The Name Alma – An Egyptian Language Connection

Featured Image is a painting by Jerry Thompson depicting Alma teaching the people of Ammonihah. Image taken from the Media Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The name Alma has been a little bit of a challenge for those who only use the Hebrew language to validate Book of Mormon words. The reason is because the dictionary answer to the meaning of Alma is Young Woman or Virgin. But when you consider the Egyptian tie, it makes much more sense. And why shouldn’t we look to the Egyptian tie?

1 Nephi 1:2 – Yea, I make a record in the language of my father, which consists of the learning of the Jews and the language of the Egyptians.

Mosiah 1:4 – For it were not possible that our father, Lehi, could have remembered all these things, to have taught them to his children, except it were for the help of these plates; for he having been taught in the language of the Egyptians therefore he could read these engravings (the Brass Plates)….

Mormon 9:32 – And now, behold, we have written this record according to our knowledge, in the characters which are called among us the reformed Egyptian, being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech.


Since I was young I have heard the complaint that the name Alma is a female name and that this is a criticism of the Book of Mormon. In fact, as I was studying the Book of Isaiah, I read that the word for virgin used in Isaiah 7:14 is ha-alma.

Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

יד  לָכֵן יִתֵּן אֲדֹנָי הוּא, לָכֶם–אוֹת:  הִנֵּה הָעַלְמָה, הָרָה וְיֹלֶדֶת בֵּן, וְקָרָאת שְׁמוֹ, עִמָּנוּ אֵל.

Matthew 1

22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,

23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Some translate the word HaAlma to simply mean young woman. Others translated it to virgin. Below is a photograph from the book Understanding Isaiah written by Donald W. Parry, Jay A. Parry, and Tina M. Peterson.

From Understanding Isaiah – Parry, Parry, Peterson.

Nevertheless, this is confusing for the Book of Mormon reader who does not want the hear that their Book of Mormon hero had the name of “Young Girl” or “Virgin”. So I looked the name up in the Egyptian dictionary.

Al means “Rock”. Me or Ma means “Truth and Justice”. Who would have known that Alma shared a name closer to “Petros” or Peter. The Rock of Truth and Justice. See the dictionary entries below. The entry for Truth and Justice is written using Coptic.

AL – Stone
ME – Truth, Justice.
Screenshot from E.W. Crum – A Coptic Dictionary