What’s Behind the Name Ruth?

רות המואביה   

Hebrew names have meanings. It always fascinates me to learn the meanings or the story behind people’s names. I’ll start with my name: Ruth = רוּת

Ruth means: Compassionate; friendly. If you open an unabridged English dictionary you would find that the entry for ruth is: “feeling of pity and compassion”.  I bet you know the word ‘ruthless’ right?   having or showing no pity or compassion for others: a ruthless manipulator: ruth + less.

what’s the story behind the name?   Ruth was a Moabite  רות המואביה = Root ha-moh-ah-vee-yah  who married her deceased husband’s kinsman Boaz = בועז and bore a son, Obed עובד, who became grandfather to King David דוד המלך = David ha-meh-lekh. (this is the story in a nutshell.)

In Hebrew, and this is my own interpretation,  רוּת comes from the word:  רֵעוּת reh-oot which means: ‘ strong friendship’; ‘deep friendship’; ‘affection’; ‘fondness’.

The word רֵעַreh-ah comes from the same root means: friend, comrade.

The word: רַעְיָה means wife.

Ruti is a pet name for Ruth. It’s like “Ruthie”. Since there’s no ‘th’ sound in Hebrew, we are left with the ‘t’ alone. Thus: Ruti  רוּתִי.   RUTH is read = ROOT = רות.

This is just a side joke: When people ask me: “Is Ruti short for something?” I answer: No! It is long for something…”  Ruth has only one syllable. Ruthie = Ruti has two.


Naomi  נעמי and her family left Judea יהודה because of the famine and moved to live in Moab מואב (currently where Jordan is). Ruth the Moabite princess and Orpah  עורפה (and not ‘Oprah’)  married the sons of Naomi.  Shortly after Naomi’s  husband and sons died.

רות נעמי ועורפה

Naomi decided to return to her homeland, Judea. She asked her daughters-in-law to return to their fathers’ homes and remarry. Orpah agreed but Ruth insisted to go with Naomi. Her response was: כִּי אֶל-אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכִי אֵלֵךְ, וּבַאֲשֶׁר תָּלִינִי אָלִין–עַמֵּךְ עַמִּי, וֵאלֹהַיִךְ אֱלֹהָי. “Because wither you go I go and whiter you live I live,  your people are my people, your God is my God”.  Ruth obviously showed COMPASSION and PITY to the woman who lost her husband and two sons. Once back in Judea (and this is a very romantic story that  I recommend you to read), she ended up marrying Boaz.

Ruth has converted to Judaism and is considered the first convert. That is why we find many converts that change their names to Ruth.

If you’re curious to know the meaning of your Hebrew name, please send me an e-mail and I’ll write about it. http://www.hebrewbarmitzvah.com

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