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Category: biblical baby names

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Our star intern Hannah Tenison wanders through some New England graveyards and makes some fascinating discoveries of some great historic baby names.

I recently moved to the Hartford, Connecticut area for the summer, and one of my favorite things about this state is its long history, because it yields so many fantastic antique baby names!  The area is not only beautiful, with green rolling hills and lush forests, but chock-ful of historical, peaceful cemeteries, as well.  As many a name nerd knows, cemeteries are ripe with fresh possibilities, and the older they are, the more likely one is to find truly rare names.

With this in mind, I set out to comb the best cemeteries in my neighborhood for the most unique and undiscovered gems. In my quest, I noticed some strong preferences for virtue, occupational, and Biblical names, as well as names referencing ancient historians or philosophers. For girls, anything long and feminine was game, and the “l” sound was particularly popular. For boys, parents seemed fond of either distinguished sounding appellations ending in the fusty “us,” or jaunty, oh-so-cute names with prominent “o” sounds.

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Most of us are familiar with the names of at least a few angels—after all, archangels Michael and Gabriel and to a lesser extent Raphael, have had widespread and long-lasting popularity over the years.

But there is a profusion of other angelic creatures whose names are not as well known.  Thought of as messengers of light, angels are seen as reflecting God’s radiance.  There are Biblical angels, seraphim and cherubs, and guardian angels who oversee various days, months, Zodiac signs, natural elements and virtues.  There are angels in Persian and other Eastern religions and mythologies, and angels in works of fiction.

Then of course there is the whole family of straightforward Angel names–Angela, Angelica, Angelo, et al, that mean ‘angel’ or ‘messenger’; Evangeline, whose meaning,  ’good messenger’ relates to angel, and Seraphina, which is derived from the word seraphim.

Here, from various sources are 25 angel names worth considering:

  1. Abraxos – ancient name attributed to an angel
  2. Arael – angel of birds
  3. Cael –an angel ruling over the Zodiac sign of Cancer
  4. Calliel — a throne angel invoked to bring prompt help over adversity
  5. Charoum – angel of silence
  6. Dabria – one of five angels who transcribed the books that the Hebrew prophet Ezra dictated
  7. Dara – angel of rains and rivers in Persian mythology
  8. Dina – guardian angel of learning and wisdom
  9. Ezriel—an angel’s name discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  10. Hariel –  the archangel who rules over December, the dawn and Capricorn; also the angel of tame animals and ruler of science and the arts
  11. Irin – the name of twin angels who constitute the supreme judgment of the heavenly court
  12. Janiel – angel ruling Tuesday and the east wind
  13. Javan – the guardian angel of Greece
  14.  Kemuel – chief of the seraphim who stands at the window of heaven
  15. Laila, Lailah, Layla –the angel of conception who oversees and protects childbirth
  16. Nabu – a recording angel in heaven
  17. Nitika – Native American name meaning angel of precious stones
  18. Rabia – one of the ten angels accompanying the sun on its daily course
  19. Rachiel – angel who rules Venus and governs sexuality
  20. Raziel – an archangel who guards the secrets of the universe, the angel of mysteries
  21. Sarea – another of the five angels who transcribed the books the prophet Ezra dictated
  22. Tariel—the angel of summer
  23. Uriel – angel of the month of September, of those born under the signs of Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn; an angel of creativity
  24. Yael/Jael – a cherub who attends the throne of God
  25. Zaniel – angel who rules Mondays and the sign of Libra

Do you have a favorite angel name of your own?

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Christmas Names: Beyond Nicholas and Noel

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By Elisabeth Wilborn

Christmas seems to arrive sooner every year. Once again, I am running frantically to cross things off the list, get the baking done, trim the tree (first we have to get that tree…), and find the ever elusive Christmas stockings before it’s too late. Some may have bigger –or smaller– things on their minds this season. An impending birth, perhaps? If your new child shares a birthday with the most famous baby in the world, you may be tempted to incorporate the season somehow into their name. There’s a lot more to holiday baby naming than Nicholas and Noel. Here are a few ideas that might help broaden the list:

Names related to the Holy Family and the birth of Jesus:

Balthasar, Balthazar- One of the Magi

Casper, Gaspard, Jasper- While he doesn’t appear in the Bible, this is also said to be the name (here in several versions) of one of the three wise men

Christian, Christine, Christina, Christopher, Christabel (girl) and Cristobal (boy) – Followers of Christ

 Emmanuel for a boy, or Emmanuelle, for a girl

Epiphany- For the celebration just following that commemorates the visit of the Magi

Estelle, Estella, Esther, Seren, Stella- All have meaning related to “star”

Eve- For the night before

Jesus

Joseph, Josepha, Josephine (also cognates Giuseppe and Jozef)

Yeshua- Other versions of the name Jesus

Maria, Mary- The mother. Miriam is also etymologically linked to this name

Melchior- The third king to visit Jesus

Natalia, Natalie- Derived from natal which means “birth”, Natale is the Italian word for Christmas; Natasha is an Eastern European nickname for Natalia

North- After the guiding North Star?

