I am not Hebrew expert, but I have been interested in the Hebrew meaning of my name, Caleb. There are many places that say that Caleb translates as dog, but has the meaning of the loyalty of a dog.

From a tiny bit of Hebrew knowledge I have from a YouTube channel The Bible Project, they explain the Hebrew word 'lev' (לֵב) meaning heart (video). Some websites will say Caleb as more to the Hebrew pronunciation: Kalev.

I was curious if there was any connection between 'Kalev' and 'lev' within the Hebrew language or in the Bible. I don't know much about Hebrew as a language, but would definitely like to learn!

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5 Answers 5


I grew up in a bilingual English/Hebrew house and I think that wholehearted is the correct definition. It's also my son's name so I take the analysis seriously (maybe a bit too much, LOL). Caleb definitely does not mean dog in Hebrew, but when two words have the same root in Hebrew there is a connection. So the theory I understand is that Caleb has a second definition of having attributes like a dog.

In other words, people named Caleb have a name that means Whole-Hearted and have the characteristics of loyalty, boldness, friendship, etc., things that we associate with man's best friend.

P.S. - I understand that in the comments, Caleb is discussed as Whole-Hearted, but in reference to the comment: "Etymologically "whole-hearted" would be impossible since the name would have to be כֻּלֵּב Kulleb to have that meaning". The wrong vowel was called out and therefore the conclusion is inaccurate. In the quote above, there are three diagonal dots (a kibbutz) under the cuff (equivalent for "C"), which is not how Caleb, nor how Kol (whole/all) are spelled in Hebrew. Kol, meaning whole/all, is spelled with a cholam which is a dot in the upper left corner of the cuff for the "C" (כֹּל).

Caleb is spelled with a kamatz (looks like a partial plus sign), a different vowel, but gives the same sound when the words are put together (כָּלֵב). The correct pronunciation of heart in Hebrew is Kol (and heart is Laiv). Caleb is pronounced Kolaiv. So when spelled correctly and pronounced correctly, it's entirely possible (and likely) that Whole-Hearted is the correct definition.

Just arguing the vowel in the reference. I give full acknowledgment that in the conversation, people recognize the meaning as whole-hearted.

Side note: The Hebrew word for dog is pronounced Kelev, not Keleb. The Hebrew letter for "B" alternates between the b and v sounds depending on if there is a dot in the center or not. Kind of like how an h changes the s or c sounds in English.

  • I also named one of my sons 'Caleb', so I found this interesting. Thank you. I named him after the man Caleb, who was faithful and endured, not according to the meaning. But the meaning is interesting.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 30, 2020 at 4:40

In the Bible Caleb, the the son of Jephunneh, was from the tribe of Judah (Numbers 13:6). He was sent out by Moses (along with Joshua and other Israelites) to spy out the promised land. Although the Hebrew spelling of the name Caleb is similar to the spelling of the word “dog” it is not the same. I believe the Hebrew word for dog is ‘celeb’ and not Caleb. Caleb means faithful or wholehearted.

An alternate Hebrew meaning offered for Caleb is "faithful, devotion, whole hearted, bold, brave". This is on the basis of its being actually a compound word, a phenomenon quite common in ancient Hebrew. Col (כל, Kaf + Lamed) = "all" or "whole"; Lev (לב, Lamed + Bet) means "heart". Therefore, Caleb (or Calev as pronounced in Hebrew) would actually mean "whole hearted". This might be due to the Biblical Caleb, a companion of Moses and Joshua, being noted for his astute powers of observation and fearlessness in the face of overwhelming odds... Another plausible origin is a transposition of a name found in other ancient Semitic languages such as Phoenician and Ugaritic, meaning "servant of the Lord".[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caleb_(given_name)

1 Samuel 25:3 makes reference to a surly character called Nabal the Calebite, a descendant of Caleb. He was aptly named, because the man was also a fool, unlike Caleb who had faith in God’s promises and power. Both Caleb and Joshua were blessed by God because of their faith (Numbers 14:30, 38; 26:65). Caleb proved, by his actions, that he was “whole hearted” in his faithfulness to God.

  • The way Wikipedia cites the meaning "servant of the Lord" is a little misleading. The page brought as a source says that it might be a shortened form of "dog of the Lord" which figuratively means "servant of the Lord." In any case that would leave Caleb with the meaning "dog"
    – b a
    Commented Oct 24, 2018 at 14:46
  • @b a – I understand that the Hebrew word for dog is ‘celeb’ and not ‘caleb’ – I have edited my answer to make this clear.
    – Lesley
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 8:45
  • "Dog" seems more correct to me (I don't fully understand the etymology of the name, particularly the stress, but the word for dog, keleb, becomes kalb- in possessive forms). Etymologically "whole-hearted" would be impossible, since the name would have to be כֻּלֵּב Kulleb to have that meaning. I leave it to you to decide whether you prefer linguistic answers or symbolic ones
    – b a
    Commented Oct 25, 2018 at 9:26

The problem with the meaning "dog" is the Greek mindset or cultural way of thinking. That mindset likes to look for an absolute truth, a single answer for the definition of caleb.
But it's a Hebrew name, grown from a Hebrew mindset. That way of thinking is more like a collections of truths to reveal a whole truth.

Don't look for the English solid definition, look for the internal and original function of its definition if that makes sense.

A Hebrew would have thought the same way in those days. A dog is easily a servant, a very faithful loyal one at that, one that literally does everything with full heart in mind of the master. "Servant of the lord" especially being applied to one from the tribe of Judah would definitely be an acceptable answer.

  • Please review the edit, I tried to get the prose to be a little more organized. If it retains your meaning, good. If not, please revise to restore your intended meaning. Welcome to ChristianitySE. The tour and the help center are useful guides on how to get the most out of this site's format. Commented Aug 6, 2019 at 18:53

Caleb most probably means "After the heart" as in "after God's own heart" (1 Samuel 13:14) except it's probably meant in the sense that this child will be a man after the heart of his father (or mother)—an expected 'true son of the father.' The כ means "as; like; according to" as in "who is like God?" (mikael?) and לב means "heart." Seeing "dog" here is mysterious to me.


I also agree with the person that stated you can't read Hebrew with an absolute truth mindset. Hebrew is meant to be more interpretive. If you can draw a connection that's meaningful to you, it's valid. So if the words for Whole-hearted happen to sounds like the Hebrew pronunciation of Caleb, then it's valid. (There are technical connections with that definition that confirm it too, but that's beside this point). If the root word happens to be related to the root word for dog, as stated in my other comment, then you carry the positive characteristics that we associate with that, etc. So if you continue to look for meanings on your own, they will all be valid and mean something in the context of your life.

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