Trying to figure out what counts as offensive

The difference between [name_m]Cohen[/name_m] and [name_m]Malachi[/name_m], in this instance, is that [name_m]Cohen[/name_m] has a specific significance within Judaism. To use the name in disregard of its significance is offensive and inappropriate. [name_m]Malachi[/name_m] is a Hebrew name, yes, but - as far as I’m aware - the name doesn’t hold a specific cultural importance. The importance isn’t the origin and culture of the name, but its significance within that culture.


Using names with a significance in a culture, like [name_m]Cohen[/name_m], when you are not part of that culture, is not okay. Hebrew origin names are some what debatable because Jews have their given name and then their Hebrew name. I think having a Hebrew origin name is fine as long as it’s not a prominent name in a culture, again like [name_m]Cohen[/name_m].

Thanks for asking the question, @hanna_walker96, because I oftentimes wonder the same thing! What is so significant about [name_m]Cohen[/name_m]? I’m not Jewish so genuinely just want to know. I taught a student named [name_m]Cohen[/name_m] and for the entire year I had him there was no mention by any families, coworkers, or students about it being an offensive name. And I had a few Jewish students in my class too…so yeah nothing was mentioned as far as I know. In fact, it wasn’t until I joined Nameberry that I learned it could be considered offensive.

Cohen is a title given to descendants of the Cohenites. That is a highly simplified explanation and I urge you to read through the original [name_m]Cohen[/name_m] thread to get the full picture, since that’s why it’s still up: so you can educate yourself.

Cohen is also a common Jewish last name, and unfortunately antisemitism is still a major and deadly issue. If you use a name like [name_m]Cohen[/name_m], you might be subjecting your child to antisemitism as a result of their name.

Again, to anyone with the same questions as the ones posed in this thread, please go to the original [name_m]Cohen[/name_m] thread and read through it. I will be finding a link to it and adding it here soon. I will also be finding an article I read earlier on this subject because while I am annoyed to answer this question again (especially because there is a search bar in discourse for a reason), things will not get better until people are educated.


I’m pretty sure [name_m]Cohen[/name_m]/Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. They are said to be directly related to [name_m]Zadok[/name_m] (the founder of Priesthood in [name_u]Jerusalem[/name_u]) and through [name_m]Zadok[/name_m] they are then related to [name_m]Aaron[/name_m] (the first Jewish [name_m]Priest[/name_m]). (I could be wrong, so please correct me.) I’m guessing it’s like naming your child [name_m]Pastor[/name_m] or Reverend; it’s just disrespectful.

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Here is the link to the original Cohen thread:

Here is the link to the article I read:

And another article just to be safe (actually written by Pam!):

Also, @AdroitArtemis, that is another kind of simplified explanation but exactly correct!

Edit: tagging @Kittylitter and @hanna_walker96 because they specifically asked and this is important


I feel so incredibly guilty that I posted that. I’m so sorry!


[name_m]Don[/name_m]’t be! This is an important conversation to have, and you are contributing to a continued education (which is a core Jewish value :slight_smile:). Thank you for educating yourself and giving us a space to educate others!


Oh also, because I have a lot of thoughts on this topic (can you tell? :sweat_smile:), it’s perfectly fine to use a name of Hebrew origin! Some of the most common names, like [name_m]Joseph[/name_m] or [name_f]Mary[/name_f], have a Hebrew origin! It just depends on the importance of the name in question to that culture (like @rosepip more eloquently put!). I wouldn’t look twice at a non christian boy named [name_m]Zachary[/name_m] or [name_m]Malachi[/name_m]. For a christian boy named [name_m]Cohen[/name_m], I would.

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Oh my gosh, what? No! I am so glad you did! I’m sorry I didn’t mention you, I couldn’t find the thread and I couldn’t remember who posted it.

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One of my teachers named his son [name_m]Cohen[/name_m], I don’t know if they were jewish or not, I doubt it, thouhh. And no one batted an eye on that. I think you should educate yourself on [name_m]Cohen[/name_m]’s origin, bc Nameberry won’t help with controversial names(sorry but it’s true though), because majority of these people will have mix views on names, but most of time they’ll tell you not to use them.

Again, just educate yourself about the name [name_m]Cohen[/name_m].

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This are the general rules I tend to go by:

  1. If a culture/ethnicity has undergone any kind of oppression by Western cultures, and you don’t belong to it, it feels like appropriation in the same way anything else might. (The reason I might choose a [name_m]German[/name_m] name and no one bats an eyelid, but not a Native American name.)
  2. If a names is tied not merely to culture, but also to that culture’s religion, and you don’t belong to it, it’s best to forego it. Especially a name like [name_m]Cohen[/name_m], which is not merely a name in that culture/religion. Now, there are plenty of technically Hebrew names (and I mean Anglicized Hebrew names) that are used in the [name_u]West[/name_u], but that is, of course, due to Christianity, not Judaism, and therefore those names get a pass – see [name_f]Hannah[/name_f], [name_m]Jacob[/name_m], & Co.

There are many names that I love from cultures that are not my own, and that’s okay. But I’d probably steer clear of using them if they fall into the realm of those two basic guidelines.

