By far and away, the Bible has had the single most dominant impact on naming practices within the Western World. Most of the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) names are rooted in the ancient Hebrew language and have been Latinized and Anglicized over time. These are names borne by significant figures rooted in religious importance and traditions, but there are also several lesser-known biblical names in circulation as well (mainly thanks to the Puritans). Every name tells a story, from Adam and Eve to Abraham and Sarah. From Samson and Delilah to Naomi and Ruth. From Moses and Miriam to Jacob and Rachel. Many Old Testament names are rare now and some are so foreign to the Western ear, they have never been adopted on any widespread stage. Still, Biblical names from the Old Testament are commonly used by Jews and Gentiles alike (although some are still more heavily associated with Jewish people like Saul and Ruth, for instance). Still, names like David and Sarah know no religious boundaries and continue to be modern day favorites.
The New Testament was written in Greek (as opposed to Hebrew) so the names we have adopted over time originated from the Greek and Latin languages, as well as Hebrew. Obviously the four evangelists have factored into the Western naming traditions in a hugely significant way: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So have the apostles Andrew, Bartholomew, Matthew, James, John, Paul, Peter, Philip, Simon and Thomas. But wait. Something’s missing. Where are the female names? The Old Testament gave us several girl names, but the New Testament has been a bit thin on the ladies. Of course there’s Mary, but it wasn’t until the latter part of the Middle Ages when folks started using the name in all her forms (prior, the name had been considered too holy for use). Elizabeth was the name of John the Baptist’s mother, while Martha, Anne and Mary Magdalene are also featured in the New Testament. Incidentally, Mary of Magdalene gave us the Spanish female name Magdalena and the French Madeleine.
Speaking of too holy for use, the English have traditionally shied away from names like Jesus and Emmanuel while the Spanish have embraced these given names. Moises (Spanish form of Moses) is more popular than the Hebrew version today. Eve also came late to the game; in medieval times many people saw her act of giving Adam the forbidden apple as way too naughty. Regardless, our cupeth runneth over with name choices from the Bible and, as time persists, the religious lines disappear. Today we can say with confidence that many of the biblical name choices below are popular more by the sake of fashion than religious significance. That being said, these names often have wonderfully colorful stories around them and worth learning about!