The Name Game: Biblical Boys

11/27/2009 at 02:00 PM ET

For baby name purists the search for the perfect moniker often begins and ends with the Bible. Featuring countless names that have endured for thousands of years, it is the epitome of traditional — offering time-honored appeal to both celebrities and non-celebrities alike.

Nameberry.com co-founder Linda Rosenkrantz notes that biblical names claim the top five spots on the Most Popular list for boys. What’s more, she points out, “there’s been an Old Testament name at #1 for the past 55 years, when New Testament classics like John and James started to lose their lead.”

Following the lead of the general population, celebrities have been choosing biblical names in droves. In order of popularity, Linda cites Jacob (as chosen by Jon Bon Jovi, Courtney Thorne-Smith, James Caan and Albert Brooks), Michael (as chosen by Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos), Ethan (as chosen by Edward Furlong), Joseph (as chosen by Traci Lords, Cathy Moriarty and Kristin Scott Thomas), David (as chosen by Mo’Nique and Jennifer Hudson), Noah (as chosen by Scott Weiland, Jason Alexander and Leeza Gibbons), Nathan (as chosen by Jon Stewart), Elijah (as chosen by Bono and Donnie Wahlberg), Gabriel (as chosen by Dougray Scott and Daniel Day-Lewis), Benjamin (as chosen by Alison Sweeney and Annette Bening), Jonathan (as chosen by Mo’Nique) and Samuel (as chosen by Jack Black, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber, and Elizabeth Vargas).

Other popular biblical boy names just outside the Top 30 include Aaron (as chosen by Robert de Niro), Caleb (as chosen by Julianne Moore and Bo Bice), Eli (as chosen by Campbell Brown and Jeffrey Tambor), Isaac (as chosen by Joel McHale), Isaiah (as chosen by Allen Iverson and Elisabeth Hasselbeck), Jared (as chosen by Paula Zahn), Jesse (as chosen by Jenna Jameson and Wendy Wilson) and Levi (as chosen by Camila Alves and Matthew McConaughey, as well as Sara Gilbert and Dave Evans).


Samuel Jason Black; Samuel Kai Schreiber – INF; Jackson Lee/Splash News Online

For expectant parents who embrace the idea of a biblical name while also embracing the notion of a name beyond the mainstream, Linda recommends Abraham (as chosen by Lila McCann), Asher (as chosen by Campbell Brown and Embeth Davidtz), Ezekiel (as chosen by Tisha Campbell-Martin and Beau Bridges), Ezra (as chosen by Paul Reiser), Gideon (as chosen by Ziggy Marley), Judah (as chosen by Lucy Lawless), Moses (as chosen by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin), Raphael (as chosen by Juliette Binoche) and Simeon (as chosen by Wynton Marsalis).

Of course it’s still possible to push the envelope, even with a biblical name. Linda notes that two celebrities took traditional biblical boys names and gave them to their daughters: Billy Ray Cyrus, with daughter Noah, and Ziggy Marley, with daughter Judah.

In addition to her work with nameberry.com, Linda has co-authored ten baby-naming books with Pamela Redmond-Satran. Their newest title, Beyond Ava & Aiden, is available now.

Which biblical boy names are your favorites? Would you consider using a biblical name with your baby? Why or why not?

Share this story:

Your reaction:

Add A Comment

PEOPLE.com reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

Showing 70 comments

nosoupforyou on

I love biblical names, that’s why my two sons are “Joel” and “Matthew.”

I also love the names “Luke” and “Daniel.”

Emma on

I love the name Gabriel, but it’s absolutely nothing to do with religion, I just really like the name! I would imagine a few of those celebrities just liked the names, rather than them having anything to do with a religion.

Amity on

I like Jesse, Jacob, Nathan, Elijah, Gabriel, Ezra, and Isaiah.

Mallory on

If I have two sons, I want to name them Jayden Elijah and Tyler Gabriel. :) So pretty popular ffirst names and biblical middle names, but like Emma, it has nothing to do with religion. I just love the names!

Rachel on

One of my favorite boys names that I still LOVE is Benjamin, however my sister in law got to it first and used it for my nephew. I did get a chance to use Matthew, Jacob, and Zachary Michael for my sons. I chose them mostly due to the fact that I loved them and the fact that they are from the bible really wasn’t a factor in the decision making process.

