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The Meaning and Importance of Biblical Names (and 100 of our Favorite Bible Names)

  • Dolores Smyth Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
  • 2019 22 Jul
  • COMMENTS
The Meaning and Importance of Biblical Names (and 100 of our Favorite Bible Names)

Many of us start thinking about what we’ll name our future children when we’re basically still children ourselves. With youthful-yet-earnest contemplation, many young people choose the names of their future sons and daughters based on such things as an inspiring book character, a beloved geographical location, or (cringe) the pop culture craze of their era.  

Some people go on to give their children the names they’ve held dear over the years. Others lament when their spouses put the kibosh on a favorite moniker. Yet others discover that life’s unexpected circumstances steer them toward names they hadn’t considered for their child at all.

This fascination with names reflects the fact that names carry weight.

Names can tie us to our origins and traditions. Names can also allude to our circumstances or stand for something that mattered to our parents in choosing what others would call us.

The importance of a person’s name is especially evident in the Bible, making Scripture a longstanding go-to resource for parents when choosing a baby’s name. In fact, names from the Bible have grown in usage and have been trending in recent years!

So, what is meaningand importance of a Biblical name?

Names in the Bible can signify origin.

Biblical names are rich in symbolism. Some names signify origin. Scripture opens with the Book of Genesis detailing the beginnings of Creation. The word “genesis” itself means “origin.”

God named the first human “Adam,” likely derived from the Hebrew word for “ground” and reminding us that Adam, as the first human, was created from the ground’s dust (Genesis 2:7). Adam then named his wife Eve, a name that means “living” and commemorates Eve’s role as “the mother of all the living” (Genesis 3:20).

Names in the Bible can signify purpose.

Other Biblical names denote purpose. A fisherman called Simon (which name means “that hears or that obeys”) became one of the first people to hear Jesus’s call and become His disciple. Jesus changed Simon’s name to “Peter,” meaning “rock.” When Peter correctly identified Jesus as the Son of God, Jesus blessed Peterand announced that on that “rock” He would build His church (Matthew 16:18).

The name of Christ Himself is also steeped in symbolism. The name “Jesus” means “savior” and “deliverer.”When Mary conceived Jesus through the Holy Spirit, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told Joseph to raise the child as his own and name the child Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:18-21).

Names in the Bible can describe a person’s characteristics or circumstances.

Still other Biblical names depict a person’s traits or environment. When God told Abraham, then 100-years-old, that his 90-year-old wife Sarah would give birth to a son, Abraham and Sarah laughed (Genesis 17:17). Sarah went on to give birth to a son named Isaac, which means “laughter.”

Isaac grew up to have twin sons. The first of the twin boys was named Esau, which means “hairy” because of how hairy Esau was at birth. (Genesis 25:25). The second of the twin sons was born grasping at Esau’s heel and was, thus, named Jacob, which means “that supplants” (Genesis 25:26).

True to his name, Jacob would go on to rob his older brother Esau of their father’s blessing of the firstborn (Genesis 27). Jacob, thereafter, would go on to wrestle with God and be renamed Israel, which means “wrestles with God” (Genesis 32:28).

Names in the Bible honor God.

Many parents give their child a name that honors God in some way. You may have planned to choose a name that honored God all along, or you may have experienced difficulties in conceiving or during pregnancy that turned your eyes desperately or joyously upward.

Whatever your reason for honoring God through your child’s name, two of the most popular searches for Biblical names are for names that mean “a gift from God” or “God is with us.”

What name means “a gift from God?”

Boys’ names and their variants that mean a “gift from God” include: Jonathan, Matthew, Matthias, Mateo, Nathanael, and Theodore.

Girls’ names and their variants that mean a “gift from God” include: Dorothy, Dora, Doreen, Mattea, Thea, and Theodora.

What name means “God is with us?”

A boy’s name and its variants that mean “God is with us” include: Emmanuel, Immanuel, and Manuel.

A girl’s name and its variants that mean “God is with us” include: Emmanuelle and Manuela.

