In my grandmother's family history in Galicia, I have seen a Yiddish name being used by quite a few women - Malya. My question is what is the Jewish origin of the use of this name and what does it mean? This is related to Judaism as my grandmothers Shem Kodesh was Malya as well and I want to know the origin of such a use of the name.

  • Maybe provide a spelling? Sometimes Yiddish name origins are only identifiable by their spelling as the pronunciation usually differs from Hebrew. For example, Tevye is spelled טביה, which we know to be pronounced as Tuvia in Hebrew, meaning Tevye is the Yiddish pronunciation of Tuvia.
    – ezra
    Dec 19, 2016 at 18:09
  • See babynamespedia.com/meaning/Malaya
    – DanF
    Dec 19, 2016 at 18:28
  • @DanF - if that link speaks truth, i wouldn't want to name my child mayla
    – ezra
    Dec 20, 2016 at 6:44
  • @EzraHoerster Agreed. That's why I left it as a comment. I am skeptical that it's the correct interpretation. I have not heard of the word "Mal" as a synonym for "mar" which means "bitter". And "Yah" is one of G0-d's names. So the name means "bitter G-d"? I don't think so! Considering that one of Obama's kids is named "Malya", it could be an African name, possibly?
    – DanF
    Dec 20, 2016 at 15:53
  • 1
    This is related to Judaism as my grandmothers Shem Kodesh was Malya What is a shem kodesh? Other than names of God, I am not sure exactly how names can be holy, and am also unsure why this is on topic.
    – mevaqesh
    Dec 20, 2016 at 22:04

1 Answer 1


Alexander Harkavy writes in his Yiddish-English-Hebrew Dictionary (1928 edition) that מאַלע /male/ (which with a "weak lamed" is /malye/) is a backformation from מלכּה /malke/ (which means queen), since מלכּה sounds like a diminutive (the suffix /-ke/ often denotes diminutives).

However, Max Weinreich cites Dov Sadan as suggesting that מאַליע /malye/ = מאַכליע /makhlye/, which both come from the Biblical מחלה /makhla/, and that the derivation from מלכּה is a drash (see here, note 10).

The context of Sadan's suggestion is Weinreich's article on the dialectical pronunciation in some Hebrew/Yiddish speaking communities in Europe, whereby the letter ח /kh/ gets pronounced like a ה /h/ (when starting a syllable) or not at all (when syllable-final) -- see the article for more details. Sadan suggests that the name pronounced Malye comes from Ma(kh)lye, where the /kh/ sound got dropped. In a similar vein, he suggests that the second component in the name אָשר־לעמל /osher-leml/ (which ostensibly means Asher Little-Lamb) comes from לחמו /lakhmo/, from Jacob's blessing to Asher.

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