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May 5th, 2011
02:56 PM ET

Call me Jacob (again): Hebrew baby names still tops in 2010

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

A few months ago, I wrote about the predominance of Hebraic names for babies born in the United States in 2009.  Today the Social Security Administration released new data for babies born in the U.S. in 2010, and it still looks very much like a Jewish nation, at least in our pediatric wards.

The top 10 list for newborn boys begins with Jacob, of “Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” fame, who has held this top slot for 11 years running. But it also includes five other names of Hebraic origin:  Ethan (No. 2), Michael (No. 3), Jayden (No. 4), Noah (No. 6), Daniel (No. 7).

Rounding out the top 10 boys' names in 2010 were William (from the Old German), Alexander (Greek), Aiden (Gaelic) and Anthony (Latin).

The top 10 names for girls mirrored those of 2009, though a few of these names switched places. Isabella, also a Hebrew name, finished first. It means “God’s promise,” or “pledged to God.” Only one other Hebrew name — Abigail — made the top 10 for girls.

Still, this is an astonishing showing for a religious tradition that claims only 1-2% of the American population.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Judaism • United States

soundoff (177 Responses)
  1. Ed Becker

    Media BS!

    May 5, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  2. david

    those were not just Hebrew names they were christian names as well Judaism start from genesis to Malachi while Christianity start from genesis to revelation. christian believed that Jesus is the fulfillment of the old testament t while Judaism is still waiting for the messiah except that with a follower ship of over two billions Christianity has proved its message

    May 5, 2011 at 9:01 pm |
  3. Anne

    LOL @ Previous commenters. You are right. I really don't think this has anything to do with Judaism specifically. These are biblical names. The author has such an odd take on it.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  4. Baron91

    I would contest the notion that these are Hebrew names. They are Judeo-Christian-Islamic names. Jacob, Michael, Noah and Daniel are all important figures in all three religions. Only the spellings vary.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Don F.

      Although the names you mentioned indeed are shared by these three religious traditions it IS because all three share a common Jewish background. In the Christian and Muslim context they are only used refering to the named individuals in the Jewish tradition.

      May 5, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  5. t

    Let's not forget the vast number of Americans who derive from a Judeo-Christian heritage (yes, that includes me). These names, while indisputably Hebrew in origin (by the way, perhaps someone should remind Mr. Prothero that Hebrew is a language, not a religion) are also familiar and meaningful to Christians as well. I chose to name my daughters Racheal and Rebecca not simply because of the Hebraic origins of those names, but because I found inspiration in the accounts of their lives told in the Old Testament.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Baron91

      "...(by the way, perhaps someone should remind Mr. Prothero that Hebrew is a language, not a religion)..."

      Exactly! Also, Jacob is definitely not pronounced in the Hebrew manner here in the U.S. It would be Yakov.

      May 5, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  6. commonsense77

    They are Hebrew names, but they are in in the Old Testament of the Bible. It is not so surprising then, when you consider the percentage of Christians in the US population.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
  7. Ashlee

    also, just because it isn't in the old testament doesn't mean it isn't a Hebrew name (my daughter's name is Hebrew but not in the old testament). Just like there are American names not found in American history text books.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:50 pm |
  8. Methuselah

    My parents named me Methuselah. Now I've been teased by so many girls, I've become attracted to boys. THANKS A LOT – BIBLE!

    May 5, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  9. Sarah

    And in the next 10 names on the list are Matthew, David, Joseph, Andrew and James. This isn't rocket science and you don't have to be a biblical scholar to make the christianity/bible connection. I think the author is the only one who is surprised.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • mhklein

      By the way, James is a Spanicized form of Jacob.

      May 5, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
  10. Tony

    Jayden is from the Hebrew Jadon.
    Jadon the Meronothite, one of the builders of the wall of Jerusalem in the Book of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 3:7).

    May 5, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  11. Pubert Addams

    I keep looking in the Bible for my name, but I haven't found the right name.

    One of my friends was given a biblical name. Sodom gets teased and beat up a lot, though.

    My Mormon friend was named after an angel in his holy book, but Moron gets teased and beat up a lot too.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
  12. DennisWager

    About time we recognized the quality of thier decisions!

    May 5, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Jesus

      It's just the names. There is NO logic or intelligence in those books from the bronze age.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:24 pm |
  13. S

    Aidan or Aiden are sometimes used as variants of the Hebrew 'Eden', aside from the Irish origin.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
  14. Lynn

    Well we named our son a Hebrew name because it is easy to spell and say but not common where we live but not our daughters. We are not Hebrew and we are intactivists...even if Hebrew we would have been intactivists.:)

    May 5, 2011 at 8:29 pm |
    • rs1201

      I don't know what you mean when you say that you're not "Hebrew"...hebrew is a language...not a religion. You mean you're not Jewish...a little clarity goes a long way...

      May 5, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
  15. Dan in Utah

    what? no Harpo, Groucho, or Zeppo?

    May 5, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • Adam

      How about Moe, Larry and Curly?

      May 5, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
    • K

      "My name is whaddya care
      My home is anywhere
      People say I'm awful dumb
      So I thought to you I'd come" Harpo

      May 5, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
  16. Paula

    When I named my son Noah almost 10 years ago it was not even in the top 200 names..now it is 6th! I also have a Michael and Joshua David.. not a Hebrew bone in my body the names are just timeless.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:20 pm |
  17. tahitigirl

    Not astonishing at all considering Christianity was started by Jews and Christianity is still the predominant faith in the US.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  18. J

    How is Jayden Hebraic?

    May 5, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
    • Paula

      my thought exactly.. I have never ever seen Jayden in the Old Testament or new..

      May 5, 2011 at 8:22 pm |
    • Reality Check

      Jayden is a supposedly a form of Jadon found in Nehemiah 3:7. I think it is more likely that its origin is Hayden minus the H plus the J.

      May 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • Jean

      Nehemiah 3:7: "Jadon the Meronothite," an inhabitant of Meronoth, possibly located near Gibeah, which is very close to Jerusalem. That would make him a Hebrew. There is no one in the Bible with a name spelled Jayden, But Jadon would sound the same.

      May 5, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  19. Fiona

    It's not "astonishing" - that's just silly. These are old names, and people like to use "classic" and important-sounding monikers for their children. Since people often name their kids after grandparents or other ancestors, names like William and Michael stick around for generations. For the girls, there is an annoying and long-established trend toward three-sylable names for female babies. I wish it would stop.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:07 pm |
    • Lilarose in Oregon

      One female name that seems to always be on top or near the top of the list is Emma. Sorry, Emmas of the world, but once I heard someone give their name and I thought she said "Enema." Why would a mother give a girl a name like Emmma? Then there is Hazel, as in "witch hazel" or just plain "witch." That is Julia Roberts for ya. One I haven't figured out yet.

      May 5, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  20. bubba

    I named my son Rock, after his conception on some rocky road.

    May 5, 2011 at 8:06 pm |
    • Jesus

      I named my child "Houdini" since he managed to be born despite the use of birth control.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.