Big Bold Biblical Names


In America there has always been a place for biblical names, even among the non-religious. Among the past #1 boy names all but one (Robert) have been biblical. This is since 1880 the earliest year name stats were recorded.

Some biblical names have stronger religious connotations than others. And as baby name fashions shift, biblical names that were once strongly religious begin to lose the holy reputation and become possibilities on non-religious babies.

This shift is further supported by a couple of observations* by Laura Wattenberg of the Baby Name Wizard:

  1. With baby names, “biblical” is increasingly an indicator of style more than an origin. Some fashionable names have biblical style but have never been in the bible.
  2. New Testament names such as John, Peter, and Mary have been in decline while Old Testament names such as Ethan, Elijah, Jacob, and Noah have been on the rise. (I have also noted that many Old Testament names were among those that have morphed from strongly religious to mainstream within the past few decades.)

The growing popularity of Old Testament names begins to make sense when their style characteristics are examined. For example, one style characteristic is name length.

As name lengths trend towards the extremes—really long or really short, the Bible offers some untapped long and short options. Today the focus is on long biblical names.

Long biblical names are already quietly ascending the popularity ranks. One of the most successful of these names is Malachi which has been in the top 200 since 2003.

Other examples that have rounded out the top 500 are:

  • Nehemiah which re-entered the boy’s top 1000 in the late 1990s and has plateaued in the 300s the past few years and
  • Solomon which has never left the top 1000 and has hung out in the 400s since the late 1990s.

To make the big, bold, biblical list, names must meet the following requirements:

  1. They must be in the Bible
  2. Have at least 3 (preferably 4) syllables
  3. A minimum of 7 (preferably 8+) letters, and
  4. Be uncommon (outside the top 700) or obscure (outside the top 1000)

Here are some big, bold, biblical names. As you may have guessed, many of these big, bold biblical names are from the Old Testament. Although there are a few terrific New Testament names on the list. Girls are pink and boys are blue.

Balthazar – New Testament
Barnabas – New Testament
Bartholomew – New Testament
Bathsheba – Old Testament
Cornelius – New Testament
Damaris – New Testament
Drusilla – New Testament
Elisheba / Elisheva – Old Testament precursors to Elizabeth
Elkanah – Old Testament
Elnathan – Old Testament (broken down this looks like an elaborate alternative to Nathan, making it seem less bold, but ideal as a “different but not too different” name)
Epaphras – New Testament
Gethsemane – New Testament
Hadassah – Old Testament
Hephzibah – Old Testament
Hezekiah – Old Testament
Kenaniah – Old Testament
Mehetabel – Old Testament
Mordecai  Old Testament
Nicodemus – New Testament
Obadiah – Old Testament
Onesimus – New Testament
Peninnah – Old Testament
Syntyche – New Testament (pronounced SIN-tə-kee)
Theophilus – New Testament
Zacchaeus – New Testament
Zebedee – New Testament
Zedekiah – Old Testament
Zipporah – Old Testament

All of these names stand out for sure, but these names have modern potential: Barnabas, Bartholomew, Damaris, Elsheba / Elsheva, Hadassah, Mehetabel, Mordecai, Theophilus, Zedekiah, and Zipporah. I kept double checking the popularity rank for Mordecai believing I must have gotten it wrong because there was no way it was outside the top 700, but it is actually outside the top 1000 (and so is the variant Mordechai).

But the names that are most intriguing to me are Syntyche, and Zebedee. These names are for the boldest families, but they have a certain charm.

Another important observation by Laura Wattenberg* is that, while biblical names have experienced a style shift, their overall use is at a historic low. This means if you are looking for something original, big, bold, biblical names are great choices now.

Readers: Which big, bold, biblical names are your favorites? (Multiple votes allowed)

* Source: The Baby Name Wizard / The Truth About Biblical Baby Names

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  1. I have loved Zipporah (Tsipporah) since i was a child. Like, since the Prince of Egypt came out.

    Highly doubt I’ll get my husband to sign off on that (He’s not Jewish and I’m not practicing… just by heritage!), so we’ll stick with Zara for the future girl. 🙂

  2. I love Damaris, it’s one of the sweetest-sounding girl’s names I’ve heard.

    I think strictly speaking Balthazar isn’t in the Bible – he’s from a medieval Christian legend.

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