Original pronounciation of names

There are names, biblical ones especially, that are used in many different languagues. For example Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are found all over Europe.

What I want to know is what did they originally sound like in the language they came from?

For example the name Joseph is Jozef (pronounced Yoo-zef) in Polish and Giuseppe in Italian. (Or is Giovanni?)

All three of these sound completely different. I’m guessing that most biblical names probably come from Hebrew or Greek, so would a speaker from one of these languages even recognize these names the way others pronounce them?

Include Aramaic in your list, & you got a good idea of where the names come from.

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I have a bible that includes pronunciation of the names along with a key for all the symbols etc. involved. I haven’t used that one so I can’t really comment on the correlation between the original and current pronouncing.

As a Hebrew speaker (sort of…my level of Hebrew is recognized as “advanced intermediate”) I’d say yes to the Hebrew names. The general rule is that any “s” sound in an Anglicized Hebrew name is originally an “sh” sound, and a “j” is originally a “y” sound. For instance, Samuel is from Shmuel, Joshua is from Yoshua, Elizabeth is from Elisheva, Benjamin is from Benyamin, etc. See? Not a whole lot of difference.


“You couldn’t fool your mother on the foolingest day of your life if you had an electrified fooling machine.”

This thread reminded me of an incident that happened to me years ago in a public speaking course. I chose to read aloud a passage from the book of Esther (in English). However I pronounced the name of the Persian king “AhashvErosh” (Hebrew). The instructor pointed out that the traditional English pronunciation (A-hah-zoo-WEE-rus) is probably no further from the original Persian than the Hebrew one.

(The traditional Russian pronunciation of this name is Agasfer - tat’s got to be further away from the original, passing through Greek.)

Actually, the traditional English pronunciation of the name of that king is “ZURK-sees”.

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FWIW, Konrad, the Italian form of Joseph is Guiseppe. Giovanni is the Italian form of John.

As Victor Borge put it, “Guieppe Verdi… or, Joe Green to you and me…”

Most Jewish Aramaic speakers gave their kids Hebrew names.The names from the new testament are uually the Greek versions filtered through Latin by the time we get them in English. Jesus is the greek form of Joshua or Yoshua, I guess. I Think his name was Joshua bar Joseph, or Yoshua bar Yosef. The Romans invented the J.And I think Xerxes is the Greek form. In English I think it is Zerk the Jerk,inventer of the grease gun.
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