Most popular biblical baby names

Written by:
March 4, 2021
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Most popular biblical baby names

What’s in a name? Well, when it comes to biblical names, the answer is: plenty.

Names from the Bible have been popular as long as the Good Book has existed, and many have grown steadily in usage in recent years.

A few biblical characters made names for themselves performing miracles, like Aaron, who transformed his walking staff into a serpent and showed that he could bring on plagues of blood, frogs, and lice. Isaiah predicted the virgin birth of Christ, and Gabriel was the archangel who told the Virgin Mary the news of the Annunciation. Elijah performed miracles and upon his death was taken to heaven in a horse-drawn chariot of fire.

Some of the most intriguing namesakes are the stars of stories told generation after generation. Jonah was swallowed by a whale and sat in its belly for three days before he was hurled onto dry land. Delilah cut off her strong lover Samson’s hair, rendering him powerless. Joseph was given a brightly colored coat by his father, making his brothers so jealous that they sold him into slavery and faked his death. Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, who did not eat him alive because an angel sent by God intervened.

Some names were popular in the Middle Ages, adopted by royalty and powerful popes. Others fell into disuse for centuries before they were brought back. Many have found their way into popular culture, as in the hit song “Hey Jude,” the classic novel “Silas Marner,” and the unstoppable Princess Leia of “Star Wars.”

To determine the most popular biblical baby names, Stacker consulted the name origin site Behind the Name and the Social Security Administration’s baby names database. We ranked the top 50 names from Behind the Name’s Biblical Names origins list of 564 names, based on how many babies had been given these names in 2019.

Click through to find out which biblical names have stood the test of time.

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#50. Jude (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #153 (2,527 babies born)

Jude is a variation of Judas, the apostle who is believed to have written the Epistle of Jude. In English, Jude has been a given name since the Protestant Reformation. The Beatles helped popularize it with their 1968 song “Hey Jude,” and it is also the name of British actor Jude Law.

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#49. Jesus (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #152 (2,530 babies born)

The name Jesus is a version of the Aramaic name Yeshua. Yeshua ben Yoseph is better known by the name Jesus Christ, the central figure in the New Testament and origin of the Christian faith. As a given name it is popular in Latin, Catholic countries.

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#48. Jonah (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #141 (2,666 babies born)

Jonah comes from the Hebrew name Yonah, which means “dove.” In the Old Testament, Jonah was a prophet who defied God’s orders to preach to the people of Nineveh and fled by boat, was hit by a terrible storm at sea, and then thrown overboard by resentful shipmates. He was swallowed by a whale and sat in its belly praying for help for three days, after which the whale hurled him out onto dry land.

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#47. Julia (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #99 (2,775 babies born)

The feminine form of the Roman name Julius, Julia was the name of Julia Augusta, who was the wife of Emperor Augustus, and Julia the Elder, the wife of Tiberius. It only became common as a given name after the 18th century. More modern examples are chef Julia Child and actress Julia Roberts.

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#46. Lydia (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #94 (2,985 babies born)

In Greek, this name denotes someone from Lydia, a coastal region of Asia Minor believed to have been named for a legendary king named Lydos. In the Bible, a woman named Lydia was converted by St. Paul to Christianity.

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#45. Zachary (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #124 (3,064 babies born)

Zachary comes from Zacharias, a name found in some versions of the New Testament. Famous holders of the name are U.S. president Zachary Taylor and, these days, actors Zachary Quinto and Zac Efron.

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#44. Nathaniel (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #123 (3,072 babies born)

Nathaniel is a variation on Nathanael found in the New Testament. Nineteenth-century American author Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “The Scarlet Letter,” and Nat King Cole sang the hits “Unforgettable” and “Mona Lisa.”

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#43. Delilah (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #88 (3,133 babies born)

Delilah means “delicate” and “weak” in Hebrew, but the most famous Delilah hardly fits the description. In the Old Testament, she is the lover of Samson, who had great strength rooted in his long hair. Delilah betrayed Samson to his enemies by cutting off his hair.

