Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The two words ידה (yada) and הוד (hod) are formally completely separate, but their forms are so similar that when either of them appear in names, in conjunction with other elements, we can often not be entirely sure which one of the two we're looking at.
The middle ו (waw) in the word הוד (hod), and the final ה (he) of the word ידה (yada) are allowed to drop out in several grammatical constructions, and the letter י (yod) appears frequently in front of a root to create a form that means "he will . . . " or "let him . . . ".
In regular texts the origin of a word can usually be understood from contexts but since names often lack a clear context we usually can go both ways. Names that contain either of these words must be understood to possess two complete meanings.
If our two words are indeed separate (which scholars assume), the word הוד (hod) is a single child of the identical (and also assumed) root הוד (hwd). And to make the mystery even greater, HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament reports that "so far no related root in other Semitic languages has been found for hod. It is uniquely a Hebrew word".
That's obviously a rarity, and raises the suspicion that our two words aren't separate at all. BDB Theological Dictionary, on the other hand, reports of some Arabic verbs that are similar to our word, one of which means crash, roar, resonance, while the other, oddly enough, means to be gentle, quiet, especially in speech.
The noun הוד (hod), generally meaning splendor, majesty, vigor, glory or honor, occurs frequently in the Bible, from the authority or majesty of the king (Jeremiah 22:18) or a prophet such as Moses (Numbers 27:20), to the divine splendor of God (Psalm 104:1), and the splendor of Israel due to the blessings of God (Hosea 14:7 - his beauty will be like the olive tree).
The root-verb ידה (yada) means to confess, praise, give thanks. HAW Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament reports that 'the primary meaning of this root is "to acknowledge or confess sin, God's character and works, or man's character".'
Originally this verb probably meant to cast or throw (and - intuitively - seems to have to do with the noun יד (yad) meaning hand). Yet another by-form of this verb is ידד (yadad), meaning to cast, which is identical to the verb ידד (yadad), meaning to love; see the name David).
Remnants of this meaning of to cast can be found in Lamentations 3:53 and Zechariah 2:4. Then it moved to mean a private or national confession of sin (for instance in Leviticus 16:21, Aaron will praise over the scapegoat), which is the very thing the Law was designed to provoke (Romans 3:20).
Then it evolved to denote gratitude, and only finally it came to indicate what we know as praise. As the theologian Westermann noted, this verb is often translated with to thank, but the Hebrew language has no verb specifically reserved for expression of gratitude.
This verb yields two derivations:
- The feminine plural noun הידות (huyyedot), meaning songs of praise (Nehemiah 12:8 only).
- The feminine noun תודה (toda), meaning confession or praise (Joshua 7:19, Psalm 26:7).
The name יהודה (yehuda; Judah) also comes from this verb, and thus so do:
- The masculine ethnonym יהודי (yehudi), meaning Judaic, Jewish or Jew.
- The feminine ethnonym יהודית (yehudit, hence the name Judith), also meaning Jewish, but only used in the construction "Jewish language" (2 Kings 18:26, Nehemiah 13:24).
- The verb יהד (yehud), meaning to become a Jew (Esther 8:17).