Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ranking the Names of Namesakes of Biblical Books From Most Conventional to Most Unusual

I like to think that my children—Meyer, Resha Kate, and Malachi—have names that are unique without being strange. But I occasionally find myself thinking that "Malachi" is a funny name to give a kid. Why would I think such a thing? "Malachi" is the name of a prophet who wrote a book of the Bible, a collection of texts considered sacred by almost one-third of the world's population. Other namesakes of biblical books include John, Daniel, Ruth, and Joel. No one considers those names unusual. On the other hand, I've never known anyone named Nahum or Haggai.

With that in mind, I've decided to rank the names of all Bible-book namesakes from the most conventional to the most unusual to see where "Malachi" lands. I've determined how conventional or unusual a name by considering the name's current popularity and popularity over time among English-speaking North Americans. (I wouldn't know how to compare "Juan" and "Pedro" or "Matthieu" and "Luc." And I have no idea how popular "Zechariah" is in New Zealand or Ireland.) Very little research or hard data has gone into the creation of this list, aside from several trips to the Name Voyager.

1. John
2. Matthew
3. Daniel
4. Timothy
5. Mark
6. Peter
7. Samuel
8. Joshua
9. Ruth
10. Joel
11. Luke
12. Jeremiah
13. Judith*
14. Jonah
15. Isaiah
16. Esther
17. Ezekiel
18. Ezra
19. Micah
20. Amos
21. Malachi
22. Zechariah
23. Enoch**
24. Titus
25. Hosea
26. Job
27. Baruch*
28. Tobit*
29. Obadiah
30. Zephaniah
31. Philemon
32. Nahum
33. Habakkuk
34. Haggai

*Book is in Roman Catholic and Orthodox Bibles but not Protestant and Jewish Bibles.

**Book is only in Ethiopian Orthodox Bibles.

One could make a case that Malachi is more conventional than Amos, but I'm certain (thanks to Name Voyager) that "Malachi" is more obscure than "Micah" but more common than "Zechariah."

For what it's worth, none of the names ranked 26–34 is among the 1,000 most popular names in any decade according to Name Voyager. Every other name, including "Malachi," was at least marginally popular at some point in the past century.


Anonymous Kevin Alton said...

I have a friend named Ammi. I had forgotten the biblical reference, but when she told me it meant "my people," I looked it up. The biblical name is actually Lo-Ammi, which means "not my people;" it's one of the names given to the children of Hosea from his marriage to a prostitute.

It's a pretty name, but an odd back-story if you ever had to explain the whole thing. And I'm thinking that Hosea's kids had issues growing up.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Tinley said...

I think that's a safe assessment.

I'm guessing that Ruhamah means "pitied," which is slightly better than Hosea's Lo-ruhamah, or "not pitied."

10:04 AM  
Blogger Elizabeth said...

Where's Elizabeth? ;)

4:01 PM  
Anonymous Tim said...

One of the baby name books we've been perusing has nifty charts, showing the rise and fall in popularity of names over the decades. Mary (and its many varieties) is a perennial favorite, so I'm guessing you must have just not gotten around to looking up very many female names. But I think Malachi is a great name! No stranger than Dakota or any number of other unusual names people choose these days.

4:20 PM  
Blogger Tinley said...

To clarify, the only names listed are namesakes of books of the Bible. Thus several common biblical names (Andrew, David, Sarah, Hannah, etc.) are not included.

6:47 PM  

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