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. Aimee

    When I was pregnant with my second daughter, I purposely chose Hebrew forms of common names. Hannah, which is the Hebrew form of Ann (God's grace), Abigail, Hebrew for "father of joy". Even as a teenager, this girl embodies her name.

    May 6, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  2. CompulsiveCNNReader

    Arabic equivalent of Jacob is Yaqoob which is close to original Hebrew Yakov than its current English version Jacob . It is fairly common muslim name although little bit old fashioned . Similarly Arabic name equivalent for common hebrew baby names are

    Abraham....Ibrahim (Common but not popular these days )
    Joseph.....Yousuf and Yousef (most popular these days)
    Isaac ....Ishaq (Fairly common)
    Noah...Nooh (very old fashioned for baby names these days)
    Daniel ...Daanial or Danyal ( Very popular)

    May 6, 2011 at 8:31 am |
  3. Reality

    Considering the angel wrestling legend, one wonders if biblical Jacob even existed? 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis have concluded that Abraham and Moses were myths. And considering that Abraham was Jacob's grandfather that puts old Jacob also on the myth pile. So where did the Jewish scribes get the names for these fictional characters? Hiti-tes? Babylonians? Philistines?

    May 6, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Realty


      May 6, 2011 at 9:02 am |
    • Reality

      Or maybe the Jewish scribes "borrowed" the name from the Egyptians?

      May 6, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  4. Prochut

    Maybe I'm missing something, but the names just sound better. I really don't think it's based too much on religion.

    May 6, 2011 at 3:54 am |
  5. Abram

    I am proud of my Hebrew name! And even though our name isn't the most popular on the list of Hebrew names, this article is for us ABRAMs!!

    May 6, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  6. Steve Wilkinson

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

    Umm.... What is so astonishing? Modern Judaism might only claim 1-2% but Christianity is technically a division of Judaism, following the messiah Jesus, a Jew, who Christians believe led the correct division of Judaism. They share the same texts and background from which many of these names arise.
    The author is a religious scholar?

    May 6, 2011 at 2:38 am |
  7. Publius

    why act surprised? Do not Christians worship the same Jewish God? Was not Jesus raised under Jewish teachings? did not Jesus Christ consider Himself a Jewish man? So, that 1-2% is a bit understated for the America population who accept the Old Testament as part of their Faith. Is this columnist so unaware of the religious thought to confuse the faiths? Not surprisingly, CNN.com posts the article as "news." to the average CNN.com reader, religion is not something they know much about at all.

    May 6, 2011 at 2:22 am |
  8. tChron

    No Saul? As in Saul Hudson, as in Slash?

    May 6, 2011 at 2:16 am |
  9. d

    Why would a religion professor find it astonishing that Americans have Jewish names. Until relatively recently, America was predominantly christian. Christian parents used to read bible stories to their children. The Bible heroes. both in the Old and New Testament are predominantly Jewish with Jewish names. This was the foundation literature of our culture. Frankly, as a child, steeped in these wonderful stories, and living in a small town with no known Jewish families, it was an unexamined assumption that WE were Jewish. It wasn't until I stumbled across The Diary of Anne Frank, that I realized that there we were not Jewish and there are Jews who are not christian.

    May 6, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  10. sahar

    I wouldn't call Hebrew names necessarily 'Jewish' names; they are commonly used in all Abrahamic religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) as well as all countries influenced by these cultures. Maryam and Sara have been two of the most common female namesin Iran, which is a prominently Muslem country for many centuries now...

    May 6, 2011 at 1:39 am |
  11. Dr. A. Jew

    You do realize that Christian people believe in the Old Testament... hence, why the names are popular.

    A Jew with a Jewish first name NOT on the list! HA!

    May 6, 2011 at 1:33 am |
  12. LEB

    Awesome, I can name my kids Abichail and Degania now.

    May 6, 2011 at 1:13 am |
  13. jeff

    You morons should read the comments before posting your own. It sounds dumb when you think you're saying something insightful when 3 people posted the same crap a couple of posting before you.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  14. Jackson

    What they didn't mention is that 90% of them probably have the last name "Gonzalez".

