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I was told that Rav Moshe Feinstein wrote how the names Feiga and Tsiporah are not the same name; and that neither of them mean "bird".

I know Feiga is a Yiddish name which means fig. With Feigel being the Yiddish word for bird. Though I don't know what else Tsiporah can mean... As I understand now it comes from the Hebrew tsipor which means bird.

Anyway, I've searched for Rav Moshe's responsa without luck.

My question being does anyone discuss this issue? The issue being there are people with the name Tsiporah-Feiga, even though they are not the same name. Also, if Tsiporah doesn't mean bird, as I was told, what does it mean?

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  • The Yiddish word for "fig" is "feig" (פייג), not "feiga". Jan 2 at 7:58
  • @IsraelReader I know feig is the yiddish word for fig. I also know that feiga is a given name that stems from the word feig.
    – Shababnik
    Jan 2 at 8:20
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    That's not what you wrote. You wrote: I know feiga is yiddish for fig. Jan 2 at 8:22
  • @IsraelReader it is the same word. There is a linguistic method in yiddish of changing the spelling to create a name; not found in english. So it means fig. It just isn't used in this form when speaking about a fig.
    – Shababnik
    Jan 2 at 8:33
  • @Shababnik What is this "method" you refer to?
    – magicker72
    Jan 2 at 12:02

2 Answers 2

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You're looking for Iggerot Moshe Orach Chaim IV:66.

ומה שמשמע ממכתבך ששם צפרה הוא מלשון צפור לא מסתבר אלא יותר נוטה שהוא מלשון השקפה ומלשון נהורא אך שאיכא גם רמז לצפור, וגם שם פיגא אינו שייך לפיגל אלא כשהוא קצור לשם פיגל אבל כשנקראת פיגא אינו ענין לשם פיגל והוא מכוונה אחרת שלא ידוע לנו מקור שם זה.‏

The implication in your letter that the name צפורה (Tsiporah) derives from צפור (bird) is unlikely. It's more likely to have connotations of השקפה (vision) and נהורא (light), although there is also a hint to צפור (bird).

Also, the name פיגא (Feiga) is not connected to פיגל (bird), unless it is a diminuitive form of פיגל (Feigel). But someone named פיגא (Feiga) has nothing to do with פיגל (bird); it has some other meaning whose derivation is unknown to us.

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  • Much obliged @Joel K!
    – Shababnik
    Jan 2 at 8:57
  • @Shababnik My pleasure
    – Joel K
    Jan 2 at 9:12
  • RMF was not responding regarding the name "Tziporah" (צפורה). He was discussing a totally different Yiddish name, "צפרה", which is pronounced "Tzefra". Jan 2 at 9:20
  • @IsraelReader R Moshe is discussing translating Yiddish names into Hebrew. Why would the questioner have asked about the meanings of two different Yiddish names (Feiga and Tzefra), rather than a Yiddish name (Feiga) and a Hebrew name (Tsiporah) which he thought had a shared meaning?
    – Joel K
    Jan 2 at 9:52
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    Is it Tsiporah just spelled the way it's found in the Torah — without a vav? צִפֹּרָה
    – Shababnik
    Jan 2 at 14:01
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מובא בעלון "כאיל תערוג" (גליון 118, עמ' 2) דנשאל הגראי"ל שטיינמן בענין שידוך, שלאמא קוראים "צפורה", ולבחורה קוראים "פייגל" [שזה באידיש "צפורה"]. ואמר הגראי"ל,דכיון שלא מכירים אותה בשם "צפורה", יש להקל דנחשב כב' שמות (צדיק כתמר יפרח)

The "Kail Ta'erug" parsha sheet (issue 118, p. 2) records that the Rav A.Y.L. Shteinman was asked about a prospective shidduch, that the mother's name was "Tziporah" and the girl's name was "Feigel" [which is "Tziporah" in Yiddish]. Rav Shteinman said, that since the mother isn't known by the name of "Tziporah", there is room for leniency to say that they're considered like 2 different names [Tzaddik KeTamar Yifrach].

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