The Jewish Pilgrim Conundrum

Our family is half Jewish, half came-over-on-the-Mayflower-American.  With our first born, just for fun, we decided that a naming starting place would be names held by Pilgrims (broadly defined as those who came over on the Mayflower and the subsequent four or five ships, plus the first generation of their children) that also come from Hebrew or are in the Hebrew Bible.  Obviously we don't feel bound by this rule, and if it produced names that we didn't like, we would scrap the whole thing.  But it turned out to be quite our style.  We're finding out the sex this week, and I would like to have a definite boy and girl name so that I feel attached to whichever it is.  As of now, we have Nathaniel for a boy.  Trying to decide between Hannah and Susannah for a girl.  They have almost the same sound, but they are very different in popularity (Hannah near the top of the list, and Susannah only briefly breaking into the top 1000, although the more popular spelling, Susanna, was in the top 1000 for much longer and fell off recently).  I think one of us is leaning towards Hannah and one towards Susannah.  I don't think we can go wrong either way.


Other choices that fall into our guidelines are Abigail, Deborah, Elisha, Esther, Judith, Rebecca, Ruth, and Sarah.  Of those, I like Abigail best, but I might save it if we have more than one daughter.




December 27, 2012 7:57 PM

I think Nathaniel is great! Of the girls I love Susannah :) Hannah is a nice name, but yes very popular. I know at least 4 in our social circle under 2. Both are lovely though and go with Abigail but I think a Susannah and Abigail set would be charming. Abby is quite popular but the full Abigail isn't.

December 27, 2012 8:03 PM

Elisha is a male name.  All of the other names are fine biblical female names that were also popular with the Puritans.

December 27, 2012 8:58 PM

Well yes, we got the passanger lists of the ships, so I know they were all used by the Puritans.  Elisha is originally a male name, and that is probably how the Puritans used it, but it has been used as a female name, too.  Not really a contender, just listing the names that fall into the Jewish Pilgrim category in case anyone was interested.  My question was Hannah versus Susannah with the other names thrown in just in case one pops out to someone else.

December 27, 2012 9:31 PM

Well, if you are interested in something with both biblical and Puritan heritage, then Elisha has to be a male name.  Neither group would have used it for a female.

Given the popularity of Hannah, my vote would go for Susannah.  My own nice Jewish sister is named Suzanne, and that name has served her well over the years.

December 28, 2012 2:01 AM

Miriam: seconded.  I think people often mistake it for the female name Alisha/Alicia, which is clearly related to Alice. Elisha is definitely male.

December 27, 2012 11:12 PM

I vote for Susannah.  It is beautiful and under-used. Hannah is very pretty too but I'd be much more excited to meet a little Susannah.

Also, I do know a female Elisha, who is around 30.  Yes, I know it's traditionally male, but just wanted to throw that out there.

January 3, 2013 3:14 PM

The only Elisha I know is also female, for what it's worth. Though the Elisha of the Bible is male, the sound of the name and A ending could convince people to go girl with it.

By mk
December 28, 2012 12:18 AM

I like Susannah and Hannah best, but also like Abigail, Ruth, and Rebecca. I tend to prefer Susanna without the h. If you want something less popular, Susannah is a better option over Hannah.

Esther and Judith are ok, but I don't like them as well as the others. Sarah is far too common for me (I know 5 in my small dept alone) and I don't love it enough personally to be able to ignore that.

The only Elisha I ever met was a female in her mid-30s (named after her grandfather), so I don't think it would be odd to use it on a girl today. I guess it depends on how strict you want to be with your guidelines.




December 28, 2012 2:13 AM

Let me say from personal experience that Deb0rah is lovely, mid-20th century (which I'm sure is due for a revival, alongside Susan and Nancy, both great in my view) yet timeless, if I do say so myself.

But it's also frustratingly subject to mispronunciation. One with the name (not saying it's me) can almost be left unsure how to pronounce it, one's own husband pronouncing it differently than one would, then gaining a phobia of saying one's name at all. There's DEB-er-ah (kind of nice, kind of too schwa-y), DEB-ra (YUCK!), and Deh-BOR-rah (lovely but pretentious/foreign sounding to American ears).


Anywho, Susannah is just wonderful.  I love it.  There is the Oh! Susannah issue, but hopefully that's not prohibitive.  


Edith is nice too, and would work quite well as a middle name with Susannah. 


Judith I also really like.  I love -th and -t names, as you can see in my handle here.

December 28, 2012 12:29 PM

Hannah and Susannah are both very nice, but I think I would prefer the more uncommon Susannah.  

Of your other names, I agree Elisha is a male name, though I know it does get some use as a girl's name.  Abigial, Esther, Rebecca, Ruth & Sarah are all lovely-though I would probably rule out Sarah if you go with Susannah.  Judith & Deborah are still "mom" names to me. 

December 30, 2012 4:00 PM

Even though we didn't quite decide, the point is mute, since it's a Nathaniel in there!  Anyone have any random thoughts of middle names with Nathaniel?  We have considered Ernst and John (each for a grandfather) but don't have anything else.  I am thinking it should be short, and does not need to be Jewish in origin.  Last name W.

December 30, 2012 7:39 PM

I really like Nathaniel John.  You could also do Nathaniel Jack as a tribute.

Nathaniel Joseph, Nathaniel James, Nathaniel Thomas, Nathaniel Elliot.  Really, I think a lot of names would flow nicely with Nathaniel.

January 1, 2013 10:01 PM

First I thought was Nathaniel James. Also could do Nathaniel Richard, Nathaniel Archer/Asher, Nathaniel Benjamin.

January 2, 2013 5:26 PM

I love Nathaniel John.  I love family names for middle names & this is a strong, classic choice.

January 17, 2013 7:56 PM

I personally like Nathaniel Jacob for a boy and Hannah Katherine or Abigail Ruth for a girl.