The Best Boys’ Names: 10 great biblical choices

Our new book, The Nameberry Guide to the Best Baby Names for Boys, selects the 600 very best choices from the 20,000 boys’ names on Nameberry.

We wanted to pick the top choices from a wide range of different types of names – classics and new inventions, adventurous and conservative – to help parents zero in on the best of the best.

Today we spotlight ten biblical names included in The Nameberry Guide to the Best Baby Names for Boys.

Abraham

Abraham was the first of the Old Testament patriarchs and is considered the founding father of the Jewish people. He was originally named Abram, until, according to Genesis, he was told, “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.”

In the nineteenth century, President Lincoln hung a beard on the name, which kept it from reaching the mass modern popularity of other biblical names like Benjamin and Samuel.

Now that names like Ezekiel and Isaiah are making a comeback, more parents are thinking about a Baby Abie, or—even better—a Baby Bram, to the point where Abraham now ranks at Number 194. And it does, of course, have the noble namesake of Honest Abe to recommend it.

Asher

Asher—an excellent, soft and sensitive Old Testament choice—is definitely on the rise, climbing almost one hundred places in the last five years, and a Nameberry biblical favorite. Asher’s ascent is especially amazing given that it took a hundred-year hiatus from the Top 1000, from the 1890s until reappearing in the 1990s. And now Asher is close to breaking into the Top 100.

In the Bible, Asher was one of Jacob’s twelve sons who gave their names to the tribes of Israel.

Oh—and another plus for Asher: the handsome diminutive Ash.

Ezra

Ezra has a lot going for it: the strength of its heroic biblical legacy, its quirky sound, and its fresh but familiar feel. Ezra is currently growing in popularity with parents seeking a less popular biblical name—it is now at Number 184—its highest ever.

According to the Bible, Ezra led a group of fifteen hundred Israelites out of slavery in Babylon and back to Jerusalem. There is also the poetry connection to Ezra Pound—in addition to young Washington Post blogger Ezra Klein. Ezra Cornell was a founder of Western Union and co-founder of the university that bears his name and Ezra Jack Keats is a popular children’s book author-illustrator.

And let’s not forget the band—Better Than Ezra—or rising actor Ezra Miller.

Gideon

Gideon is an unjustly neglected Old Testament name—which has just recently started to climb—is an excellent choice for parents looking to move beyond such overused biblicals as Benjamin and Jacob. In the Old Testament, Gideon was a judge called on by God to rescue the Jews from the Midianites, and the name was popular among the Puritans.

Among the celebs who have chosen Gideon for their sons are Neil Patrick Harris and Ziggy Marley.

Isaiah

Isaiah, like brethren Isaac and Elijah, is a once neglected biblical name now firmly back in favor, already surpassing such long-popular Old Testament stalwarts as Aaron and Adam.

The biblical Isaiah, son of Amos, was the most important of the major prophets, with an Old Testament book named for him.

Isaiah has been a star player on the contemporary athletic field, with several prominent basketball and football player namesakes, in addition to a memorable character on Little House on the Prairie, and Grey’s Anatomy actor Isaiah Washington.

Lazarus

Lazarus is a name that looks as if it could possibly be raised from the dead, just like its biblical bearer. Look for it in the next wave of Old Testament revivals that transcend their long-bearded images, the way Noah, Moses, and Abraham have for this generation.

In the Bible, there are two people named Lazarus, the better known being the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany whom Jesus raised from the dead. There have been also several saints named Lazarus.

Related options are the original Hebrew Eleazar, the Italian and Spanish Lazaro, and the Yiddish form Lazer/Laser, the name of the son in the film The Kids are All Right.

Levi

Levi, lighter and more energetic than most biblical names, with its up vowel ending, combines Old Testament gravitas with the casual flair associated with Levi Strauss jeans.

Now being rediscovered in a major way—Levi has shot up to Number 55, its highest yet—especially after receiving a lot of attention as the sons of Matthew McConaughey, Sheryl Crow and Sara Gilbert—and as Bristol Palin’s former beau, Levi Johnston.

In the Old Testament, Levi was the third son of Leah and Jacob, from whom the priestly tribe of Levites descended; in the New Testament, Levi was Matthew’s given name before he became an apostle. In the Thomas Hardy novel Far from the Madding Crowd, Levi Everdene is the father of the heroine. Levon is a related name.

Nathaniel

Although Nathan is more popular, the more dignified Nathaniel is firmly in the Top 100 and has been since the 1980s. Despite the profusion of Nat names around, Nathaniel remains singularly appealing and distinctive, with several attractive nicknames—Nat, Natty and Nate. Parents finding it overused might opt for New Testament Apostle Nathaniel’s other name, Bartholomew.

