Elias is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Elijah and essentially comes from the same Biblical origin. Elijah appears in the first and second Book of Kings. He was an important Israelite prophet in the 9th century B.C. whose purpose was to call Israelites back to the worship of one God (Yahweh) and away from the pagan cults which were gaining popularity at the time. Elijah was called upon by God himself. Fittingly, the name Elijah comes from the Hebrew meaning “Yahweh is God” or “Jehovah is Lord.” He is thought to have played an important role in maintaining the Jewish religion by recognizing just one God. In 2 Kings 2:11, Elijah is taken up to the heavens by a chariot of fire and seen no more. According to Jewish tradition, Elijah is still roaming the earth and will appear when it comes time to announce the Messiah. In Christian tradition, this is probably why they so closely associate John the Baptist (who announced the arrival of Jesus) with Elijah. Elias (the Hellenized ancient Greek form of Elijah) has been around as long as Elijah and for awhile replaced the name in the Latin/English versions of the Bible. Like Elijah, Elias is experiencing a comeback in usage in modern times.
The name Elias closely mimics the naming patterns and popularity of Elijah. Both names have been around and in use since early America, and certainly be the time the government began tracking naming trends in 1880. Elias experiences moderate usage at the turn of the 20th century and gradually declines in usage as the decades ensue. The name hits an all-time low in the late 1950s and then reverses its course. While not as popular as Elijah or Eli on the list of most-favored boys’ names, Elias is holding its own on the charts. The name is slowly creeping its way toward a position on the Top 100 list; we’ll have to wait a couple of years given its current trajectory to see if that happens. Elias is a good alternative to Elijah for parents to consider. It’s not as trendy or overused and it has a sweeter sound. There are five states where the name has hit the Top 100: New Mexico, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, California and Vermont. Apparently, these states got the memo – Elias is just plain adorable for little boys, grows into a “cool” name for teenagers, and sounds distinguished on adults. If that isn’t enough, Elias is the middle name of Walt Disney!