First Names Revised
To The Editor:
May I add some annotations to Rabbi Ben-zion Kaganoff’s essay “Jewish First Names Through the Ages” in the November 1955 issue of Commentary? An essay by me on the same subject will appear in the forthcoming issue of Tarbiz, Quarterly for Jewish Studies (The Hebrew University, Jerusalem).
1. In opposition to Hellenistic Jewry, the medieval Jews were very scrupulous in avoiding the use of names of pagan deities or Christian saints. Feibush is not Phoebus, but the French name Vives—Hayim; the Tosafist Peter was not named after the apostle (who by then had been “Pierre” in France for centuries) but was called by the Hebrew name Peter, which is identical wtih the Sephardic Hebrew name Bekhor; and Treindel is not the diminutive of Katharina, but the French Térine, reduction of Estérine.
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