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How is a Hebrew name chosen for a person whose legal name is English (or other vernacular)? Is the name chosen based on phonetic resemblance to one's English name, a resemblance in meaning, or mere personal/parental preference? (It seems that the first situation is most common, but is this always the case? And what if there is no phonetically similar Hebrew name?)

Is there a reliable resource for determining the corresponding Hebrew name for one's English name?

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I met someobody once who's English name was Joseph, and their Hebrew name was Yitzchak, very confusing... but he was actually given both "first names" to be named after two people. When called to the torah he is named after one person, and the rest of the time, he is named after somebody else. So you really never know with these things. –  avi Feb 22 '12 at 6:02
    
You can find your Hebrew name the same way you can find your Korean name. –  Double AA Oct 24 '13 at 23:53
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3 Answers

There are no real conventions, and people often take liberties. There are some that match up fairly well, like Sarah in English and Hebrew, and there are some that are close with a phonetically similar first initial, such as Michael and Moshe. There are also some that have some visual similarity, in that the transliteration of the Hebrew word commonly uses a letter that is then adopted as the starting point for choosing a name in the vernacular language, such as Shlomo and Steven/Stephen. Finally, there are those that use completely unrelated names, sometimes seizing the opportunity to give different additional names in honor or memory of additional people. I've seen this further developed into giving someone a vernacular name after a close friend or relative who was not Jewish or did not have a Hebrew name, and a Hebrew name for someone who was Jewish with a Hebrew name.


Note, also, that I'm using the word 'Hebrew' loosely; many times the "Jewish" name is not Hebrew at all, but Yiddish, Aramaic, or even Greek, Arabic, or Farsi.

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Another match-up is by meaning, such as Arye and Leonard, or even related-word meaning, such as Z'ev and William (sounds like Vulf) or Y'huda (associated with lions) and Leonard. –  msh210 Feb 23 '12 at 0:10
    
@msh210 true dat. –  Seth J Feb 23 '12 at 0:44
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Hebrew names can be chosen for any of the reasons you mention; in the end it comes down to personal preference AFAIK. As to your last question, "Is there a reliable resource for determining one's Hebrew name?", yes: ask the person who named you. :-) Seriously, there's no other way besides guesswork: but note that many people have no Hebrew name (and can choose one if they so desire. Many religious Jews go through life without a Hebrew name).

Edit to correspond to the newly edited question:

"Is there a reliable resource for determining the corresponding Hebrew name for one's English name?" As I noted, you can choose any name. if you want one that sounds similar, look through a list of Hebrew names arranged alphabetically; if you want one with similar meaning, get a baby-names book. If you want to know whether your name derives from Hebrew, look up its etymology (in a good dictionary or baby-names book).

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"Ask the person who named you"--in the case of gerim/baalei teshuva/tinok shenishbas etc., is that person usually the rabbi with whom one becomes frum? Does he assign a Hebrew name to these people if they want it, or do they choose it themselves, or what? (Also I'm going to edit my question because the "reliable resource" part was unclear; I basically meant is there some kind of correspondence of Hebrew names and English names available anywhere.) –  SAH Feb 20 '12 at 22:09
    
I was thinking of a baal t'shuva (tinok shenishba) and by "the person who named you" I meant your parents. Or the rabbi who officiated at your b'ris, if any. Ask them if they gave you a Hebrew name: otherwise you have none. –  msh210 Feb 20 '12 at 22:12
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There are no rules about this. But, usually people select Hebrew names that are similar to their previous names because they are used to their old names. Sometimes however, if there is no Hebrew similarly sounding name or because of personal preferences people select absolutely different Hebrew name.

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