Jesus as A Name

Jesus is a masculine given name derived from the name Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yeshua (ישוע‎).[1][2] As its roots lie in the name Yeshua, it is etymologically related to another biblical name, Joshua. “Jesus” remains extremely rare as a given name among the English-speaking world, even while its counterparts have had longstanding popularity among people with other language backgrounds, such as the Spanish Jesús or the Arabic Isa.


The name Jesus is derived from the Hebrew name Yeshua, which is based on the Semitic root y-š-ʕ (Hebrew: ישע‎), meaning “to deliver; to rescue.”[3][4][5] Yeshua, and its longer form, Yehoshua, were both in common use by Jews during the Second Temple period and many Jewish religious figures bear the name, notably Jesus in the New Testament, and Joshua in the Hebrew Bible.[2][1]

There have been various proposals as to how the literal etymological meaning of the name should be translated, including Yah saves, (is) salvation, (is) a saving-cry, (is) a cry-for-saving, (is) a cry-for-help, (is) my help.[6][7][8][9][10]

This early biblical Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Yehoshuaʿ underwent a shortening into later biblical יֵשׁוּעַ Yeshua`, as found in the Hebrew text of verses Ezra 2:2, 2:6, 2:36, 2:40, 3:2, 3:8, 3:9, 3:10, 3:18, 4:3, 8:33; Nehemiah 3:19, 7:7, 7:11, 7:39, 7:43, 8:7, 8:17, 9:4, 9:5, 11:26, 12:1, 12:7, 12:8, 12:10, 12:24, 12:26; 1 Chronicles 24:11; and 2 Chronicles 31:15 – as well as in Biblical Aramaic at verse Ezra 5:2. These Bible verses refer to ten individuals (in Nehemiah 8:17, the name refers to Joshua son of Nun).

This historical change may have been due to a phonological shift whereby guttural phonemes weakened, including [h].[11] Usually, the traditional theophoric element Yahu יהו was shortened at the beginning of a name to יו Yo-, and at the end to יה -yah. In the contraction of Yehoshua` to Yeshua`, the vowel is instead fronted (perhaps due to the influence of the y in the triliteral root y-š-ʿ). During the post-biblical period the further shortened form Yeshu was adopted by Hebrew speaking Jews to refer to the Christian Jesus, however Yehoshua continued to be used for the other figures called Jesus.[12] However, both the Western and Eastern Syriac Christian traditions use the Aramaic name ܝܫܘܥ (in Hebrew script: ישוע) Yeshuʿ and Yishoʿ, respectively, including the ʿayin.[13]

In both Latin and Greek, the name is declined irregularly:

  Latin Greek
nominative Jēsūs Iēsūs (Iēsus) Ἰησοῦς
accusative Jēsūm Iēsūm (Iēsum) Ἰησοῦν
dative Jēsū Iēsū Ἰησοῦ

By the time the New Testament was written, the Septuagint had already transliterated ישוע Yeshua` into Koine Greek as closely as possible in the 3rd-century BCE, the result being Ἰησοῦς Iēsous. Since Greek had no equivalent to the Semitic letter ש shin[ʃ], it was replaced with a σ sigma [s], and a masculine singular ending [-s] was added in the nominative case, in order to allow the name to be inflected for case (nominative, accusative, etc.) in the grammar of the Greek language. The diphthongal [a] vowel of Masoretic Yehoshua` or Yeshua` would not have been present in Hebrew/Aramaic pronunciation during this period, and some scholars believe some dialects dropped the pharyngeal sound of the final letter ע `ayin [ʕ], which in any case had no counterpart in ancient Greek. The Greek writings of Philo of Alexandria[14] and Josephus frequently mention this name. It also occurs in the Greek New Testament at Acts 7:45 and Hebrews 4:8, referring to Joshua son of Nun.

From Greek, Ἰησοῦς Iēsous moved into Latin at least by the time of the Vetus Latina. The morphological jump this time was not as large as previous changes between language families. Ἰησοῦς Iēsous was transliterated to Latin IESVS, where it stood for many centuries. The Latin name has an irregular declension, with a genitive, dative, ablative, and vocative of Jesu, accusative of Jesum, and nominative of Jesus. Minuscule (lower case) letters were developed around 800 and some time later the U was invented to distinguish the vowel sound from the consonantal sound and the J to distinguish the consonant from I. Similarly, Greek minuscules were invented about the same time, prior to that the name was written in capital letters (ΙΗϹΟΥϹ) or abbreviated as (ΙΗϹ) with a line over the top, see also Christogram.