There are numerous other names that celebrate God or that simply refer to Scripture as a way to exalt His Word. Here are ten significant Biblical names and their meanings for males and females, followed by a sampling of Biblical names from A to Z:

10 significant male biblical names and their meanings:

Daniel
A prophet under King Nebuchadnezzar’s rule who bravely refused to stop praying to God despite being thrown into (and surviving) the lion’s den. Daniel means: God is my judge.

David
A young shepherd who conquered Goliath, was anointed king of Israel, and authored many of the psalms. An ancestor of Jesus. David means: Beloved.

Elijah
A prophet who was vital in saving the religion of Yahweh from being corrupted by the worship of the Canaanite deity Baal. Elijah means: Yahweh is my God.

Isaiah
A prophet best known for his writings about the coming Messiah, hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Isaiah means: The salvation of God.

Jacob
The son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham, and the traditional ancestor of the people of Israel. Jacob means: That supplants.

John
John the Baptist was a prophet who baptized people, including his cousin Jesus, in the Jordan River. John the Apostle was one of Jesus’s twelve apostles and the author of the Gospel of John and the Book of Revelation. John means: God is gracious.

Joseph
Joseph the favored son of Jacob was sold into slavery by his brothers but eventually became an official in the Egyptian kingdom, allowing Joseph to save his brothers and their people from famine. Joseph the carpenter was Mary’s husband and the earthly father of Jesus. Joseph means: Increase or addition.

Luke
Author of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Luke means: Luminous or white.

Michael
An archangel and leader of the heavenly hosts who defeat Satan in the Book of Revelation. Michael means: Who is like God?

Noah
Hero of the Biblical flood story and builder of the ark. Through Noah, God promised to never again destroy all life on earth with a flood. Noah means: Rest or repose.

10 significant female biblical names and their meanings:

Anna
A prophet who encounters Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in the Temple at Jerusalem and recognizes the infant Jesus as the future promised Redeemer. Anna means: Gracious.

Deborah
A prophet and Israel’s only female judge. Deborah inspired the Israelites to defeat their Canaanite oppressors. Deborah means: Bee.

Dinah
Jacob’s daughter whose assault caused her brothers to plunder the city of Shechem. Dinah means: Judged or vindicated.

Elizabeth
Mother of John the Baptist and cousin of Jesus’s mother Mary. Elizabeth means: God’s oath.

Joanna
A wealthy woman who, along with others, helped to financially support Jesus’s ministry. Joanna means: God is gracious.

Mary
Jesus’s mother and a witness to the Crucifixion. Mary is known as the “Second Eve,” bringing the redemption of sin into the world in the person of Jesus. Mary means: Rebellion.

Naomi
A widow whose children had died. Her widowed daughter-in-law Ruth remained with her and, through Ruth’s second marriage, Naomi became the grandmother of Obed, who was an ancestor of Jesus. Naomi means: Pleasantness.

Rachel
One of Jacob’s wives and the mother of Joseph, who was the favored son of Jacob. Rachel means: Sheep.

Ruth
After her husband’s death, Ruth leaves her own people and, instead, lives with her mother-in-law Naomi. Ruth then remarries and bears Obed, who became the ancestor of Jesus. Ruth means: Friend.

Sarah
The wife of Abraham, grandmother of Isaac, and great-grandmother of Jacob. As promised by God, Sarah became “the mother of nations” (Genesis 17:16). Sarah means: Princess.

List of Biblical names from A-Z, with typical male (M) or female (F) designations:

