As one of the most enduring books of all time, the Bible has given us loads of classic names that have remained treasured throughout generations. It's also inspired trends, and now more than ever, today's parents are looking for the next hot biblical name. Here are a few that haven't yet broken into the mainstream, but have lots of potential with a trend-worthy feel and an unshakeable biblical background.
Jotham (JOTH-əm): This name is a rare but refreshingly uncomplicated biblical choice that sounds as modern as Batman's hometown (Gotham City). Jotham was the youngest son of Gideon in the Old Testament. This name is a character in the novel The Pioneers, written in the 1800s, which makes the point for us that this name also has "American pioneer" written all over it.
Hezekiah: Once cherished in the pioneer days of America, this intriguing biblical name is beginning to charm parents yet again. It's a rare choice that combines the soft sounds of Jeremiah with the lovable quirkiness of Ezekiel. In fact, the nickname Zeke is a possibility for a little Hezekiah, as well as other splashy choices like Hezzie, Ky, or Kiah.
Ephraim: So much more than a character in the Twilight series, Ephraim is a tribe of Israel in the Old Testament grounded in tradition. We're just taking notice of this name for its antiquated and unique sound, which, although debated, is most commonly EHF-rəm.
Matthias, Mathias: As the most popular name on this list, Matthias is leading the group with its familiar sound, biblical roots, and nostalgic image. Affording parents a twist on the standard Matthew, Matthias is an Old Testament choice that dares to be just a little bit different...but not so different you can't still call him Matty.
Elisha (ee-LIY-shə): In the shadow of the ultra popular Elijah sits Elisha, a lesser-known biblical figure with a softer sound that still affords the nickname Eli. If you're looking for something a little different but still trend-worthy, this name strikes a perfect balance between the two. In fact, this is quarterback Eli Manning's full name.
Phineas: The name of more than one minor character in the Bible, Phineas is an unusual but sweetly appealing name that doesn't get enough attention. With names like Finnegan and Silas stealing the spotlight, Phineas is waiting in the wings to be discovered as the storied biblical alternative with a trendy sound and antique sensibilities.
Samson: Muscle goes hand-in-hand with this famed Hebrew name, forever linked to the Nazarite warrior whose great strength came from his long hair. Samson is just starting to explode on the naming scene, hitting an all-time high of 628 out of the top 1,000 names for boys in the past year.
Uriah: It's all about the vowel sounds with this one, which leads with a distinguished U- and follows up with a familiar and pleasant -iah ending. The name means, "God is my light." The biblical Uriah was an honorable soldier for King David and Bathsheba's husband, before he was murdered.
Zebulon (or Zebulun): A son of Jacob and Leah, this name also represents a Hebrew tribe. It's very rare, but we think it has a lot going for it, especially the zippy nickname Zeb. Even its old-fashioned associations add character to this name, including real life namesakes like Zebulon Pike (explorer for whom Pike's Peak is named), and fictional ones like Zebulon Walton.
Reuben: It's a little unfortunate that this name became synonymous with a sandwich. Reuben is in fact a fantastic Hebrew choice and one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Parents are starting to look past its delicatessen associations and toward the charming sound and biblical heritage this name offers.
Jedidiah: A biblical name meaning "beloved of God," Jedidiah has loads of old-fashioned appeal and was used with enthusiasm among the Puritans. Today, this name is feeling fresh again as we continue our search for the next fashionable biblical hit.
Simeon: Once a fashionable choice in Victorian times, Simeon took a dramatic fall from popularity over the past century. That makes this bygone biblical standard an uncommonly refreshing choice for today with loads of potential. For more than 10 years now, Simeon has been flirting with top 1,000 names, appearing near the bottom of the list.
Jabez (JAY-behz, JAH-behz): The recent inspirational book and movement featuring this name came from the Old Testament, where Jabez was blessed by God. It was much more common in centuries past, and you can find it used for characters from the Sherlock Holmes series as well as the classic short story The Devil and Daniel Webster. The sound may be antiquated, but it has an attractive -z ending and the possibility for the nickname Jay.
Jeriah: A rare choice found in the Old Testament, Jeriah hits a sweet spot with its popular -iah ending and brevity. It works well among other hit biblical names, while keeping its appeal as a unique option.
Enoch: It's time to blow the dust off this ancient name, as today's parents are proving. Five years ago, Enoch appeared in the top 1,000 names, and it's slowly but steadily becoming more popular. The strong E- sound at the beginning is helping Enoch feel like a unique alternative to Ethan or Elijah.
Imagine you see a sign announcing "Jordan and Taylor's Wedding." Any bets on the genders of the happy couple? I wouldn't wager money, because tens of thousands of young men and women bear each name.
Today, though, Jordan and Taylor's reign as America's top unisex baby names is over. The heirs to their throne are...none, really. NO name is as common for boys and girls combined today as Jordan used to be. The new #1 unisex name Riley is only a third as popular. That doesn't mean that unisex naming is on the way out. Parents are just approaching it differently, and whole new groups of names are emerging.
