Tuesday, August 10, 2010

How to pronounce the names Elijah and Elisha

This must be one of the most important posts ever.

My name (Elijah) and my son's name (Elisha) are very similar in spelling and sound. This has been a point of confusion for a lot of people.

The names Elijah and Elisha are Jewish in origin. They were the names of two Old Testament prophets, Elijah being the mentor and Elisha his protege. So, you must realize, the names are pronounced much different by Americans today than they were by people speaking Ancient Hebrew around 700 BC.

Since the kids have come home, we've had people call both of us all kinds of names. And that's OK. I'm really not too picky about it. And, believe it or not, I'm not quite sure how to pronounce my name.

The pronunciation of Elijah has several variants:

and also
ee-LYE-zhuh ('zh' would be pronounced like 'Asia')

I tend to use the last one (uh-LYE-zhuh) when I'm lazy. From my reasearch, this is almost certainly incorrect, even though it's probably my choice how I want people to say my name. I'll try to be a little more disciplined and tighten it up to the pronunciation I prefer, either eh-LYE-zhuh or eh-LYE-juh. Hardly ever use the hard "ee" sound.
A lot of this applies to Elisha* as well (i.e., ee-LYE-shuh, ih-LYE-shuh, uh-LYE-shuh as variants). I'm shooting for eh-LYE-shuh.

All of this is, of course, not that important to either of us. We really don't care what you call us, just don't call us late for--you know the rest.
Off to my left, your right, you'll see a poll that asks which pronunciation you prefer to use when you're slaughtering the pronunciation of my name. I gave the options of the four pronunciations I hear most. If I don't have yours, pick the closest one to your version. Maybe it will help me to know which direction to go with this.

*Unfortunately, the name Elisha is now also being used as a girl name pronounced exactly like Alisha or Alicia (i.e., Alicia Keys). At our first visit to the doctor with Elisha resulted in being called out of the waiting room by "uh-LEASH-uh".


  1. Whenever I go through a check stand where there is a female with the name "Elisha" on their name tag I do a double take and think "Who would name their daughter eh-lye-shuh?" and then I realized that they were re-spelling Alicia, making it bad for all those with the REAL name Elisha. He'll probably be getting a lot of that unfortunately!!!

  2. i would just like to say that im so sorry u think it unfortunat that u have to semi share "your name" with women but please do remember that we dont chose our names that our parents do that for use I too was looking to learn if i could find a correct pronuciation of my name wich is spelt Elysha pronuciated {eh l ee sh ah} but i say it {ee lee sh ah} so in my eyes its "your name" you can do what you want with it lol even change it if your please

  3. Thanks for the post! My baby son is named Elijah, and although my husband and I pronounce his name eh-LYE-juh, it seems like most people tend to call him uh-LYE-zhuh... which got me wondering if WE were wrong. I'm glad to see that there are several variants and that as an adult named Elijah, you're okay with a couple of them!

  4. I just found this googling the pronunciation of Elijah. My baby son is Elijah and I prefer Eh-lye-zhuh as a pronounciation although with my Aussie accent it would sound like a-lie-zhuh to you! My mum uses the hard 'j' and I don't like it!

  5. "Unfortunately, the name Elisha is now also being used as a girl name pronounced exactly like Alisha or Alicia..." Really? Unfortunately?? I married the girl of my dreams 21 years ago, and her name is Elisha (ee-LEE-shuh or ill-EE-shuh, though she pronounces it LEE-shuh). Is every androgynous name unfortunate? See http://www.20000-names.com/androgynous_names_unisex_names.htm for over 700 of them...

  6. Sorry, man. The true definition of androgynous is a name that is spelled and pronounced the same regardless of gender. Even in the loosest grounds for definition, the pronunciation should be the same, even if spelled differently (i.e., Erin and Aaron).

    Your wife's name, while unique, likely borrowed it's spelling from a masculine name that's been around for several hundred years.

    It would be like you being named George (as in, King George) and then having friend ask you why your name isn't pronounced "jay-arr-jay" since they have a friend who recently named their daughter "George" and that's how they pronounce it. You would probably wonder if they hadn't heard of King George, George Harrison, George Michael, George of the Jungle, George Clooney and Curious George. Because the name is George and it isn't too much of a reach to think that people should know how to pronounce it.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, though.

  7. We pronounce Elijah as Ee-lye-zhuh, but a lot of people think we have named our son Elisha. I decided to get online to see how many people pronounce with a soft j. I'm glad we're not the only ones.

  8. We named our son Elijah and pronounce it Ih-lye-Zhuh or Uh-lye-zhuh.

  9. I was wondering if you pronounce Elijah as Eh-lye-juh, how do you pronounce the J? Like a Y as in Yale, or as the English J with the D sound as in June?

  10. Anonymous commenter,

    When I'm talking about "j" I mean in the English sense, like June. If I was gonna go with the j sound instead of zh when pronouncing my son's name it would be kind of like EE-LYE-DJUUH.

  11. My son is named Elijah. EeLIEzjuh. I tell people that the J is like Jacque not Jack. My father-in-law refuses to say my son's name properly and constantly tells my daughters how stupid we all are, because WE don't know how to pronounce his name. As his parents, my husband and I decided both the spelling and pronunciation of his name. We didn't ask for my father-in-law's opinion when we named him. Both pronunciations are accepted, but only one of them is OUR SON'S NAME.

  12. Anonymous comment from 8/24/13:

    Sounds like folks in your family need to lighten up a bit. Try not giving your FIL the satisfaction of your reaction. He'll stop.

    Three years and this post is still going strong.

  13. Most common Elijah pronunciation: uh-LYE-zhuh

    My niece just named her son Elisha, and I'm afraid it will be confused with the girl's name Alicia rather than being pronounced uh-LYE-shuh.

  14. I just got called out at church small group for reading E-lye-sha for Elisha! I thought Elisha was the next step for Elijah, so the names shared the sound, that's how I heard it one time, and I liked it. I still do !

  15. Elisha (male) and Elishua (female) is how we always understood the protocol, though there is no correct method, imo. I like your Elijah-Elisha father-son naming.

  16. We named our son Eliseo after his great-grandfather, which is Spanish for Elisha. Campos Eliseos is Spanish for Elysian Fields, which in French is Champs Elysee (sp).

  17. Any man would be lucky to marry a girl named Elisha. ��