A

Aaron (M): A teacher; lofty; mountain of strength

Abigail (F): The father's joy

Abraham (M): Father of a great multitude

Adam (M): Ground; earthy

Alexander/Alexandra (M/F): Defender of men

Andrew (M): Astrong man

Anna (F): Gracious

Ariel (F): Light or lion of God

Asher (M): Happiness

B

Barnabas (M): Son of the prophet

Bartholomew (M): A son that suspends the waters

Baruch (M): Who is blessed

Benjamin (M): Son of the right hand

Bernice (F): One that brings victory

Bethel (F): The house of God

C

Calah (F): Completion; maturity

Candace (F): Who possesses contrition

Chloe (F): Green herb

Christian/Christianne (M/F): follower of Christ

D

Daniel/Daniella(M/F): God is my judge

David (M): Beloved

Diana (F): Luminous

Dora/Doreen (F): A gift from God

Dorothy/Dorothea (F): A gift from God

E

Eden/Edna (F): Pleasure; delight

Eleazar (M): Help of God

Eli (M): The offering or lifting up

Elijah (M): Yahweh is my God

Elisha (F): God’s salvation

Elizabeth (F): God’s oath

Emmanuel/Emmanuelle (M/F): God is with us

Ephraim (M): Fruitful; increasing

Ethan (M): Strong; the gift of the island

Eve/Eva (F): Living

Ezekiel (M): The strength of God

Ezra (M): Help; court

F

Faith (F): To trust

Felix/Felicia (M/F): Lucky; successful

G

Gabriel/Gabriella (M/F): God is my strength

Gaius (M): To rejoice

Grace (F): Favor; blessing

H

Hannah (F): Gracious; merciful

Hope (F): Expectation

Hosea (M): Salvation

I

Immanuel (M): God is with us

Isaac (M): Laughter

Isaiah (M): The salvation of God

Ishmael (M): God that hears

J

Jacob (M): That supplants

Jason (M): He that cures

Jeremiah/Jeremy (M): Exaltation of the Lord

Joanna (F): God is gracious

Joel (M): He that wills or commands

John (M): God is gracious

Jonah (M): A dove

Jonathan (M): A gift from God

Joseph (M): Increase; addition

Joshua (M): Asavior; a deliverer

Josiah (M): The Lord burns; the fire of the Lord

Judah/Judith (M/F): The praise of the Lord; confession

Julian/Julia (M/F): Soft and tender hair

 

K

Kemuel (M): God is raised up

Kenan (M): Buyer, owner

Keturah (F): Incense

L

Lazarus (M): Whom God helps

Leah (F): Weary

Lemuel (M): God with them

Lillian/Lily (F): Lily, purity

Lois (F): Agreeable

Lucas/Luke (M): Luminous; white

Lydia (F): Beauty

M

Malachi (M): My messenger, my angel

Marcus/Mark (M): Polite, shining

Matthew/Matthias/Mateo (M): A gift from God

Mercy (F): Reward

Michael (M): Who is like God?

Moses (M): Drawn out or saved from the water

Myra (F): Sweet-smelling oil

N

Naomi (F): Pleasantness

Nathan (M): Given

Nathanael/Nathaniel (M): A gift from God

Nehemiah (M): Consolation; repentance of the Lord

Neriah (F): Light; lamp of the Lord

Noah (M): Rest; repose

O

Obadiah (M): Servant of the Lord

Omar (M): He that speaks; bitter

Omri (M): Sheaf of corn

Orpah (F): The neck or skull

P

Paul/Paula (M/F): Small

Pauline (F): Small

Peter (M): A rock

Philip (M): Warlike; a lover of horses

Phineas (M) Face of trust or protection

Phoebe (F): Shining; pure

Priscilla (F): Ancient

Q

Quartus (M): Fourth

R

Rachel (F): Sheep

Reuben (M): Who sees the son; the vision of the son

Ruth (F): Friend

S

Samson (M): His sun; his service; there the second time

Samuel (M): God has heard

Sarah (F): Princess

Sharon (F): His plain; his song

Shiloh (F): Peace; abundance

Silas (M): Three

Simon (M): That hears; that obeys

Solomon (M): Peaceful; perfect; one who recompenses

Stephen/Stephanie (M): Crown; crowned

Susanna (F): Lily; rose; joy

T

Tabitha (F): Clear-sighted; deer

Thaddeus (M): That praises or confesses

Theodore/Theodora (M/F): A gift from God

Thomas (M): A twin

Timothy (M): Honor of God; valued of God

Tobias (M): The Lord is good

U

Uriah (M): Light of God

Uzziah (M): Strength of God

V

Victor/Victoria (M/F): Victor; victory

Z

Zacchaeus (M): Pure; clean; just

Zebedee (M): Abundant; portion

Zachariah/Zachary (M): The Lord remembers

Zina (F): Shining; going back


Dolores Smyth writes on faith and parenting. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online publications. You can read more of her work on Twitter @LolaWordSmyth

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