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The World Tour of Names

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Girls Around the World

What's in a Name

Names with a tav or t sound, which gives a stronger feminine emphasis, are currently popular in Israel.


Some of the names we think of as being classically Irish are anything but. If you want to be authentic, stay away from Colleen (the Irish word for “girl”) and Shannon, which in Ireland refers to the river only, never a person.

What's in a Name

Many of the non-biblical Hebrew names in use today were derived from such events as the creation of the State of Israel or from characteristics of the land.

Parents have for years felt less constrained in the names they choose for girls, so some of the names listed here may be familiar to you. You'll find a number of less common ones for your consideration as well:

  • Adalheid: This is the German name from which we get the more familiar form Heidi. It means “noble one.”
  • Adelaide: “Noble one” (German).
  • Agathe: “Good” or “honorable” (Greek).
  • Áine: “Joy” or “praise” (Gaelic).
  • Alisz: This Hungarian name is a form of Alice (“noble”).
  • Alke: A pet form of Adalheid (German).
  • Anaïs: French variant of Anne.
  • Angèle: Angel (French). Also Angélique.
  • Anneliese: A popular German name.
  • Annunziata: “Announcement” or “notice” (Italian).
  • Aoibheann: “Fair” or “beautiful” (Irish).
  • Avital: “Dew of my father” (Hebrew).
  • Aviva: “Spring” (Hebrew). Also Avivah and Avivit.
  • Bat-Ami: “Daughter of my people” (Hebrew).
  • Bracha: “Blessing” (Hebrew).
  • Brina: “Joy” (Hebrew).
  • Carmel: “Vineyard” (Hebrew). Also Carma, Carmit.
  • Chantal: French place name.
  • Chava: “Life” (Hebrew).
  • Cosima: Feminine form of the Italian name Cosmo (“universe” or “order”).
  • Dafna: “Laurel” (Hebrew).
  • Dalia: “Branch” (Hebrew). Also Dalya.
  • Demetria: From the Greek goddess Demeter.
  • Donatella: This Italian name is the feminine form of Donatello, which means “gift” or “donation.”
  • Dorit: “Of this era” (Hebrew).
  • Duscha: “Happy” (Russian).
  • Efrat: “Honored” or “distinguished” (Hebrew).
  • Eliana: “God has answered me” (Hebrew).
  • Fradel: “Joy” (Yiddish). Also Freydel.
  • Geneviève: “Woman” (French).
  • Gila: “Joy” (Hebrew).
  • Giselle: “Pledge” (German).
  • Gita: “Good” (Yiddish).
  • Idit: “Choicest” (Hebrew).
  • Ilana: “Oak tree” (Hebrew).
  • Ilona: Hungarian form of Helen or Helene (“light”).
  • Irit: “Daffodil” (Hebrew).
  • Ivana: This Czech name is more popular now in other countries thanks to the former Mrs. Donald Trump. It is a feminine form of Ivan.
  • Jana: A popular Czech name, based on the male name John.
  • Joëlle: French feminine form of Joel.
  • Leandra: This Greek name is the feminine form of Leander (“lion man”).
  • Laila: “Dark beauty” or “dark-haired” (Scandinavian).
  • Levana: “Moon” or “white” (Hebrew).
  • Mai: This is a pet name from Maria or Margit (Scandinavian).
  • Mariya: Russian form of Mary.
  • Malkah: “Queen” (Hebrew).
  • Manon: Derivative of Marie (French).
  • Margarethe: German form of Margaret.
  • Marie-Ange: French combination of Marie and angel.
  • Marisol: This popular Spanish name is derived from two other popular names: Maria and Soledad.
  • Mira: This Czech name is derived from a number of longer Czech names that contain the element meri, which means “famous” or “great.”
  • Miryam: “Sorror” or “bitterness” (Hebrew).
  • Naava: “Beautiful” (Hebrew).
  • Natana: “Gift of God” (Hebrew).
  • Neima: “Pleasant” (Hebrew).
  • Nira: “Light” (Hebrew).
  • Odette: A form of the male name Oda (French).
  • Oksana: “Praise to God” (Russian).
  • Raisa: “Rose” (Yiddish).
  • Regine: “Queen” (French).
  • Ríoghnach: “Queenly” (Gaelic). The Anglicized form is Riona.
  • Róisín: Irish version of Rosaleen.
  • Rut: Hebrew form of Ruth (“friendship”).
  • Shulamit: “Peace” (Hebrew).
  • Simcha: “Joy” (Hebrew).
  • Solange: “Solemn,” “religious” (French).
  • Soledad: “Solitude” (Spanish).
  • Solveig: “House of strength” (Norwegian).
  • Svetlana: “Star” (Russian).
  • Tamar: “Date palm” (Hebrew).
  • Thaleia: “Flourish,” “bloom” (Greek).
  • Theodora: Feminine form of Theodore (Greek).
  • Tira: “Castle” (Hebrew).
  • Tova: “Good one” (Hebrew).
  • Urit: “Light” (Hebrew).
  • Varda: “Rose” (Hebrew).
  • Vida: “Life” (Hebrew).
  • Yael: Feminine form of the name Joel (Hebrew).
  • Yaffa: “Beautiful” (Hebrew).
  • Yedida: “Friend” (Hebrew).
  • Yisraela: “Israeli” or “Jew” (Hebrew).
  • Yona: “Dove” (Hebrew).
  • Wilhelmina: Feminine form of Wilhelm (German).
  • Zeva: “Wolf” (Hebrew).

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Baby Names © 1999 by Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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