🔼The name Dan: Summary
- From the verb דין (din), to judge or govern.
🔼The name Dan in the Bible
But prior to the existence of Dan the tribe, there was a town (or region) named Dan, mentioned in the War of Four against Five Kings (Genesis 14:14). In Judges 18:7 we learn about a town called Laish, near Beth-rehob, which is razed to the ground by a gang of דני (Danites). They rebuild the town and call it Dan, after their tribal founder. The Oxford Companion to the Bible, however, claims that this city Dan is the same as the one mentioned in Genesis 14:14, and called so in retrospect.
🔼Etymology of the name Dan
Dan was named by Rachel who exclaimed, "God has judged me, and has indeed heard my voice and has given me a son" (Genesis 30:6). Later, Jacob — now named Israel — gathers his people around his death bed, he says, "Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel" (Genesis 49:16).
Hence it's pretty safe to say that the name Dan comes from the Hebrew verb דין (din) meaning to judge, contend, plead:
The verb דין (din) means to judge or govern. It's an old verb that mostly describes the authority of a naturally superior (because that person is wiser, stronger, older, etcetera) in contrast to the governing done by a formal government (by politically favored and appointed officials).
The noun דין (dayyan) describes one such a leader, and noun דין (din) describes anything pertaining to primitive governing: a judgment, plea, complaint, contention. Noun מדון (madon) literally describes a "place or judging" and is synonymous with the contending that goes on in such a place. Noun מדונה (medina) described the jurisdiction of one judge, and became the word for province.
For a meaning of the name Dan, BDB Theological Dictionary and the NOBSE Study Bible Name List agree on Judge. Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names reads Judge, Judging.