Biblical names are still used by many parents to name their babies. In countries having predominantly Christian population, such names are used very widely.
One of the world’s largest source of baby names is the Bible. In countries with large Christian populations, a majority of the names are used either directly from the Bible or derived from traditional biblical names. Names that are taken from the Bible are not restricted just to the people mentioned in it, but also extend to places, plants, gemstones, and also the Hebrew, English, and Greek words used in it.
The Bible is among the oldest texts known to man. Centuries have passed since the first books were written, and though scholars have tried to uncover possible meanings of biblical names, it is not an exact science. The following are well-known, widely used biblical names and their meanings:
Aaron: Appearing in the Old Testament, Aaron was the older brother of Moses and the first high priest of the Israelites. He acted as a spokesman for his brother, and carried a miraculous rod. His name could have meant ‘high mountain’ or ‘exalted’.
Adam: As most people know, Adam was the first human being created from the earth by God, and appears in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament in the Bible. The word in Hebrew means ‘man’. It could have been derived from Hebrew adam, meaning ‘to be red’, referring to the ruddy color of human skin, or from Assyrian adamu meaning ‘to make’.
Abigail: In the Old Testament, this is the name of Nabal’s wife. After Nabal’s death, she became the third wife of King David. The name is likely to have been derived from the Hebrew name Avigayil meaning ‘my father is joy’.
Daniel: Daniel was a Hebrew prophet whose story is told in the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament. He lived during the Jewish captivity in Babylon, where he was first persecuted for his faith. Later he served in the king’s court and rose to prominence after accurately interpreting the king’s dreams. The book also contains Daniel’s four visions of the end of the world. The name comes from the Hebrew name Daniyyel meaning ‘God is my judge’.
David: David was the second and greatest of the kings of Israel, ruling in the 10th century BC. David had great faith and did many great deeds during his lifetime. However, he is best known for defeating Goliath, a giant Philistine, with a sling shot. Jesus is supposed to be his descendant. This name may have been derived from Hebrew dvd meaning ‘beloved’.
Deborah: In the Book of Judges, in the Old Testament, Deborah was a heroine and prophetess who led the Israelites to defeat Canaanites. In Hebrew, the word means ‘bee’.
Delilah: Delilah is well-known as the conniving lover of Samson, in the Old Testament. She betrayed him to the Philistines by cutting his hair, which was the source of his strength. The name means ‘delicate, weak, languishing’ in Hebrew.
Esther: In the Old Testament, The Book of Esther speaks of brave Queen Esther, the Jewish wife of the king of Persia who saved the Jews from being eradicated. Her original Hebrew name was Hadassah. Esther could have meant ‘star’ in Persian, however it is more likely that the name was derived from ISHTAR, the Eastern Goddess.
Isaac: In the Old Testament, Isaac was the son of Abraham and the father of Esau and Jacob. As told in Genesis, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as a test of faith, though an angel prevented the act at the last moment. Isaac is derived from the Hebrew name Yitzchaq which meant ‘he laughs’.
Isaiah: Isaiah was a very important prophet and the author of the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. The Hebrew name Yesha’yahu means ‘Yahweh is salvation’.
James: Two of Jesus’ apostles shared the same name. One of them became known as Saint James the Greater, and was the apostle John’s brother, who was beheaded under Herod Agrippa in the Book of Acts. The second was James the Lesser, son of Alphaeus. The name is the English form of the Late Latin name Iacomus which was derived from Iakobos, the New Testament Greek form of the Hebrew name Ya’aqov.
Jairus: In the New Testament, he was the father of a young girl brought back to life by Jesus. The root of the name is probably Iairos, the Greek form of Jair.
Jonah: Johan is the name of a prophet who was swallowed by a fish, from which he emerged alive and well, three days later. He appears in the Old Testament in the Book of Jonah. His name in Hebrew Yonah means ‘dove’.
Joshua: Joshua was one of the twelve spies sent into Canaan by Moses in the Old Testament. After Moses died, Joshua succeeded him as the leader of the Israelites. Joshua is taken from the Hebrew name Yehoshu’a which means ‘Yahweh is salvation’.
Luke: Luke is the author of the third Gospel and Acts in the New Testament. He was a doctor who traveled in the company of Saint Paul. His name is the English form of the Greek name Loukas which meant ‘from Lucania’.
Magdalene: A very prominent character of New Testament, her name ‘Mary Magdalene’ was because she was from Magdala, a village near the sea of Galilee. The word in Hebrew means ‘tower’. Jesus saved her from being stoned, and she remained his follower through his ministry, bearing witness to his crucifixion and resurrection.
Matthew: Saint Matthew, initially a tax collector was one of the twelve disciples and the author of the first gospel. The name is a form of the Greek Matthaios, or the Hebrew name Mattityahu meaning ‘gift of Yahweh’.
Naomi: She was the mother-in-law of Ruth in the Old Testament. The Hebrew name Na’omiy means ‘pleasantness’.
Nathanael: In the New Testament, this was the name of an apostle also known as Bartholomew. The English name comes from the Hebrew name Netan’el which meant ‘God has given’.
Paul: Before becoming a saint, Paul was initially a persecutor of Christians, till he underwent a momentous conversion of faith. An important leader of the early church, his story is recounted in Acts in the New Testament. His name is taken from the Roman family name Paulus, which meant ‘small’ or ‘humble’ in Latin.
Peter: Simon Peter was the most prominent of the apostles during Jesus’ ministry and played a pioneering role in the establishment of the church after Jesus’ death. The name may have been derived from the Greek Petros meaning ‘stone’.
Rachel: In the Old Testament, Rachel was Jacob’s favorite wife and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. This very popular name means ‘ewe’ in Hebrew.
Rebecca: Rebecca was the wife of Isaac and the mother of Esau and Jacob in the Old Testament. The name might have been derived from an Aramaic name, or could have meant ‘a snare’ in Hebrew.
Ruth: Ruth is an important character in the Book of Ruth in the Old Testament. She was a Moabite woman who was the ancestor of King David. Her name comes from the Hebrew word re’ut meaning ‘friend’.
Samuel: Samuel was a character in the Old Testament, who exemplified obedience to God. He anointed Saul to be the first king of Israel, and later anointed David too. The English name comes from the Hebrew name Shemu’el which could possibly mean either ‘name of God’ or ‘God has heard’.
Simon: Simon is a common name and appears several times. One Simon carried the cross for Jesus. The most prominent Simon in the New Testament is the apostle Simon, also known as Peter. The origin of the name is from the Greek form of the Hebrew name Shim’on which meant ‘he has heard’.
Susanna: Appearing in the book of Daniel, Susanna was the wife of Joakim, and was falsely accused of adultery. The prophet Daniel clears her name by tricking her accusers, who end up being condemned themselves. It also occurs in the New Testament belonging to a woman who ministered to Christ. This name has different versions in different cultures. The Greek form is Sousanna, while the Hebrew name is Shoshannah. In Hebrew, the word shoshan means ‘lily’ (in modern Hebrew this also means ‘rose’).
Tabitha:Tabitha appears in the New Testament. He was a woman who Saint Peter brought back to life. Her name comes from the Aramaic word for ‘gazelle’.
Zachariah: Another name that appears multiple times in the Old Testament, the best known owner is the prophet Zechariah, who was the author of the Book of Zechariah. This is also the name of the father of John the Baptist, also appearing in the New Testament, who was temporarily made dumb because of his lack of faith. The root of the name is the Hebrew name Zekharyah meaning ‘Yahweh remembers’.
These are just a few of the thousands of names the Bible provides us, all having some resemblance and meaning.