Elby on

One of my sons has a biblical name but he’s named after the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, he’s generally known as Thos or Tommy cos we thought Thomas was a bit of a mouthful for a small child.
A lot of the names we considered were biblical ones but that’s more because we both like classic traditional names than because we were going biblical.

me on

mallory, give jayden a rest will ya? thats the most unclassy name out there.

my favorite biblical names are adam and matthew in spanish, matteo.

Elle on

I have tons of favorite biblical names!
Ezra, Jamin, Abijah, Abram, Josiah, Jarius, Micaiah, Seth, Silas, Titus, Tobiah…those are just a few.

BTW…in the bible there was a woman named Noah so it isn’t just a male biblical name.

marlee on

My youngest is Asher Samuel. We are Jewish and he was named for his paternal great great grandfather. We love the name, and the fact that it’s from the family tree.

Simone on

I have 3 girls and they all have biblical/hebrew names the babys middle name is one as well(Danielle,Josephine and Shaina/Amaris)if i had another girl i wouldnt know what biblical name to give her bc i used the ones i really liked…for a boy it would be Isaiah or Samuel

Ashley on

My son’s middle name is Isaiah! I always loved that name!

I also like the names Alexander, and Ezekiel.

Maureen on

It’s funny – my aunt and uncle have boys named Mark, Luke and John (after the names of the Gospels) but their other son isn’t named Matthew because my uncle doesn’t like the nickname Matt!

Personally, Luke and Matthew are both on my list of potential boy names, but I also really like David and Nathan (I had crushes on boys with those names during elementary school.)

Liliana on

I do tend to like biblical names but, as some have said, not for religious purposes.

My youngest is named Gabriel Orion but I decided on his first name when reading a book about Gabriel Prosser.

Jennie on

My husband has a biblical first and middle name (“Mark David”) and my son’s first name is also biblical (“Michael”). My newest son also has a biblical first name (“Isaac”). So those are definitely up there on my list of favorites. Unfortunately, since we’re done having kids, I can’t consider any more biblical names, but my family is perfect the way it is now so that’s OK. :)

erin on

My son’s name is Isaiah and his middle name is Joseph. So both of his names are from the bible. Isaiah was and still is my all time favorite boy name and I just love how the 2 sound together, Isaiah Joseph. It’s a strong name and fits him perfectly!

Sarah on

My Husband & I chose the name Levi for our son who is due in February. We had another son who unfortunately passed away in 2005 and had named him Reuben. We liked the two names and especially the fact they were brothers in the Bible.

NLT on

On of son’s middle name is Elijah. Love the name! If we have another son, one of his middle names will be either Joshua or Jeremiah. If we have a daughter, one of her middle names will be Arielle (Ariel), which is also Biblical.

Kelly on

Our three boys are named Matthew, Lucas, and Peter. All were chosen without the Bible in mind, we just liked them. How many times have I heard, “When are you going to have a Mary?”

kim on

My boys are names Tobias (bias) and Ezekiel (Ezzie) I love their names and I love the bible connection

Grandma2Three on

My grandsons are named Jude & Ezra. :)

ZBP on

I love Micah, Josiah, Uriah and Elijah.

Jessi on

Love the names Isaiah, Elijah, Ezra, Asher (my brother’s middle name), Samuel, Gabriel, Benjamin, Jude, Joel, Lucas, Peter (for a middle name), Matthew, Noah, Jeremiah.

Might use either Isaiah, Elijah, Jude, or Joel. Or Noah.

ZBP on

Me- Hey, dont be mean and keep ur hurtful opinions to urself. gosh. My brothers name is Jaden. He is kind loving person. he was named before the popular trend anyways. and if u want to be mean then fine i could say Adam is unclassy cuz Adam lambert.

Ellen on

People aren’t naming their children these names because of the meaning. They are naming them because they think they are “cute” and like to fall back on the “biblical meaning” card.

99% of people do not read the Bible to come up with names for a new baby. It’s just a coincidence.

I’m all for naming your kid whatever you want, but claiming religious reasons are the main reason these names are chosen is misleading. Very misleading.

Mallory on

Thanks, ZBP. To me, I’ve liked Jayden for years, long before kids like Jayden Federline were born. There’s no reason for you to insult me.

