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. Texan

    I thought Sarah wouldve still been popular (thats my name) and my sisters name is Rebecca and i would have thought that was common and my brother is Nathan and my dad is John (my mom is the only unusual one). but i think biblical names are more popular here in West Texas than other places, i guess. I like the bible names better than newer ones too, i would probably have put David and Luke at the top of the list for boys and Hannah and Rachel for girls.

    May 5, 2011 at 11:05 pm |
  2. Seriously?

    I can't believe that the same individual who wrote this article is a university level scholar and author. What about this article is interesting or important? It's so devoid of substance that I wonder if the sole purpose is to expose the anti-semites and the anti-semantics (I am in the former catagory). Does he write these things and then sit back and laugh?

    May 5, 2011 at 11:04 pm |
    • Seriously?

      I meant that I'm in the latter...anti-semante. Clearly.... 🙂

      May 5, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
  3. Brad

    Sigh. Junk like this passes for "reporting" in the new era. This article is wrong on so many levels. These are Anglicanized names with only a tenuous connection to "Hebrew." What's the test? NONE of these would be given to a Jewish baby in Israel from a Hebrew speaking family. They are NOT Hebrew names. The Hebrew form of Ethan is Eitan (Or Aitan). How many babies are named Aitan? Not many. Same with Michael. The Hebrew name is Michayel. It goes on and on... Matthew is Mattisyahu. Perhaps you've heard of Matisyahu? His name is actually Hebrew!

    May 5, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • debnewyorker

      I know, it's amazing how poorly written and researched this article is, and sadly it is par for the course nowadays on all websites.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:03 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      its because the media is owned. Guess who owns it?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:44 pm |
  4. DiabloDiegoDelMar

    I like Judas Samuel myself.

    May 5, 2011 at 10:44 pm |
  5. jacqueline

    Being born in2 the catholic religion...we were taught 2 name our children from the bible...hence caleb thomas. its not just hebrews or christians that practice this.....

    May 5, 2011 at 10:30 pm |
  6. Alex


    May 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
  7. Elizabeth

    I think this article is a bit off base. STarting with the boys names and them being "Jewish." Agreed that they are of Jewish origin, but they are no more "Jewish" than Christians are Jews. Yes, Christianity is from Jewish origin but it is a fully different faith. It is simply wrong to say that people are giving their children Jewish names. Clearly, many Christians are using these names as they are Christian too. It would be more proper to say they are Judeo-Christian.

    Also, I do have a bit of an issue specifically with the claim that "Isabella" is a "Jewish" name. Yes, Isabella, Isabelle and Elizabeth are of the same Hebrew origin. But, I'd point out that Elizabeth is listed as the # 11 girls name for 2010. So, they are not counting this as the same name. As another major point I'd have great doubt that simply calling a person Isabella can be claimed to be "Jewish" particularly in light of Isabella I of Spain. She expelled the Jews from Spain during the Inquisition. I think it would be fair to say that this name as lost it's Jewish-ness after that.

    These names simply are not Jewish, Judeo-Christian.

    May 5, 2011 at 10:26 pm |
  8. Valentina

    This is a silly article. The names mentioned are anglicized Old Testament names, as familiar to the millions of Christians who live in the US as they are to Jews. An example of a Hebrew name would be Chaim, as in Chaim Potok, or perhaps Yitzhak, as in Yitzhak Rabin. Biblical or Old Testament names have always been popular in the US – Zachary Taylor was 12th president of the US; Ethan Frome was a novel written in 1911. Daniel Webster lived in the 19th century. More to the point is that names used in the last century or two, such as Isabella, or Emily, or Jacob, are becoming popular again.

    May 5, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  9. hawaiiduude

    Jews do hate one particular hebrew name....Jesus

    May 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
    • Jesus

      Nope, my name is Jesus Goldberg

      May 5, 2011 at 10:19 pm |
    • Bayonett

      Hawaiidude, you really need to stop standing under that coconut tree, day in, day out. But major pretzels for the "anti-semantic" comment. Yes, indeed, you are anti-semantics alright . . .

