Boys’ Name Joe Gets Its Own Holiday
In the news, former Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for President, having won recent primaries in states such as Illinois and Florida. Interestingly enough, despite the name’s centuries of commonality, the US is yet to have a President Joe.
Contributing to Joe’s ubiquitous flavor is the enduring popularity of the name and its most common full form, Joseph. Joseph has always been in the US Top 20, dipping to its lowest point ever at #23 in the most recent year counted, 2018. It’s the seventh most popular name of all time in the US. We all know somebody named Joe — probably more than one.
Joe combines the best of modern simplicity and ancient roots. Its parent name Joseph derives from the Hebrew Yosef via the Greek and Latin Ioseph, meaning “he will increase.” Joseph is featured in the Bible three times over, 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, the name holds no ties to a single religion, and is widely used through the Western World.
Joseph variations have long been popular in Italy and Spain, where the Italian Giuseppe (which can be shortened to Beppe) and the Spanish Jose, with the diminutive Pepito, will sound familiar to American ears. But other languages have their take on Joseph as well. Unique cultural variations of Joseph include the Dutch Joop, the Irish Seosamh, and the Maori Hohepa.
Feminine versions 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.
Joey of course is a common short form of Joseph and less often, Josephine. As unisex names rise in popularity, Joey could become a more appealing option on its own. Young actress Joey King is a notable bearer.
Famous Joes (and Josephs and Jos) include world rulers, athletes, and stars. Here, our favorite iconic Josephs, Joes, Josephines and Josies.
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