Quick Facts on Esther
- Number of syllables:
- Ranking popularity:
Myrtle, star, secret, Ishtar
Characteristics of Esther
Etymology & Historical Origin - Esther
The name Esther is borne from the Bible; she was a Jewess living in the capital city of Susa in Persia (having been exiled from Jerusalem during the reign of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar II). She would eventually become wife of Ahasuerus, the king of Persia in the 5th century B.C. Her story is recounted in a biblical book aptly named the Book of Esther which is found in the Old Testament and Hebrew Bible. Her real name was actually Hadassah (which is the Hebrew word for “myrtle”, a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean region), but this name is only mentioned once (in Esther 2:7) before being immediately switched to Esther (which is a translation of the Persian word for “star”). After the Persian king’s first wife disobeys him, he disposes of her and holds a regional “beauty pageant” to find a replacement wife. All the beautiful virgins from the provinces throughout the Persian Empire were gathered in Susa, they were given cosmetics and beauty treatments for a year, and tutored in court etiquette by one of the king’s eunuchs. According to Esther 2:7, Esther herself “had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at” so she too was taken into custody where she quickly won the goodwill of the king’s eunuch. Guess which “star” contestant wins? That’s right, Esther (after winning the king’s favors in the bedroom, that is). This is how she became Queen of the Persian Empire all the while keeping her Jewish heritage a secret (which is why she goes by the Persian name Esther). Eventually, at the urging of her cousin Mordecai, Esther risks everything by appearing in the king’s chambers uninvited. She uses her acuity, perception and persuasion to save a large number of Jewish people throughout the Persian Empire from the evil Haman, one of the King’s highest court officials, who was hell-bent on exterminating the Jewish people throughout the kingdom. Her courageous acts are celebrated during the Jewish holiday known as Purim. Besides Ruth, Esther is the only Biblical Book named after a woman. Go ladies! Furthermore, it is a wonderful narrative filled with political satires, literary irony and plot twists. It’s no wonder that Esther has been a favorite name among Jews for centuries. She was one beautiful, brilliant and brave ancient gal. As mentioned previously, Esther’s real name (Hadassah) comes from the Hebrew word for ‘myrtle’ – a bush whose leaves release their fragrance only when they are crushed. This is fitting, you see, because Esther’s true heroism was released once her people were in terrible danger. Esther comes from an Old Persian word (stāra) some believe to mean “star” while others hold that it also means “myrtle”. Some say the name translates to ‘secret, hidden’ given that Esther hides the fact that she’s Jewish. Lastly, there is a school of thought that Esther is a Hebrew form of the name “Ishtar” – the goddess of love and sexuality in Babylonian mythology (Greek counterpart: Aphrodite; Roman counterpart: Venus). Given Esther’s successful beauty pageant career and her feminine wiles with the king, this proposed meaning of her name is not exactly a stretch of the imagination. The name Esther has always been a favorite among Jews in particular, but it has enjoyed popularity among Christians throughout Europe. Some variations of the name in other languages include: Estée (French); Ester (Spanish); Estera (Polish), and Yesfir (Russian).
Popularity of the Name Esther
The name Esther has enjoyed an illustrious career on the U.S. popularity charts. The height of the name’s popularity was unquestionably during the late 1880s and early 1900s. This was back in the day of Florence, Gladys, Gertrude and Martha. Esther was indeed at the pinnacle of her success until 1936 when she finally fell off the Top 100 list of most favored girl names in America. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the name became a little passé, but did level off with pretty consistent and moderate usage in the past 50 years. Clearly, one of the drivers of the name’s success is among the Jewish-American community. This is clearly demonstrated by Esther’s unbreakable triumph in the states of New York and New Jersey (states with the highest concentration of Jewish people in the country). In fact, Esther was ranked #42 in New York and #53 in New Jersey; while nationwide it came in 267th place (2010). Esther is one of the most memorable and colorful women given to us from the Bible. It is a name of heroic proportions – an example of beauty, honor, intelligence and courage all wrapped up into one. Yes, we know that many consider this name just a bit too old-fashioned compared to the other turn-of-the-century ladies. But remember, there are many cute pet forms and nicknames for this time-honored gal: Esty, Hester, Hettie and Ettie, for instance. Also, did you know that Madonna took Esther as her Kabbalah name? She certainly understands the importance of strong women!
Popularity of the Girl Name Esther
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Cultural References to the Baby Name - Esther
Literary Characters of the Baby Name Esther
Esther Greenwood (The Bell Jar) Esther Greenwood is the first person narrator of poet Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical (and only) novel, The Bell Jar, first published in Britain in 1963 under a pseudonym. It chronicles a summer during which she (Plath) serves as an intern at “Mademoiselle” magazine (referred to in the novel as “Ladies’ Day”), during which time she falls down the spiral of madness and struggles back up again. Much like one of her literary male counterparts, Holden Caulfield, Esther Greenwood feels alienated from the society around her, mired as it is in the smug complacency and fixed gender roles of fifties’ America. She fought a valiant fight against these constrictions, but succumbed to the pressures of the narrow-eyed, conventional traditionalists who dominated her young world, as did Ms. Plath, ultimately. She is funny, cynical and iconoclastic in a way young women were not allowed to be, half a century ago – thankfully, times have changed, and Esther would be hailed today as a trailblazer.
