Today’s choice sounds like a peaceful bird, but he’s actually borrowed from a fiercer beast.
Thanks to Abbey for suggesting one she’s considering for baby #2! Our Baby Name of the Day is Dov.
Short,single-syllable names for boys have risen in recent years, from antique revivals like Max and Gus to newer discoveries like Jett and Dax.
Dov doesn’t fit in either category – he’s a Hebrew name derived from the word for bear. His pronunciation isn’t quite like Dove; instead, he’s somewhere between dohv and dahv.
There are bunches of notable Dovs, most of them Israeli or with family ties to Israel, including:
- American Apparel founder Dov Charney. On the plus side, he’s a fearless innovator, known for stylish, simple clothes manufactured right in the heart of Los Angeles. On the downside, he’s pretty controversial;
- On a brainier note, Dov Tamari was an influential mathematician;
- In Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof, Eli Roth makes a cameo as a character called Dov;
- Leon Uris gave the name to a teenaged Auschwitz survivor in his book, Exodus. The character’s anger made for a contrast with his peaceful-sounding name.
I was about to characterize Dov as a relatively modern name, but then I came across an early eighteenth century rabbi, an early leader of Hasidic Judaism, called Dov.
My first thought was that Dov was an adopted name – after all, Dov Tamari changed his name after moving to Palestine as a young man.
Instead, Dov was born Dov Ber – literally, Bear Bear. It turns out that’s not a mistake. The future rabbi was born in what is today the Ukraine. I couldn’t find data specific to the Ukraine at the time of his birth, but it sounds like the double naming practice was intentionally repetitive and not uncommon.
Dov is unusual – never in the US Top 1000 – but not unheard of in the US today. The comments at A Mother in Israel suggest that Dov would be more popular with Orthodox Jews, but not necessarily for any specific reason.
The real question, I think, is whether Dov is fair use for families without Jewish heritage. With his nature name link, he seems more approachable that some uncommon choices – “Dov is Hebrew for bear” seems as sensible an explanation as “Abigail means ‘my father is joy’ in Hebrew.” Plus, his short, ends-in-v sound is edgy, interesting, and current.
If you’re looking for an unusual Hebrew name that wears easily in twenty-first century America, I think Dov could be the right pick.