Rare Biblical Boy Names Are Booming

January 30, 2020 Emma Waterhouse
rare biblical boy names

Once the preserve of deeply religious parents, historically rare Bible names for boys are becoming an increasingly mainstream trend.

Just look at Noah, Elijah, Levi, Caleb and Asher: five contemporary Biblical favorites, all in the current US Top 50 for boys, none of which had ever ranked in the Top 100 before the 1990s.

And the same is true of the current #51: Isaiah, which was recently announced as the name of Christina Milian’s new baby boy, born earlier this month. He joins Silas Timberlake, Moses Martin, and Noah and Elias Bublé in the cool Biblical baby name Hall of Fame.

Bible Names for Boys: the stats

Recent research carried out by Christianity Today reveals that it’s not just our imaginations: previously obscure Biblical picks like Ezra and Elias — or even Obadiah and Ozias — really are getting more attention in today’s nonconformist society. Religious parents, and even some non-religious parents, are increasingly willing to look beyond the old Biblical stalwarts like James and John, Daniel and David, in search of overlooked gems to unearth.

The research reveals that rare Bible names for boys rose from just 0.5% of all names registered in the 1950s to 6.5% today. And uncommon Biblical names now account for 17% of all unusual boy names registered in the US — the highest proportion since records began.

Unusual Biblical Baby Names: the next wave

Clearly, these parents are onto something.

More than 2500 Biblical names were tracked in CT’s study, of which only around 800 had ever appeared on the SSA baby names list. That’s a huge mine of rare baby names potential, for religious parents — or simply lovers of unique, yet established, names — who are willing to think outside the Biblical box.

We can’t see Nebuchadnezzar or Mahershalalhashbaz gaining ground any time soon (sorry, Mr Ali), but we’ve taken a look at the names swimming just below the Top 1000, as well as those popular here on Nameberry, to highlight twenty of the coolest rare Biblical boy names right now.

Adlai: Sharing its dynamic ending sound with fashionable favorites like Kai and Levi, this ancient name has a decidedly modern flair.

Amias: All the strength and softness of Elias, with none of the popularity — and a lovely meaning to boot!

Azriel: The Biblical backstory may be dark (he’s the Angel of Death), but the zippy sound is bang on trend for a 2020 baby.

Benaiah: Lovers of Ben who find Benjamin too popular, and Benedict too papal, might like this overlooked option.

Boaz: Noah, only jazzier — and it comes with the super-cool nicknames Bo and Baz.

Eben: Long form Ebenezer might have a harder time shaking off its Scrooge-ish image, but Eben feels like a natural successor to the likes of Ethan and Evan.

Eliezer: Only 50 spots off in 2018, its energetic sound and cool-guy nickname Eli might just push Eliezer into the Top 1000 in 2019.

Esai: An obscure Spanish variant of Isaiah, with a cool and compact sound.

Ishmael: Moby Dick made this handsome Old Testament option also a literary baby name par excellence.

Jethro: A little bit hipster hillbilly, a little bit rock ’n’ roll, thanks to British 60s prog rock band Jethro Tull.

Joah: Considering its similarity to Biblical megastar Noah, it’s a wonder this strong and simple choice is still relatively unknown.

Lazarus: With weighty options like Atticus and Augustus back on the baby naming table, we think Lazarus (and its zippy Spanish variant Lazaro) is due a second look.

Noam: Another Noah soundalike we can’t believe isn’t more popular — especially considering the fame of its best known modern bearer, Noam Chomsky.

Obadiah: Nehemiah and Hezekiah were once considered too outlandish to use, but both are now well within the US Top 1000. Could Obadiah be next?

Omri: This Old Testament king’s name has an appealingly cool and calming sound — like a Biblical Bodhi.

Ozias: A funky route to fun nicknames Ozzy or Oz!

Phineas: One of the Top 200 most searched boy names on Nameberry, Phineas is a stylish choice with starbaby cred, via Julia Roberts’ son Phinnaeus.

Simeon: Simon meets Gideon, but Simeon is far rarer than either — ranking just below the Top 1000 in 2018.

Urijah: Uriel and Uriah are both in the Top 600 for boys, but this Elijah soundalike remains relatively undiscovered.

Zephaniah: A bold and breezy Biblical choice with literary links, too: Benjamin Zephaniah is a contemporary British poet, playwright and novelist.

Which are your favorite rare Biblical names for boys? Can you see any of these becoming the next Noah or Ezra? Let us know!

About the author

Emma Waterhouse

Emma Waterhouse — better known as @katinka around these parts — joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from where to find a cool vintage boy name to why some names become popular memes. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active Forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks six languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and three young children. You can reach her at

View all of Emma Waterhouse's articles


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