Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: Name background ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: Name background
Category: Relationships and Society > Cultures
Asked by: tmacewen-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 24 Dec 2002 06:11 PST
Expires: 23 Jan 2003 06:11 PST
Question ID: 133054
I am seeking a history of the Jewish name "Chiam".  I want to know
earliest known usage and significance, plus any other relevent data
available on its background.

Request for Question Clarification by bobbie7-ga on 24 Dec 2002 06:32 PST
Could the name be spelled "Chaim" ?

Clarification of Question by tmacewen-ga on 24 Dec 2002 17:19 PST
Yes Bobbie7-ga.  I made a mistake when typing it in this morning. 
Yes, the name is Chaim.  I look forward to hearing back from you.

Clarification of Question by tmacewen-ga on 27 Dec 2002 16:33 PST
Maybe I did not make myself clear.  I want a answer to the question
what is the earlist known usage of the name "chaim" for a human and
what was the historical significance or context? I will add a tip to a
suficient answer.
Subject: Re: Name background
Answered By: ragingacademic-ga on 27 Dec 2002 17:00 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
tmacewen - 

I hope this will address the balance of your request - the information
in the comments is right on the money, "chaim" is the Hebrew word for

The first recorded usage is approximately 5,700 years ago - Book of
Genesis, Chapter 2, Verse 7 - in Hebrew, reads: "...Va-yipach be-apav
nishmat chaim..."

The English translation of the entire verse per Rabbi Arieh Kaplan is
as follows -

"God formed man out of dust of the ground, and breathed into his
nostrils a breath of ***life***."

Note, however, that as a NAME, usage of Chayim dates back to the
middle ages.  It is never used in the bible (old testament) as
someone's name, and I doubt that it is used as a name in the new

I hope this satisfies your request - please let me know if you are in
need of any additional information as it relates to this question.


Request for Answer Clarification by tmacewen-ga on 28 Dec 2002 10:43 PST
Is it possible to get any specifics on where and when in the middle
ages it was first used as a name for a person?

Clarification of Answer by ragingacademic-ga on 29 Dec 2002 12:11 PST
tmacewen -

The earliest occurence I have been able to locate - as a name - would
be early 17th century in Morrocco -

Rabbi Chaim (Chayim) Ben-Atar Ha-zaken

Which means the Rabbi Chaim son of Atar the old.

His grandchild was born in 1696 in Morrocco and is a relatively famous
Torah scholar -

Chaim ben-Moshe Iben-Atar (1696-1743)

This individual also lived in Morrocco.  The family was deported from
Spain by the inquisition in 1492.

Chaim ben-Moshe Iben-Atar wrote "Or ha-Chayim" (the light of life),
which is one of the most famous and frequently used interpretations of
the Torah.

Chaim ben-Moshe Iben-Atar was the most prominent Torah interpreter in
Jerusalem during this period.

I am sure that if you were able to gain access to Spanish records from
the 13th, 14th and 15th centuries you would find earlier occurences,
probably just by following the lineage of this particular family back
in time. Unfortunately, I do not have access to such resources.

I hope this satisfies your request!


Clarification of Answer by ragingacademic-ga on 11 Jan 2003 20:13 PST
tmacewen - 

Thanks for the rating and tip!
Glad to have been of service.

tmacewen-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $5.00
Thank you!

Subject: Re: Name background
From: jackburton-ga on 24 Dec 2002 09:34 PST
CHIAM means forever, eternity -
CHIAM is likely to have derived from the name "CHAYIM", meaning "life"
Other variants of CHAYIM are CHAIM, HYAM and CHAYA:
CHAIM   m   Jewish
Variant of CHAYIM
CHAYIM   m   Jewish
Derived from Hebrew the word chayim meaning "life".
HYAM   m   Jewish
Variant of CHAYIM
CHAYA   f   Jewish
Feminine form of CHAYIM 
L'Chiam is also a yiddish expression meaning "to life"
Click here to hear pronunciation of expression (.wav)

Some books you may fiind useful:
"A Dictionary of Jewish Names and their History"  - authored by
Benzion Kaganoff published by Schocken Books, New York in 1977 and
"The Complete Dictionary of English and Hebrew First Names"  are two
fine books with realistic naming information.  Bear in mind though,
that names of ancestors or the correct spellings of names is not
Note that many times, old records spell a name one way, while shtetl
records may spell (or even name the same person) differently.  Much of
these differences come about because of the specific location within a
country.  My surname, Margulis, is pronounced Mar goo liss in Ukraine,
and Mar GO liss in Lithuania and Poland.  This is one of the problems
that a Jewish genealogical researcher faces, so therefore Mr. Daitch
and Mr. Mokotoff created a Jewish version of the Soundex system.  This
system allows a search on every possible name that uses most of the
same letters and will return every possible name it identifies with
those letters.
"Jewish Personal Names: Their Origin, Derivation and Diminutive Forms"
- authored by the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr and later edited by Chaim
Freedman and published by Avotaynu in 1992.
"The Origin of Jewish Surnames" - authored by Benzion Kaganoff

Related links:
Jewish Web Index is a compendium of thousands of links and bits and
pieces of information -- determined to have a value relevant to
researching one's Jewish roots.
The Geneolical Society of Great Britain
Subject: Re: Name background
From: bobbie7-ga on 25 Dec 2002 20:09 PST
Hello Tmacewen, 

Here is a bit of interesting information:

Hebrew name "Chaim" or Chayim comes from the word "chai," which means
The name is often given as an additional name to one who is critically

In order to foil the Angel of Death as a last measure the victim's
name was changed - usually to Chayim (life).

Best Regards,

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy