What the names Jesus, Mary, and Joseph mean

What is the importance of one’s name? For Jews during the time of Jesus, names we very important and were believed to alter the trajectory of a person’s life. Here are the meaning behind Mary, Joseph and Jesus.

1. Origins


In Hebrew, Yeshua is short for the name Jehoshua. It is one of the so-called theophoric names, in other words, it contains the name of God. The name is composed of two words. The first part of the name: “Jeho” comes from Yahweh, and the second “shua” is derived from the verb save. Thus, the name Jesus literally means “Yahweh is salvation” or “Yahweh saves.” 

This is indeed the meaning of the name Jesus indicated in the Gospels. The angel told Joseph that Mary would give birth to a son “and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sin” (Matthew 1:21). 


There are many hypotheses about the meaning of the name Mary. A very convincing one speaks about the Egyptian-Jewish origin of the name. It was given to girls who were born to elderly parents. This name has two parts, the Egyptian “Mar” means beloved/loving and the Jewish abbreviation for “ja” from the name Yahweh, meaning “loving God” or “beloved by God.” 


Joseph, or the Hebrew Yosef, is a biblical name. It has the word God in its meaning: it is composed of Jo (shortened from Jeho, Yahweh “God”) and the verb jasaf “to appropriate.” Thus, it means “may God multiply—thoughtfully—the good.” 

Genesis’ story of Joseph in Egypt is also related to Joseph, Mary’s spouse. Doctors of the Church and popes have said that precisely Joseph of Egypt is Joseph of Nazareth’s prototype. Joseph of Nazareth is the guardian of God the Father’s most precious treasures: Jesus and His mother. 

2. The importance of a name

In Jewish tradition, a name is very important. It is supposed to express a person’s special traits, and even his or her mission in life. Bestowing a name is treated like a prayer that the one who bears that name will fulfill the message contained in it. 

3. Today

Do I know the meaning of my name? Do I know why I was given this name? What qualities in my name would I like to fulfill in my life? 

Today, I will ask Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to help me live beautifully and according to the Gospel. 

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