Etymology of the names of Jesus and Mary


I’ve seen in some recent threads that Jesus actual name was Joshua and Mary’s was Miriam but I can’t find them.
Can someone kindly give me the etymology of the names.
I think they start in Hebrew, then Aramaic, then Greek, then Latin then English.



Many thanks.
There might be other links because these two do not show the Aramaic word for Jesus or the Aramaic, Greek or Latin for Mary.


I heard Fr. Mitch Pacwa discuss this very issue (rleated to Jesus’ name). I knew that we considered Jesus’ Aramaic name Yeshua, but here is the full story as I heard it:

As odd as it may seem, the name Jesus is a relatively new invention, only a few hundred years old, that was created by multiple translations and stylistic changes to the original name.

The name of the one born in Bethlehem to Mary and Joseph about 2000 years ago was written as in Aramaic. Most scholars agree that the common language of the entire region was Aramaic and that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic and was most likely named in Aramaic.

The modern transliteration of the Aramaic into English has been written in many forms, including Yeshu’, Eesho’ or Eshoo. There were, and still are, many different, and often contradictory, dialects of Aramaic, making it impossible to know for certain how his name was actually pronounced 2000 years ago. That same name would be written as in Hebrew and is commonly transliterated into English as Yeshua, which is a Hebrew contraction for the name Yehoshua meaning Yah is salvation or Yah saves. Many Biblical references, such as Young’s Analytical Concordance, have concluded that his name was Yeshua.

The really odd changes to his name all began with translation into non-Semitic languages.

When the name was translated into Greek, the translators were first faced with the task of deciding whether they should translate the name phonetically to try to keep the sound the same, or whether they should translate the name according to its meaning. Apparently, they chose to use the phonetic approach so that the sound of the name would be preserved, even though the meaning of the name would be lost in the phonetic translation.

Unfortunately, the Greek language lacks some of the sounds used in Aramaic. And to further complicate the issue, all Greek masculine names must end with the letter “s”. So, without the proper sounds and forced to add the “s” to the end of the name, the best that the Greek translators could do was translate the name as which may be pronounced something like “ee-ay-soos”. Still, that’s pretty close to the original name, except for the letter “s” that was added at the end.

Then, as the books of the bible began to gain wider circulation, the name was again translated, this time from Greek into Latin. In the official Catholic bible version called the Vulgate, the name was established in Latin as “Iesus”. In Latin the letter “I” when used as a consonant has somewhat of a “Y” sound, so the name may have been pronounced something like “ye-soos”, which is a still pretty good approximation to the original name, except for the “s” at the end.

Over the years, as the pronunciation of the European languages gradually changed, and as the manner of writing the various letters also changed, an embellished version of the letter “I” gradually acquired a sound of it’s own and over time became an entirely new letter, the letter “J” with it’s current “J” sound. And, along the way, the long “u” sound of “oo” was lost and it became a short “u”. So, as the newly invented printing press churned out bibles, the Latin version of the name gradually became written as “Jesus” and the English pronunciation as we know it today was gradually adopted.

Although the spelling “Iesus” or “Iesvs” was used in the King James version of the New Testament from 1611 to 1628, by the year 1629 the King James version began to adopt the spelling “Jesus”. Gradually, during the 17th century, the name shifted from “Iesus” to the pronunciation “Jesus” that we are still using today.

Thus, the name was gradually changed to the English name Jesus… which is indeed quite a different sounding name.

Fortunately, it seems that the pronunciation of the words in our prayers is much less important that the heartfelt intent of our prayers. And thereby all true seekers receive the same results whether they have learned to call on the sacred name of Jesus or Eeso or Yeshu’ or Iesous.

That is to say, the pronunciation of the name is really not very important, but rather it is our intent, purpose and faith that truly matter.

The ancient Semitic root of the word for “name” is s-m, and while it does certainly mean “name” it also means much more. The s-m of something is that by which it is known, it is that which makes something different in a way that it can be distinguished from something else, it can mean light or sound or vibration, it is the very essence of something.

So, to call upon someone’s “shem” is not simply to call upon the sound of their name, but it means to call upon their very essence… which is far beyond the mere utterance of a name.

Words come and words go, languages come and languages go, yet the magnificent heart of each person remains the glorious temple of God, the abode of Love Everlasting… if only we will cast off our veils of selfishness and allow the Divine Light to shine forth.

