What Was Oprah Winfrey’s Intended Name?

"Orpah" was the intended spelling of Oprah Winfrey's name, but it was misspelled on her birth certificate. Born in Mississippi in 1954, the media magnate's intended name was the name of the sister-in-law of the Biblical Ruth.

More about Oprah Winfrey:

  • Oprah's first talk show debuted in 1984, and went national in 1986.
  • Oprah has acted in 16 films, including The Color Purple, Before Women Had Wings, and Beloved.
  • "The Oprah Bill" was signed in 1993 by President Clinton after Oprah testified before a US Senate Judiciary Committee to establish a database of convicted child abusers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What was Oprah Winfrey's intended name at birth?

According to the article on Public People, Oprah Winfrey's intended name at birth was "Orpah," after the biblical figure from the Book of Ruth. However, due to difficulties in pronunciation and spelling, her name was recorded as "Oprah" on her birth certificate, and the name stuck. This serendipitous error gave her a unique and now iconic name.

How did the mispronunciation of Oprah's intended name affect her life and career?

The mispronunciation of Oprah Winfrey's intended name led to her having a distinctive and memorable name, which arguably contributed to her brand identity. A unique name like "Oprah" stands out in the entertainment industry and can aid in recognition and marketability, which may have played a role in her becoming a global media icon.

Are there any other notable figures who have had similar experiences with their names?

Yes, there are other notable figures who have had unique or altered names that contributed to their public persona. For example, the singer Rihanna was born Robyn Rihanna Fenty but is known professionally by her middle name. Similarly, the actor Joaquin Phoenix was born Joaquín Bottom but changed his last name along with his family when he was young. These name changes or selections often become a significant part of their celebrity identity.

What is the significance of the name "Orpah" from the Bible?

In the Bible, Orpah is a Moabite woman mentioned in the Book of Ruth. She was the daughter-in-law of Naomi and initially set out to follow Naomi back to Bethlehem but ultimately chose to return to her own people. The name "Orpah" signifies turning one's back, as she turned back to Moab, contrasting with Ruth, who stayed with Naomi. This biblical reference carries themes of decision and loyalty.

Has Oprah Winfrey ever spoken about her name and its impact on her life?

Oprah Winfrey has indeed spoken about her name on various occasions. She has acknowledged the uniqueness of her name and how it has become a significant part of her identity. In interviews, she has sometimes joked about the mix-up at her birth and has expressed that she believes there's no coincidence in the universe, suggesting that her name was meant to be as it is for her path in life.

More Info: LA Times

Discussion Comments


According to Ruth 1:1-5, a Jewish couple named Elimelech and Naomi left Israel to go live in the land of Moab. There Elimelech died and his two sons Malhon and Kilion married two Moabite women.The name of one of the women was Orpah and the name of the other was Ruth. Now the QUIZ: In the English language, what is the relationship between the two wives?

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