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Lehite GN 1. City, ca. 30 AD (3 Nephi 9:10)
Lehite PN 2. General, 4th c. AD (Mormon 6:14)


The Book of Mormon PN and GN JOSH may be a hypocoristic form of the HEBREW biblical PN Josiah (Zechariah 6:10, יאשיהו yoʾšiyyȃ, and Jeremiah 27:1, yoʾšiyyȃhû), that is, Josiah minus the theophoric element. Meaning Josiah, and therefore JOSH, could mean “Jehovah has healed,” from the hypothetical HEBREW root *ʾšȃ, “to heal,” posited on the basis of the attested Arabic root ʾsā, “to heal.”[1] On the other hand, Josiah, and thus JOSH, could mean “Jehovah has given,” or “gift of Jehovah,” from the West Semitic root ʾwš, “to give a present”[2] (see Ugaritic ušn, “gift”). As such, JOSH may be related to the biblical period HEBREW PN יאוש yʾwš, attested in the Lachish ostraca (where it probably had the pronunciation yāʾuš) and in the Elephantine Aramaic documents.[3] In either case, the Nephite form JOSH, if it does derive from ʾwš or ʾsā, suggests that the aleph must have become quiescent by the time the name appears in the NEPHITE record.[4]

Probably unrelated are the instances of the Amorite names containing ya-(ú-)uš plus a theophoric element, etc., listed in Huffmon, Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts (Balimore: Johns Hopkins, 1965), 171. Not only does Huffmon list the root as “uncertain,” but he suggests the preferred etymology be taken from *ġwṯ.

JOSH as a hypocoristicon of Jeshua is somewhat less likely. Ancient Semitic hypocoristica do not function in this manner, i.e., whole lexemes can be dropped, but the lexemes themselves are not subject to being split apart or syncopated. Therefore, JOSH, contrary to the origin of the modern nickname, is not an ancient hypocoristic form of Joshua (from the HEBREW root yehoshua), where Jo- is a shortened version of Jehovah and –shua is from the lexeme for “help; succor.”

Less likely is a derivation from the HEBREW existential particle, yēš, “there is.” It would be hard to account for the /o/ in JOSH from the /ē/ in yēš.

With the following, Kerry Hull discusses a possible Mesoamerican etymology for JOSH. The common Mayan term yax, especially with the meaning “green,” could be a good match for the Book of Mormon GN JOSH. In Mayan languages, the term yax (and its cognates) generally means ‘green’, ‘unripe’, ‘new’, ‘sacred’, and ‘precious’.[5]

The element yax regularly appears as part of ancient Maya GNs recorded in the hieroglyphic script. For example, the famed site of Tikal was known both by the names of Mutal and Yax Mutal (see Tikal Stela 39, AD 376). Many other yax containing GNs are also attested.[6] As a PN, yax is found in PN phrases of the ancient Maya, such as Yax We’en Chan K’inich (Green Eating Sky Great-Sun), a late 8th-century ruler of the site of Xultun. Names of other Maya rulers containing the yax element are very well attested.[7]


Deseret Alphabet: 𐐖𐐉𐐟 (dʒɒʃ)


