Edit: I'm looking for information on the Jewish name "Beila", which is relevant to Judaism as name meanings, spellings, and etymologies pertain to both personal and communal religious observances.

Can anyone share any serious research- or at least a good solid theory- on the meaning of the name Beila-ביילא? There are a number of theories circulating the internet, none of which are very convincing- e.g.

Beila is a form of Bilhah- Was Bilhah such a common given name in European Jewish communities that it would have inspired a common Yiddish form???

Beila means white- This assumes an Eastern Yiddish/slavic influence, however the name is equally prominent in Western Yiddish lineages. And if Eastern influenced, the name would be more likely to be pronounced byela. Also the yiddish word for white is invariably weiss. I could go on.

Beila means beautiful- This theory seems based on the similarity to Bella, but I'm not clear how that would have influenced Yiddish speaking communities.

Some have said it's an acronym for the words Baruch Hashem l'olam amen. Nice dvar torah for her sheva brachot but I'm not sure that's the origin.

Here are some of my own theories- they may be no less of a reach-

1-Beila came from the hebrew בעלה itself a variant of בַּעֲלַת בַּיִת- she's the boss, the "baalabusta", the lady of the house, etc. I'm sure there are other connotations... Some yiddish speaking communities actually pronounce the Hebrew word בעלה as if it were written ביילא. Anecdotally, this meaning fits the personality of all the Beila's I know - they are tough and in charge...

2- Beila is a contraction of some kind, the bei- in yiddish (and german) is a prefix meaning at. Which explains the common yinglish confusion of "at" and "by" in common speech, as in "come pick me up, I'm by yeshiva." I don't know what the la would mean, but bei la could be some combination of words whose meaning became obscure with time.

3- Perhaps the "la" in Beila is just a diminutive, as in many common names, like Feigela, Moishele, and so on - which would make the original name something like Bei- or Beil- or even some other name that starts with bei but got shortened and then diminutized. This could fit with the "baalas habayis" theory I already mentioned, or it could be some completely different word. Maybe it shares an etymology with Bagel, which comes from an old Germanic word for ring. Many possibilities, most of them far fetched.

Anyone want to weigh in here?

**Edit: According to my grandmother, the name in Hungary is pronounced Bella and is a shortened form of Isabella.

This makes some sense, as Isabella is believed to be related to the Hebrew name Elisheva which could have undergone many dimunitions over the centures. Queen Isabella (of Poland/Hungary) was also a popular historical personage during the time that many Jews were settling in the region of modern day Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia - so it makes sense that the name could have come into popular usage as an easier alternative to Elisheva or Isabella.**

  • You may want to check out Alexandar Beider's Dictionary of Ashkenazic Given Names – Double AA Sep 26 '17 at 21:03
  • You might also want to check Alexander Harkavy's Yiddish dictionary, who compares it to Czech Běla. – magicker72 Sep 26 '17 at 21:38
  • Thanks for the tips. I'm not convinced there's a relationship to Běla due to the lack of a strong "by" sound, but a Czech/Slovak influence would at least make sense regionally. I'm editing my post based on some new info I got from my grandmother. – afaryaakov Sep 27 '17 at 17:16
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    i was reading an article yesterday. and the author says beila is french. forward.com/opinion/382967/… the author just published this book: global.oup.com/academic/product/… – MoriDowidhYa3aqov Sep 27 '17 at 17:29
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    @ShmuelBrin I'm still waiting for the official explanation for why this particular question about the etymology of a Jewish name is closed, while many other similar questions seem to be open (including this one from 2011) judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/7686/… – afaryaakov Oct 2 '17 at 15:30

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