🔼The name Tabitha: Summary
- Gazelle, Beauty
- From the verb צבא (saba'), to be a collective.
🔼The name Tabitha in the Bible
Tabitha is the Aramaic name of Dorcas, the female disciple from Joppa who Peter raises from the dead (Acts 9:36 and 9:40). The name Tabitha resembles the Aramaic word talitha, which occurs in another famous scene in which a woman is raised from the dead, namely the rising of Jairus' daughter by Jesus (Mark 5:41).
🔼Etymology and meaning of the name Tabitha
According to the author of the Book of Acts, the name Tabitha means the same as Dorcas, which means gazelle. This makes it likely that the name Tabitha originates in the Aramaic word טביא (tabya), meaning deer of gazelle. According to Marcus Jastrow's Dictionary of the Targumim, the Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature, this Aramaic word is related to the Hebrew noun צביה (sebiya — or pronounced rather as tzebiaya) meaning gazelle:
The verb צבא (saba') means to ally; to combine and integrate. It describes the formation of a distinct group, its inner economy and its interactions with neighboring groups. It's often used for military encounters but certainly not restricted to that use. Noun צבא (saba') describes a group that functions internally and externally as a distinct unit: a team, a league, a sodality, a collective, an army division.
Verb צבה (saba) means to swell up, but tends to describe the growing, getting better organized and more thoroughly engaging of the troop described by noun צבא (saba'). Noun צבה (sabeh) mostly describes a physical swelling. Noun צבי (sebi) mostly describes a swelling in the social sense: a becoming more honored or increasing in perceived beauty. In later parts of the Bible the verb צבה (saba) may be used to mean to wish. Noun צבו (sebu) means "desired thing."
Noun צבי (sebi) describes a gazelle, and is identical to the one meaning beauty but may also reflect the gazelle's herd behavior. Noun צביה (sebiya) also means gazelle.
Noun צב (sab) probably stems from an otherwise unused root צבב (sabab) and means cart. It's unclear how it fits in but perhaps as a thing upon which to pile things? Identical noun צב (sab) is thought to describe a kind of lizard (listed as unclean), possibly also because this animal tended to congregate.
In Hebrew this word is closely related to the meaning of beauty. A Hebrew name that came from this word, and which may be the Hebrew equivalent of the Aramaic name Tabitha and the Greek name Dorcas, is Zibiah.
The name Tabitha means Gazelle.