A boy named Nathaniel would have any number of real life and literary namesakes to inspire him. These include Revolutionary General Nathanael Greene, rebel slave Nat Turner, writers Nathaniel Hawthorne and Nathanael (born Nathan) West, lithographer Nathaniel Currier, partner of Ives, and singer/pianist NatKingCole.

Samson

With the prevailing popularity of Samuel, some parents are considering this more (literally) powerful biblical name, which shares the desirable nickname of Sam.

Samson was, of course, the supernaturally strong champion of the Israelites against the Philistines who was betrayed by Delilah, as dramatized in more than one Technicolor epic. But the more it is used for children today, the more the name is able to move away from that image.

Silas

Silas, once a folksy-sounding, rural New Testament name associated with George Eliot’s Silas Marner, is definitely beginning to be reevaluated, à la similar flavored Caleb and Linus, and becoming a hot Nameberry fave.boys-shadow

Silas is based on Sylvanus, the Roman god of trees and was originally bestowed on people who lived in wooded areas or who worked with wood.

In 2009 alone, Silas shot up more than 50 places, then 12 more in 2012, indicating that it is a rising New Testament name.

St. Silas was a leading member of the early Christian community who accompanied Paul on his second missionary journey.

Get your copy of The Nameberry Guide to the Best Baby Names for Boys, available now in both ebook and print versions.

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31 Responses to “The Best Boys’ Names: 10 great biblical choices”

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pinkbunnies Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 12:46 am

Wow, this is a fantastic list! If I could only choose names off of this list for future baby boys, I would be perfectly happy! It is interesting how quickly these biblical names have shot up in popularity recently. I love that people are using these classic and strong names with such rich histories, although it makes me a little nervous too (as someone who has always had Ezra and Silas at the top of my list!)

freya55 Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 3:46 am

I love the name Lazarus but i feel like its a very bold choice at the moment. Maybe in afew years it will feel a bit more accessible, but for now i don’t think i’m brave enough. I love the nickname Lazer! But i did post about Lazarus on the boy’s forum and a fewpeople said it made them think of corpses! Not a great association, haha!

I also like Nathaniel, but i think its really nn Nate that i like.

Mischa Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 8:36 am

Not one bad name on this Biblical list. I’ve always thought that the Bible had some of the best name choices around and this list only confirms that belief.

Lo Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 9:04 am

I love Biblical names. My favorite from this list is Silas followed by Nathaniel and Ezra. The only one I don’t care for is Abraham.

spotlightstarlit Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 9:07 am

I would have sons Gideon & Lazarus in a heartbeat!

jtucker Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 9:22 am

Some great names on this list! I really like Silas, Gideon, Levi, and Lazarus. Other Biblical names for boys that I really like are – Isaac, David, and Joel.

handsallover Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 9:31 am

I agree with Mischa, every single Biblical name is intriguing and great sounding. I am pleasantly surprised to see Nathaniel in the top 10 here, it’s a long love of mine and I have yet to meet only one bearer.
Other Biblical names not mentioned here that I love are Noah, James, David, Jared, Joel, Elijah and Matthew.

rebekah83 Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 9:40 am

Okay, I”m sounding like a broken record here, but what about Job? I know, I know, I’m biased–that is going to be my son’s name–but it really is a sorely overlooked name. It can’t be the “meaning” since Madison means son of Maude and it’s wildly popular, just for one quick example. 🙂

Also, I really like Titus, Isaac, and Jude.

EmilyVA Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:15 am

Job looks exactly the word job as in “get a job”.
It’s not one of my favorite biblical choices. The story of Job is not my favorite at all.
I like biblical names, but sometimes the story ruins the name for me.
For example, I used to like Jemima, but then I found she was one of Lot’s daughters, which I hadn’t remember even though I read that part. I don’t like Lot and his story so that kind of ruined the association.
I do like this list. I think it’s good sampling of the rising names that are not as common.
Silas, Isaiah, Lazarus and I think Samson seem very religious, while Asher and Ezra just seem cool.
My favorite name from a religious point of view is Peter, but I think it’s too common for the list. I also like James, Andrew, Jacob, Noah, Joseph, Luke, and Mark, all of which are very common.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:19 am

I prefer Abe over Bram as a nickname for Abraham. Bram reminds me of the 1970s Brandon, Brendan, Brennan, Brannon set.

Moses is another I hope to see return. It has a good nickname: Mo

In addition to Lazarus, Eleazar, and Ezekiel, here are other undiscovered ‘z’ biblicals: Boaz, Jabez, Zephaniah.

I hope Peter comes back. Maybe the Catholic community will rediscover it. It seems to be in the same family as Leo, Dominic, and Xavier.

