🔼The name Kiriath-arim in the Bible
It's not clear whether a place called Kiriath-arim is actually supposed to exist in the Bible. Some commentators believe this name appears in Joshua 18:28, but that's probably not true and see our article on the name Kiriath for a brief discussion on this. Ezra, however, clearly makes mention of Kiriath-arim as he submits that a combined 743 men from the ex-Gibeonite towns of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth returned from the exile in Babylon (Ezra 2:25). The trouble here is that Kiriath-arim would be an otherwise unknown city (which isn't so bad) but also that Nehemiah submits the same list, and speaks of Kiriath-jearim (קרית יערים). The latter is a well-known city and its name is identical to Kiriath-arim, save for the letter י (yod) in front of the arim-part.
Scholars across the board assume that Ezra's Kiriath-arim is a mistake and should read Kiriath-jearim, but that's by no means certain. If either Nehemiah or Ezra made a mistake, it's far more likely that Nehemiah accidentally changed the name of a relatively unknown town (or a title, see below) into that of a famous one than vice versa. Nehemiah appears to have copied the list from Ezra, and Ezra's statement of Kiriath-arim, Chephirah and Beeroth may in fact mean "the federated (joined) cities Chephirah and Beeroth".
🔼Etymology of the name Kiriath-arim
The name Kiriath-arim obviously consists of two elements. The first part of our name is identical to the Kiriath, which is an older variant of the Biblical noun קריה (qiryah), meaning city. It derives of the verb קרה (qara), meaning to meet or get together:
The second part of Kiriath-arim is by many considered a text error, which should have read יערים; the plural of the noun יער (ya'ar), meaning forest:
The yod in front of a root is usually a sign of an active verb, but in the case of the noun יער it's an integral part of the word and can't be simply omitted while retaining the meaning. The second part of our name, in fact, looks much more like the plural of the noun עיר ('ir), meaning city:
The "name" Kiriath-arim literally means Urban Federation, and may not be the name of a single town. It may be the collective name of Chephirah and Beeroth, or better yet: that of the two missing Gibeonite cities of Kiriath-jearim and Gibeon.
Much more radical, however, (and here at Abarim Publications we're pretty radical) would be to assume that neither Ezra nor Nehemiah made a mistake. The discrepancies between the list of Ezra and Nehemiah could be explained by assuming that these lists don't sum up the people who were travelling with Zerubbabel, but rather the returnees who were in Israel at the time of these two separate censuses. If there had been a considerable time between Ezra's records and those of Nehemiah, deaths and defection could account for the differences. Ezra could have counted the 743 men from among the federated towns of Chephirah and Beeroth, while in Nehemiah's time the town of Kiriath-jearim had been repeopled.
Note also that Nehemiah makes mention of a place called Kiriath-arba, which is the old name of Hebron (Nehemiah 11:25). As old name of Hebron, Kiriath-arba is obviously meant to mean City Of Arba, but it literally means Fourfold City. In every other occurrence of the name Kiriath-arba in the Bible, the name of Hebron is submitted as its modern name, but Nehemiah doesn't do that, and it seems strange that Nehemiah would refer to Hebron's antique name. It's possible that Nehemiah's Kiriath-arba is not Hebron, but the federation of four ex-Gibeonite cities of Gibeon, Kiriath-jearim, Chephirah and Beeroth.