Shea on

had my 14 yr old, Marygrace Elizabeth been a boy, she was to have been Elijah Gabriel. I love those names together. I love Biblical names.

Aurora on

I’d have to say I’m with poster Ellen on this… I don’t think the names are popular because they are biblical; I think the fact that they are handsome-sounding names has more to do with it. Well, for me at least! I’m agnostic, definetly not a church-goer or devout Bible reader, but Jesse and Jacob are my 2 favourite boys’ names, and I really like several other names listed above.
I actually had no idea that Jesse was biblical, anyone able to shed any light on the background story of that? THanks! :)

Sarah M. on

Ellen (#24) – That’s not necessarily true. I LOVE The idea of using a biblical name for a future child. The fact that I like the name would be a factor, but I have looked at the bible to see what names that come specifically from the bible are cute to me.

My name’s Sarah and one of my brothers is James. I know a Jake Thomas (his brother is Logan James), 2 other Jacob’s, Elijah, Noah John, Luke, Evan Michael, Ezra Gray (girl), Samuel, Jack, Ethan (2 of them), Mark, Jonah (older brother named Joshua), several David’s (3 in my family-several out of it), Stephen, Aaron, Jadon, Jason, etc.

Favorite male names are: Malachi, Benjamin, Elijah, Joseph, Jackson, Caleb, Josiah, Nehemiah, Jedediah, Levi, Obadiah, Andrew, Demetrius, Azariah, Amaziah, Simeon, Jeremiah, Abram/Abraham, Alexander, Daniel, Ezekiel, Hezekiah, Zebediah, Nehemiah, Nicholas, Solomon, Timothy, Jonas, Jonah, Uriah, Gideon, Ishmael, Mattias and Solomon.

Female names are: Sarai. I like more biblical male names than female names, I guess!

There’s a book titled “Who’s Who In the Bible” that I found some time ago that is great. It has names of people in the bible, with meaning, who had that name, and other information.

Sarah M. on

Aurora (#27) – Jesse was the father of King David.

Ann on

My sons are Jonathan and Samuel. Jonathan was the friend of David and Samuel was a great prophet. They were named after those two men, so for us it was Biblical.

Milla on

i like Noah, thats my cousins name. or Luke.

Jen on

People always forget Jonah

caroline on

i’m really surprised joshua was not in this article!!

Tracey on

Joshua was the choice for my son, because I love it, not because it is from the Bible. That was just an added bonus. Can’t count the number of times he watched Veggie Tales, “Joshua and the Battle of Jericho”.

Amellia on

My youngest son is Joshua Michael. We picked the name based on meaning and the middle name after a family member not particularly because it was a biblical name.

Jane on

Most of my favorite names are from the bible. I love the older biblical names that my friend says sound like old farmer names. lol Examples: Jedidiah, Jasper, Malachi.. I don’t like too many biblical names for girls. All the good ones are taken in my family.

C├ęcile on

My boys are Pierre (french for Peter),Marc and Thomas not because of any biblical meaning but because we had to find names that we loved,that were traditional,that both French (my family) and English(his family) speaking people could write and pronounce.That’s only during the third pregnancy when we got some “You’re calling this one Luke(Luc) or Matthew(Matthieu)?” that we realized our sons were named after the Gospels.
i think many people chose these names without giving much consideration for their biblical signification.

jessie on

I love the biblical names, Noah, Jacob, Elijah, Daniel, Michael, Gabriel and Caleb. there’s not such a good collection of biblical girls names though, imo.

Rachel-Jane on

Some Biblical boys names are lovely. Jacob, James (also a family name), Matthew, Daniel… but I like them not just because they’re Biblical but because they are nice names too!

My sisters and I all have Biblical names: Rachel, Jessica (Shakesperian, but female version of Jesse) and Hannah. Hannah was talking to a woman at her college who said “Oooh let me guess your brother’s name. Joshua?” Nice try! You’d think seeing as my parents gave their daughters Old Testment names that my brother would have one too. But no, his is the very Scottish Euan, although admittedly Adam was a runner-up.

Meg on

My sons are Abram (Abraham’s name before God changed it to Abraham) and Gideon. I love that they are biblical but edgy.

