Celebrity Names Blog

Natalie Portman DID Name Her Baby Aleph! (Plus Our Take on the Spelling)

Natalie Portman DID Name Her Baby Aleph! (Plus Our Take on the Spelling)
Fame Pictures

Natalie Portman's baby name has been confirmed to PEOPLE. The actress and her partner, Benjamin Millepied, have chosen Aleph.

Sound familiar? Thanks to an anonymous tip in our comments, we reported the name last month! (Only we weren't sure, and we spelled it Alef).

The scoop is this. Portman, to protect her family's privacy, did not choose to announce her baby's name right away to the press. Her relatives were a different story. In mid-June, a cousin in Israel blabbed the name to a reporter, who revealed it on the Israeli TV show "Good Evening with Guy Pines." Israel's top newspaper Israel Ha Yom picked up the story, and that's where we first read it. 

Some of us were pretty sure it was the real name. These were reputable media venues, after all. Some of us thought it was a rumor, or a mistranslation, or a joke. Some thought it was a "pregnancy name" -- a handle like "Baby O" meant as a placeholder for the real name. On You Can't Call It It, Elisabeth Wilborn hoped that "A" would turn out to be short for Arthur, the name of Natalie's grandfather.

But the rumor was true. Natalie Portman named her baby Aleph, the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. While a first in our database, it's not exactly a "weird" name. By using the spelling Aleph, rather than Alef (both are correct), Portman brings out the relationship to names like Stephen and Joseph. In fact, Aleph could be a portmanteau of two super-star names, Alex and Joseph. Even the letter thing isn't all that weird: we use English alphabet letters as names (think "Jay" and "Kay" or even initial names like CJ or GG).

As for the meaning of Aleph? Besides designating the letter, Aleph has mystical associations. Aleph also has a movie appearance: in Bee Season, based on the book by Myla Goldberg, the young heroine Eliza plucks a speck of light off her cheek and watches it morph on her finger into the letter aleph. 

It's also our understanding that Aleph, which is not usually given as a name, might offer a modern update of Jewish naming practices. We've heard of contemporary Jewish babies who are getting updated versions of their relatives' names. Natalie's father is Avner (although under Jewish custom babies are not named for living relatives), and her grandfather is Arthur. Did she choose Aleph as a contemporary way to honor a relative with an "A" name?

We think it's an interesting choice, rich with possible references. What do you think of Natalie Portman's baby name, Aleph?

--L.R.

Comments

Please do not add links to your comments. Thank you.

July 6, 2011 5:48 PM
By Patti (not verified)

Do you think it's pronounced with a long A or a short a?

Thanks.

July 6, 2011 6:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I'm not sure what to think of Aleph. It's similar to Alpha, which is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and has a history of usage in English.

July 6, 2011 8:30 PM
By Becca (not verified)

@Patti

The "A" is pronounced like the first syllable in "father." So (roughly)
Ah-lef.

July 6, 2011 10:35 PM
By Sebalek (not verified)

It sounds a bit like "olive" to me, but it's an interesting choice.

July 6, 2011 11:28 PM
By Zoe (not verified)

Anonymous, the Hebrew and Greek alphabets are very similar. The first four letters of the Hebrew alphabet are Aleph, Bet, Gimmel and Daled for instance, while in Greek it's Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta.

Personally I wish she had chosen an established Hebrew or Israeli name. Israelis I know think this choice is ridiculous. While there are English names that are letters like Jay and Kay, they have different etymological backgrounds. There are so many great Hebrew and Israeli names out there!

July 7, 2011 2:14 AM
By Hannah (not verified)

I don't hate it as much as, say, Moroccan, but it's still kind of disappointing. I was hoping Natalie Portman would pick Arthur, too. Something quirky and cool that needs a revival.

July 7, 2011 4:40 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks Becca.

July 7, 2011 4:41 AM
By Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks Becca.

July 7, 2011 2:16 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

I can't help thinking of "Alf" when I see this name, reminds me of that show when I was a kid. Aleph seems kind of ridiculous to me... I too thought she would pick something quirky and cool, but instead it seems like a standard wacky-celeb choice. A disappointment for sure.

July 8, 2011 3:05 PM
By draiad (not verified)

As an Israeli, I have to say, this name sounds pretty ridiculous. It may work for name trends here in the US, but for anyone from Israel or who speaks Hebrew, it's just plain weird.

No less than other "strange" celebrity names like Apple, Zuma or Pilot Inspektor.

July 11, 2011 7:17 AM
By Kate (not verified)

Unexciting - that's about my only reaction to that name. Aesthetically I think Alef looks nicer than Aleph; the -ph at the end is clunky.

July 12, 2011 12:20 PM
By Miriam (not verified)

"...under Jewish custom babies are not named for living relatives..."

This is the custom only for Ashkenazic Jews (of which Ms. Portman is one). Sephardic Jews name after living relatives.ess

July 12, 2011 6:38 PM
By Faye (not verified)

If it's pronounced like the letter, it's Ah-lef.

September 15, 2011 7:57 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

From Wikipedia:

ʾĀlep is the reconstructed name of the first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, continued in descended Semitic alphabets as Phoenician Aleph , Syriac 'Ālaph ܐ, Hebrew Aleph א, and Arabic ʾAlif ا.

September 15, 2011 7:59 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

From Wikipedia:

ʾĀlep is the reconstructed name of the first letter of the Proto-Canaanite alphabet, continued in descended Semitic alphabets as Phoenician Aleph , Syriac 'Ālaph ܐ, Hebrew Aleph א, and Arabic ʾAlif ا.

February 6, 2018 12:29 PM
By Anonymous (not verified)

This is such a weird name

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