Dvorah sounds exotic, but this name is cousin to a former Top Ten favorite.
Thanks to Kaeli for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Dvorah: Deborah’s Big Sister
Debbie is a Baby Boomer, a snack cake spokesperson.
In the Old Testament, Deborah is a hero, leading the Israelites to victory over the Canaanites.
The name’s meaning is usually given as bee, but any Biblical name is likely to have multiple interpretations.
It’s yet another name that caught on outside of Jewish families only after the Protestant Reformation.
So what’s with the funky Dv spelling?
Remember that English doesn’t use the same alphabet as Hebrew, and there’s room for variation and interpretation when translating – or transliterating – between two alphabets.
So Deborah is sometimes written as Devorah and Dvorah and Dvora, too.
Dvorah: Hero Name
She encouraged her people to rebel, and they won a decisive victory against King Jabin. The commander, Sisera, escaped, but wa
s done in by Yael, in another gory story.
A song of praise is sung in the Book of Judges, and Dvorah is often referred to as “mother of Israel” for her leadership.
While Deborah has lost some of that luster – we just know too many Debbies! – all of the Dv- and Dev- spellings connect the name to its Old Testament roots.
Dvorah: By the Numbers
While Deborah has a long history of use in English, and reached the US Top Ten between 1950 and 1962, all of the Dv- forms are rare:
- Dvora was used sparingly between the 1950s and 1970s, corresponding to the peak years for Deborah.
- Dvorah is almost entirely unused in the US.
- Devora has among the longest histories of use, and was given to 66 girls in 2013 and 63 girls in 2014 – suggesting that the name may be on the upswing.
- Devorah is currently the most popular form of them all, given to 126 girls in 2013 and 105 girls in 2014. That’s far from a hit, but it’s enough to suggest that there’s interest in this name.
Dvorah: Israeli Name
Spelled with or without the final h, this feels like an Israeli name, and that’s probably because it’s most common there:
- There’s a settlement named in honor of the heroine in northern Israel.
- Devorah Baron is often called the first Modern Hebrew woman writer. She was educated – unusual for the time – and published her first works in 1902, when she was just fourteen years old. Later in life, she’d also become a translator.
- Dvora Omer was a well-known Israeli novelist in the twentieth century.
- Devorah Bertonov was a famous dancer, awarded the Israel Prize in 1991 for excellence in her field.
File this one with Shoshannah and Rivka. While the name has seen some use elsewhere in the world, if I met a Dvorah, I would guess that she had roots in Israel, or at least came from a Jewish family.
Dvorah: Which Spelling?
And yet I’m not sure it has to be exclusive to families of Jewish heritage. Deborah, after all, has long since become mainstream for families of many different faith traditions.
The Dv- spellings are authentic, and yet they lack a certain phonetic transparency. Kveller lists Devorah and Devora, along with with Devra. I do think those might be the most wearable of the possibilities in American English today.
And I do think it’s wearable – an ancient spin on an enduring name.
What do you think of Dvorah? How would you spell it?