Moonlight; Image via Wikipedia

She’s an exotic obscurity that could mean moonlight, or maybe hello.

Thanks to Lou for suggesting Nishma as our Baby Name of the Day.

One of two things happen before I agree to write about a name.

More often than not, I recognize the name and immediately have a hunch about how I’ll write the post. But sometimes you stump me, and I set off to Google the name, searching or Facebook or Wikipedia to confirm that it is a name with some history of use.

Then there are those other times – the times when I think I recognize the name, but I’m wrong.

Nishma sounded instantly familiar, thanks to Nisha, a Subcontinent staple. Nisha comes from the Sanskrit and Hindi word for night, and like Priya, I’ve often wondered if parents without Indian heritage might consider her. After all, she sounds something like former Top 100 choice Alicia.

I expected to find Nishma just as easily. Not so.

In fact, I could barely find her. Iraqi journalist and human rights activitst William Warda has two daughters, Shlama and Nishma. And there she is, worn by real women on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter … Two actresses and a singer wear the name, too, though they’re little known in the US.

But where did she come from?

A few sites suggest that she means moonlight, but I can’t confirm that in a dictionary. Another possibility is bright, but again, that’s tough to confirm.

What does pop up, time and time again, is a Hebrew origin for the word: מה נשמע translates roughly to “what’s up?” It’s a casual greeting, and strikes me as something like naming your daughter Shalom.

Except there’s so much more to the word.

Na’aseh V’Nishma is the phrase the Jewish people say as they accept the Torah. The phrase translates to “we will do and we will hear.” It is spoken after Moses reads the Torah aloud. There’s a Torah study organization called NISHMA.

I would keep going, assuming that there was some link between the Hebrew term and the given name. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Nisha and the related Nishi were given to a few dozen girls in the US last year, but they’re clearly Indian names.

My best guess is that Nishma is, indeed, an Indian name of relatively recent coinage, and one that has origins that I can’t quite uncover without a working knowledge of Hindi.

So, I turn to you: anyone know a Nishma?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. Hii….my name is also NISHMA…….and yes I know how it feels…when everyone asked u about ur name…and u have no Idea about it…..but now…..we know about our beautiful name