Category: baby name Joseph
What makes a name a true classic?
Very few names have been in constant use, and those few evergreen choices differ across cultures and languages.
A definition is elusive. A classic should be universally recognized and long established. It should possess either a measure of elegance or another distinguishing characteristic. But classic isn’t a black and white line. In baby name discussions, classic sometimes translates as “a name I like.”
Are Adelaide and Charlotte as classic as Mary? How do Walter and Jeremy compare to William and James? How about names like Samantha or Brooke – seldom heard before the twentieth century, but now solidly established? How many years does it take to make a classic, bearing in mind that classic rock is sometimes as young as five decades old.
There were dozens of stories in the baby name news last week, but they all shared a common theme: the Social Security Administration’s release of the 2012 baby name data
We talked about Titan and Briggs, Landry and Geraldine. About how Jacob remained number one, but only if you didn’t tally up the many spellings of Aiden, Jackson, and Jayden. Television’s influence was clear – Arya and Aria, Litzy, Major, and Jase. Movies, sports, and music shaped our choices, too, as did faith. Nevaeh’s little brother might just be called Messiah.
But what about the quiet classics, the names that rise and fall, but still appear in nearly every generation? Hemlines change. We graduated from the party line to the iPhone, the horse to the Prius. And yet these names remain, worn by men and women, boys and girls of every age.
And why not? Joe is one of the friendliest, most down-to-earth, and (in our opinion) most appealing names around.
I suppose I’m speaking for myself (it’s Pam), rather than taking an Official Nameberry Position. I come from a long line of Joes – my father and grandfather were both named Joe – and I named my son Joe too, partly in honor of them but mostly because I love the name.
Despite the sophistication of many of the name tastes on Nameberry, and many of my personal name tastes as well, I see Joe as combining the best of modern simplicity and ancient roots. The modern Joseph derives from the Hebrew Yosef and the Greek and Latin Ioseph, meaning “he will increase.”
The name Joseph appears in both the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament Joseph was the eleventh and favorite son of Jacob, exiled by his jealous brothers to Egypt, where he became an advisor to the pharaoh.The best-known New Testament Joseph was, of course, the carpenter husband of the Virgin Mary, but Joseph of Arimathea was a wealthy disciple who had Jesus buried in his own tomb.In the Middle Ages, the name Joseph was used mostly by Jews, though as the veneration of St. Joseph increased, his name increasingly became used by Christians.
Today, Joseph is used through the Western World. Familiar variations include the Italian Giuseppe (which can be shortened to Beppe) and the Spanish Jose, with the diminutive Pepito. But there’s also the Dutch Joop, the Irish Seosamh, and the Maori Hohepa.
Feminine variations include the lovely Josephine and the more obscure Josepha and Josette. While Joanna and Joanne have often been used to honor ancestral Josephs, and can be shortened to Jo, they actually derive from John.
Joseph has always been in the US Top 20, dipping to its lowest point ever at #20 in the most recent year counted, 2010. It’s the seventh most popular name of all time in the US.
Famous Joes (and Josephs and Jos) include world rulers, athletes, and stars. Here, our favorite iconic Josephs, Joes, Josephines and Josies.
Most people, name aficionados and ordinary citizens alike, have favorite names. My own favorites are often the subject of professional curiosity, with interviewers asking what my favorite names are and why.
But the whys are more complicated.
I decided I loved the name Eliza after a college friend whose taste I admired proclaimed Eliza her favorite name. She knew a gorgeous girl named Eliza, and felt it combined the best of vintage charm and modern quirkiness.
I agreed, but what’s really remarkable about my love for Eliza is how long and how much it’s survived. In the decades since it became my favorite, I’ve named three children (none of them, alas, Eliza, as my husband dislikes the name) and coauthored ten baby-naming books, along with developing this site. I’ve talked to thousands of parents about their name tastes, and developed more sophisticated tastes of my own.
And yet my love for Eliza survives. It still feels to me like a perfectly balanced name, with its alternating vowels and consonants, its melange of hard and soft sounds with a streamlined minimum of letters. I love the way it calls up the images of both a Jane Austen heroine and a Broadway dancer, with the plucky Eliza Doolittle in between. It’s become more popular in recent years — thanks partly, I know, to how energetically we’ve championed it — and I feel a pang of jealousy whenever I meet a little Eliza. And yet it hasn’t become over-exposed and probably never will.
The reasons I love Joseph are very different. It was my dear dad’s name, and my grandfather’s name, and I got to use it for my own older son. I love the simple good-guy nickname Joe. Down-to-earth, straightforward names for boys appeal to a deep-seated preference of mine, undoubtedly rooted in my love for my dad.