🔼The name Unni: Summary
- Answering Is With Yah, Afflicted
- From (1) verb ענה ('ana), to correspond, be busy with, afflict or sing, and possibly (2) יה (yah), the shortened name of the Lord.
🔼The name Unni in the Bible
There are two men named Unni in the Bible:
- One of the Levites of the second rank, who played the harp tuned to alamoth, during the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant from the house of Obed-edom to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 15:18-20, spelled עני, Unni).
- One of the priests who had returned from the exile in Babylon with Zerubbabel, and who were assigned duties in the restored temple service (Nehemiah 12:9, spelled ענו, Unnu).
🔼Etymology of the name Unni
The name Unni looks like it has to do with any of the verbs ענה:
There are four verbs of the form ענה ('nh), or perhaps one verb with four distinct usages:
Verb ענה ('ana I) means to answer, respond or correspond, and since in the old world time was considered a cycle, noun עת ('et) means time. Temporal adverb עתה ('atta) means now; adjective עתי ('itti) means timely or ready, and conjunction יען (ya'an) means on account of. Noun מענה (ma'aneh) means an answer and noun ענה ('ona) means cohabitation.
Verb ענה ('ana II) means to be busy or occupied with. Noun ענין ('inyan) means occupation or task, and noun מענה (ma'ana) means place for or agent of a task.
Verb ענה ('ana III) means to afflict, oppress or humble. Noun ענו ('anaw) refers to the poor, afflicted or needy. Noun ענוה ('anawa) means humility. Noun ענות ('enut) means affliction. Adjective עני ('ani) means poor or afflicted. Noun עני ('oni) means affliction or poverty, and noun תענית (ta'anit) means humiliation.
Verb ענה ('ana IV) means to sing.
The letter י (yod) upon which our name ends, may either create an adjective (responsive), a possessive form (my affliction), or may be a remnant of יה (Yah) = יהו (Yahu) = יו (Yu), which in turn are abbreviated forms of the Tetragrammaton יהוה, YHWH, or Yahweh.
For a meaning of the name Unni, NOBSE Study Bible Name List goes with ענה I ('ana I), meaning to answer or respond, and takes the final yod to be a truncation of YHWH. Hence NOBSE reads Answering Is With Yahweh.
Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names acknowledges the similarity between our name and the adjective עני ('ani) meaning poor or afflicted, from the verb ענה III ('ana III), and reads Afflicted. Jones nevertheless claims the final yod to be "a sign of the Divine name" and adds, "of the Lord".
BDB Theological Dictionary doesn't interpret the name Unni, and lists it alphabetically (and not under our root group ענה), which indicates that BDB deems its etymology unknown. But this is technically speaking. It's safe to assume that a Hebrew audience would scarcely doubt the genuineness of the perceived connection to the root group ענה.