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Itai (ee-tai) is a Hebrew Biblical name, and also a Shona name. The name can also be written: Ittai, Etay, Itay, Ytai, Etai, Itaj, or Eatai.

The Hebrew name

Itai (Hebrew: איתי‎) is a Biblical name that appears in the Books of Samuel (see below) and a very common name for men in Israel. In recent years Itai has become one of the most common names for boys in that country. Sometimes, in order to strengthen the connection to the Land of Israel of a baby who was converted to Judaism, or to bless a Jewish person who has become very ill, it is considered acceptable to change his name to Itai. This name is often explained as an acronym of "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning" (Psalms, 137:5)- "אם אשכחך ירושלים, תשכח ימיני" ("Im Eshkakhekh Yerushalaiym Tishkakh Yemini") or "Land of Israel, Torah of Israel"- "ארץ ישראל, תורת ישראל" ("Eretz YIsrael, Torat YIsrael"). The name translates loosely as "friendly."[1]

In the Bible

Itai is the name of two Biblical chracters: Itai HaGiti (Itai of Gath) and Itai Ben Rivi.

Itai HaGiti

Itai haGiti was one of King David's army Generals. He was not Jewish, but rather a Philistine (plishti - an ancient people that lived in the land of Israel) from the city of Gath, next to Ashkelon. When David flees from Absolom, he tells Itai that it is wiser not to follow him, but Itai chooses to go with David and his household anyway.

Itai Ben Rivi

The Shona name

Itai is a Shona name, pronounced ("ee-ta-i"). It is usually a boy's name depending on the actual spelling used. For boys it is usually spelt "Itai" and for girls it is spelt 'Itayi". There is not much general difference in the two but a slight heaviness in the female version to emphasise the "y". But in the popular teenage culture of Zimbabwe this slight difference is often ignored.

The word itself loosely translates to "will" or "do as you/we please". Exact meaning is subjective, positive or negative. The First, positive, meaning is that of a proud person/family with free will. The second, negative, meaning is that of a persecuted person/family surrendering their will to their persecutor. Whether the first or the second meaning is implied is usually dictated by a person's family background. Those born into good fortune usually bear the positive whilst those born into poverty usually bear the negative.

Itai is the title for the leader of Afe Annang, the leader of the governing coucil of Annang people of the old Calabar Kingdom of Nigeria.


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