Amuletic Names
Slide 10 of 94
Slide 10

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Other names, called amuletic names, are given for good luck.  Examples are Chaim and Chaya, which mean "life".  Other examples are Alter and Alta (meaning "old one"), Bubbe and Zayde (grandmother and grandfather), and Vita and Genendel.

Often these were given as a new name when a child became very sick.  A Jewish superstition that began during medieval times, and was still current up to very recent times, imagined the Angel of Death as a rather bureaucratic fellow with a list of names.  It was thought that if he came looking for a sick child with a specific name, and if he could not find a child with that name, then the Angel of Death would leave, sparing the sick child.