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#42. Sarah (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #81 (3,287 babies born)

Sarah was the name of Abraham’s wife, the matriarch of the Jewish people. She had no children until she became pregnant with Isaac at age 90. Sarah was one of the most popular names in the 1970s and '80s. Famous people with the name include actresses Sarah Bernhardt and Sarah Jessica Parker, politician Sarah Palin, and Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York.

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#41. Micah (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #110 (3,461 babies born)

Micah was a minor prophet in the Old Testament who wrote the prophecy-filled Book of Micah. He wrote the words imploring Christians “to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with our God.”

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#40. Silas (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #107 (3,531 babies born)

Silas is likely a shortened version of Silvanus, who was a companion of the Bible’s St. Paul. It is the name of the lead character in the 19th century novel “Silas Marner” by George Eliot, about a miserly and solitary weaver in the English countryside.

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#39. Jason (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #104 (3,555 babies born)

In Greek mythology, Jason led an expedition of the Argonauts, the sailors on the ship Argo, on a legendary quest to find the valued Golden Fleece. More modern namesakes are Jason Bourne, the professional assassin hero of movies and spy books by Robert Ludlum, and actors Jason Robards, Jason Isaacs, Jason Bateman, and Jason Momoa.

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#38. Anna (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #63 (3,807 babies born)

Anna, like Hannah, stems from Channah in Greek and Latin versions of the Old Testament. It was used by Christians in the West during the Middle Ages in honoring St. Anna, the mother of the Virgin Mary. It was the name of members of the Russian royal family, and Queen Anne was the last of the Stuarts to rule England.

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#37. Naomi (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #59 (3,929 babies born)

In Hebrew, Naomi means “pleasantness,” and in the Old Testament Naomi is Ruth’s mother-in-law. It has most commonly been a Jewish name. Modern-day namesakes include British model Naomi Campbell, actress Naomi Watts, and tennis player Naomi Osaka, who won the women’s championship at the 2020 U.S. Open.

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#36. Adam (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #90 (4,168 babies born)

Adam, the first human created by God in the Bible’s Book of Genesis, is the Hebrew word for “man.” Cast out from the Garden of Eden with Eve, he fathered Cain, Abel, and Seth. The name has been commonly used since the Middle Ages.

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#35. Leah (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #44 (4,739 babies born)

In the Old Testament, Leah was Jacob’s first wife and bore him seven children. Jacob also had a second wife, Rachel, who was Leah's younger sister. A contemporary and fictional variation is Princess Leia of the “Star Wars” movies, who was portrayed by the late actress Carrie Fisher.

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#34. Ezekiel (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #71 (4,890 babies born)

In Hebrew, Ezekiel means “God will strengthen.” In the Old Testament, Ezekiel was a major prophet who foresaw the fall of Jerusalem due to the wickedness of Judah and his followers. He was chosen by God to both warn his fellow citizens and assure them of their eventual redemption.

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#33. Jeremiah (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #70 (5,026 babies born)

Jeremiah was a major prophet in the Old Testament who wrote the Book of Jeremiah and possibly the Book of Lamentations. He was a preacher in Jerusalem in the sixth century B.C., when Babylon took over the city and began taking Jews as captives, and he prophesied of their historic persecution.

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#32. Jonathan (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #64 (5,418 babies born)

The name Jonathan is rooted in the Hebrew Yonatan, meaning “Yahweh has given.” In the Old Testament, he and his father Saul died in battle with the Philistines. The name wasn’t popular in the English-speaking world until after the Protestant Reformation.

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#31. Aaron (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #61 (5,509 babies born)

The most famous Aaron might be Aaron Burr, the U.S. vice president who killed Alexander Hamilton in an historic duel in 1804. In the Old Testament, Moses’s older brother was named Aaron. When he and Moses asked the Pharaoh to release the Israelites from slavery, Aaron used his walking staff to perform divine miracles, changing it into a serpent, flowers, and almonds, as well as using it to launch plagues of blood, frogs, and lice.

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#30. Hannah (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #32 (5,586 babies born)

Hannah was a wife of Elkanah in the Bible’s Old Testament. The name gained regular use after the Protestant Reformation and soared in popularity in the late 1900s. Famous namesakes are author and political theorist Hannah Arendt, German actress Hanna Schygulla, and Hannah Montana, a fictional television character played by Miley Cyrus.

