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Theophoric name

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A theophoric name (from Greek: θεόφορος, theophoros, literally "bearing or carrying a god") embeds the name of a god, both invoking and displaying the protection of that deity. For example, names embedding Apollo, such as Apollonios or Apollodorus, existed in Greek antiquity.


Theophoric personal names, containing the name of a god in whose care the individual is entrusted (or a generic word for god), were also exceedingly common in the ancient Near East and Mesopotamia. Some names of theophoric origin remain common today, such as Theodore (theo-, "god"; -dore, origin of word compound in Greek: doron, "gift"; hence "God's gift"; in Greek: Theodoros) or less recognisably as John (from Hebrew Yohannan, meaning "Yahweh is gracious").

Classical theophoric names

  • Demetrius and its derivatives mean "follower of Demeter."
  • Dennis, in Latin Dionysius, and its relatives mean "of Dionysus."
  • Martin and its relatives mean "of Mars."
  • Zeno and Diodoros or Diodorus from Zeus (genitive of Zeus is 'dios'); Poseidonios from Poseidon; Athenodoros/Athenodora from Athena and Minervina from Minerva; Apollodoros/Apollodora and Apollonios from Apollon; Artemisia and Artemidoros/Artemidora from Artemis; Aphrodesia from Aphrodite; Hephaistion from Hephaistos; Aria from Ares; Hermione from Hermes; Heliodoros/a from Helios; Fortunatus from Fortuna; Serapion from Serapis and Isidoros or Isidora from Isis.
  • Certain names of classical gods are sometimes given as personal names. The most common is Diana and its variants, such as Diane; others include Minerva, Aphrodite, Venus, Isis, or Juno. The first pope to take a regnal name, Pope John II, had the given name Mercurius and changed his name as he considered it inappropriate for the Pope to have the name of a pagan deity.
  • Christian theophoric names

  • Amadeus means "lover of God"
  • Bogdan means "God's gift"
  • Bogomil means "dear to God"
  • Bozhidar means "God's gift"
  • Christopher literally means "Christ-bearer"
  • Dorotheus/Dorothea means "gift to God"
  • Gottfried means "God" and "peace"
  • Gottlieb means "God" and "love"
  • Abdias and Obadiah mean "servant of god"
  • Theodore/Theodora means "gift of God" [2]
  • Theodosius/Theodosia, Theodotos/Theodotē and Dositheus/Dosithea mean "God-given"
  • Theophilus (Greek), Amadeus (Latin) means "one who loves God"
  • Theognis means "god-knowing"
  • Theophanes means "manifestation of God"
  • Theophrastus means "godly speech"
  • Theaetetus means "one who pleads to God"
  • Timotheus means "one who honors God"
  • Fürchtgott is a German calque of Timotheus
  • Some Christian saints have polytheistic theophoric names (such as Saint Dionysius, Saint Mercurius, Saint Saturninus, Saint Hermes, Saint Martin of Tours).

    Germanic theophoric names

  • Os, meaning "god"
  • Oslac
  • Oswald
  • Oswin
  • Thor, the god of thunder
  • Thorstein means "Thor's stone"
  • Thorkel means "Thor's craft"
  • Thorulf means "Thor's wolf"
  • Thordis
  • Thora
  • Ing, an old name for Freyr (an epithet meaning "lord")
  • Ingrid
  • Ingeborg
  • Inger
  • Ingunn
  • Rarely, Germanic names contain the element Wod (such as Woðu-riðe), potentially pointing to an association with the god Odin. In connection, numerous names containing wulf "wolf" have been taken as totemistic, expressing association with Odin in the earliest period, although -ulf degenerated into a mere suffix from an early time (Förstemann 1856).


    Some traditional Hindu names honor Hindu gods or goddesses. Often, the same name is ascribed to multiple deities.

    It is not uncommon to find Hindus with names of gods. Shiva, Krishna, Ganesh, Durga, Radha, and Sita are all names of Hindu gods or goddesses as well as being personal names for Hindus. Hindu gods themselves have multiple names, so it is not always apparent if an Indian name is the name of a god or not.

    Judaism and biblical

    Much Hebrew theophory occurs in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament. The most prominent theophory involves

  • names referring to El, a word meaning might, power and (a) god in general, and hence in Judaism, God and among the Canaanites the name of the god who was the father of Baal.
  • names referring to Yah, a shortened form of Yahweh.
  • names referring to Levantine deities (especially the storm god, Hadad) by the epithet Baal, meaning lord.
  • In later times, as the conflict between Yahwism and the more popular pagan practices became increasingly intense, these names were censored and Baal was replaced with Bosheth, meaning shameful one. However the name Yahweh does not appear in theophoric names until the time of Joshua, and for the most part is very rare until the time of King Saul, when it began to be very popular.


  • Ariel: "lion of God"
  • Daniel: "God is my judge" or "justice from God"
  • Elizabeth: Hebrew Elisheba = "my God is an oath" or "my God is abundance"
  • Emmanuel/Immanuel: "God is with us"
  • Gabriel: "God is my strength"
  • Ishmael: "God has heard"
  • Israel: "who prevails with God"
  • Lemuel: "Dedicated/Devoted to God"
  • Michael: "Who is like God?"
  • Nathaniel: "God-given" or "gift of God"
  • Raphael: "God heal"
  • Samuel: "name of God"
  • Uriel: "God is my light"
  • Yahweh

    The name of the Israelite deity YHWH (usually shortened to Yah or Yahu, and Yeho or Yo) appears as a prefix or suffix in many theophoric names of the First Temple Period. For example, Yirme-yahu (Jeremiah), Yesha-yahu (Isaiah), Netan-yah, Yedid-yah, Adoni-yah, Nekhem-yah, Yeho-natan (Jonathan), Yeho-chanan (John), Yeho-shua (Joshua), Yeho-tzedek, Zekharya (Zechariah).

    "Yahū" or "Yah" is the abbreviation of YHWH when used as a suffix in Hebrew names; as a prefix it appears as "Yehō-", or "Yo". It was formerly thought to be abbreviated from the Masoretic pronunciation "Yehovah". There is an opinion that, as Yahweh is likely an imperfective verb form, "Yahu" is its corresponding preterite or jussive short form: compare yiŝtahaweh (imperfective), yiŝtáhû (preterit or jussive short form) = "do obeisance".

    However, the name Judah (Yehūdah) is not an example. The name Judah, comes from the root word Yadah = Yud-Dalet-Hey, which means "praise". The letter Yud is also a prefix pronoun in Hebrew, thus not every name or word beginning with Yud or Yud-Hey is theophoric.

    In the table below, 13 theophoric names with "Yeho" have corresponding forms where the letters eh have been omitted. There is a theory by Christian Ginsburg that this is due to Hebrew scribes omitting the "h", changing Jeho (יְהוֹ‎) into Jo (יוֹ‎), to make the start of "Yeho-" names not sound like an attempt to pronounce the Divine Name.

    Referring to other gods

  • Abijam: "my father is Yam"
  • Nebuchadnezzar (in Babylonian, Nabu-kudurri-usur)
  • Ishbaal: "man of Baal".
  • Mark: "dedicated to Mars".
  • Jezebel: "glory to Baal".
  • Theophoric names containing "Baal" were sometimes "censored" as -bosheth = "shameful one", whence Ishbosheth etc.

    Some names might be controversial theological statements: Bealiah could mean Baal is Yahweh and Elijah could mean Yahweh is El (and vice versa, respectively). On the other hand, as traditionally understood, these names simply mean "YHWH is Master" and "YHWH is God."


    Theophoric name Wikipedia