late Old English, from Old French Ebreu, from Latin Hebraeus, from Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic (Semitic) 'ebhrai, corresponding to Hebrew 'ibhri "an Israelite." Traditionally from an ancestral name Eber, but probably literally "one from the other side," perhaps in reference to the River Euphrates, or perhaps simply signifying "immigrant;" from 'ebher "region on the other or opposite side." The initial H- was restored in English from 16c. As a noun from c. 1200, "the Hebrew language;" late 14c. in reference to persons, originally "a biblical Jew, Israelite."
updated on October 10, 2017