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#29. Nathan (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #55 (6,049 babies born)

Nathan was a prophet in the Old Testament who lived during the reign of King David. More recently in history, American patriot Nathan Hale famously said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country" when he was executed by the British in 1776.

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#28. Isaiah (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #53 (6,150 babies born)

One of the major prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah predicted the virgin birth and sufferings of Jesus Christ. Isiah Thomas is a former basketball star who played for the Detroit Pistons, and Hurricane Isaias hit North Carolina in early August 2020.

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#27. Caleb (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #52 (6,345 babies born)

Caleb of the Old Testament was one of 12 spies sent by Moses into Canaan and returned with a report that a campaign into the Promised Land could succeed. Caleb was a common name among the Puritans, who brought it to America in the 17th century.

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#26. Chloe (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #24 (6,361 babies born)

Chloe in Greek means “green shoot,” a reference to the spring’s new plant growth. The name was referenced in one of St. Paul’s epistles. Chloë Sevigny is an American actress, and the French fashion house Chloe helped launch fashion designer Stella McCartney.

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#25. Ezra (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #49 (6,489 babies born)

Ezra means “help” in Hebrew, and in the Old Testament, the Book of Ezra records the return of the Jews after seven decades of Babylonian captivity and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Famous namesakes have included American poet Ezra Pound and Ezra Cornell, a founder of Cornell University.

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#24. Joshua (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #48 (6,574 babies born)

Joshua accompanied Moses on Mt. Sinai when Moses was given the Ten Commandments and later was one of the spies Moses sent into Canaan to scout the possibility of a campaign into the Promised Land—when Moses died, Joshua became leader of the Israelites. The name Jesus is a Greek translation of the Aramaic name Yeshu'a, and the distinctive Joshua trees in the U.S. Mojave Desert were named by Mormon settlers in the mid-1800s as a reference to a Bible story of Joshua reaching his hands skyward in prayer.

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#23. Thomas (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #47 (6,612 babies born)

Thomas was an apostle in the New Testament who doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead until Jesus appeared and Thomas could see his wounds. There have been suggestions that he could have been the brother of the Apostle Jude or of Jesus. In England, St. Thomas Becket, a 12th-century martyr, helped make the name one of the most common in the West through the 19th century. Other namesakes have included theologian Thomas Aquinas, philosopher Thomas Hobbes, U.S. president Thomas Jefferson, inventor Thomas Edison, musician Tom Waits, and actor Tom Cruise.

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#22. Andrew (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #46 (6,757 babies born)

In the New Testament, the Apostle Andrew was the first disciple to join Jesus. It is said he went to preach in the Black Sea region. The name was popular in the Middle Ages, and St. Andrew is considered the patron saint of Scotland, Greece, Russia, and Romania.

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#21. Josiah (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #45 (6,767 babies born)

In the Old Testament, Josiah was the name of a seventh-century B.C, king of Judah who implemented significant religious reforms. He shut down pagan worship sites in Israel and centralized worship in Jerusalem.

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#20. Asher (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #43 (6,984 babies born)

Asher means “happy” and “blessed” in Hebrew. In the Old Testament, Asher was one of the 12 sons of Jacob who were the ancestors of the 12 tribes of Israel. The tribe prospered, receiving land on the Mediterranean coast.

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#19. Gabriel (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #37 (7,678 babies born)

In the New Testament’s Gospel of St. Luke, Gabriel was the archangel who told the Virgin Mary she would bear the son of God. In the many paintings of the Annunciation, Gabriel typically appears carrying a lily or a scroll inscribed with the words he says to her. In Islam, Gabriel is the angel who dictated the Quran to Muhammad.

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#18. Elizabeth (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #14 (7,844 babies born)

In the New Testament, Elizabeth was the mother of John the Baptist. In 12th-century Eastern Europe, St. Elizabeth of Hungary was a helper of the poor, and in the 16th century Queen Elizabeth I reigned in England—where Queen Elizabeth II reigns today. In America, Elizabeth has consistently been in the top 30 most popular names since recording began in 1880. Variations include Isabel, Elise, Elsie, Beth, Betsy, Liselle, Lisette, Bettina, Elspeth, Lise, and Lisa.