Theodore/a, Dorothea, Dorothy- “Gift of God”

Virginia- There are any number of names that represent the Virgin Mary. Plus you can say to her, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Names connoting light:

Claire

Clara- Also the little girl in the Nutcracker, who in some versions is referred to as Mary or Maria; her brother is Fritz

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A Dozen Neglected Biblical Boys’ Names

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In the most recent list of Most Popular Boys ‘ Names, all five of the top five names came from the Good Book, accounting for well over 100,000 of the boy babies born in the US.  Obviously, many parents–whether for religious reasons or not–continue to be attracted to names with this strong traditional base.  But why, we ask, be limited to the same relatively small group of biblical choices, when there are loads of other more unusual options out there?  Why not Joab or Joah instead of Noah?  Beniah rather than Benjamin?  Jemuel in place of Samuel?

Many of these now obscure names were quite commonly used by the Puritan Colonists, especially in New England, until the middle of the 19th century when Old Testament names fell out of favor.  Most of the names listed below are hardly heard today, with only one of them–Asa–even appearing in the current Top 1000, but they are all possible alternatives to those standards that are given to thousands of babies each year.

ABIJAH — The name of Samuel‘s second son would make a perfect substitute for the Top 25 Elijah.

ABSALOM — A literary as well as biblical name, used by Chaucer (for the jolly clerk in The Miller‘s Tale, Dryden, Faulkner–and currently as a comic book character.

ADLAI –  Associated with with several generations of the Stevenson family, which produced a Vice-President and a UN representative named Adlai, it can be pronounced either ad-LAY or as-LYE.

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Biblical Names: From The Baby Name Bible

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When we finally finished researching and writing our encyclopedic name book, the day came when we had to decide what to call it. (The working title of Big Baby Name Book just wasn’t going to cut it.)

This turned out to be almost as laborious a task as writing the book. Dozens and dozens of lists of possibilities were emailed back and forth. Our book editor and even our agent entered the fray, offering their own suggestions. (We actually chronicled this painful process in an article we wrote for Publishers Weekly magazine, called Naming the Name Book.) We finally settled on The Baby Name Bible because, well, we hoped people would make it their baby naming bible.

It never entered our minds that some people would take it literally as a book of biblical names. But on our earlier, smaller website, before nameberry was born–babynamebible.com– many visitors did come to search solely for Old and New Testament names. And of course they found them, but a lot more besides.

Biblical names have a long history in this country. They came to colonial America with the early Puritans, who scrutinized the Good Book for names of righteous figures, believing that such names could shape the character of their offspring, and often using extreme examples, like Zelophehad and Zerubbabel. Over the centuries and decades since then, there has been a steady stream of biblical names: individual Old Testament examples, in particular, have drifted in and out of fashion, for both boys and girls.

Looking back at the more recent past. we see that boys’ names have been more consistent: Joseph has been in the Top 25 for the last century, usually accompanied by David and Daniel, and later Joshua, Jonathan, and Adam. Archangel Michael was in first place from the mid-fifties to the late nineties, and now Jacob has been on top since 1999. This past year has seen a record high for Old Testament boys’ names in modern times, with 10 of the Top 25.

Biblical girls’ names have not been as popular as the boys’–possibly because there are fewer of them. Ruth was the sole representative in the first several decades of the 20th century, until Deborah arrived in 1949. After that, the triumvirate of Sarah, Rachel and Rebecca remained in the Top 25 from the seventies until very recently, and the last big success stories were Hannah, which entered the Top 25 in 1993, and Abigail in 1997.

It’s still pretty much a boys’ story when it comes to OT names, with parents now reaching out for some of the less familiar: Nehemiah, Judah, Zachariah. Here are the ones that are currently growing in popularity:

ETHAN
NOAH
NATHAN
GABRIEL
ELIJAH
CALEB
ISAAC
ISAIAH
JEREMIAH
JOSIAH
MICAH
ELI
LEVI
EMMANUEL
MALACHI
JONAH
ABRAHAM
ASHER
EZEKIEL

But since there are so few biblical names on the girls’ list, we offer some possibilities to consider to replenish the supply:

ADAH
ADINA
ATARAH
DINAH
EVE
JAEL
JEMIMA
JERUSHA
KETURAH
KEZIAH
MARA
MICHAL
NAAMAH
SARAI
SHUA
TAMAR
ZIBIAH
ZILLAH

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