late Old English, from Old French Ebreu, from Latin Hebraeus, from Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic 'ebhrai, corresponding to Hebrew 'ibhri "an Israelite," literally "one from the other side," in reference to the River Euphrates, or perhaps simply signifying "immigrant;" from 'ebher "region on the other or opposite side." The noun is c.1200, "the Hebrew language;" late 14c. of persons, originally "a biblical Jew, Israelite."
a name applied to the Israelites in Scripture only by one who is a foreigner (Gen. 39:14, 17; 41:12, etc.), or by the Israelites when they speak of themselves to foreigners (40:15; Ex. 1:19), or when spoken of an contrasted with other peoples (Gen. 43:32; Ex. 1:3, 7, 15; Deut. 15:12). In the New Testament there is the same contrast between Hebrews and foreigners (Acts 6:1; Phil. 3:5). Derivation. (1.) The name is derived, according to some, from Eber (Gen. 10:24), the ancestor of Abraham. The Hebrews are "sons of Eber" (10:21). (2.) Others trace the name of a Hebrew root-word signifying "to pass over," and hence regard it as meaning "the man who passed over," viz., the Euphrates; or to the Hebrew word meaning "the region" or "country beyond," viz., the land of Chaldea. This latter view is preferred. It is the more probable origin of the designation given to Abraham coming among the Canaanites as a man from beyond the Euphrates (Gen. 14:13). (3.) A third derivation of the word has been suggested, viz., that it is from the Hebrew word _'abhar_, "to pass over," whence _'ebher_, in the sense of a "sojourner" or "passer through" as distinct from a "settler" in the land, and thus applies to the condition of Abraham (Heb. 11:13).