      May 5, 2011 at 10:28 pm |
    • debnewyorker

      Hawaidude, you're a freaking idiot anti-semite. You're not even using an intelligent argument, just a blanket "jews hate jesus". I grew up Jewish in NYC and I can't remember one Jew in my family or friend that even MENTIONED the name Jesus. Ever hear of "to each his own?" Too bad it's all you think about. You must be a blast to hang with. NOT. It's really sad that you are so dumb, you must be one of those borderline types, you know, really really low IQ but not quite ready for the group home situation. Just using the word "hate" is hateful. I feel kind of sorry for you, except you probably inflict your idiocy on your friends (if) and/or family, which in my book is unforgiveable.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:02 pm |
  10. simple

    II've known several people with the given name Jacob. Behind their backs they were all called Jake the Snake. What are parents thinking....

    May 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
  11. hawaiiduude

    yes I'm anti-semantic....

    May 5, 2011 at 10:05 pm |
    • Jesus

      I am anti-freeze. That's why I live in southern California.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • THN

      Hey look another uneducated Anti SEMITE!

      May 5, 2011 at 10:42 pm |
  12. Lila

    Most people pick names because they think it sounds neat, not because they are biblical. They get more inspiration from characters from movies, tv and books, and worse celebrity names. Jacob and Isabella are boring and overused, everyone thinks the parents are Twilight fans. Edward is less annoying because it's not as popular. Kellan Lutz, one of the actors from Twilight, even his first name is starting to become popular, don't think it's Hebrew though.

    May 5, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  13. Penny

    The Jewish nation/ religion were the roots from which Christianity sprung. Jesus Christ was Jewish. The twelve apostles were Jewish. Makes sense that a nation with more [professed] Christians than Jews would use Jewish names. I say professed becasue I believe there are few true Christians and would not call this nation a Christian nation.

    May 5, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • Jesus

      Hawaiidude, looks like you've been out in the Sun too long and your brains were roasted.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:17 pm |
  14. TrueRoman

    Jewish always claim everything is of Jewish origin, first and last names. They see Jewish origin in everything and every one. This is my personal experience. The reality is different! Jewish represent a minority in US of about 1% compared to Christians. In most US, all Europe, and Russia, most of name origin is back to Greek and Roman. The tradition was to give Jewish names to slaves, who were a minority too.

    May 5, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  15. Hilary

    Isabel is the Spanish form of Elizabeth. It is Elizabeth that actually means "God's promise".

    May 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
  16. iBod

    I believe the fact of the matter is, people in this country aren't thinking about the name's origin anymore, but rather about the name's significance...You know, in five years when they drive them to their first day of kindergarten and think they'll be so popular because they picked a special name at the time–only wait right there–they find out everyone's name in the class is either Jacob or Isabella, too, because all the other mothers were die-hard fans of the stupidly successful Twilight Saga, as well...(and like the children know or care anyway)...The writer of this article can thank American's appeal to Hollywood and other realms of entertainment for extending the popularity of names (like Jacob and Isabella, for example) that originated from Hebrew...It's only a coincidence with nothing special about it–don't get too hyped up...The truth is, without entertainment, the name would not be as popular, and would be ranked somewhere between 20-50 (for say)...My point is, name of origin is one of the last reasons (after: ancestral naming history, "in memorandum", and country of popularity) on the list of why we name our kids what we name them–We just don't care where the name originated from!...In my opinion, if you're really thinking about your kid's/kids' popularity, then name the Apple, Ocean. or even JERMAJESTY!...Or you can try the Deuces Deluxe: Monroe and Moroccan lmao!! 🙂

    May 5, 2011 at 9:49 pm |
    • cobrisco


      May 5, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
    • cobrisco


      May 5, 2011 at 10:01 pm |
    • HS

      Yes, that's what the writer is saying ... people don't realize the origins.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • MW

      iBod, hilarious and probably pretty true about the dumb Twilight series.
      Having my son in 2010 I have to say people have to be idiots who don't look up the origins of a name. I mean in 5 seconds you can look up on the web to find out where the name derives from and what it means. I think most folks do but don't care where they come from.
      By the way my son's name is Finnegan and it fits him quite well. While we both do have a drop if Irish in us each it isn't remotely what we identify ourselves as. To us we liked the sound of it with our last name and frankly thought it was a happy name to say out loud. I just hope they don't come out with some sparkly vampire named Finn anytime soon...