  1. So Noth, IPN 212, who, based on the Arabic, takes it from the hypothetical HEBREW root אשה
  2. Shmuel Ahituv, Echoes from the Past: Hebrew and Cognate Inscriptions from the Biblical Period, trans. Anson F. Rainey (Jerusalem: Carta, 2008), 481-2.
  3. Ahituv, 481-2; Hugh Nibley was the first person to call attention to yā’uš in the Lachish letters. See “The Lachish Letters: Documents from LEHI’s Day,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 51a. Probably unrelated are the instances of the Amorite names ya-(ú-)uš plus theophoric element, etc., listed in Huffmon, Amorite Personal Names in the Mari Texts (Balimore: Johns Hopkins, 1965), 171. Not only does Huffmon list the root as “uncertain,” but he suggests the preferred etymology be taken from *ġwṯ.
  4. An aleph in HEBREW usually can become quiescent when it closes a syllable. This is not necessarily the case here.
  5. There are, however, two “yax” etymologies, each with a different vowel quality. The first comes from the Proto-Mayan *ra7x which means ‘green’ or ‘blue/green’ (Kaufman 2003:225; cf. Proto-Ch’olan: yäx ‘green’ [Kaufman and Norman 1984:137]). The second is yaax, which means ‘first’ as an ordinal numeral. The difference in the two forms is best reflected in the Yucatec Mayan yaax “first, prior” (Bricker et al. 1998:312) compared to ya’ax ‘green; tender” (Bricker et al. 1998:312). The difference is also preserved in Itza Mayan where yax is ‘first’ and ya’ax is “green, blue” (Hofling and Tesucún 1997:713). Even though a vowel change in yax is retained in reflexes in some Mayan languages and totally lost in others, in the hieroglyphic script both are spelled with the YAX logograph. Therefore, it is necessary to determine its meaning based on context. Usually if yax is clearly used as an adverb the meaning is ‘first’ (e.g., u-yax-k’al-tuun-il, ‘his first stone binding’). Elsewhere it is usually best interpreted as meaning ‘green’ or ‘blue/green’.
  6. Other examples of yax in toponyms are Te’ Nal Yax Chan Ch’een (Yaxha Stela 6), Yax ‘A Lak’in Waka’ (Tikal Lintel 3, Temple 4), Yax Ahkal Ha’ Yax Niil (El Cayo Altar 4), Yax Chan (Quirigua Altar P’), Yax Pahsaj Chan Naah [?] Nal (Dos Pilas Stela 15), Yax Ch’een Witz (Copan Altar T), Yax Ha’ (Uxbenka Stela 11), Yax Haal Witz Noh Nal (Palenque, Panel on the Temple of the Foliated Cross), Yax Pa’ (Yaxchilan Hieroglyphic Stairway 5), and Yaxaaj Witz Po[po]’a (Tonina Monument 126).
  7. Given here in chronological order, other PNs include (page numbers refer to Simon Martin and Nikolai Grube, Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens [London: Thames and Hudson, 2000]): Yax Ehb’ Xook (First Step Shark), founder of Tikal, about AD 90, p. 26; Yax Nuun Ayiin I (First Caiman), ruler of Tikal AD 379-404, pp. 32-33; K’inich Yax K’uk’ Mo’ (Great-Sun First Quetzal Macaw), ruler of Copan AD 426-37, pp. 192-93; Yax Ahk (First Turtle,) ruler of Anaay Te’ and vassal of K’inich B’aaknal Chaak of Tonina (AD 688-715), pp. 181-82; Yax B’olon Chaak, ruler of Yaxha conquered by K’ak’ Tiliw Chan Chaak of Naranjo in AD 710, p. 76; Yax Mayuy Chan Chaak, ruler of AD 726-744, pp. 49,78; Yax Nuun Ayiin II (First Caiman), ruler of Tikal AD 768-794, pp. 48, 51; Yax Mo’ Suutz’ (First Macaw Bat), lord in Calakmul about AD 800, p. 97; Yax Pasaaj Chan Yoaat, the 16th ruler of Copan AD 763-810, pp. 209-213. For further reference see Victoria Bricker, Eleuterio Po’ot Yah, and Ofelia Dzul de Po’ot, A Dictionary of the Maya Language: As Spoken in Hocaba, Yucatan (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1998); Charles Andrew Hofling and Félix Fernando Tesucún, Itzaj Maya-Spanish-English Dictionary, (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1997); and Terrence Kaufman and William Norman, “An outline of Proto-Cholan phonology, morphology and vocabulary,” in Phoneticism in Mayan Hieroglyphic Writing, ed. J. S. Justeson & L. Campbell (Albany, NY: State University of New York at Albany, 1984), 77-166.
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