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Hebrew Language/Correct Romanisation of Hebrew and Yiddish names


Dear Mr Yaari,

Hello. I know it says in your description that you don't do translation of Hebrew names; but I have a question about Romanisation. Is this your area, and if not, do you know anyone who could help me?

My question is, is there are a more correct way to Romanize Hebrew or Yiddish names? For example, the name Rivka in English, that's perfectly acceptable; but in Polish, Rywke is a much closer representation of the original sound. Is there a more correct way to Romanise Hebrew and Yiddish names?

My problem is, I'm not a language expert (obviously), and I don't understand what difference it makes which characters you Romanise Hebrew and Yiddish names into, considering the Hebrew alphabet is a different script from the Roman one.

Please would you explain this to me, as you would a child. I'm sorry if this is a really stupid question.

Thank you very much,



There are no particular rules as to how to Romanize Hebrew names. Clearly, in the example you use, the Polish 'w' is sounded as the English 'v', thus providing a different spelling for the name. A similar problem occurs with the name Cohen. How do you write it in Russian?  since the cyrilic alphabet doesn't have an 'h', Cohen becomes Kogen.

All that it really means is that local customs dictate how a name should be romanized. There is no hard and fast rule that applies to all languages.

All the best,


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What I don't do: NO NAME TRANSLATIONS. For that, try

What I do: I'll help you understand Hebrew phrases or single words, as well as answer questions about Jewish customs and practices.

You may also try the Gooogle English-Hebrew translator, at


I am a columnist for a Hebrew-language newspaper, and a graduate of the Jewish Theological Seminary.

D.Med MBA BA in the US, Grade school and high school in Israel

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