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.
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:
But since there are so few biblical names on the girls’ list, we offer some possibilities to consider to replenish the supply:
Last week our guest blogger Elisabeth Wilborn offered a great yuletide menu of names that was both inclusive and imaginative, covering all the bases from religious to seasonal to spiritual. At the risk of being accused of overkill, I thought I’d offer a few quirkier ideas, which are tied less directly to the holiday.
One of them is to look at some first and last names that have appeared in classic Christmas movies, ranging from the vintage It’s a Wonderful Life to the more recent Elf. Some examples:
BAILEY ……..It’s a Wonderful Life
CLARENCE ..It’s a Wonderful Life
GEORGE ……It’s a Wonderful Life
VIOLET ……..It’s a Wonderful Life
ZUZU ………..It’s a Wonderful Life
Another possibility, even more of a stretch, could be various shades of the Christmas colors, red and green:
Oh, and what about Santa‘s reindeer’s names? Where did those funky names come from? It seems that the Night Before Christmas poet Clement C. Moore gave a lot of thought to his choices, picking names that imply speed, grace, power, and strength. We wouldn’t recommend Donner or Blitzen or Prancer. Comet, Cupid, Vixen–barely possible. A little more conceivable: Dasher and Dancer.