From Book of Mormon Onomasticon
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Lehite PN 1. Queen's maid in the land of ISHMAEL (hence perhaps an Ishmaelitess), ca. 90 BC (Alma 19:16)

This Lamanite female name can best be understood as “father is a man,” from the two Hebrew elements, ʾab meaning “father,” and ʾiš meaning “man.” The biblical names Abiah “Father is Yahweh” and Abijah “(My) Father is Yahweh” both contain the vocable ʾab. The second element appears in the biblical names Esh-baal ʾšbʿl “Man of the Lord/Baal” in 1 Chronicles 8:33, Ishbosheth ʾšbšt “Man of Shame” (the same person as Esh-baal, but with disphemism*), and in a Hebrew inscription from Arad ʾšyhw Eshyahu “Man of Yahweh.”[1]

With the two vocables reversed, ʾšʾb, the name occurs on a 7th century stamp seal found, most likely, in Israel, though the compilers vocalized the name ʾašʾab, “Gift of Father.”[2] For other similar names in Semitic languages see Eblaite iš-a-bu, “a man is the father,” and iš-i-lum, “a man is El.”[3] See also Akkadian abu-ša-la-i-du, “her father she did not know.” (JH)

Many forms of names in Hebrew are not gender specific.[4] For example, see the female biblical PNs Abigail and Abishag. Therefore, the presence of the masculine relational noun, “father,” poses no problems for this female name.

Other suggestions include deriving the second element from ʾš, “there is/are.” The name would then mean “father exists”(RFS). ABISH could also be related to the pre-exilic Hebrew name ʼbšʼ (Abisha) on a seal in the Hecht Museum in Haifa, as well as to the far more ancient Semitic name ʼbšʼ (Abisha) from the 12th Dynasty tomb of Khnum-hotep III at Beni Hasan, Egypt.[5]

Much less likely is a hypocoristicon from names like Abishag, Abishai, Abishua, and Abishur, all known from the Bible. PYH and JAT object because hypocoristic names in Hebrew are not produced by dropping the last part of a vocable, e.g., the /ag/ of Abishag, to produce ABISH. Rather, hypocoristic names are produced by substituting a short form, such as an aleph א, a heh ה, or a yod י for the entire theophoric element. In the case of Abishag, Abishai, Abishua, and Abishur, the theophoric element is actually the first vocable in each instance, ʾab, and not the final element, shag, shai, shua, and shur, respectively.



  1. Y. Aharoni, Arad Inscriptions (Jerusalem, 1981), 32–34; compare also KJV Abijah = Hebrew ʼAbîyâ “Yah(weh) is father,” as in Abi, Abiyah, wife of King Ahaz of Judah (2 Kings 18:2 = 2 Chronicles 29:1); and also Abiyam (1 Kings 14:31 = 1 Chronicles 7:6,8).
  2. Robert Deutsch and André Lemaire, Biblical Period Personal Seals in the Shlomo Moussaieff Collection (Tel Aviv: Archaeological Center Publications, 2000), 44, #38.
  3. G. Pettinato, “The Royal Archives of Tell Mardikh-Ebla,” BA 39 (1976): 50 (RFS).
  4. Scott C. Layton, Archaic Features of Canaanite Personal Names (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1990), 148-149, specifically of ʼab in first position.
  5. John A. Tvedtnes, John Gee, and Matthew Roper, “Book of Mormon Names Attested in Ancient Hebrew Inscriptions,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 9/1 (2000):46, citing Nahman Avigadand Benjamin Sass, Corpus of West Semitic Stamp Seals(Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, et al., 1997), 66-67; and James B. Pritchard, The Ancient Near East in Pictures Relating to the Old Testament, 2nd ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), 2-3, 249.