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There is a worldwide trend to give Biblical names to newborn babies.
By Øyvind Hartberg
Biblical names and their meanings

This trend is most marked in the USA. Among the names given to the newly born in 2007, the top five are Biblical.

The fifteen most popular names are:
Jacob, Michael, Ethan, Joshua, Daniel, Christopher, Antony, William, Matthew, Andrew, Alexander, David, Joseph, Noah and James.

The meanings of the Biblical names are as follows:

  • Jacob ‘holds the heel’, ‘the next born twin’, ‘supplanter’, Genesis 25 Mark 1;19, 6;3.
  • Michael ‘who is like God?’, Daniel 12;1.
  • Ethan ‘solid, enduring’, Psalm 89.
  • Joshua ‘Jahweh is saviour’, Numbers 16;13.
  • Daniel ‘God is my judge’, Book of Daniel.
  • Matthew ‘God’s gift’. Matthew was one of the apostles and The Gospel of Saint Matthew is ascribed to him.
  • Andrew ‘man, manly, strong’. Andrew was the brother of Peter.
  • David ‘beloved’. He was a King of Israel, (from 1.Sam 16 onwards).
  • Joseph ‘God will multiply’. He was a son of Jacob, Genesis 37, and St.Mary’s husband Luke 1.
  • Noah ‘rest’, ‘tranquillity’ from Genesis 9.
  • James is the same name as Jacob.

Among the fifteen most popular names in The US then only four are not directly from the Bible, and Christopher at number six also has an early Christian origin.

In the United Kingdom many Biblical names also appear but in a ranking which differs from the USA

The Biblical names are italicised:
Jack, Thomas, Oliver, Joshua, Harry, Charlie, Daniel, William, James, Alfie, Samuel, George, Joseph, Benjamin, Ethan.

So of the fifteen most popular names in the United Kingdom, nine are Biblical.

  • Jack is related back to John, Johannes (‘God’s grace’), but it is also related back to Jacob James (‘the next born’), see above.
  • Thomas (‘twin’), was one of the apostles, John 20;24.
  • Joshua Daniel James, see above.
  • Samuel (‘God will listen’), was a prophet in The Old Testament.
  • Joseph, see above.
  • Benjamin (‘my favourite son, son of my right hand’) was also a son of Jacob, Genesis 42.
  • Ethan, see above.

In Australia, nine out of the fifteen most popular names are Biblical names

The italicised names in the following list are Biblical:
Jack, William, Joshua, Lachlan, Thomas, Riley, Cooper, James, Noah, Ethan, Daniel, Oliver, Ryan, Samuel, Benjamin.

In Spain too Biblical names dominate the list of the fifteen most popular names

The italicised names are all Biblical:
Alejandro, Daniel, Pablo, David, Adrian, Alvaro, Javier, Sergio, Hugo, Diego, Carlos, Marcos, Mario, Manuel, Miguel.
  • Daniel, David and Miguel (Michael) for their meanings see above.
  • Pablo is derived from St.Paul, and means ‘small’. Paul is introduced in Acts, Chapter Nine and he wrote almost all the letters to early Christian communities in The New Testament.
  • Diego is the short form of San Diego, Saint James (Jacob) see above.
  • Marcos, ‘warrior’ or ‘hammer’ wrote the Gospel of St.Mark.
  • Mario could be a variant of Marius meaning ‘manly’, but very often it is used as a male name derived from St.Mary, Maria mother of Jesus. “Jesus Maria” was once a common male name in Spain (More than 300.000 boys in Spain are named Maria).
  • Manuel from Immanuel, ‘God with us’ was a name of the Saviour, Isaiah 7;14.

Another Spanish speaking country is Argentina

In the following list of the most popular names the Biblical names are once again given in italics:
Santiago, Lautaro, Matias, Tomas, Lucas, Joaquin, Franco, Agustin, Thiago, Nicolas, Facundo, Ignacio, Mateo, Santino and Francisco.

In France the tendency to choose Biblical names is also pre-dominant

This can be seen from the following list where Biblical names are in italics:
Enzo, Mathis, Lucas, Hugo, Matheo, Nathan, Theo, Noah, Matteo, Thomas, Louis, Maxime, Romain, Tom (derived from Thomas), Yanis (derived from John, Johannes).

So three variants of the Biblical name Matthew are in this French list.

In German speaking countries there is also a pre-dominance of Biblical names

In Germany itself many of the names from the top fifteen list from 2007 are variants of the same Biblical names, once again Biblical names and their variants are in italics:
Lukas/Lucas Luka/Luca, Fynn/Finn, Tim/Timm, Felix, Jonas, Louis/Luis, Maximilian, Julian, Max, Paul, Niclas/Niklas, Jan, Ben, Elias, Jannick/Yannik.

In many countries variants of Lucas (Saint Luke) have become very popular in the last ten years. In the 1990’s for example, they were ranked twenty-first in Germany and Austria, and fourteenth in Sweden and Denmark, now they hold the very first position.

  • Tim and Timm are also Biblical names, Timothy, ‘honouring God’, was a disciple of St.Paul.
  • Felix, ‘happy’ is mentioned in Acts 23;26.
  • Jonas (Jonah), ‘a dove’, was a prophet in The Old Testament who was swallowed by a whale and spewed out alive.
  • Paul see Pablo in the section on Spain above.
  • Jan + Jannick/Yannik, ‘God’s grace’, is essentially the same name as John.
  • Johannes which has some 300 variant names spread across the world.
  • Ben is derived from Benjamin, see above.
  • Elias, ‘The Lord is my God’ (Eliah) is also one of the prophets in The Old Testament.

In Austria the most popular new names in 2006 also had a pre-dominance of Biblical name

Nine out of fifteen were Biblical (the Biblical names are in Italics):
Lukas, Tobias, David, Florian, Simon, Maxmillian, Fabian, Alexander, Sebastian, Julian, Felix, Jakob, Elias, Philipp, Daniel.
  • Tobias means ‘God is good’ and derives from the Catholic Biblical Canon, a Tobias who was a Jew guided by the angel, Raphael.
  • Simon, ‘he who is listening’ was the original name of St.Peter and one of the apostles.
  • Philipp, ‘horse lover’ was also one of the twelve apostles of Jesus.

In Scandinavia, the same global trend can be found

Nine out of the top fifteen names in Norway have Biblical origins and eight in Denmark. Only Sweden is significantly lower with only four Biblical names in the top fifteen list as can be seen from the following lists:

Norway Denmark Sweden
Mathias
Jonas
Markus
Alexander
Lukas
Kristian
Magnus
Elias
Emil
Henrik
Sander
Martin
Tobias
Daniel
Andreas
Mikkel
Lucas
Mathias
Noah
William
Oliver
Mads
Magnus
Christian
Emil
Frederik
Sebastian
Victor
Marcus
Tobias
William
Lucas
Elias
Oscar
Hugo
Viktor
Filip
Erik
Emil
Isak
Anton
Alexander
Liam
Gustav
Oliver

Even in Arabic countries names from the Old Testament are in quite general use

Examples include: Boutros (Peter), Yusuf (Joseph), Yaqub (Jacob), Soleiman (Solomon) and Dawood (David).
Tuesday 17. June, 2008