The Meanings Of Some Essential Biblical Names

As we read the Scriptures, we may be accustomed to seeking the spiritual meaning of the words, in addition to the more obvious literal meaning. Sometimes we are so intent on this that we miss the meanings of the names found therein. In the Old Testament these meanings are often explained, but not so in the New Testament.

Below are some commonly suggested meanings of some common names and places found in the Holy Scriptures.

The Divinity and the Invisible Creation

Angel – (in Greek) Messenger
Emmanuel – God with us
Jehovah – The Eternal One
Jesus – The Saviour
Messiah (in Greek Christ) – The Anointed One
Seraphim – The burning ones

In Liturgical Use

Alleluia – Praise the Lord
Amen – So be it
Hosanna – Save us, we pray
Sabaoth – Hosts, armies


Aaron – Light
Abednego – Servant of the light
Abel – Pasture
Abraham – Father of a great multitude
Adam – Red earth (the colour of the earth from which his body was made)
Anna (Hannah) – Gracious
Barabbas – The son of the father (The supreme irony, for when the crowd should have asked for Christ, the Son of the Father, to be released, in fact they asked for Barabbas, ‘the son of the father’, to be released.
Bathsheba – The seventh daughter
Cain – Possession
Daniel – God’s judge
David – Beloved
Deborah (in Greek Melissa) – A bee
Delilah – Delicate
Elias / Elijah – My God is Jehovah
Elisha (in Greek Eliseus) – To whom God is salvation
Elizabeth – To whom God has promised
Enoch – Dedicated
Eve – Life
Ezekiel – Whom God will strengthen
Gabriel – Man of God
Gideon – He who cuts off (iniquity)
Hosea – Salvation
Isaac – Laughter
Isaiah – Salvation of Jehovah
Jacob – The Usurper
Jairus – God enlightens
Jeremiah – Whom God has appointed
Job – He who is persecuted
John – God is Gracious
Lazarus – He whom God helps
Lot – Veil
Luke – The Light
Malachi – Messenger of Jehovah
Mark – Shining
Martha – Lady
Matthew – The gift of Jehovah
Mary – Mistress of the sea
Melchizedek – King of righteousness
Michael – Who is like God
Moses – Saved from the water
Nathanael – The gift of God
Noah – Wandering
Paul – Small (presumably the Apostle was short of stature)
Peter (in Hebrew Cephas) – The Stone
Samson – Like the sun
Sarah (in Greek Sara) – Princess
Saul – Asked for
Simon – He who listens
Solomon – Peaceful
Susanna – Lily
Thomas – Twin
Uriel – Light of God
Zacchaeus – Pure
Zachariah – Whom Jehovah remembers
Zebedee – The gift of Jehovah

The Evil One and his followers

Baal – Lord
Beelzebub – Lord of the flies
Belial – wicked, worthless
Cyrus – The sun
Devil – Slanderer
Herod – The glory of the skin
Iscariot – Man of Kerioth (= the cities)
Jezebel – Unmarried, single
Pharisees – The separated
Pharoah – The sun (therefore worshipped by the Egyptians)
Saducees – The followers of the justified
Salome – Perfect
Satan – The Adversary


Arabia – A desert
Arimathea (Ramah) – High place
Armagedddon – High place where there are troops
Bethany – House of dates
Bethel – House of God
Bethesda – House of mercy
Bethlehem – House of bread (originally from the grain of the fertile fields around it, but for Orthodox clearly eucharistic in significance)
Bethsaida – House of fishing
Canaan – Lowland
Capernaum – City of consolation
Eden – Pleasantness
Egypt – Black
Emmaus – Hot springs
Ethiopia – Blackness
Euphrates – The fertile river
Galilee – Circuit (from the shape of the Sea of Galilee, also called Lake Gennesareth)
Gaza – Fortified place
Gethsemane – the oil press (where the fruit from the Mt of Olives was pressed)
Golgotha – Skull (Calvary in Latin) (where Adam’s skull and body were buried)
Gomorrah – A rebellious people
Hebron – Alliance
Hermon – Lofty
Horeb – Desert
Israel –The soldier of God
Jericho – Fragrant place
Jerusalem – Founded in peace (but not in peace ever since…)
Jordan – Flowing down
Kedron – Turbid
Lebanon – The white mountain (from Mt Lebanon)
Magdala – Tower (the village where St Mmary Madgalene came from possessed a tower)
Mamre – Fatness
Nazareth – Separated
Palestine – The land of the strangers (the Philistines)
Samaria – Guard
Sharon – Plain
Sheba – An oath
Siloam – Outlet of water
Sodom – Burning
Sidon – Fishing
Sinai – The pointed one (presumably from the form of the mountain, not the shape of the peninsula)
Sion (Zion) – Raised up
Tabor – Height
Tyre – Rock