The popularity of biblical baby names is at an all-time high. In 2006, eight of the top ten boys’ names, and two of the top ten girls’, were biblical in origin. Parents today are looking not just for a classic name, but for a name with real meaning and spiritual depth.
As you look at popular biblical names, and imagine one for your baby, the origin and meaning of each name is an important consideration. We are taking a look at six of the most popular biblical baby names. They are all wonderful choices, and have been trusted by generations of parents who are looking for a special name that will provide their child with a solid spiritual foundation for life.
Currently, the most popular boy’s name is Jacob. It is the Anglicized version of the Hebrew name Ya’akov. Most experts agree the meaning of the name Jacob is “held by the heel, supplanted or protected.” This comes from the biblical text that says Jacob, the younger twin brother of Esau, was born “gripping Esau’s heel.” At one point, as they grew older, Jacob tricked his blind father into believing he, Jacob, was Esau, and he received the father’s blessing in place of Esau, thus “supplanting him.” Another source gives the meaning of Jacob as “may God protect,” but this seems to be a minority view. Jacob is one of the towering figures of the Old Testament, whose sons and grandsons became the ancestors of Israel’s twelve tribes.
Another popular biblical boy’s name is Joshua. The meaning of the name Joshua is “the Lord is salvation.” The Hebrew equivalent is Yehoshu’a. Many people feel that biblical names convey a spiritual meaning in addition to the literal meaning of the name. In Joshua’s case, that spiritual meaning is “bold leader.” He was the one chosen by God to succeed Moses as leader of the twelve tribes of Israel, a role that he fulfilled to the utmost, securing Israel’s position in the Promised Land.
The name Daniel, meaning “God is my judge,” is another enormously popular biblical baby name. The Hebrew equivalent is Dani’el. In addition to being an important Old Testament prophet, Daniel is famous for surviving in a lion’s den, where he had been mistakenly thrown by King Darius of Babylon. When Darius saw Daniel was protected by God, he ordered that his people should pray to the same God.
Boys’ names are more prevalent than girls’ names in the bible, but this does not mean that there aren’t plenty of biblical girls’ names. There are!
Abigail is a popular girls’ name today, and a well-known biblical name. It is the Anglicized form of the Hebrew name Aviga’yil, meaning “father’s joy,” or “my father is joy.” In the bible, Abigail is described as beautiful and intelligent. She prevents David from seeking retribution against her husband, who had needlessly insulted and provoked David. Shortly thereafter, her husband “turned to stone” and died, and Abigail became the wife of David.
Many parents have chosen the biblical name Hannah for their daughter in recent years. It is the Anglicized version of the Hebrew name Chana or Chanah, meaning “grace, gracious, or merciful.” In the bible, Hannah prays to God for the gift of children, and her prayer is answered, when she becomes the mother of Samuel. Out of respect for God, Hannah takes Samuel at the age of three to live with the high priests, and visits him each year. For her selflessness, she is rewarded by God with five more children.
One of the best-loved biblical girls’ names is Sarah. The Hebrew meaning of Sarah is “princess” or “noble,” certainly a beautiful meaning for a little girl! The equivalent name in Hebrew is Sara. She was the wife of Abraham, and like Hannah she prayed for many years to be able to have children. She conceived late in life, and gave birth to Isaac. Through him, and through her grandson Jacob, Sarah became the matriarch of the Jewish people.
Further reading: The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names, by Dr. Judson Corwall and Dr. Stelman Smith; Classic Biblical Baby Names, by Judith Tropea; The Comprehensive Dictionary of English & Hebrew First Names, by Alfred J. Kolatch.
And be sure to visit our own list of Biblical Baby Names.