🔼The name Sapphira: Summary
- Clear, Calmly Composed
- From the noun ספיר (sappir), a transliteration of the Sanskrit noun canipriya.
- From the verb שפר (shapar), to be pleasing or harmoniously composed.
🔼The name Sapphira in the Bible
Sapphira and her husband Ananias are remembered for lying to Peter about the proceeds of a piece of land they had sold (Acts 5:1). Instead of being honest about the price, or not selling in the first place, they wanted the church to believe that they donated all of it while keeping some for themselves. Their lie costs them both their lives.
🔼Etymology of the name Sapphira
The name Sapphira is quite obviously related to the name of the gem sapphire, which is a name that shows up in many ancient languages with remarkable consistency. In Greek it's called σαπφειρος (sappheiros), and in Hebrew it exists as ספיר (sappir).
In looking for a meaning of the name Sapphira, it should be realized that the original meaning of the Sanskrit word canipriya was probably as hidden to the people of the Middle-East as it is to us, and is far less important than the cultural applications of the gem the ancients called sapphire:
The noun ספיר (sappir) appears to be a term that denotes a few kinds of highly appreciated bright gems native to the Afghanistan-Iran region, including the sapphire and lapis lazuli. This word was imported along with the stone and stems from the Sanskrit word canipriya. The formation of our noun ספיר (sappir) was probably helped along by its similarity to the verb שפר (shapar), to be pleasing or harmoniously composed.
A Semitic root that etymologically has nothing to with our name Sapphira, but which bears a striking resemblance to it (at least phonetically) is שפר (shapar), meaning to be pleasing:
The verb שפר (shapar) means to be pleasing, and more specific to be peacefully or harmoniously calm and composed. Noun שפר (sheper) means beauty or loveliness. Noun שפרה (shipra) means fairness or clearness. It's used only once in the Bible, and describes an aspect of the sky. Noun שופר (shopar) or שפר (shopar) denotes a ram's horn made into a trumpet (the regular word for horn, קרן, qeren, also comes from a verb that means to shine). Noun שפרור (shaprur) or שפריר (shaprir) apparently denotes a kind of canopy, under which peace and stability may be achieved.
The name Sapphira obviously conveys the beauty of the gem sapphire. In Biblical times, the name Sapphira was probably understood to mean something like Precious or Beautiful.