Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search


Shem, Ham and Japheth, by James Tissot, circa 1896-1902.

Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English Jafeth (as attested in Wycliffe's Bible), from Old English Iafeth (see e.g. Aelfric of Eynsham) and Middle French Japhet, both from Late Latin Iaphet, Iafeth, from Koine Greek Ἰάφεθ (Iápheth), from Hebrew יֶפֶת(yépheth). Further origin uncertain; folk etymology as well as rabbinical and patristic claims usually point to a meaning like "enlarged", in reference to Genesis 9:27, or "fair" (pale, in reference to complexion).


Proper noun[edit]


  1. (biblical) The third son of Noah, brother to Shem and Ham, who received a blessing from God with Shem, considered to be the ancestor of the Japhetic people(s) (associated approx. with Indo-Europeans).
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], OCLC 964384981, Genesis 9:18:
      And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham is the father of Canaan.
    • 1611, The Holy Bible, [] (King James Version), London: [] Robert Barker, [], OCLC 964384981, Genesis 9:27:
      God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
    • 1856, Sir John Stoddart, The student's handbook of ancient history: from the earliest records to the fall of the western empire, page 6:
      To the sons of Japheth; Spain, France, Greece, Germany, Asia Minor, Circassia, and Europe in general...Gomer: his numerous descendants spread themselves over a considerable part of Asia Minor, and the north of Europe.
    • 1897, Jonathan Perkins Weethee, The Eastern Question, in Its Various Phases: Egyptian, British, Russian, Ottoman, Hebrew, American, and Messianic, page 164:
      The name Japheth (Yahpheth) the extender, or fair, has also been given by one who knows the character from the beginning. Japheth's posterity was to be fair, and spread over the world. Two derivations are given to the name...
    • 2004, Charles Kannengiesser, Handbook of patristic exegesis: the Bible in ancient Christianity (→ISBN)
      The Septuagint (LXX) Greek was considered by the rabbis as the only language capable of serving as a translation of the Hebrew...In rabbinic interpretation, Japheth represented the Greeks, Shem the Hebrews.
    • 2010, Paul Robert Magocsi, A History of Ukraine: The Land and Its Peoples, Second Edition, University of Toronto Press (→ISBN), page 202:
      Now, in 1620, the Orthodox group took advantage of a visit by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophanes, who in October of that year [said] of the Cossacks: "We all know about the Cossacks, that these chivalrous men are of our race, are of our kin, and are true Orthodox Christians...They are the descendants of the glorious Rus', of the seed of Japheth who fought Byzantine Greece on land and on sea."
  2. (uncommon) A male given name from Hebrew of biblical origin.
    • 1957, The Saturday Evening Post Stories
      “If you are not ready, come with me to another beach,” Japheth said anxiously. “I said,” Jed Elliott said flatly, his teeth showing, “that I can take care of myself.” And the tone was too flat. “Would the americano fight?" Don Leon asked."
    • 2007, James Patrick Kelly, John Kessel, Rewired: The Post-Cyberpunk Anthology, Tachyon Publications (→ISBN), page 299:
      “I want to see the bear, Japheth,” said a young Crow. Japheth shook his head, said, “I'll take you to Willow Ridge and show you the black bears that live above the Green River when we get back home, Lowell."


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of Jafeth