Some names are popularly used in a different form than the way they're spelled or pronounced in Tanach. A few that I can think of are:

  • Nochum (נָחוּם) - is written in Tanach (Nah. 1:1) as נַחוּם (with a patach under the nun).

  • Yerachmiel (יְרַחְמִיאֵל) - is written in Tanach (Jer. 36:26; I Chron. 2:9 passim, and 24:29) as יְרַחְמְאֵל (with a sheva under the mem, and no second yud).

  • Yeruchom (יְרֻחָם) - is written in Tanach (I Sam. 1:1; Neh. 11:12; I Chron. 6:12,19, 8:27, 9:8,12, 12:8, 27:22; II Chron. 23:1) as יְרֹחָם (with a cholam following the reish).

Where do these variants come from? And in the case of Yerachmiel, where the spelling (not just the pronunciation) is different, does halachah recognize the popular spelling as valid for use in official documents like kesubos and gittin, or is the Biblical form supposed to be used?

(There are others, such as Yeshayah/u and Yirmiyah/u, where both forms are found in Tanach. My question is about ones such as those listed above, where all usages of each name are spelled and pronounced the same way each time.)

Some others mentioned in comments (thanks all):

  • Daniel (דָּנִיאֵל) - is written in Tanach (in the book of that name, as well as in Ez. 8:2, Neh. 10:7 and I Chron. 3:1) as דָּנִיֵּאל (with the tzeirei under the yud, which also has a dagesh).

  • Basyah (בַּתְיָה) - is written in Tanach (I Chron. 4:18) as בִּתְיָה (with a chirik under the beis). (That may have been influenced by the Midrash, Vayikra Rabbah 1:3, in which Hashem, so to speak, adopts her as His daughter - בַּת יָ-הּ - in recognition of her having done the same for Moshe.)

  • Shamshon (שַׁמְשׁוֹן) - is written in Tanach (Judg. 13:25 passim) as שִׁמְשׁוֹן (with a chirik under the first shin). (That may have been influenced by the non-Jewish form, originally from the Septuagint.)

  • Tuviah (טוּבְיָה) - is written in Tanach (Zech. 6:10,14; Ez. 2:60; Neh. 3:35 passim; II Chron. 17:8) as טוֹבִיָּה (with a cholam after the tes, a chirik under the veis and a dagesh in the yud). That one might actually imply a difference in meaning: Tuviah - "the goodness of G-d"; Toviah - "G-d is good."

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    Don't forget about Noiach (נח) :) – Dave Feb 10 '12 at 2:47
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    I suggest (no source) that the name became yerucham because people either did not understand the concept of tashlum dagesh from the middle root letter in pual, or they lost a need for it as the Het became a Chet. – Double AA Feb 10 '12 at 4:46
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    I vote for etymology instead of tanach. The question doesn't have to do with tanach. – Double AA Feb 10 '12 at 4:49
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    I often hear people pronounce יִרְמְיָהוּ as if it has a chirik under the mem. – Fred Jul 13 '16 at 0:02
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    @DoubleAA I'm familiar with the Dan'el hypothesis, but I find it less than compelling (though maybe it's some third person). And yes, two verses. – Fred Jul 13 '16 at 3:51

I'll address part of the question, viz:

And in the case of Yerachmiel, where the spelling (not just the pronunciation) is different, does halachah recognize the popular spelling as valid for use in official documents like kesubos and gittin, or is the Biblical form supposed to be used?

The former: halacha supports the popular spelling. Aruch Hashulchan (YD 129) writes (in my own loose translation, with any questionable translation marked in brackets with question mark [thus?]):

ירחמיאל we write like that [in a get], with a yod after the mem. There's a dispute among the pos'kim about this, but that's how the Bes Sh'muel decided: that around these parts people typically write it with a yod. All the more so for us, who [stress?] the mem with a chirik. This is unless the man in question signs his name [by repute?] without a yod, in which case you should write "ירחמאל, who's called ירחמיאל", for..., since we pronounce it with a chirik, it's a different name [from that in Divre Hayamim], so we must write "who's called".

(I see also that the Bes Sh'muel (129) says about Y'rucham that if someone's name is pronounced that way (with a shuruk), then it should be written in a get with a vav (unless we know he spells it without one).)

As always, consult a qualified rabbi if this is a practical matter for you.


In respect to Nochum/Nachum, Yerachmiel/Yerachm'el, Yerucham/Yerocham, and Tuviah/Toviah, my personal experience has been that people are lazy and would rather botch up the name with a vowel that's easier to pronounce than to say it properly. Try it for yourself: it's much easier to say a /uh/ sound than /ō/ or /ah/ - it requires less effort since you don't have to open your mouth as far. Likewise, my name and all those others out there named Doniel put the vowel under the aleph instead of the yud for a similar reason: it's much easier to drop the consonant sound and say duh-nee-ail instead of duh-nee-yail.

That said, Shamshon/Shimshon should be a counterexample, since, according to all of the versions you've heard, people pronounce the version that requires more effort. (As for my comment of "versions you've heard," I mentioned up in the comments that all of the Shimshon's I know use a chirik. This difference, which I'm sure occurs with other names as well, can probably be chopped up to minhag avoseichem b'yadeichem.) The reason I don't like the answer provided that Shamshon came from Samson is because otherwise the original pronunciation for Doniel would have stayed, since the Anglicized version is pronounced with a /y/ in the middle.

I'd like to emphasize again that this is all in my experience. I'm not a historian that I can give you a proper citation with empirical evidence to back up this claim. If you're not happy with me, go complain in the Skeptics SE.

The one name left hanging according to my theory is Basyah/Bisyah, but I'm sure that it's because of the Midrash. That's the one name on the list that everyone (that I know) makes a big deal out of, and that's always the answer provided.

  • I find it much easier to say daniyel than to include a glottal stop there – Double AA Jul 13 '16 at 1:10
  • Nah, glottal stops are so commonly elided across cultures that I'd rather assume you aren't describing what people are saying accurately than to think someone prefers a glottal stop. – Double AA Jul 13 '16 at 1:12
  • I didn't say it wasn't common. I was simply saying that it appears to me (first sentence - "my personal experience") that, given a choice between pronouncing the consonant and skipping it, most people would just skip it. Your experience may very well be different. – DonielF Jul 13 '16 at 1:16
  • Exactly. That's why people skip the glottal stop. It's easier. The 'y' approximant sound is already there in the ~diphthong /ee/. – Double AA Jul 13 '16 at 1:18
  • @DoubleAA From my observations: Generally, when people pronounce it mil'ra', they pronounce it like you said (while skipping the dageish). When people pronounce it mil'eil, there's a decent chance they'll opt for the glottal stop. – Fred Jul 13 '16 at 2:42

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