James and Jack


My first son's name is James and am wanting to name second son Jack. Are Jack and James the same name? is it okay to name my second son Jack?!



May 31, 2016 8:07 PM

Jack is a traditional nickname for John, so, no, James and Jack are not the same name.  James and Jacob are the same name, so as long as Jack is not being used as a nickname for Jacob, it's not the same name.

I should note that Jack is often used for Jacob.  My Uncle Jack was a Jacob, and I have a dear friend in the Netherlands whose name is Jacobus, call name Jack.  Jake is more traditional for Jacob than Jack, but there are plenty of Jacobs who go by Jack.  So even though Jacob/James is derived from Ya'akov and John/Jack from Yohanon, there is likely to be confusion between a James and a Jack, particularly since Jacques is the French form of Jacob/James.

If it were me, I would look elsewhere for James's little brother, even though James and Jack are strictly speaking not traditionally the same name.

May 31, 2016 10:03 PM

As Miriam said: technically, no, they're not the same name, but in practice, yeah, they kind of are the same.

I do happen to know brothers named Jacob and James. I don't think their parents know that they gave the same name twice. Most people just notice that they start with the same sounds and thus can get a bit confusing. James and Jack only share their initial J, so they'd be quite a bit less confusing for brothers.

I recommend you use John, nicknamed Jack. It's the best of both worlds: the brothers would unquestionably have different names, and you'd get to use the name you like.

June 1, 2016 11:59 AM

As others have said, Jack and James are not the same name, though they are tangentially connected through the fact that James and Jacob are the same name.  I often see the French form of James, Jacques, "translated" as Jack rather than as James or Jim.  I feel that most English speakers, most of whom know little about name origins, probably think of "Jacob," "Jack," and "Jacques" as more closely related than James or John are to each other or to any of the other forms.

I second the suggestion of naming your second son John.  This way, you can call him Jack and he has the "right" to the nickname Jack, but you avoid any confusion.  Also, since Jack is traditionally a nickname, you avoid looking like you aren't aware of the origins.  I have had students named John who go by Jack, and that is usually a pretty easy transition once people are aware of it.

I teach in an almost entirely Hispanic area, and I find traditional nicknames fascinating.  Most of my students are completely unaware of things like John->Jack or Sarah->Sally, but transitions like Ignacio->Nacho, Jesus->Chuy, and Jose->Pepe (which apparently has a fascinating derivation) are completely natural despite the seemingly distant relationship of the sounds.  Thus, once most students learn that a nickname is associated with a name, they accept it fairly willingly.  In other words, most cultures have a tradition of nicknames that don't sound a lot like the original name, and most people are pretty willing to accept a statement that "______" is a nickname for "________" even if it is unfamiliar.

July 21, 2016 5:59 AM

Jack is not derived from John; the Jankin's theory which shows how the name John has given the pet form Jack doesn't work at all because in the rest of the world the name Jack is linked to Jacob's cognates. Etymology and tradition are not always the same and this case shows this thing. Jack was born from the name Jacques, the french form of James derived from Jacob.  Jacob and James are also the same name and in the most part of languages there is only a single form for both of them. There are so many examples that give me  reason: In french Jacky is used as a pet form for Jacques and Jacqueline, in german there are Jackel, Jaki, Jaecki, Joki, Jockel used as nicknames for Jakob  (Jacob/James) and in dutch there are Jaak, Sjaak or Sjaakie and Jack used for Jacob or Jacobus  (Jacob/James). Jackie in english is a short for Jacqueline, the female form for both Jacob and James and this is another evidence that shows how Jack is a cognate of Jacob, not John.  At last:  If one person named Jacob or James would use Jack as a short for his name he can do it without problems. Tradition is not everything. Etymology is more important.

July 21, 2016 9:43 AM

Scientifically, historically, linguistically, and traditionally, the English name Jack is derived from John. There is no historical evidence (zero, nada, zilch -- and people have been looking for _centuries_!) of Jack, Jak, Jacke, or Jakke ever being used to represent Jacques or James in English contexts. The progression has been clearly shown, from medieval records, to be Johannes to Jehan to Jan, which with the addition of a common diminutive suffix became Jankin, and then Jackin, and hence Jack. (In Scottish, it went Johannes to Jon to Jock.) This is a very old story: the progression was already long complete half a millennium ago. Thus, your statement that "tradition is not everything, etymology is more important" is nonsensical, because both tradition and etymology derive Jack from John, not James or Jacob.

