֹיָכִיןYowyakiynkuwn [# 3559]JehojakinJojakin
30793113יְהוֹיָקִיםYᵉhowyaqiymיוֹיָקִיםYowyaqiymquwm [# 3965]JehojakimJojakim
30803114יְהוֹיָרִיבYᵉhowyariybיוֹיָרִיבYowyariybriyb [# 7378]JehojaribJojarib
30823122יְהוֹנָדָבYᵉhownadabיוֹנָדָבYownadabnadab [# 5068]JehonadabJonadab
30833129יְהוֹנָתָןYᵉhownathanיוֹנָתָןYownathannathan [# 5414]JehonathanJonathan
3085יְהוֹעַדָּהYᵉhow'addah'adah [# 5710]Jehoaddah
30873136יְהוֹצָדָקYᵉhowtsadaqיוֹצָדָקYowtsadaqtsadaq [# 6663]JehotsadakJotsadak
30883141יְהוֹרָםYᵉhowramיוֹרָםYowramruwm [# 7311]JehoramJoram
30923146יְהוֹשָפָטYᵉhowshaphatיוֹשָפָטYowshaphatshaphat [# 8199]JehoshaphatJoshaphat
3470a3470יְשַׁעְיָהוּYᵉsha'yahuwיְשַׁעְיָהYᵉsha'yahyasha [# 3467]JeshajahuJeshajah
5418a5418נְתַנְיָהוּNᵉthanyahuwנְתַנְיָהNᵉthanyahnathan [# 5414]NethanjahuNethanjah
138a138אֲדֹנִיָּהוּ'Adoniyahuwאֲדֹנִיָּה'Adoniyah'adown [# 113]AdonijahuAdonijah
452a452אֵלִיָּהוּ'Eliyahuאֵלִיָּה'Eliyah'el [# 410]ElijahuElijah
3414a3414יִרְמְיָהוּYirmᵉyahuwיִרְמְיָהYirmᵉyahruwm [# 7311]JirmejahuJirmejah
5166נְחֶמְיָהNᵉchemyahnacham [# 5162]Nechemjah

Referring to other gods

Theophoric names containing "Baal" were sometimes "censored" as -bosheth = "shameful one", whence Ishbosheth etc.

Some names might be controversial theological statements: Bealiah could mean Baal is Yahweh and Elijah could mean Yahweh is El (and vice versa, respectively).[ citation needed ] On the other hand, as traditionally understood, these names simply mean "YHWH is Master" and "YHWH is God." (1 Chron. 12:5)

Related Research Articles

Rabbinic Judaism considers seven names of God in Judaism so holy that, once written, they should not be erased: YHWH, El ("God"), Eloah ("God"), Elohim ("God"), Shaddai (“Almighty"), Ehyeh, and Tzevaot. Other names are considered mere epithets or titles reflecting different aspects of God, but Khumra sometimes dictates special care such as the writing of "G-d" instead of "God" in English or saying Ṭēt-Vav instead of Yōd-Hē for the number fifteen in Hebrew.

Yahweh God of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah

Yahweh was the national god of the kingdoms of Israel (Samaria) and Judah, with origins reaching at least to the early Iron Age and apparently to the Late Bronze Age. In the oldest biblical literature he is a storm-and-warrior deity who leads the heavenly army against Israel's enemies; at that time the Israelites worshipped him alongside a variety of Canaanite gods and goddesses, including El, Asherah and Baal, but in later centuries El and Yahweh became conflated and El-linked epithets such as El Shaddai came to be applied to Yahweh alone, and other gods and goddesses such as Baal and Asherah were absorbed into the Yahwistic religion.

Baal Various Levantine deities

Baal, properly Baʽal, was a title and honorific meaning "owner", "lord" in the Northwest Semitic languages spoken in the Levant during antiquity. From its use among people, it came to be applied to gods. Scholars previously associated the theonym with solar cults and with a variety of unrelated patron deities, but inscriptions have shown that the name Baʿal was particularly associated with the storm and fertility god Hadad and his local manifestations.

