Biblical Names: From The Baby Name Bible

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:

ETHAN
NOAH
NATHAN
GABRIEL
ELIJAH
CALEB
ISAAC
ISAIAH
JEREMIAH
JOSIAH
MICAH
ELI
LEVI
EMMANUEL
MALACHI
JONAH
ABRAHAM
ASHER
EZEKIEL

But since there are so few biblical names on the girls’ list, we offer some possibilities to consider to replenish the supply:

ADAH
ADINA
ATARAH
DINAH
EVE
JAEL
JEMIMA
JERUSHA
KETURAH
KEZIAH
MARA
MICHAL
NAAMAH
SARAI
SHUA
TAMAR
ZIBIAH
ZILLAH

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13 Responses to “Biblical Names: From The Baby Name Bible”

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AzhiaShalott Says:

February 16th, 2009 at 3:10 am

A personal favourite for the girls’ list: Tirzah.

Jill Says:

February 16th, 2009 at 7:13 am

I’m relieved that my two favorite Biblical names, Ezra and Gideon, aren’t becoming more popular. Phew! 🙂

Abby Says:

February 16th, 2009 at 8:45 am

Jill, I love Ezra and Gideon! But we’re done having kids, so never fear. 😉

Levi is great, too, though I will always think blue jeans before Bible.

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

February 16th, 2009 at 9:14 am

One of the things that makes this group so interesting to me is that they appeal to such a wide spectrum of parents. It makes for a name that defies categorization.

A new (old) favorite of mine is Tzipora, the given name of Tzipi Livni, who may become Israel’s first female Prime Minister. Ezra and Gideon are super cool too. 🙂

~Elisabeth
http://youcantcallitit.com

Lola Says:

February 16th, 2009 at 11:26 am

Raphael (not mentioned) Jemima & Dinah are the only three up there I’d use. But Keziah’s my Confirmation name!
Caleb & Abraham are two other masculine favorites from the list but the popular Biblical girls today hold no charm for me at all. Lovely to see the list of alternates for the gils, so many lovely ones there! Why is Esther not on the list? Or her predecesor, Vashti? both would stand out quite nicely today while still retaining their Biblical link.

AzhiaShalott Says:

February 16th, 2009 at 8:00 pm

Oh yes, I love “Tzipora” too. Growing up, I had a friend with that name, although she spelt it Zipporah.

Jill Says:

February 17th, 2009 at 12:10 am

Abby, I completely agree with you about associating Levi primarily with blue jeans. Regarding Tzipi (which is a cute name), Golda Meir was actually the first female Prime Minister of Israel, elected in 1969.

Anyway, random thought here, but I’m really beginning to like Eve, in both its sound and simplicity.

Emmy Jo Says:

February 17th, 2009 at 4:49 am

I like biblical names. My favorites for boys are Gideon and Caleb, and I’m sad to see Caleb is becoming so popular. For girls, favorites are Susannah, Miriam, and Eve.

It’s funny you and Abby both chose to focus on biblical names today. My blog post today was on “Names that are Unexpectedly Biblical” — the ones you might not expect to find in the Bible that are there (like Jason, Alexander, and Chloe).

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

February 18th, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Woops! Thanks, Jill. Forgot about Golda Meir. And wouldn’t Golda be lovely to see on a young one these days?

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March 9th, 2010 at 8:13 am

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Cable tv on pc Says:

September 2nd, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Makes this group so interesting to me is that they appeal to such a wide spectrum of parents.

Kyri Laina Says:

February 23rd, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I found that Kyrie (KEE-ree-ay) is a unisex name meaning “the Lord.”

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