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19 Biblical Girl Names You Should Consider

Mara, Jemima and Dinah

By Linda Rosenkrantz

Have you noticed that even ancient names from the Bible go in and out of style?

These days, Old Testament boy names dominate the popularity list, with Noah, Jacob and Benjamin in the Top 10, as well as Archangel Michael, but with only Abigail on the girl side.

This was not true in the recent past, when names like Sarah, Rachel, Rebecca, Leah and Hannah were high on the list; now Hannah is the sole survivor in the Top 50. There are, however, others showing definite signs of revival, such as Naomi at Number 77, Delilah at 116, Esther at 203, Ruth 293, and Miriam 294, with Deborah and Judith further down, still hindered by their midcentury nicknames of Debby and Judy.

But there are viable girl names in the Old Testament beyond this constricted circle and here are some of the best.

Abijah is the unisex name of several biblical characters and an alternate route to the nickname Abbie; a variant is Abiah.

Adah, pronounced AH-da, has the distinction of being the first female name in Genesis after Eve, and is a complex character in Barbara Kinsolver’s The Poisonwood Bible.

Ashira—This name of a daughter of Ephraim has the nice musical meaning “I will sing.”

Atara(h)-This attractive name of a descendent of Judah might sound a bit too video gamesque.

Athalia—A pretty name of a queen consort of Judah, Athalia is the title of a Handel oratorio.

BathshebaIn Hebrew the hyphenated BatSheva—was the beautiful wife of David and mother of King Solomon. Bathsheba Everdene is the heroine of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd and the exotic name also appears in Harry Potter and Silverwing. The interesting French version is Bethsabee.

DinahWe’ve always considered this a wonderful but overlooked name, which made only brief appearances on the pop charts in the 1940s to 60s (heyday of singers Dinah Washington and Shore), but completely off since 1967. The story of the biblical only daughter of Leah and Jacob is the basis of the bestselling Anita Diamant novel, The Red Tent.

JemimaA great name that is finally escaping centuries of stereotyping in the US, the OT Jemima was the strong and beautiful first-born daughter of Job following his period of suffering.  Though Jemima hasn’t been on the US charts since 1893, it is currently 200th on Nameberry and 211 in England.

JerushaA strong name with a Slavic feel, Jerusha in the Bible is the mother of King Jotham of Judah. Jerusha Hess is the contemporary director of the film Austenland.

KeturahAbraham’s second wife after the death of Sarah (with a much more distinctive name), she was the mother of six sons (“of courage and sagacious mind”).

Kezia(h)—A spice name via its meaning of “cassia, cinnamon” and currently chic in France (#464), this is the name of the second of Job’s daughters.

MaraThe modern-sounding name chosen for herself by Naomi when she returned, devastated, to Bethlehem after the death of her husband and two sons–hence the meaning of “bitter.” It currently ranks at Number 739 in the US after entering the list in 1950, is 339 on Nameberry, 32 in Portugal and 68 in Spain. Mara is also a sci-fi character fave.

NoaRare in the US (it just entered the Top 1000 last year), Noa has been a top name in Israel for more than a decade, despite the possible confusion with the unrelated Noah. Noa could serve as a feminist icon: because of her and her biblical sisters, a law was established among the Israelites allowing daughters of a man without sons to inherit their father’s land.

Sarai (sar-EYE) was the original name of Sarah in the OT and now sounds somewhat fresher.  On the US Top 1000 since 1987, it sits currently at Number 440.

TamarThere are three biblical bearers of this name, one of them a daughter of David and sister of Absalom praised for her “fair countenance.”  A strong, handsome choice, Tamar is sometimes given to girls born on the holiday of Sukkoth, and is mega popular in Israel.

TirzahA Hebrew name with the delightful meaning, “She is my delight.” She was one of Noa’s sisters who appealed to Moses for female hereditary rights. Tirzah figures in the William Blake poem To Tirzah and is the name of the hero’s sister in Ben-Hur.

VashtiQueen Vashti is the first wife of the Persian king in the Book of Esther, read on the Jewish holiday of Purim. Viewed as strong and independent she has become something of a feminist icon. In fiction the Persian name Vashti has been used by E.M. Forster, Charlotte Bronte and Toni Morrison.

Yael/Jael is the courageous woman who helped free the Israelites from years of Canaanite oppression.  A. S. Byatt wrote a short story related to the biblical character. The Yael spelling has long been popular in Israel—it was Number 4 for Jewish girls there in 2014.

Zipporah/Tzipporah– The zippy name of the wife of Moses, its meaning is “bird.” (For cosmetics lovers, the Greek variant of the name is Sephora.)

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9 Responses to “19 Biblical Girl Names You Should Consider”

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Readingclaygirl Says:

August 23rd, 2016 at 8:10 am

Mara is a cute name.

LoveBugsMama Says:

August 23rd, 2016 at 11:43 am

I’ve always really liked Keziah. It doesn’t quite fit with the rest of my names though. I also like Mara, Tirzah, Noah and Lael.

littlepenelope Says:

August 23rd, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Miriam is a favorite of mine.

I also ADORE Jemima, but I worry so much that it would be racially insensitive in the States.

maggiemary Says:

August 23rd, 2016 at 2:48 pm

I love Jemima, Keziah and Adah.

Cpwallawalla Says:

August 23rd, 2016 at 3:33 pm

I like Vashti, but it is too different from my other kids’ names to consider.

gjkp2010 Says:

August 23rd, 2016 at 7:58 pm

I know a Vasthi, a Kezia, and a Noa.

marythefourth Says:

August 24th, 2016 at 11:28 pm

The article says Hannah is the only “traditional” name in the top 50 but Leah was ranked 36 in 2015. Otherwise great article, some great unique names.

Lemonkyda Says:

August 25th, 2016 at 3:57 pm

i love the name Zipphorra is strong but beautiful

charlesokuku Says:

December 11th, 2016 at 6:59 am

Jemima is my favorite. You can also take a look at the name Kojo http://www.suggestbabynames.com/meaning_of_african_boyname_kojo.html

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