JM on

i agree with what some other people have said that i happen to like some names that are biblical names but for completely non-religious reasons. i think they are such a big part of our culture that for most of the names mentioned, when people here them they don’t even associate them with the bible. my oldest son’s name is Dylan but he was named after Bob Dylan. i do like a lot of the names mentioned even if they are very popular.

meghan on

just named my son abraham two weeks ago!

Simone on

@ Ellen & Aurora

True a lot of people might not name their kids being religious etc. but there are actually still some people like myself that gave thought into the names they chose for their children…knowing the meaning of the name and who that person was

Danielle (God is my judge) after one 2nd trimester miscarriage and one 2nd trimester stillbirth i thought it was fitting bc once again it was up to him and i was early in my pregnancy when
i decided on the name

Josephine (God adds) it was perfect bc he did add to the family…took a few to decide on that one

Shaina (means beautiful in hebrew)she is the first child for my new partner and while i was pregnant he would always say she will be beautiful like her mom…..2 bad she looks just like him,lol j/k but it took long to decide and her middle name Amaris (God has promised)

Anyways after my first i knew is was going to keep it biblical iam rather old fashioned and I am not a fan of crazy kids names.

Oh and of course my name is biblical…but my mom named me after a french midwife that was present while I was born since my family didnt like the name my mom had chosen (Vanessa after the actress Redgrave)

Ok enough of this…I hope all of you enjoyed Thanksgiving I know i did :-)

Noa on

I myself have a biblical name (Tzelophat’s daughter in the Torah) , my husband has a biblical name and we named our son Eliam which is another version of the name Amiel, Bathsheva’s father. It means “people of G.d”.
We’re jewish btw.
For a second child it would also be biblical BUT I’m really struggling with girls names. Finding something pretty and original beyond rachel, rebecca, sara and lea…not that easy.

Mommy on

I love Jonah & Martin

geri on

We chose the Biblical name Shiloh for our son about 2 years before Brad & Angelina chose it for their daughter (back in 2004). We are Christians & had difficulties conceiving, in the Bible. Shiloh is the name of the capital city where the first temple was built, there Hannah who was barren went to pray to God for a son and he granted her wishes by giving her Samuel. So we chose Shiloh and decided to use it for either a boy or girl and rather than use fertility treatments we prayed and 2.5 years later we were blessed with our Shiloh.

geri on

the rest of our kids will also be biblical names, we also like naming our kids before we’re pregnant regardless of gender so the next two will be Micah & Ezra. after that there’s endless possibilities in the Bible, we love Gideon, Jonah, Jude, Noah, and Amos, We also like names of places, for girls Samaria & Calah are both beautiful. Asher & Judah are our dogs so we can’t use those but we like them as well.

swwmom on

My son’s name is Samuel which means “asked of G-d” in Hebrew. My husband and I did quite a bit of research on names when we were pregnant. My son I lost before birth was named David Jonathan meaning “beloved gift” in Hebrew.

Cherise on

We named our eldest son Daniel. My husband picked it out, and I love it! We decided to go with a theme and named our next two sons Noah and Ethan. I love their names, but kind of wished we went with more unusual biblical names. I really like Judah, Malachi, Micah, Gideon, and Tobias. The only biblical names for girls I like are Abigail and Sarai.

Jessi on

These are more names that I have found on this site that I like, if I repeat names I’m sorry:
Joel, Matthew, Luke, David, Gabriel, Jacob, Elijah, Ezra, Isaiah, Benjamin, Zachary, Thomas, Abraham, Malachi (love), Silas, Seth, Noah, Samuel, Ezekiel, Alexander, Orion, Jermiah, Joshua, Micah, Josiah, Jude, Adam, Jonah (love), Caleb, Simon, Jonas, Moses, Eliam, Amiel, Shiloh, Aaron, Asa (love), Cain, Christian, Ephraim, Isaac, James, Judas, Marcus, Matthias, Michael, Nathanael, Paul (middle name), Peter (middle name), Phineas, Zachariah, and Asher (if it wasn’t for my brother I would name this baby if it is a boy Asher).

Shea-love Elijah Gabriel!

There are kids in my life that have the names Matthew, Gabriel, Jacob, Benjamin, Zachary, Samuel, Joshua, James, Michael, and Caleb.

Elizabeth on

I am surprised Paul did not appear more often . . I have a John Paul named for the Pope, two dear teachers/friends, and (jokingly) two of the Beatles. His family has always called him Paul and now, as a tween, he prefers “John” for “work” (aka school).
I guess Paul is not too “in” right now, even for my own kid!

