Ishmael \i-sh-mael\ as a boy's name is pronounced EES-mah-el. It is of Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Ishmael is "God listens". Biblical: the son of Abraham by Sarah's Egyptian slave woman Hagar. Among his descendants were Bedouin tribes and Muhammad (seventh century), founder of Islam. Literary: because Ishmael was cast out to wander in the desert, the name is often used symbolically, as in Herman Melville's novel "Moby Dick". Ismael is the Spanish form; Ismail is Arabic.