Great Names from the New Testament

When we talk about the strong popularity of biblical names these days, what we’re really talking about are Old Testament names.  Looking at the popularity list, we see Jacob at #1, followed by Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, David, Joseph, Noah, Nathan, Samuel and Benjamin, while for girls, Hannah and Sarah are still in the Top 20.

Sure, thousands of babies each year are still named John and Thomas and Elizabeth, but these are seen as very conservative choices, often given to honor a family member.  And then there’s poor Mary.  We’ve been known to say to parents if you want a really unusual name, how about Mary?–the most widely used female name in the English-speaking world for centuries  has long been in steep decline.  The statistics are pretty dramatic: in 1925, more than 70,000 baby girls were christened Mary, in 1950 there were still over 65,000, while by last year the number had shrunk to less than 4,000.  Similar story with John: 57,000+ in 1950 to just over 4,000 in 2007.  Why?  For one thing, their massive long-term popularity robbed them of any individuality, and for another, so many of today’s parents carry around elderly images of a Great-Uncle Jim or a Grandma Betty that they don’t seem fitting for a baby.

But there are other New Testament names besides the old standards.  Rather than being strictly Hebrew names, as those in the New Testament, these have Greek, Roman and Aramaic elements, giving them quite a different flavor.  So, moving beyond Mary, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, here are a few possibilities:

GIRLS

DAMARIS

DRUSILLA

JUNIA

MAGDALA (place name)

MAGDALEN

PERSIS

PHOEBE

PRISCILLA

SAPPHIRA

TABITHA

And for boys:

BARNABUS

BARTHOLOMEW

CLEMENT

CRISPUS

ELIAS

GAIUS

JUSTUS

MATTHIAS

THADDEUS

ZACHARIUS

ZEBEDEE

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3 Responses to “Great Names from the New Testament”

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Lola Says:

October 26th, 2008 at 9:15 pm

Funny you mentioned Jim & Betty, the two nicknames I still don’t mind hearing (they’re older than I am, generally Liz’s are my age). Although if James & Elisabeth were mine, they’d be Jamie & Bess. 🙂

I like a lot of the odder biblical names, Zebedee, in particular, is on my favorites list (and was considered as a middle name possibility until “Magic Roundabout” crossed the pond in movie form) Zebedee’s legit and so fun to say!

The only one I can’t see coming back at any point in the near future is Drusilla. She reminds me of Cinderella’s stepsister 1: Drizella (whom I’ve always thought should be just as legit as Anastasia, hence the Drucilla link in my head). Then again, Dru as a nickname could help it come back, maybe. Persis has always intrigued me.

I dig the -us enders on boys, for the most part. They feel so strong and handsome to me. As a non Catholic, I try to stay away from overly Biblical, unless there’s a family link somewhere. (For ex: Balthazar was my G. Grandpa). But I’d love to see some of the underused NT names on actual kids, how exciting that would be!

realpraise Says:

February 3rd, 2009 at 9:46 am

I searched Zacharius and came up with nothing. What did you men with that?

linda Says:

February 3rd, 2009 at 11:19 am

Sorry–it should have been spelled Zacharias.

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