El (deity) Northwest Semitic word meaning "god" or "deity", or referring (as a proper name) to any one of multiple major ancient Near Eastern deities

ʼĒl is a Northwest Semitic word meaning "god" or "deity", or referring to any one of multiple major ancient Near Eastern deities. A rarer form, ʼila, represents the predicate form in Old Akkadian and in Amorite. The word is derived from the Proto-Semitic archaic biliteral ʼ‑l, meaning "god".

Jah or Yah is a short form of Hebrew: יהוה‎ (YHWH), the four letters that form the tetragrammaton, the personal name of God which the ancient Israelites used. The conventional Christian English pronunciation of Jah is, even though the letter J here transliterates the palatal approximant. The spelling Yah is designed to make the pronunciation explicit in an English-language context, especially for Christians who may not use Hebrew regularly during prayer and study.


Hadad, Adad, Haddad or Iškur (Sumerian) was the storm and rain god in the Canaanite and ancient Mesopotamian religions. He was attested in Ebla as "Hadda" in c. 2500 BCE. From the Levant, Hadad was introduced to Mesopotamia by the Amorites, where he became known as the Akkadian (Assyrian-Babylonian) god Adad. Adad and Iškur are usually written with the logogram 𒀭𒅎dIM—the same symbol used for the Hurrian god Teshub. Hadad was also called Pidar, Rapiu, Baal-Zephon, or often simply Baʿal (Lord), but this title was also used for other gods. The bull was the symbolic animal of Hadad. He appeared bearded, often holding a club and thunderbolt while wearing a bull-horned headdress. Hadad was equated with the Greek god Zeus; the Roman god Jupiter, as Jupiter Dolichenus; the Indo-European Nasite Hittite storm-god Teshub; the Egyptian god Amun.

Elohim Deity or deities in the Hebrew Bible

In the Hebrew Bible, elohim usually refers to a single deity, particularly the God of Israel. At other times it refers to deities in the plural.

Names of God Forms of address or reference to the deity of a religion

There are various names of God, many of which enumerate the various qualities of a Supreme Being. The English word "God" is used by multiple religions as a noun or name to refer to different deities, or specifically to the Supreme Being, as denoted in English by the capitalized and uncapitalized terms "God" and "god". Ancient cognate equivalents for the biblical Hebrew Elohim, one of the most common names of God in the Bible, include proto-Semitic El, biblical Aramaic Elah, and Arabic 'ilah. The personal or proper name for God in many of these languages may either be distinguished from such attributes, or homonymic. For example, in Judaism the tetragrammaton is sometimes related to the ancient Hebrew ehyeh. In the Hebrew Bible, Yahweh, the personal name of God, is revealed directly to Moses. Correlation between various theories and interpretation of the name of "the one God", used to signify a monotheistic or ultimate Supreme Being from which all other divine attributes derive, has been a subject of ecumenical discourse between Eastern and Western scholars for over two centuries. In Christian theology the word must be a personal and a proper name of God; hence it cannot be dismissed as mere metaphor. On the other hand, the names of God in a different tradition are sometimes referred to by symbols. The question whether divine names used by different religions are equivalent has been raised and analyzed.

Hallelujah Religious interjection

Hallelujah is an interjection. It is a transliteration of the Hebrew phrase הַלְלוּ יָהּ‎, which is composed of two elements: הַלְלוּ‎ and יָהּ‎ . The term is used 24 times in the Hebrew Bible, twice in deuterocanonical books, and four times in the Christian Book of Revelation.

Anat Ancient Semitic goddess

Anat, Anatu, classically Anath is a major northwest Semitic goddess. Her attributes vary widely among different cultures and over time, and even within particular myths. She likely heavily influenced the character of the Greek goddess Athena.

Elyon is an epithet of the God of the Israelites in the Hebrew Bible. ʾĒl ʿElyōn is usually rendered in English as "God Most High", and similarly in the Septuagint as ὁ Θεός ὁ ὕψιστος.

Theophory is the practice of embedding the name of a god or a deity in, usually, a proper name. Much Hebrew theophory occurs in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. The most prominent theophory involves names referring to:

Ashima is an ancient Semitic goddess.

Ancient Canaanite religion Group of ancient Semitic religions practiced by the Canaanites

Canaanite religion refers to the group of ancient Semitic religions practiced by the Canaanites living in the ancient Levant from at least the early Bronze Age through the first centuries of the Common Era.