Sigrid on

My son is Judah Daniel. Judah means “Praise”. In Genesis, when Leah named her 4th son, she stopped competing with her sister and just said “this time I will praise the Lord!” That’s definitely a sentiment I wanted to proclaim when I had my Judah! It was amazing to me how many people had never heard of his name before… even though it’s been around for thousands of years!

I work in a newborn nursery, and some of the female Bible names I’ve heard come from places, such as “Galilee” (Lilee for short) and “Eden.”

Sharika on

My husband and I chose the name Yoshua. It is the Hebrew version of Joshua. My hubby always loved the biblical figure of Joseph but I convinced him that it was too popular of a name.

Lex on

I love Biblical names as well. My favorites have always been Isaiah, Matthew, Levi, and Gabriel (for boys) and for girls, Hannah and Bethany. For anyone who’s looking for a different girl name, my friend named her daughter Keziah (“kez-ee-uh”), which is Job’s second daughter in Job 42:14. It sounded a little strange at first, but it’s actually very pretty :).

Jessica on

I love the biblical names Paul, Daniel, Jacob and Jude. My father’s name is Paul William and my brother is Daniel William. I love the name Jude Joseph. I love how the name Jude sounds. Every time I hear it, I fall in love with it over and over again.

Jessi on

Lex: I really, really like Keziah! Love it.

Nicole on

My brother’s name is Joshua Wayne but my mom don’t chosen his name because of the Bible she chosen his name because of Joshua Lewis on the soap Guliding Light.

Sarah M. on

Lex (#54) – I don’t think I’ve heard of Keziah before! It’s beautiful. I think I would pronounce it ‘Kez-i-ah’, though. It seems more of a natural pronunciation to me…

sam and freya's mum on

We have a Sam, not short for Samuel though (wouldn’t have minded that for an option when he’s older), as hubby didn’t like the ring to it, is just Sam (don’t ask me why?!), so a compromise but to us he’s now a cheeky Sam and can’t imagine it in full. William’s his middle name. We didn’t choose the name because of its biblical connection at all, simply liked the name. Also like Noah and Luke, but again, just like the name. Am a bit of a lapsed Catholic to honest, so religion didn’t come into the equation being honest!

Maria on

My two sons are Levi and Saul. I like the biblical connection and also like that they sound well together. I prefer siblings names to have something in common.

My Levi is 5 months older than Matthew McConnaghey’s one :-)

G on

I can’t believe Emmanuel was not included on this list… that’s my little man’s name.

VEO on

Geri-LOVE Ezra for a little girl!

swwmom-that was my teachers sons name. It is a beautiful name and I’m sorry for your loss.

I like Noah and Ezra for girls.

Jessi on

To be honest I don’t really “like” names that are supposed to be boy names on girls. But to each their own. Like Avery, Ashley, Madison, Addison are supposed to be boy names! Not girl names. But it isn’t my kid.

KZ on

My son’s name is Aaron, and i LOVE that name! I’m not religious at all, it was just the only name me and my boyfriend agreed on! :)

Laura Lee on

We have two sons Elijah David (Elijah means the Lord is my God and David means beloved). Our youngest son is Adin Nehemiah (that spelling of Adin is Hebrew and means handsome and pleasant found in the book Nehemiah 10:15 and Nehemiah means God’s comfort. If we ever have a girl we like Eliana Joy (Eliana is not in the Bible but it is Hebrew (means The Lord has answered) We also like Lily. My husband and I are very big into the meaning of names.

FF on

I love biblical names, my precious little boy is called Imanuel.

traxie on

My gorgeous son is called Gabriel, but I recently had to laugh when a stranger asked his name and misheard it as “Abel”. Yes, both Biblical names but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone being called Abel!!

Shirelle on

I love the names Levi, Jacob, and Caleb.

Jennifer on

I have two sons James and Joshua.

peter on

We have just had a baby boy, we are thinking of calling him Elijah John.
Are other two boys are called Saul William and Thomas Peter.

advertisement

From Our Partners

From Our Partners

Sign up for our daily newsletter and other special offers.
    Choose your newsletters
Thank you for signing up! Your request may take up to one week to be processed.
    see all newsletters