      May 5, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • iBod

      @MW You're right! I did forget name meanings!..Damn lol...also look at the bright side: I'd say Finn is a pretty masculine name, (and since he carries that Irish trait) he'll be quite the flirt with the ladies! lol...I send my best wishes to you and the wee lad lol 🙂

      May 5, 2011 at 11:16 pm |
  17. debra

    isabella is not a hebrew name, I am a Jew and speak Hebrew fluently, Isabella is an infamous enemy of the Jews who ordered them expelled from Spain in 1492

    May 5, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • Average Moderate

      While correct about that particular Isabella...you're wrong about the entomology of that name.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:57 pm |


    May 5, 2011 at 9:44 pm |
  19. mhklein

    Question, how is Isabella a Hebrew name? I know some Hebrew, and I just don't recognize the "God's promise" in the name.

    May 5, 2011 at 9:31 pm |
    • levana

      Isabella comes from a combo of Elisheva (Elizabeth) – hebrew and Isabel also Hebrew. Both are variants of Elizabeth. Means G-d's promise.

      May 5, 2011 at 9:47 pm |
    • Jesus

      The Hebrew name of the author is "Schmuck"

      May 5, 2011 at 10:12 pm |
  20. Bob

    Those aren't "Jewish," they're Christian Old Testament. Christians own those names too.

    May 5, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
    • sargeanton

      Say What ?! The Christian Old Testament IS the Hebrew Scriptures.

      May 5, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
    • David

      They're 'jewish' because the 'Old Testament' was Jewish before there were Christians who made it part of their canon, and because those names have their roots in Hebrew, the language of the Jews.

      May 5, 2011 at 9:37 pm |
    • lol


      May 5, 2011 at 9:51 pm |
    • hawaiiduude

      That's right. Jews didn't enter the scene until the tribe of Judah. Before that they were israelites but Abraham was not an israelite because he didn't have a son named israel yet. So Abraham is an old testament name not jewish even though the story about him was written by in hebrew. We all spoke one language until the tower of babel and it was not hebrew.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Jesus

      I named my first born "Ace", my second child "Deuce", and my third, "Trey".

      May 5, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • HS

      The Old Testament is the Christain name for the Hebrew Bible. It wasn't written by Christians ... It is used by Christians because Jesus came from that tradition.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:10 pm |
    • Fullbag

      Let's use the terms properly. There is no such thing as 'Christian Old Testament'. The Hebrew Scriptures, dealing with the Hebrew nation as God's chosen people, are the Old Testament books. The Christian-Greek Scriptures, dealing with the life of Christ (hence, the name 'Christian') and then the travels and words of his followers are the New Testament books.

      All of the names in the article are from the Hebrew Scriptures, or, Old Testament (Michael though is found in both the OT and NT). Jayden, as it is spelled here, is not found in the Bible...though I am guessing it is related to the name that can be found in scripture: Jadon.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
    • Bob

      I say it's time to start living like we are in the 21st century.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:15 pm |
    • Tim

      I think what Bob is saying is that people are probably taking these names from the Christian bible without considering that the names are, ultimately, Jewish in origin.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
    • Paul

      Christ was a Jew by faith and ethnicity.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:32 pm |
    • Fullbag

      Paul – By ethnicity, yes. By faith, no. His foundation was of Hebrew origin, but he freely and often broke things within the Mosaic Law to pave the way for Christianity. He and his apostles ate grain while in the fields (hence, working, and breaking the Law...which drew the ire of the scribes and Pharisees). He rebuked those same men by saying who would not save one of his sheep on the Sabbath (this when posed as to why he would heal a man on that same day). I could site much more, but suffice it to say Jesus is not portrayed to follow the Hebrew faith part and parcel.

      May 5, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
    • Tiredguy

      Hahahaha..."Christian Old Testament." Hey Bob, it's also part of the Islamic religion as well. And guess what? Those crazy Muslims...they believe in Jesus too!

      May 5, 2011 at 11:44 pm |
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