Yahshua is a proposed transliteration of the original Hebrew name of Jesus, who is considered by Christians and Messianic Jews to be the Hebrew Messiah. The literal etymological meaning of the name Yəhôšuaʿ has been various proposed as Yahweh saves, (is) salvation, (is) a saving-cry, (is) a cry-for-saving, (is) a cry-for-help, (is) my help.

Qos (deity)

Qos was the national god of the Edomites. He was the Idumean rival of Yahweh, and structurally parallel to him. Thus ‘Benqos’ parallels the Hebrew ‘Beniyahu’. The name occurs only once in the Old Testament in the Book of Ezra as an element in a personal name, Barqos, referring to the 'father' of a family or clan of perhaps Edomite/Idumaean nĕtînîm or temple helpers returning from the Babylonian exile. The noun frequently appears combined with names on documents recovered from excavations in Elephantine, where a mixed population of Arabs, Jews and Idumeans lived under the protection of a Persian-Mesopotamian garrison.

Tetragrammaton The four-letter biblical name of the God of Israel

The Tetragrammaton or Tetragram is the four-letter Hebrew word יהוה‎, the name of the biblical god of Israel. The four letters, read from right to left, are yodh, he, waw, and he. While there is no consensus about the structure and etymology of the name, the form Yahweh is now accepted almost universally.

Weather god Deity associated with thunder, rains and storms

A weather god, also frequently known as a storm god, is a deity in mythology associated with weather phenomena such as thunder, lightning, rain, wind, storms, tornados, and hurricanes. Should they only be in charge of one feature of a storm, they will be called after that attribute, such as a rain god or a lightning/thunder god. This singular attribute might then be emphasized more than the generic, all-encompassing term "storm god", though with thunder/lightning gods, the two terms seem interchangeable. They feature commonly in polytheistic religions.

Sacred Name Bible

Sacred Name Bibles are Bible translations that consistently use Hebraic forms of the God of Israel's personal name, instead of its English language translation, in both the Old and New Testaments. Some Bible versions, such as the Jerusalem Bible, employ the name Yahweh, a transliteration of Hebrew YHWH, in the English text of the Old Testament, where traditional English versions have LORD.

Adon literally means "lord." Adon has an uncertain etymology, although it is generally believed to be derived from the Ugaritic ad, “father.”


  1. "theophoric". Merriam-Webster online dictionary.
  2. θεόφορος . Liddell, Henry George ; Scott, Robert ; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  3. Shendge, Malati J. The Language of the Harappans: From Akkadian to Sanskrit , 1997. p 24. "It may also be interpreted as theophorous names, i.e. the name of the god forming part of the name of an individual. The usage is theophorous because besides the eponymous Asura, each individual of high or low status has a personal name."
  4. Zadok, R. The Pre-hellenistic Israelite Anthroponymy and Prosopography , 1988. p 16. "The Period of the Judges (J) The theophorous names constitute a sizable minority (almost 40%). Many of the hypocoristica possibly originate from compound theophorous names (e.g., Abdon, Gerd, J21 1 1 1 1, 2141 12)."
  5. Benz, Frank L. Personal Names in the Phoenician and Punic Inscriptions. p 233. "Any one of the three major types of elements, divine name or theophorous, nominal, or verbal can make up a Phoenician-Punic hypocoristic name. The divine name hypocoristic is the least attested. The simplest formation is that of a single ..."
  6. Drijvers, H. J. W. Cults and Behafs at Edessa, 1980. p 21. "The proper names, which are mainly theophorous ones, may increase our knowledge of the religious feeling of the people of Edessa and of the cults practiced by them, insofar as their theophorous elements reflect existing beliefs."
  7. Mark Haughwout, "Personal Names Before Exodus 6:2-3"
  8. Anson F. Rainey, How Yahweh Was Pronounced Archived December 2, 2011, at the Wayback Machine , QUERIES & COMMENTS.
  9. Christian Ginsburg, Introduction To the Massoretico-Critical Edition Of The Hebrew Bible, p 369
  10. Scott Jones, Jehovah Archived December 15, 2005, at the Wayback Machine