Modern English Jesus derives from Early Middle English Iesu (attested from the 12th century). The name participated in the Great Vowel Shift in late Middle English (15th century). The letter J was first distinguished from ‘I’ by the Frenchman Pierre Ramusin the 16th century, but did not become common in Modern English until the 17th century, so that early 17th century works such as the first edition of the King James Version of the Bible (1611) continued to print the name with an I.[15]

From the Latin, the English language takes the forms “Jesus” (from the nominative form), and “Jesu” (from the vocative and oblique forms). “Jesus” is the predominantly used form, while “Jesu” lingers in some more archaic texts.

Biblical references

A 3rd century papyrus of the Gospel of Luke.

The name Jesus appears to have been in use in the Land of Israel at the time of the birth of Jesus.[2][16] Moreover, Philo’s reference in Mutatione Nominum item 121 to Joshua (Ἰησοῦς) meaning salvation (σωτηρία) of the Lord indicates that the etymology of Joshua was known outside Israel.[17] Other figures named Jesus include Jesus Barabbas, Jesus ben Ananias and Jesus ben Sirach.

In the New Testament, in Luke 1:31 an angel tells Mary to name her child Jesus, and in Matthew 1:21 an angel tells Joseph to name the child Jesus during Joseph’s first dream. Matthew 1:21 indicates the salvificimplications of the name Jesus when the angel instructs Joseph: “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”.[18][19] It is the only place in the New Testament where “saves his people” appears with “sins”.[20] Matthew 1:21 provides the beginnings of the Christology of the name Jesus. At once it achieves the two goals of affirming Jesus as the savior and emphasizing that the name was not selected at random, but based on a Heavenly command.[21]

Other usage

Medieval English and Jesus

John Wycliffe (1380s) used the spelling Ihesus and also used Ihesu (‘J’ was then a swash glyph variant of ‘I’, not considered to be a separate letter until much later) in oblique cases, and also in the accusative, and sometimes, apparently without motivation, even for the nominative. Tyndale in the 16th century has the occasional Iesu in oblique cases and in the vocative; The 1611 King James Version uses Iesus throughout, regardless of syntax. Jesu came to be used in English, especially in hymns.

Jesu (/ˈz/ JEE-zoo; from Latin Iesu) is sometimes used as the vocative of Jesus in English. The oblique form, Iesu., came to be used in Middle English.

Other languages

In East Scandinavian, German and several other languages, the name Jesus is used. Some other language usage is as follows:

Isho or Eesho, the Aramaic/Syriacname of Jesus

Language Name/variant
Afrikaans Jesus
Albanian Jezusi
Arabic `Isà عيسى‎ (Islamic or classical arabic) / Yasū` يسوع‎ (Christian or latter Arabic)
Amharic ኢየሱስ
Aragonese Chesús
Aramaic/Syriac ܝܫܘܥ (Isho)
Arberesh Isuthi
Armenian Հիսուս (Eastern Armenian) Յիսուս (Western Armenian) (Hisus)
Azerbaijani İsa
Belarusian Ісус (Isus) (Orthodox) / Езус (Yezus) (Catholic)
Bengali যীশু (Jeeshu/Zeeshu) (Christian) ‘ঈসা (‘Eesa) (General)
Breton Jezuz
Catalan Jesús
Chinese simplified Chinese: 耶稣; traditional Chinese: 耶穌; pinyin: Yēsū
Coptic Ⲓⲏⲥⲟⲩⲥ
Cornish Yesu
Croatian Isus
Czech Ježíš
Dutch Jezus
Estonian Jeesus
Filipino Jesús (Christian and secular) / Hesús or Hesukristo (religious)
Fijian Jisu
Finnish Jeesus
French Jésus
Galician Xesús
Garo Jisu
Georgian იესო (Ieso)
Ghanaian Yesu
Greek Ιησούς (Iisús modern Greek pronunciation)
Haitian Creole Jezi
Hausa Yesu
Hawaiian Jesu
Hebrew Yeshua יֵשׁוּעַ
Hindustani ईसा / عيسى (īsā)
Hmong Daw Yexus
Hungarian Jézus
Icelandic Jesús
Igbo Jisos
Indonesia Yesus (Christian) / Isa (Islamic)
Irish Íosa
Italian Gesù
Japanese イエス (Iesu)/イエズス (Iezusu)(Catholic)/ゼス(zesu) ゼズス(zezusu)(Kirishitan)イイスス(Iisusu)(Eastern Orthodox)
Jinghpaw Yesu
Kazakh Иса (Isa)
Khmer យេស៑ូវ (Yesu)
Kisii Yeso
Korean 예수 (Yesu)
Kurdish Îsa
Latvian Jēzus
Ligurian Gesû
Limburgish Zjezus
Lithuanian Jėzus
Lombard Gesü
Luganda Yesu
मराठी-Marathi येशू – Yeshu
Malagasy Jeso, Jesoa, Jesosy
Malayalam ഈശോ (Isho), യേശു (Yeshu)
Mirandese Jasus
Maltese Ġesù
Mongolian Есүс
Neapolitan Giesù
Norman Jésus
Occitan Jèsus
Piedmontese Gesù
Polish Jezus
Portuguese Jesus
Romanian Isus (almost all) / Iisus (Eastern Orthodox)
Russian Иисус (Iisus)
Sardinian Gesùs
Serbian Isus / Исус
Sicilian Gesù
Sinhala ජේසුස් වහන්සේ – Jesus Wahanse
Scottish Gaelic Ìosa
Slovak Ježiš
Slovenian Jezus
Spanish Jesús
Swahili Yesu
Sylheti যীশু (Zishu) (Christian) ‘ঈছা (‘Eesa) (General)
Tajik Исо (Iso)
Tamil இயேசு – Yesu
Telugu Yesu
Thai เยซู – “Yesu”
Turkish İsa
Turkmen Isa
Ukrainian Ісус (Isus)
Urdu عیسیٰ
Uzbek Iso
Venetian Jesu
Vietnamese Giêsu, Dêsu
Welsh Iesu
Yoruba Jesu
Zulu uJesu


  1.  Liddell and Scott. A Greek–English Lexicon, p. 824.
  2. Catholic encyclopedia: Origin of the name Jesus Christ
  3.  Brown Driver Briggs Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon; Hendrickson Publishers 1996
  4.  “Strong’s Hebrew: 3467. יָשַׁע (yasha) — to deliver” Retrieved 2018-10-29.
  5.  Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon; Hendrickson Publishers 1996 ISBN1-56563-206-0.
  6.  “שׁוע”, Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary of the Hebrew Language (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company 1987)
  7.  Talshir, M. H. Segal, A Grammar of Mishnaic Hebrew (Tel Aviv: 1936), p. 146.
  8.  Strong’s ConcordanceH3091
  9.  Philo, De Mutatione Nominum, §21
  10.  Brown, Driver, Briggs, Gesenius, Hebrew and English Lexicon With an Appendix Containing the Biblical Aramaic(Hendrickson, 1985), ISBN0-913573-20-5. Cf. Blue Letter BibleH3442[permanent dead link]
  11.  Elisha Qimron, The Hebrew of the Dead Sea Scrolls(Harvard Semitic Studies: Scholars Press 1986), p.25
  12.  Robert E. Van Voorst Jesus outside the New Testament 2000 ISBN978-0-8028-4368-5 p124 “This is likely an inference from the Talmud and other Jewish usage, where Jesus is called Yeshu, and other Jews with the same name are called by the fuller name Yeshua and Yehoshua, “Joshua””
  13.  Jennings
  14.  Philo Judaeus, De ebrietate in Philonis Alexandrini opera quae supersunted. P. Wendland, Berlin: Reimer, 1897 (repr. De Gruyter, 1962)vol. 2:170-214, Section 96, Line 2.
  15.  Image of the first edition of the King James Version of the BibleGospel of Luke. From Retrieved March 28, 2006.
  16.  Matthew by Douglas Hare 2009 ISBN0-664-23433-X page 11
  17.  Matthew 1-7 by William David Davies, Dale C. Allison 2004 ISBN0-567-08355-1 page 209
  18.  Bible explorer’s guide by John Phillips 2002 ISBN0-8254-3483-1 page 147
  19.  All the Doctrines of the Bible by Herbert Lockyer 1988 ISBN0-310-28051-6 page 159
  20.  The Westminster theological wordbook of the Bible 2003 by Donald E. Gowan ISBN0-664-22394-X page 453
  21.  Who do you say that I am?: essays on Christology by Jack Dean Kingsbury, Mark Allan Powell, David R. Bauer 1999 ISBN0-664-25752-6 page 17

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