I tallied all of the common names in unisex use today vs. 25 years ago. (Criteria: names given to at least 100 boys and 100 girls in a year, with each sex making up at least 25% of the total.) The number of babies receiving those names turned out to be stable at around 80,000 per year. Today, though, the usage is spread out among 124 different moderately common names with no mega hits.
In other words, we're equally open to androgyny today, but less open to choosing a popular name. Rather than turning to a handful of favorites like Jordan and Taylor, parents are drawn to a stylistic category and scour it for fresh ideas. Here are some of the top categories that define today's unisex naming.
The most evenly unisex baby name in America, ironically, represents a bastion of masculinity: Texas football. The name Landry is 50-50 male and female, ranking among the top 100 names for both sexes. It was inspired by Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry and gained popularity via the Texas football tv series Friday Night Lights.
Landry is no stylistic fluke. The similar Western-inspired names Oakley and Gentry also make the most-unisex top 5. You can see more Western touches in the new unisex place names:
As usual, parents are adopting traditional male names for girls but not vice versa. Celtic names are a particularly hot target on the newly unisex list:
A new generation of common words is joining the baby name pool, and those word names increasingly chosen for boys and girls alike. The meanings vary, but as a group these names have a glow of dreams:
Rising celebrities inspire rising baby names, so it's no surprise to see Hollywood names (like Channing and Tatum after actor Channing Tatum) on the new unisex list. More notable are the new names of "classic" celebrities which summon up broader images of an attitude, time period, style, or world view.
These are the Jordan and Taylor's most direct heirs. Surnames are a rich source of fresh unisex names with a grounding of familiarity.
Deep down, Americans want every Englishman to be named Nigel and the British want every American to be named Brad. Alas, our cherished stereotypes are behind the times. Nigel is now much more popular as a baby name in the U.S. than in the U.K. (and everybody has moved on from Brad).
If you're looking for a new American baby name cliché, here's a good place to start. Replace the old saying "As American as apple pie" with "As American as the letter Y." When I set out to find popular American names that are nonexistent in England, 12 of the top 15 results contained a letter Y -- including the All-American name Londyn.
Y is just one of the themes in the exclusively American baby name styles below. Each name listed ranks among America's top thousand names for boys or girls, yet is statistically nonexistent in England and Wales. (For more background, see "15 British Baby Names That Just Don't Exist In America.")
In Like Lynn
Double letters are hot in America. For instance, Collin and Colin are both popular names in the U.S., whereas only the single-L Colin is used in England. The epitome of this double difference is the American girls' suffix –lynn.
Raelynn (Female, Popularity Rank #267)
Ashlynn (F, #323)
Madelynn (F, #439)
Gracelynn (F, #452)
Madilynn (F, #481)
Braelynn (F, #566)
Jaelynn (F, #600)
Kaylynn (F, #642)
Madalynn (F, #649)
Jaylynn (F, #675)
Jazlynn (F, #749)
Emmalynn (F, #771)
Addilynn (F, #924)
Avalynn (F, #949)
Jocelynn (F, #974)
Kaelynn (F, #999)
There's nothing more American than a cowboy, or at least a cowboy hat. The exclusively American names list bears that out with names from the Old West, rodeos, and country-western music.
Garrett (M, #237)
Waylon (M, #251)
Lane (M, #295)
Remington (F, #685)
Axton (M, #762)
Trace (M, #763)
Stetson (M, #844)
Houston (M, #932)
American parents are increasingly turning to word names with grand meanings.
Journey (F, #291)
Messiah (M, #298)
Major (M, #350)
Haven (F, #333)
Titan (M, #827)
Last Names First
Traditional surnames are more likely to make the leap to first name status in in the U.S. In a test of the baby name power of style vs. fame, note that the British uber-celebrity name Beckham is purely American.
Brantley (M, #120)
Kinsley (F, #132)
Trenton (M, #305)
Grady (M, #345)
Blakely (F, #411)
Gannon (M, #413)
Jamison (M, #440)
Beckham (M, #487)
Bryant (M, #584)
Anniston (F, #906)
Y ask Y?
You can turn a name uniquely American simply by flipping a vowel to the Y side:
Londyn (F, #154)
Addyson (F, #379)
Kamryn (F, #380)
Jordyn (F, #127)
Landyn (M, #426)
Emersyn (F, #427)
Melany (F, #436)
Sylas (M, #667)
Nataly (F, #746)
Saylor (F, #796)
Camdyn (M, #814)
Alyvia (F, #925)
And the #1 Most American Name Sound Is…
Kylee (F, #213)
Kyleigh (F, #348)
Kaylie (F, #518)
Kiley (F, #661)
Kailee (F, #860)
Kaleigh (F, #904)