As multiple commenters pointed out above: no, Jack is not the same name as James or Jacob, but in practice, the common perception does not agree. You've demonstrated why this is so, but it doesn't change the fact that the common perception is incorrect.

July 21, 2016 1:12 PM

Sorry but i don't agree with you. It's true that Jack is traditionally more used for John but there are also so many people in the world that use Jack as a short for Jacob and his cognates, even in the english speaking world. Every english dictionaries, for example the Webster's, show how Jack could be derived from Jacques and not all the linguistics scholars believe in the Jankin's theory: sorry but i'm not telling a lie. in conclusion: if one man named Jacob or one of his cognates, would use Jack as a pet form for his name  he can do it without problems. I'm one of the Jacks and i'm not a John: please accept this reality. There is not a law that forbids the use of a nickname. 

Now i have a question for you: How do you explain the use of the pet name Jacky for Jacques and Jacqueline if Jack is only a nickname for John? There are a lot of nicknames very similar to Jack used for Jacob and his cognates, for example: Jackel, Jeckel, Jockel, Jake, Jakey, Jaki, Jaky, Jako, Jacko, Jaecki, Jaak, Jakez, Jeck, Jaggi, Joggi, Sjaak, Sjakie, ecc...

July 21, 2016 2:28 PM

No one said that Jack is only a nickname for John.  What was said is that Jack is a traditional nickname for John and is derived from John.  Yes, there are Jacobs who use the nickname Jack, my uncle for one and a Dutch friend of mine named Jacobus who uses Jack (not Sjaak).  The more traditional nickname for Jacob is Jake.  BTW in the past in English Ja(c)ques was pronounced Jay-kweeze, and in As You Like It Shakespeare puns on the character Jaques and the word jakes which means toilet.

Etymologically and traditionally Jack is a nickname for John.  However, it is also used as a nickname for Jacob as an alternative to Jake and for Jackson.

July 21, 2016 2:32 PM

I don't think anyone is suggesting that Jack cannot or should not be used as a nickname for Jacob and related names; just that in an English-speaking context, it arose independently as a nickname for names in the John family. No one is disputing your right to be called Jack. In fact, I don't think anyone here would have a problem with using the nickname Jack for given name Jacinth, Joachim, or Jayden...or for Lee or Susan, for that matter.

The point is that using given name "John" nn Jack with sibling "James" is *not* using the same name twice, even if some people with names related to James also go by Jack or a similar-sounding name.

July 21, 2016 3:41 PM

Thank you for your replies. I really understand your point of view. I'm Jack but my full name is Giacomo and my nicknames have always been that or Jake, especially when i am in one of the english speaking countries; i'm an italian man. My name is a cognate of the english names Jacob or James; the two are in fact the same identical name but many people don't know this thing; the only difference between the two names is about the biblical tradition but they really are two forms of the same name. In the original Bible, written in Hebrew or Aramaic, there is no James because the true name of the two apostles is always Yaacov, like the patriarch. While i personally love the name Jacob and his nicknames i can't stand the name James and his pet forms; for this reason, i like to be called Jack or Jake or at last Jacob but not James (I really hate that name). The sound of the name Giacomo and the name Jack are very similar and i'm not the only Giacomo (or Jacob) who use Jack as a pet name. Thanks for your attention. Jack F.


July 21, 2016 4:39 PM

The Hebrew scriptures are written in Hebrew (duh), and the Greek scriptures are written in Greek (duh).  Except for a few brief quotations Aramaic is not a biblical language.

If you don't like the name James, there is no reason for you to use it.  There are almost countless variants of the original Hebrew Ya'akov, and you can use any of them you choose.  There is no reason not to use Jack if you like it, but the fact remains that its roots lie as a form of John, not of Jacob.  If you get tired of Jack or Jake, you can always give Coby/Kobe a try :-).

July 22, 2016 12:55 AM

Thank you for your advice Miriam. Coby is not bad at all! Like you have seen reading my posts, i always love the name Jack or at last Jake; my friends or my family have always called me in this way because my full name is Giacomo, an italian cognate of Jacob. I know that Jake is the most used nickname for Jacob and i love it like Jack: they are cool nicknames indeed. I'm proud to be one of the Jacobs while i dislike the version James used for my name: it's so far from the original name in the Bible (Yaakov) and in my opinion it has an ugly sound too. I love onomastics, especially biblical names: i'm a Christian after all.