Zoe is one of those surprising names that has been on the Top 1000 nearly every year since 1880, but it's just recently been zooming toward the top. Now at Number 33, one of its highest points ever, Zoe still sounds distinctive despite its popularity. And Zoey ranks even higher.
The history of the name begins in the third century when the Alexandrian Jews translated Eve, which means 'life,' to the Greek equivalent Zoe. Zoe was in use as far back as the Roman classical period, and was popular with the early Christians, who bestowed it with hopes of eternal life, but it didn't migrate to the English-speaking world until the mid-nineteenth century.
Zoe Washbourne was a strong warrior in the sci-fi show Firefly, Zoe Hart the leading female character on Hart of Dixie, Zoe Barnes a journalist on House of Cards, and kids might recognize Zoe from Sesame Street.
Zoe is currently hot around the world, standing in the Top 100 in countries from Scotland to Spain, France to New Zealand .
Zoe has spawned a number of variant spellings, most successful of which is the phonetic Zoey, embraced by TV scripters--she has been seen on the Nickelodeon show Zoey 101, The West Wing and How I Met Your Mother. Zoie has also been adopted by enough parents to bring it into the Top 1000.
Wide-eyed actress Zooey Deschanel, whose first name is pronounced the same as Zoe, was named after Zooey Glass, the male protagonist of the J. D. Salinger novella Franny and Zooey.