Aaron is a masculine name borne from the Hebrew Bible and Old Testament, from the Hebrew ‘Aharon (אַהֲרֹן). The name’s meaning is uncertain but probably ultimately derived from the Egyptian language (like Moses and Miriam) and is said to mean "mountain of strength". Descended from the Tribe of Levi, Aaron is the oldest brother of Moses and Miriam and all three were born into Israelite slavery in Egypt which is why it’s believed the names are Egyptian. In the case of Aaron, it’s speculated that the name means “high mountain” (“exalted one”). All of these potential meanings make sense once you understand Aaron’s role in Exodus. Aaron was essentially Moses’ eloquent spokesperson among the Israelites in captivity in Egypt and he famously accompanied his brother to deliver God’s message to Pharaoh: “Let my people go!” As Moses’ right-hand man, Aaron was around for the Ten Plagues, the crossing of the Red Sea and the journey to Mt. Sinai. This is where the famous incident of the “Golden Calf” occurred. While Moses was up on the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments with Joshua, Aaron was responsible for babysitting the Israelites down below. The people grew impatient during the 40 day absence of Moses and clamored endlessly for Aaron to build them an idol of divinity. Under pressure, Aaron finally relented and fashioned a “golden calf” out of the gold jewelry collected from all the people. The Israelites then proceeded to celebrate around the altar before it (Exodus 32:1-35). God was furious – already two Commandments were broken (#1 No other God but Me, and #2 No making idols). God tells Moses that He plans to extinguish all the people in retaliation, but Moses talks Him out of it. When Moses descends Mt. Sinai he, too, is overwhelmed with anger and throws the Commandment tablets to the ground breaking them apart (thus symbolizing the Israelite’s breaking of their covenant with God). He also takes the Golden Calf, burns it and grinds it to dust. Aaron understands his faux pas in this situation and awkwardly apologizes (it’s just that the people were so insistent and his back was against the wall!) In the end, a plague is sent upon the people who do not align themselves with Moses; those who remain by Moses’ side are spared death and apparently all was forgiven when God restored the tablets. Aside from his role as Moses’ compatriot and a prophet of God in his own right, Aaron is also notable for being anointed the very first High Priest of the Israelites. For obvious reasons, Aaron has always been “exalted” among the Jewish people, but the Puritans adopted this Biblical name for themselves after the Reformation. The name was also introduced to English-speaking Christians by way of Saint Aaron of Aleth, a 6th century saint who was admired for his life of contemplation, living life as a hermit on an island off the coast of Brittany. Today Aaron remains a hugely popular name within every single English-speaking nation as well as in France, Belgium and Spain.
Aaron has always been a favorite baby boy’s name in Jewish culture, but as an English name it began to take hold after the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. In the United States its popularity sharply surged and has maintained itself since the early 1970s. For several decades now Aaron has remained in the Top 50 most favored names for boys, even if it seems to be hovering at the bottom of that list. It’s a classical Biblical choice with a modern-day feel that won’t go out of style.