    May 6, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • Captain_OWNER

      ROFLMAO !!!

      May 6, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  15. Sam

    RelyInOregon ... Whether you like it or not, Hebrew=Jewish=Israelites. But do not confuse Israelites with Israelis. Israelites are Jewish. Israelis are native of the State of Israel – they can be Jewish, Christians, Bahais, Druses, Muslims, etc., etc.

    May 6, 2011 at 12:22 am |
    • Prochut

      True, they CAN be of other faiths, but I have yet to hear of anyone that lives in Israel that is not Jewish,

      May 6, 2011 at 3:58 am |
    • Reality

      "The State of Israel had population of approximately 7,684,000 inhabitants as of November 2010.[1] 75.4% of them were Jewish (about 5,795,000 individuals), 20.4% were Arabs (About 1,571,000 inhabitants), while the remaining 4.3% (about 318,200 individuals) were defined as "others" (family members of Jewish immigrants who were not registered at the Interior Ministry as Jews, non-Arab Christians, non-Arab Muslims and residents who do not have a religious classification."

      May 6, 2011 at 8:03 am |
  16. Reality

    "Jacob meaning and name origin

    Jacob \j(a)-cob\ as a boy's name is pronounced JAY-kub. It is of Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Jacob is "he who supplants". Also possibly from "la-aqov" (hence, Yaakov) meaning "to track or follow". Biblical: the son of Isaac and Rebekah and twin brother of Esau. Jacob fathered 12 sons and a daughter, who became the ancestors of the nation of Israel, the name Jacob himself received after wrestling with an angel. Jacobo is a Spanish form; Yakov (YAH-kav) is Russian. Senator Jacob Javits; actor Jake Gyllenhall.

    Jacob has 52 variant forms: Cob, Cobb, Cobby, Giacamo, Giacobbe, Giacobo, Giacomo, Giacopo, Hamish, Iacopo, Iacovo, Iago, Iakob, Iakobos, Iakov, Jaap, Jack, Jaco, Jacobo, Jacobi, Jacobus, Jacoby, Jack, Jackie, Jacko, Jacky, Jacobo, Jacobus, Jacques, Jacquet, Jago, Jaime, Jake, Jakeb, Jakie, Jakob, Jakov, Jakub, James, Jamesie, Jamey, Jamie, Jamsey, Jay, Jayme, Jim, Jimmie, Seamus, Shamus, Yakov, Yakup and Yaqub"

    Considering the angel wrestling legend, one wonders if Jacob even existed? 1.5 million Conservative Jews and their rabbis have concluded that Abraham and Moses were myths. And considering that Abraham was Jacob's grandfather that puts old Jacob also on the myth pile. So where did the Jewish scribes who get the names for these fictional characters? Hiti-tes? Babylonians? Philistines?

    May 6, 2011 at 12:21 am |
  17. RoyInOregon

    These names derive, of course, from the old testament, but to say that they reflect "a religious tradition that claims only 1-2% of the American population" is to obscure an important point: namely, that they reflect a much broader Christian tradition in the USA that also regards the old testament - with all those old testament names - as very much a part of it's heritage, too. Of course they are Hebraic. But to suggest indirectly that they are Jewish (the 1-2% of the American population) is silly.

    May 5, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Preston

      You said exactly what I was thinking...thanks.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:50 am |
    • Mike in Maine

      Agreed. Where does CNN get these people to report on religion? I have read many articles from Stephen Prothero and he seems to have a very skewed view. It is kind of sad, he may be a religious scholar but he CLEARLY does NOT understand Christianity.

      May 6, 2011 at 1:15 am |
  18. Canadian Gal

    I can't help but notice that "Jacob" and "Isabella" are the names of 2 of the main characters in the Twilight series. Coincidence?

    May 5, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
    • Maria

      Coincidence? Probably not. Look for the name Edward to start making a comeback, too.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:45 pm |
    • YBP

      The Twilight series is thinly veiled Mormon propaganda. Now do the names make sense?

