Kephas/Petros: Peter’s original name was Simon (next on this list), but the disciple was renamed – or more accurately, given the additional name Kephas or Peter by Jesus (John 1:42). The Aramaic name Kephas and the Greek name Petros both mean “stone” or “rock.” Interestingly, Jesus told Simon, “You will be called Peter” (emphasis added), and the gospels show that Jesus continued to call him Simon with only one exception. The name Peter seems to have been widely used of the disciple only after the establishment of the early Church.
Shimon: The name of Simon (both Simon Peter and Simon the Zealot) was the Hebrew name Shimon meaning “He has heard.” In Jewish culture the one who had heard was understood to be God, and this name was often given when a child was conceived as a result of prayer - though Shimon became a popular Jewish name, without reference to its original meaning.
Yakov: The disciple we call James was named Yakov after the patriarch we call Jacob. The meaning of the name is “heel” or “he who supplants,” and although this might seem somewhat negative, the name was extremely popular due to it being the name of the famous grandson of Abraham.
Yochanan: The name John that we read in the gospels is an English approximation of the Aramaic or Hebrew name Yochanan which means “Yahweh is gracious.”
Bar-Talmai : Bartholomew’s name was actually a fusion of Aramaic and Greek. He was called Bar-Talmai in Aramaic which means “the son of Talmai” (Talmia being an Aramaic form of the famous Greek name “Ptolemy”). The disciple is also called Nathanael in the Gospel of John because his full name in Aramaic was probably Natanel Bar Talmai – Nathanael son of Talmai. The name Natanel meant “God has given.”
Mattityahu: The tax-collector turned disciple we know as Matthew is called Matthaios in the gosples – which was a Greek form of the Hebrew name Mattityahu meaning “gift of Yahweh,” from the roots mattan meaning "gift" and yah “God.” This is yet another Hebrew name, like Shimon and Yochanan, that acknowledged the gift of children to God. Mattiyahu was also called Levi after the founder of the Israelite tribe of that name.
Tau’ma or Ta’om: This was the name of Thomas – an Aramaic name that means “twin.” In the gospels, the disciple is also called Didymus which is the Greek name with the same meaning. Early traditions state that the disciple’s full name was Judas Thomas.
Theudas: The name of the disciple called Thaddeus in the gospels was a variant of Theudas – a Greek version of the name Judas. The fourth-century scholar Jerome called Thaddeus “Trinomious,” meaning “the man with three names,” because in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark the apostle is listed as Thaddeus, in some versions of Matthew 10:3 he is called “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus,” and Luke replaces the name Thaddeus with “Judas son of James.” The apostle John also calls Thaddaeus “Judas (not Iscariot)” (John 14:22).
Andraus : Also a Greek name, Andraus was the disciple we call Andrew. The New Testament does not mention any Hebrew or Aramaic name for this disciple so he was probably from a region of Palestine in which Greek was widely spoken. The Greek name means “manly” or “masculine.”
Philipos: This was yet another Greek name. Although it meant “friend of horses,” it was given to many male children in honor of the great Macedonian king Philip, father of Alexander the Great. Clues in the gospels suggest that it is likely that Andrew and Philip were Grecian Jews.
Yehudah : The name of the disciple Judas was actually the name Yehudah, normally translated into English as Judah. Ironically, in the case of the betrayer of Christ, the name means “praised,” but it was a very common name in first century Palestine given in honor of the patriarch Judah, founder of the tribe of the same name. The name Iscariot sometimes given to the disciple Judas was not a last name but means “of Kerioth,” a town in Judah.
Knowing the meanings of the individual disciples’ names sometimes helps us understand what is said in the New Testament, and the Greek names that were used of many of the twelve help us understand the importance of the Greek language in the time of Jesus and why the New Testament writings were preserved in Greek.