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Meaning and etymology of the name Ruth

Ruth Ruth

Ruth was the Moabite wife of Mahlon, son of Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem. Their other son, Chillion, married Orpah, also of Moab. When the men die, Ruth and Naomi move back to Bethlehem, where Ruth marries Boaz. Ruth and Boaz become the parents of Obed, the grandparents of Jesse and the great-grandparents of David, the great king of Israel.

There's no such word in Hebrew as Ruth (ruth), but scholars have concluded it must have come from the rich root-group raa (ra'a I, II & III):

(1) The common Hebrew verb raa (ra'a I) means to pasture, tend, graze. The derivative rei (re'i) means pasture.

(2) The verb raa (ra'a II) means to associate with, be a friend of. As verb this word doesn't occur more than seven times in the Bible, but its derivatives are much more ubiquitous. The derived noun rea (rea') means friend or neighbor. The famous command to "love thy neighbor as thyself" uses this word (Leviticus 19:18). The noun re'ut denotes a female companion (Exodus 11:2). This word is also used to mean mate (Isaiah 34:15-16). BDB Theological Dictionary claims the name Ruth from this word and translates with Friendship.

(3) The root raa (ra'a III) is unused in the Bible so we don't know what it might have meant. But it yields some striking derivations: rea (rea'), means purpose or aim (Psalm 139:2). Note that it is identical to the word meaning friend, listed above. Another derivation is the word reut (re'ut), meaning longing (Ecclesiastes 1:14). Note that this word is identical to the word for female companion, listed above.

Generally, the name Ruth is seen as a feminine derivation of the root raa (ra'a), associate with, be a friend of. As such the name Ruth means (Lady-) Friend or (Lady-) Companion.

Other names that make use of the particle raa are: Ahira, Bera, Reu and Reuel.



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