Category: biblical baby names
Looking at names that were popular in the early days of the U.S. gives us a chance to reflect on how much we have changed and evolved over the last two centuries. We are clearly more multicultural as a society in terms of how many different countries, languages, ethnicities and cultural traditions we draw from in choosing names for our children.
Most of the common names in the early nineteenth century in this country came from the British tradition, and in fact, the lists of popular names would be almost identical for England and America. And yet names were chosen from some of the same sources as today: family histories, celebrities, religious traditions and popular entertainment. The lack of variety or originality of the name lists from this period belies the fact that names were chosen to denote respectability rather than the individuality valued today.
Our son’s name is Job. No, not “job,” as in a vocation. It is pronounced with a long “o,” and rhymes with robe. As in, the book of Job in the Bible, the story about a man who is visited with overwhelming trials. Yeah—that Job.
We started receiving pushback almost immediately. It started with friends and family. We both come from Christian homes, so the name Job is familiar to many in our circle. We were somewhat entertained by the emotional reactions; it was suggested that if we were to name our baby after someone who experienced so many trials, well, perhaps we were setting our kid up for hard times. And besides, the official meaning of Job is “persecuted” or “afflicted.” Surely we wouldn’t want to give our son a name with such a meaning!
Do you want to name your baby from the Bible but are put off by the popularity of Jacob or Abigail? Are you looking for a great name that no one else is using? Consider these 22 obscure yet usable choices. I eliminated a few favorites, such as the jubilant Jubal, in favor of names more likely to be new to many Berries.
Some things I learned: brothers Huz & Buz and Muppim & Huppim (not kidding!) testify that matchy sibsets are nothing new. Many Hebrew names, especially ones ending in -iah (signifying Jehovah), were unisex. It’s difficult to ascertain the meaning of many names, partly due to homophony (see the recent post.)
I hope you enjoy the list as much as I enjoyed compiling it!
Ashbel – this name, which comes with cool nickname Ash, belonged to a son of Benjamin. Ashbel Smith was an American medical student befriended by James Fenimore Cooper when they were in Paris in the 1830’s.
It seems that just about every few decades since the 1940’s, one Old Testament patriarch name has entered the popularity list’s Top 5, some lingering longer than others. From the forties through the early eighties it was David, joined by Joshua in 1983, Daniel for the single year 1985, Jacob ten years later– and holding first place for the past thirteen years– and Ethan (a more minor biblical figure) in 2002.
And now we have Noah, which entered the golden circle last year at Number 5.
Noah fits right into this group—like the earlier Joseph, and David, Jacob and Ethan, it’s a simple, modern-sounding two-syllable name with a strong first syllable and softer second. And like Joseph, David, Daniel, Joshua and Jacob, Noah comes with a dramatic narrative that’s well known to most children.
As every Sunday school alumnus knows, Noah was deemed the only righteous man of his time, singled out by God to survive the great flood sent to punish an evil world, and instructed to build an ark to save his family and all species of animals from the flood.