Esther Summerson (Bleak House) Esther Summerson is the heroine of Charles Dickens’ ninth novel, Bleak House, serialized between 1852 and 1853, and considered to be one of his best. Esther is the out-of-wedlock child of Honoria, Lady Dedlock and one Captain Hawdon. Esther has been raised by Honoria’s sister, Mrs. Barbary, who has impressed upon Esther a sense of self-worthlessness. She narrates part of the story (making her Dickens’ only female character to do so) from her point of view, which is unfailingly modest and unassuming. Indeed, poor Esther has come in for much criticism for her self-abnegation; she is actually quite the epitome of esteemed Victorian womanhood. At the same time, Esther never neglects to pass on to the reader all the compliments that come her way, even while she is disparaging them at the same time. Nonetheless, we get this idealized portrait of her from her directly – perhaps she is not so modestly Victorian a gal after all?
Popular Songs on Esther
Esther - a song by Guardian
Esther - a song by Phish
My Queen Esther - a song by Guardian
Children's Books on the Baby Name Esther
Esther's Story (Diane Wolkstein) - This is the story of Esther, the young Jewish girl who became a Persian queen and saved her fellow Jews from annihilation. Wolkstein casts this inspiring biblical tale in the form of a diary. In her own words, Esther tells how she came of age in a strange land; she records her hopes, joys, fears and sorrows as she moves from quiet teenager to exalted queen. She reflects, also, upon the meaning of her actions as they affect not only her people but also her understanding of her own identity. Wijngaard's lavish illustrations and Wolkstein's rendering of Esther's first-person narration breathe new humanity into this grand and glorious story, introducing to all children the power of self-sacrifice. Recommended for ages 7-10.
Hadassah: The Girl Who Became Queen Esther (Tommy Tenney) - Young Hadassah has survived a terrible loss, and now as a lovely teenager, her beauty catches the eye of Persian soldiers looking for candidates to become Queen of Persia. Captured and taken to the palace, Hadassah once again must call on the God of her Jewish heritage to protect her. If she is chosen to be the new queen, what will this mean for her and her fellow Jews living in exile among the Persians? Will she be able to protect her people from those who hate the Jews? Pre-teen and early teen readers will be captivated by this suspenseful retelling of the story of the young girl who became Queen Esther. Recommended for ages 10-14.
Plain Girl (Virginia Sorensen) - An Amish girl, Esther feels like "one black bird against the sky" in her plain clothes. So when she's forced to attend public school she's terrified. She fears the new world she must enter, fears the way she sticks out next to other kids, and--most of all--fears she may do what her brother did: run away and join the sinful but great wide world she's only just discovering. The Christian Science Monitor says: "A tender and wise book, and the details of Amish living are interesting and authentic." Recommended for ages 9-12.
The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale (Eric A. Kimmel) - Told for many thousands of years, Esther's story is still thrilling as well as inspiring. The Purim story is full of drama. It brings together a mighty king, a jealous scoundrel, and a wise uncle. However, at its center is a clever heroine who was so beautiful she was known as the Morning Star. It is only because of Queen Esther's cunning and courage that evil was brought to justice and many lives were saved. Recommended for ages 4-8.
Famous People Named Esther
Famous People Named Esther - Esther Cañadas (supermodel); Esther Williams (swimmer/actress); Esther Dyson (technologist); Esther Hobart Morris (first woman to hold a judicial position); Esther Peterson (social activist); Esther Ralston (silent movie actress); Eshter Forbes (writer/historian); Esther Bigeou (jazz artist/blues singer)
Children of Famous People Named Esther
Famous People Who Named Their Daughter Esther - Ewan McGregor (actor); Grover Cleveland (U.S. President)
Esther - Girl Baby Name - Historic Figures
Esther - We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Esther.
Personality of the Girl Name Esther
The Three energy is powerful and enthusiastic. These personalities are cheerful, full of self-expression, and often quite emotional. They have an artistic flair and "gift-of-gab" that makes them natural entertainers. Their joyfulness bubbles over, and their infectious exuberance draws a crowd. The Three personality is like a child - forever young and full of delight. They are charming, witty, and generally happy people. The Three personality lives in the "now" and has a spontaneous nature. Threes seem to live with a bright and seemingly unbreakable aura that attracts others to them. In turn, they are deeply loyal and loving to their friends and family. Luck also has a tendency to favor number Threes.
Variations of the Baby Name - Esther