Matters such as alphabets and names and spelling are ephemeral matters, they come and go like the shifting sands. For those who are willing to seek it, there is something which is like a rock in the midst of those shifting sands, something more fulfilling than any ephemeral matter… and that “something” is the goal of the spiritual path. Let us strive to focus our attention beyond words, beyond momentary concerns, and strive to discover that glorious ever-present essence which is beyond the name.


In the case of Joshua, successor to Moses, it seems his name in Hebrew is the same as Jesus’ name in Hebrew so why do we come through all the languages from Hebrew all the way down to English and call one of them Joshua and one of them Jesus. If the original name was the same why don’t we use the same in English?

[Late Latin Ioshua, from Hebrew yəhôšûa’, Yahweh (is) salvation; see hwy in Semitic roots.]


My understanding is they are related/derivative but not identical.

The name יֵשׁוּעַ “Yeshua” (transliterated in the English Old Testament as Jeshua) is a late form of the Biblical Hebrew name יְהוֹשֻׁעַ Yehoshua (Joshua), and spelled with a waw in the second syllable. The Late Biblical Hebrew spellings for earlier names often contracted the theophoric element Yeho- to Yo-. Thus יהוחנן Yehochanan contracted to יוחנן Yochanan. However, there is no name (aside from Yehoshua`) in which Yeho- became Ye-.

The name Yehoshua has the form of a compound of “Yeho-” and “shua”: Yeho- יְהוֹ is another form of יָהוּ Yahu, a theophoric element standing for the personal name of God YHWH, and שׁוּעַ shua is a noun meaning “a cry for help”, “a saving cry”, that is, a shout given when in need of rescue. Together the name would then literally mean, “‘God’ is a saving-cry,” that is, shout to God when in need of help.

Another explanation for the name Yehoshua is that it comes from the root ישע yod-shin-ayin, meaning "to deliver, save, or rescue". According to the Book of Numbers verse 13:16, the name of Joshua son of Nun was originally Hoshea הוֹשֵעַ, and the name “Yehoshua" יְהוֹשֻׁעַ is usually spelled the same but with a yod added at the beginning. "Hoshea” certainly comes from the root ישע, “yasha”, yod-shin-ayin (in the hifil form the yod becomes a waw), and not from the word שוע shua` (Jewish Encyclopedia[8]) although ultimately both roots appear to be related.


Thanks, DV. That was really interesting.
I’ve heard the most outrageous, silly, grasping-at-straws “etymologies” of those names intended to supprt the feeble copycat theory.:stuck_out_tongue:
I actually heard that Isis was really named “Isis-Meri” from someone who leaned into my face gape-mouthed gasping, “Her name was Mary!” in a conspiracy-sharing stage whisper. I wanted to roll on the floor laughing. Problem One: Mary (MER-ee) is just a pet name we have for her in the US and a few scattered parts of the English-speaking world. Mary (MAY-ree) is the more typical English-language nickname for Our Lady, and of course her name was Miriam, related to Mara, a major river in the Holy Land, for which over a quarter of First-Century Jewish women were named. The Greeks altered the name their way, Romans another. The Romans changed it to Maria, which was easier to pronounce for them and matched their common name Maria, “She-who-is-of-the-sea”. She who is named for the brackish life-giving river is also by linguistic coincidence she who is of the salty life-giving sea. And she gives life to the one who gives us all our life, so it fits her perfectly.
Problem Two: Egyptian scribes rarely used their few vowel-markers. A suffix such as MR could be pronounced AHM-er, O-mar, Mer, IM-reh, and on and on. It’s something of a reach to say her name was Mary. But when someone gets it in his head he’s going to turn religion upside down, he often can’t listen anymore.


“Jesus” in New Testament Greek is spelled exactly the same as “Joshua” in the Greek Septuagint. They are the same name and mean “Saviour”. My guess is the difference came about when Jerome translated the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin and the New Testament from Greek into Latin, thereby missing out on the fact that the names were the same.



As odd as it may seem, the name Jesus is a relatively new invention, only a few hundred years old, that was created by multiple translations and stylistic changes to the original name.

Only as old as the Greek Gospels and Latin versions, inclduing the Vetus Italica that predates St. Jerome’s Vulgate.


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