Isaac has great nicknames; Ike, Zack

Other obscure biblicals I hope to see: Obadiah, Barnabas, Linus, Simon

I’ve noticed that hispanics tend to use off-beat, obscure, or underused biblicals. They often are way ahead of the curve. I find this fascinating in that they tend to be Catholic, but maybe there’s a growing Pentecostal or Evangelical influence: Jairus, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Moises (Moses), Abraham. I wish I could think of the others I’ve seen.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:22 am

LuMary Says:
October 3rd, 2013 at 10:19 am

“In addition to Lazarus, Eleazar, and Ezekiel, here are other undiscovered ‘z’ biblicals: Boaz, Jabez, Zephaniah.”

Oops, forgot Ezra and Ebenezer.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:38 am

handsallover Says:
October 3rd, 2013 at 9:31 am

“Other Biblical names not mentioned here that I love are Noah, James, David, Jared, Joel, Elijah and Matthew.”

And Jared comes with a great nickname: Jed

rebekah83 Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:39 am

FYI, Job would only be pronounced “I got a job” the first time, before it could easily be corrected. There are plenty of popular names today that were like that at the beginning. It’s 3 letters–not that hard. 🙂

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:46 am

EmilyVA Says:
October 3rd, 2013 at 10:15 am

“For example, I used to like Jemima, but then I found she was one of Lot’s daughters, which I hadn’t remember even though I read that part. I don’t like Lot and his story so that kind of ruined the association”

As a sidebar, she’s actually one of Job’s daughters, and a result of God’s blessing Job at the end of the book of Job. Keziah and Keren-happuch are his other two daughters resulting from God’s blessing. It’s actually a positive association, so feel free to like Jemima(h) again. 🙂

rebekah83 Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:58 am

Thanks, LuMary. I thought that was Job’s daughter! And yes, the positive association of Job’s name is what is often sorely overlooked. He had a happy ending—which is more than can be said for say, Jonah, a fairy popular name of today.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 11:07 am

LuMary Says:
October 3rd, 2013 at 10:19 am

“I hope Peter comes back. Maybe the Catholic community will rediscover it. It seems to be in the same family as Leo, Dominic, and Xavier.”

I knew I forgot a name: Francis. Leo, Dominic, Xavier, and Francis.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 11:28 am

Micah is another name I’d like to see move beyond the evangelical community, but my only reservation is that it can be used for girls, too.

Lo Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 12:01 pm

EmilyVA- I love your list of favorites it included some of my own boys’ names. I have a Mark, a James, and if this baby is a boy he’ll be Andrew. I also have a Paul.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 12:39 pm

I knew a woman who had a Micaiah, an obscure biblical.

Would also like to see Reuben, Simeon, Ephraim, Hezekiah, Habakkuk, Solomon, Amos, Adoniram, Abiel return.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 1:00 pm

I also know of a little Judah. Abel is a nice underused biblical, too, as is Israel, Jude, Lemuel and Malachi (Mac).

Jonah and Noah would make a great set of twins.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Oh, and Ishmael. Call me Ishmael.

Sorry for all the bits and pieces, but I’ll be working on something, and other names come to mind. This is how it’s been since I was a little girl.

VegasCountryQueen Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I love Malachi and Jeremiah for boys. I love the Biblical-ness of them. Of the ones on this list, I especially like Ezra and Silas. 🙂

VegasCountryQueen Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Oooh, I forgot Isaac.

LuMary Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 3:16 pm

And let’s not forget rising star, Asa.

Shelbi Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 3:48 pm

My little brother (born in 2008) is named Silas–and I also know several little Levi’s and Gideon’s. All the names on this list are great. 🙂

Pam Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 8:14 pm

There are lots of these other excellent biblical names in the Best Boys’ Names book. It was hard to choose ten for the blog!

KateMP91 Says:

October 3rd, 2013 at 10:29 pm

Michael <3 is the best biblical name, imo 🙂

I also really love Moses nn Mo for a girl…but I am probably the only one here! lol

VegasCountryQueen Says:

October 4th, 2013 at 11:12 am

Oh, yeah… I really like Asa nickname Ace. <3

petalpusher Says:

October 4th, 2013 at 4:21 pm

My husband is Nathaniel(Nate), my son is Benjamin, and if my daughter would have been a boy he would have been Silas! I also love Abraham and Ezekiel(Zeke) but don’t know if I’d be brave enough to actually use them.

medimus Says:

October 6th, 2013 at 11:17 am

You could never name a child Lazarus here. Because of the association with coming back to life after sleeping or seeming dead, it means really really drunk. One of the societies at my university is called lazarus and their sole aim is to go out and get as drunk as possible, as often as possible.
Naming a child that would be awful.

jjayx Says:

October 10th, 2013 at 7:15 am

Whilst we’re not a religious family, my mum named my brother Daniel, with inspiration coming from the biblical ‘Daniel the Lion Tamer’ story. I love this list and I’d consider all of the options, my favourites being Levi and Nathaniel.

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