Biblical Baby Names
Desert Blooms and Glorious Gems
Names blossom in the Bible! Lily is a flower that symbolizes rebirth, purity, and innocence throughout the book—at #27, it’s in full bloom. Myrtle is a small, flowering tree or shrub with white flowers that makes an appearance in Isaiah 55:13, when God promised the people that “instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle,” as a sign of peace and strength. Hadassah, the original Hebrew name for Esther, means “myrtle tree.”
Other Biblical word names include Beryl, a precious stone known as “God’s ornament,” Reed (Moses‘ baby basket was made of reeds), Cypress, and Shepherd. Zac Hanson, of the pop group Hanson, named his son John Ira Shepherd, but calls the boy Shepherd. Jerry Seinfeld also named his second son, Shepherd.
Rising star: At #471 in 2007, Jasper, the name of a gem stone, was popular as a boy’s name prior to the 1940s, and is beginning to shine once again. Considered precious and treasured in ancient times, Jasper is also the name of one of the Three Kings, or Magi, who traveled far to bring gifts to the newborn baby, Jesus. He also can be known as Caspar.
Since 1958, Michael has been the first or second most popular boy’s name in the United States. In the New Testament, Michael is one of the seven archangels and the leader of heaven’s armies. Emperors, kings, and saints have been named Michael, and the name reigned for 38 years, between 1958 and 1999. Both Kelly Ripa and Mark Wahlberg have sons named Michael. The Hebrew form of Michael is Micah, which has risen steadily since 1959, when it entered the Top 1000 at #957, to its present perch at #126 in 2007.
September 29th is the feast day of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Gabriel appeared to Mary to herald the birth of Christ; the name ranked at #38 in 2007. Raphael (#705) is currently less popular than Rafael (#228).
Rising star: Malachi, the name of a minor prophet and Old Testament author, means “messenger of God” in Hebrew. The name rose from #993 to #155 in the past 20 years.
Elijah, one of the most determined prophets in the Old Testament, survived drought and the unfaithfulness of the Israelites, eventually rising up to Heaven in a chariot of fire with a whirlwind. His name first reached the Top 100 in 1995, and is currently ranked at #30. It’s abbreviation, Eli, is 100 places behind, at #130.
At #67 Jeremiah is experiencing a surge in popularity, surpassing Jeremy, Jerome, and Jermaine. An Old Testament prophet, Jeremiah wrote the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations. Robert Redford starred in the 1972 film, Jeremiah Johnson. Its variant, Jeramiah, is much less common at #827.
Rising star: Nehemiah, a Jewish leader in the Old Testament who resurrected the walls of Jerusalem, is enjoying a resurgence on the name charts. Last popular in 1886, Nehemiah began its revival in 1998, rising from #828 to #363 in just 10 years.
The New Testament
Jesus, whose life and teachings are detailed in the four Gospels of the New Testament, is the central figure of Christianity. (Get advice on names pertaining to his birth—Christmas!—and other holy days and holidays.)
His name entered the top 100 in 1990 at #90 and has risen to #77. Many of the names of his 12 Apostles—Peter, Andrew, Matthew, Thomas, Philip, Bartholomew, John, James, Simon, Jude, James the Less, and Judas–continue to be beloved today, along with the names of early evangelists, Paul and Luke. Of these Matthew (#9), Andrew (#10), James (#15), and John (#19) were the most popular in 2007.
The most popular female name in history belongs to Mary, the mother of Jesus. A favorite of Catholic families, Mary was the most popular or second most popular name for girls in the United States for over 80 years, from 1880 to 1961. It is currently ranked at #93. Outside the U.S., Mary is known as Marie, Maria, Maura, and Madonna and hailed as Regina, Victoria, Deirdre, Pilar, Mercedes, Lourdes, and Concepcion.
Rising star: Stella. The Virgin Mary is also known as Stella Maris, or the “star of the sea.” Popular in the late 1880s and in the first half of century, Stella slowly declined and then returned to the lists in 1997, rising from #907 to #244 in the past decade.
Women of the Early Church
Chloe, currently ranked at #16, was the name of a Corinthian woman described in Paul‘s letters. In Greek mythology, Chloe was the goddess of flowers, and wife to Zephyr, the West Wind. Other female names in the New Testament include Claudia, Julia, Lydia, Martha, Sapphira, and Susannah.
Rising star: Phoebe was a Christian woman who served as a deacon and benefactor in the early Church—and the first person Paul described in his letter to the Romans. In Greek mythology, Phoebe was one of the original titans, the mother of Leto, and grandmother to the twin gods Apollo and Artemis, and the goddess Hecate. At #338, Phoebe is being rediscovered as a girl’s name, and was last popular in the 19th century.
Thanks to the 2004 hit single “Hey, There Delilah” by the Plain White Ts, the name Delilah is charming parents who will happily overlook the name’s history as one of the Bible’s most infamous temptresses who seduced and betrayed the herculean Samson. Although the name has been intermittently popular throughout the decades, it’s risen to new heights with its current ranking at #298 (up from #547 in 2006). The name has leaped 600 places in the past 11 years.
Other controversial figures include the beautiful Bathsheba, who led King David astray, the dancer Salome who demanded the head of John the Baptist after a performance, and Mary Magdalene, a devoted disciple of Christ from whom it was said that Jesus cast out seven demons.
Rising star: Damaris, a woman who was converted to Christianity by St. Paul in the New Testament, may be poised for a breakthrough. The name first hit the top 1000 in 1971 at #952. In 2007, it was ranked #678.
Z is for Zacharias and Zechariah
Zacharias is the Greek form of Zechariah and appears in the New Testament, most notably as the father of John the Baptist, who was struck mute for doubting the angel Gabriel‘s message that he would bear a son. (His voice returned when he scribbled the boy’s name as John on a tablet.) Thirty one Zechariahs can be counted in the Bible, the most notable being a minor prophet in the Old Testament who foretold the coming of the Messiah.
There are also many names in the Bible that begin with Z. Zillah was the second wife of the polygamous Lamech, a descendant of Cain. Zorah was the name of Samson’s birthplace, a town in Judah. Zemirah was the son of Becher and the grandson of Becher, the leader of one of Israel’s twelve tribes. (The name is used for both men and women.) Zipporah was the daughter of Jethro and the Midian wife of Moses.
Rising star: Zoe, which means “life,” was a popular name among the early Christians who looked forward to the promise of an eternal life with God. The name also belonged to a Byzantine empress and two martyrs. In 2000, Zoe hit the top 100; today it is ranked at #56. Its counterparts, Zoey and Zoie, have also found new life on the popularity charts, with Zoey debuting in 1995 at #874 before rising to its current spot at #111. Zoie, once the 1124th most popular name in 1881, emerged at #928 in 1998 and has risen to #569.
Data above is from the US Social Security Administration from 2007 and before.
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