Caleb Means Dog

Recently, a commenter claimed that “Caleb means the faithful, obedient and fearless man of God.”

His definition reminded me of BabyNames.com’s definition for Caleb, “Rage Like A Dog.”

Both are wrong. Caleb has nothing to do with faithfulness, obedience, fearlessness or rage. It’s based on the Hebrew word kelev, meaning “dog.”

That’s it. Just “dog.”

caleb means dog

People like to interpret “dog” in various ways, though. Some see dogs and faithful and obedient companions. Others see them as smelly, flea-ridden beasties. Caleb is a biblical name, and yet biblical references to dogs are usually negative:

Dogs in the Bible are always vile (Proverbs 26:11), aggressive (Jeremiah 15:3), worthless (1 Samuel 17:43), or worthy of distrust (Psalm 59:6).

Plus there’s Deuteronomy 23:18, in which the word “dog” is commonly taken to mean “male prostitute.”

I understand why people (and websites) try to put a positive spin on name definitions. Names seem a lot cooler when they have nice definitions, right? But made-up definitions are just that — made-up.

Like it or not, Caleb means “dog.”

Source: Uittenbogaard, Arie. “Meaning and etymology of the Hebrew name Caleb.”


One thought on “Caleb Means Dog

  1. The intro to The Complete Book of Muslim & Parsi Names by Maneka Gandhi talks about how the entry for each name is divided into 3 categories: actual meaning, contrued meaning, and history/mythology. Here’s the example they use:

    The actual meaning (1) of Kalb is ‘dog’. This is construed (2) to mean ‘loyal’ or ‘faithful’. He was (3) the ancestor of an Arab tribe, his full name being Kalb bin Wabarah.

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