Genesis 17:5 (NIV) states:

No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

The edition of the Bible that I'm reading has a footnote saying that probably Abraham means father of many.

Could someone provide an additional reference (religious and/or etymological) where the meaning of the name of Abraham is explained?

  • Abraham = Hyper-human
    – R. Emery
    Sep 22, 2022 at 7:58

2 Answers 2


According to a variety of commentaries the name Abram means "high father" while Abraham means "Father of a multitude". The reason it is only "probably" in your commentary is because the usage of the word raham is not clearly attested to in ancient Hebrew itself, but only in closely related languages.

Ellicott's Commentary explains it well, plus offers a couple alternative ideas:

Abraham = Father of a multitude, “raham” being an Arabic word, perhaps current in Hebrew in ancient times. Another interpretation of Abram is that it is equivalent to Abi-aram, Father of Aram, or Syria. This too is an Arabic form, like Abimael in Genesis 10:28. By some commentators the stress is thrown upon the insertion of the letter “h,” as being the representative of the name Yahveh or Yehveh.


I study the Hebrew / Aramaic of the Bible. I do not allow or subscribe to the typographic-shift theories. The Hebrew text of the Bible should be read at its face value. We should not contaminate biblical Hebrew with European/Romance linguistic concepts. Read the Hebrew of the Bible as literal as possible, without apologising for it, nor inventing excuses for it.

Genesis 17:5

והיה שמך אברהם
כי אב המון גוים נתתיך

[אבר] = prominent organ/limb. Hence sometimes for referring to the wings of a bird. Hence sometimes for referring to the prominent organ of men.

[אברם] = perhaps plural.

[אברה] = participle/gerund. The state of being a prominent organ/limb.

[אברהם] = The gerund suffixed with 3rd person plural possessive = state of being their prominent-limb-organ.

Translation of the verse is:
Because I am giving/making you as of father of multitude of nations,
your name is no longer prominent-organs, but your name shall be being-their-prominent-organs.

Perhaps ...
Because I am giving/making you as of father of multitude of nations,
Your name is no longer just "foundations", but your name shall be be-their-foundations.

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