I hope all that I said makes sense. In my opinion, it’s a matter of just being respectful, even if you don’t think it’s offensive. :slight_smile:


You should not feel guilty at all–I read through that thread and agree with the poster that said not to close it. Clearly there are others of us who are not educated on the subject so it’s good we could read through it! You were just asking, as the original poster and I were on here.

While educating someone on something important it’s best not to say you’re annoyed. We didn’t know, we wanted to know. Taking that attitude/tone will, in my opinion, discourage others from asking similar questions. It’s already not always easy to admit your ignorance and ask. I would not feel like searching through old threads on a topic someone literally just posted on. That’s why I commented on this thread, to keep this conversation going for those of us who were unaware this topic had already been addressed. But thank you for addressing it now and linking the thread and articles. I appreciate it greatly.

Also, I’ve also taught a student named [name_u]Messiah[/name_u], and as a [name_u]Christian[/name_u] I find that mildly offensive as well, but again, no one else said anything the entire year I was with that student!


I don’t see why its offensive but since a lot of people do, I’d probably stay away from it.

Oh, honey, I am so sorry you thought I was taking a tone with you! Yes, that’s exactly what is wrong with my response, despite that being a fragment of one sentence expressing my frustration at anti semitism me and my future children will experience. But no, it’s definitely more important that your feelings aren’t hurt while doing the bare minimum to maintain human decency and not offend someone (

… really? The bare minimum).

I know it’s hard to admit your wrong. I know it’s hard to admit your prejudices (I’m a white passing teenage girl from [name_u]New[/name_u] [name_m]York[/name_m], I know I have a few!). But you know what I don’t know? I don’t know why people have such a big issue with minorities (because Jews are minorities even if we are practically invisible in the mainstream) being frustrated when answering anti-whatever questions over and over again when, guess what? The answer stays the same.

For anyone looking back on this:
Part of educating yourself is finding the information without a minorities help. I would have taken a different tone in that one fragment of a sentence if the original post said something like “I read such and such article and it said this, but I also watched such and such and it said this, what’s the common consensus now?”. I (and most people) aren’t asking you to dedicate your whole lives to direct activism. We just want you to listen to us the first time we say it, and take the five minutes to educate yourself on topics you might not understand.
If you are reading this from the future, thank you for presumably using the search bar. I’ll even make it hopefully easier for you to find: COHEN IS AN OFFENSIVE NAME TO SOME AND THAT IS WHY YOU SHOULD RESPECT PEOPLE AND NOT USE IT! There.

(@Kittylitter, please note that if I continue to respond to this thread I might say something meanspirited that I do not agree with. For that reason, I am posting this reply but I will not respond to any future ones. If you, or anyone from this general timeframe, need any more explanation, private message me and I promise I will try to answer without a passive aggressive tone. If you have another genuine question, do your own research first and then ask me.)

  1. Your point is clear. No [name_m]Cohen[/name_m]. Thank you for educating me.
  2. That was indeed passive-aggressive. I’m truly very sorry you’ve experienced such prejudice in your lifetime and for all Jewish people who have experienced and continue to experience prejudice. That’s awful and I know anti-Semitic people exist. But I (a stranger on the internet, not racist, bigoted, sexist, anything -ist) am not the punching bag you take it out on because you’re angry you have to answer a question. I realize that statement is dramatic, but I’m trying to make a point.
  3. Again, the purpose of the forums if for conversation and if you’re frustrated by answering the same question, then don’t answer it. Instead of answering and complaining that we didn’t do research first. Like I said, I knew a [name_m]Cohen[/name_m] and didn’t even realize it’s something I should have researched until seeing this thread.
  4. Please don’t assume you know people’s prejudices. I know everyone inherits biases but many of us also are woke enough to be better people. I have a diverse friend group (yes, including Jewish friends) and family and am accepting of everyone. I know you don’t know me but I can promise you that. This literally started because someone politely asked the question, and I chimed in. I’m not trying to make waves, just wanted to know the same thing. I know you said private message but I still felt the need to respond here so it’s clear that I was simply asking a question, and just wanted to be educated. I take learning seriously…and that’s why I felt so offended when you were offended that we had asked the questions. If my students (also teenagers) had asked me a question and I said “look it up” or said I was annoyed with them, then the dialogue would not continue. This topic is important, and I hope others read this. I have nothing against you @MagnoliaE, even if you’re pissed with me. I just wanted to keep the conversation going so others would see this and be educated. :heart:
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While I can understand frustration, we need to make sure we are not instilling a fear in people to ask questions.

While some may feign an interest in the topic, we don’t know that someone is doing that for sure, and until they are evidently mean or dishonest, THEN we can get a bit pissed off about it. Not until it is obvious that someone is doing that should we become defensive and angry.

Asking questions is so important. Let’s not create shame around that.


Coming back to add another guideline:
3. If you’re going to use a name from another culture, please respect the gender for which it was originally intended. For example, you may think a male name from that language sounds feminine, but be aware that it can come across as rather ignorant and insensitive if you choose it for your daughter.

I’m surely not the only one who feels this way.
And, to be clear, I say this very sincerely as a friendly word of advice. :slight_smile:

Malachi, unlike [name_m]Cohen[/name_m], is an ordinary Old Testament first name, and has been used by Christians for centuries. As such, it’s not tied to any one culture and is appropriate for use in a secular context.