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Category: biblical baby names

Biblical Baby Names: Why Noah now?

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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.

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Four-Syllable Names: A whole lotta name

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Maybe it has something to do with Harry Potter attuning our ears to long Latinate names like Bartemius and Xenophilius—after that, suddenly the four syllables of Tiberius and Cornelius or Persephone no longer seem too weighty for a modern little babe.

After all, Isabella is the Number 2 girl’s name– and other four-syllable names like Penelope, Amelia, Cecilia, Seraphina and Valentina are standing right in line to join her. So clearly, many parents today are looking for just such substantial names, just as others are seeking them out to balance a short, brisk surname.

Here are our Nameberry Picks of the 20 + freshest four-syllable choices on the table. (But do note that variations in pronunciation and/or speedy speech can sometimes elide four syllables into three.)

GIRLS

Araminta—a delicate and lovely name long used in England and just now making a limited debut in the US. Refreshing nicknames: Minta and Minty.

Calliope—an upbeat, energetic name combining an ancient Greek heritage—Calliope is the mythological muse of epic poetry–with the cheerful musical sound of the carousel instrument.

Dorothea and Theodora are reverse mirror images of each other, both meaning ‘gift of God’ and both newly stylish, both more feminine versions of  rising three-syllable names—Dorothy and Theodore.

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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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