      May 6, 2011 at 12:52 am |
    • yeah

      hitler's favourite dog was named bella

      May 6, 2011 at 1:34 am |
    • byp


      Yes it does, but your post doesn't

      May 6, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  19. morgan painter

    No matter where they might have started, there are names in use by hundreds of countries.
    Abraham Lincoln was born in America. I have friends named Michael who are Irish as far back as they have records of their families. Maybe they borrowed that name from the Hebrew texts, but hey, seems to me they have made it their own.

    And what about a Russian named Michail? That sure looks to me like Michael with a Russian slant.

    I know a bunch of Norwegians name Jacob, Scotts named Daniel.

    Well, you get the picture. I suspect the influence of religion spread those names all over the world. They have been adopted by hundreds of cultures, except the Arab world. Never heard of any Michaels or Jacobs coming out of there. I reckon its because they don't allow those evil Hebrew books in those countries.

    It does seem that certain names go in cycles. I guess people just get tired of hearing the same-o same-o names year after year and dig up new names for their kids.

    Hey, variety makes life interesting.

    But I don't know what to think of a friend of mine. His last name is AST.

    He named his son Jack
    a daughter Candy
    and his wife is Pansy.


    May 5, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Tiredguy

      Morgan...those "evil Hebrew books" They're part of the Islam religion as well.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
    • Michael

      Fail. I know plenty of Arabs named Issac, David, Jacob, and Michael. Hebrew and Arabic are related languages.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
    • ali

      iIt's not as you said, Arabs and Muslims have respect for the Hebraic tradition. It is only lying fools like you who like to spew and propagate hate that like to think so. And by the way you can find the true semetic, uncorrupted versions in muslim tradition. yacub(jacob), ibrahim(Abraham) , essac(issac), gibreel(Gabriel). the way the were before europeans changed them to fit their local pronunciation; and i wouldnt use jewish sources as references- they forgot how to speak their own language you have to remember

      May 5, 2011 at 11:48 pm |
    • Lisher

      I like your post. however, it is not true that Arabs don't have names similar to Hebrews. Arabs and Jews share the same roots after all. What about Ibrahim, Yakub, Yusuf, Sulayman, Isa, etc. They sound like Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Solomon, Isaac to me.

      May 5, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • LKJ

      Actually, there are Arabic equivalents for most or all of these names. Jacob is Yaqub. Michael is Mikhail. One of my sons is named Ibrahim, which is Arabic for Abraham, and another, Musa, is Arabic for Moses. We Muslims (I'm not an Arab and neither is my husband) respect the prophets who had those names.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Dr. NoVA

      Thank you to all the posters that noted that Hebrew and Arabic are both Semitic languages, and both are Semitic people, and MANY MANY Arabs, both Muslim and Christian Arabs have Hebrew names.

      My parents are both from Israel, born and raised and fluent in Hebrew, educated at Hebrew universities, but whose first language is Arabic – I am fluent in Arabic but when I am in Haifa or Tel Aviv and I hear someone speaking Hebrew, while I cannot understand them, it sounds like a beautiful mix of soft Arabic.

      To the poster, please take your hatred elsewhere. You have no idea about the Arab world. Arabs and Jews are closer in DNA than almost any two other ethnic groups. Please get educated, or if that doesn't work, be a bit more cautious before you try to post like an authority and mislead people.

      Dr. NoVa

      May 6, 2011 at 2:12 am |
  20. Frauschimdt

    Hmm What about Tomeka, Shawanda and Lettisha?

    Thank God not more freaking Ashleys or Beckys....

    May 5, 2011 at 11:17 pm |
    • Finger Puppet

      You forgot Yolanda. My clinical research group calls it " the Yolanda test".
      It's obvious what THAT is.

      May 6, 2011 at 12:46 am |
    • Hmmm

      Yolanda is Greek for violet. Not sure what the Yolanda test is...

      May 6, 2011 at 1:10 am |
    • HaHa

      Eats Ham sa.....

      Very enlightening. Thanks for the reply

      May 6, 2011 at 2:34 am |
    • SurveillanceState

      Hamza won best post!

      May 6, 2011 at 2:46 am |
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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.