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#17. Isaac (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #34 (8,148 babies born)

The Hebrew meaning of Isaac is “to laugh,” based on the story in Genesis that Abraham laughed when God told him that he and his wife Sarah, both of whom were aged, would bear a son. Later, God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering, and Abraham was about to go through with the killing before an angel intervened. Famous namesakes include mathematician Sir Isaac Newton and science-fiction author Isaac Asimov. Hurricane Isaac hit Louisiana and Mississippi with lashing winds, flooding, and a major storm surge in 2012.

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#16. Luke (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #32 (8,375 babies born)

The biblical Luke was a doctor and wrote the third Gospel and Acts in the New Testament. In English, the name Luke and Lucas have been used commonly since the 12th century. Famous fictional namesakes are Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars” and the title character in the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke,” a prisoner on a chain gang played by Paul Newman.

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#15. John (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #28 (8,779 babies born)

The biblical John the Baptist was an ascetic preacher who lived in the wilderness, baptizing people who would repent their sins, and he baptized Jesus. John the Apostle was among the disciples, along with Peter and James, who were closest to Christ. The name was so popular in the late Middle Ages that about a fifth of boys in England were named John. Also widely used are the Scottish version Ian, the Irish version Sean, and the Welsh version Evan, as well as the diminutive Jack.

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#14. David (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #27 (8,896 babies born)

King David of Israel reigned in the 10th century B.C., and the Old Testament recounts his battle and defeat of the giant Goliath, a Philistine. Jesus was one of David’s descendants. The name has been particularly popular in Wales, where David was the name of a fifth-century patron saint, and in Scotland, where David has been the name of two kings.

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#13. Levi (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #25 (8,973 babies born)

Levi is the ancestor of one of the 12 tribes of the Israelites. His descendants were the Levites, a tribe of priests who had no land, and from whom Moses and his brother Aaron descended. In the New Testament, Levi was an alternate name for Matthew the Apostle. The name was largely used for Jewish boys, but Puritans began using it as well in the 19th century.

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#12. Joseph (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #24 (9,058 babies born)

In the Old Testament, Joseph was a son of Jacob, and his story also is recounted in the Torah and the Quran. Jacob gave his favored son a brightly colored, decorated coat, making his siblings jealous and spurring them to sell Joseph into slavery. But lowly Joseph caught the attention of the pharaoh with his ability to interpret dreams and eventually helped rule Egypt. In the New Testament, Joseph was Jesus’ father— students of Josephology, an ancient area of theology, believed that Joseph was much older than Mary and that he died before Jesus began his ministry.

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#11. Abigail (girls)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #11 (9,106 babies born)

Abigail of the Old Testament was married to a wealthy but rude and unkind man named Nabal. After he died, she became one of the wives of Israel’s King David. Linked to the fact that in the Bible, Abigail tells David she is his servant, the name came to be used as slang for servant in the 17th century. As a given name, it gained popularity in the 20th century.

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#10. Matthew (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #23 (9,199 babies born)

Matthew was one of the 12 Apostles in the New Testament and wrote the first Gospel. Before he became an apostle, he was a tax collector, considered a dishonorable profession. There’s no shortage of namesakes in contemporary entertainment and media, such as actors Matthew McConaughey and Matt Damon, “Mad Men” creator Matthew Weiner, and conservative political commentator Matt Drudge.

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#9. Samuel (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #22 (9,237 babies born)

Samuel was a judge and prophet in the Old Testament who was instrumental in convincing Israel to stop worshipping pagan gods. Among his namesakes are inventor Samuel Morse, writer Samuel Beckett, Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), musician Sam Cooke, playwright Sam Shepard, and actor Sam Elliott.

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#8. Daniel (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #15 (10,504 babies born)

The Old Testament’s Book of Daniel tells the story of the prophet who lived as a captive in Babylon but rose in the ranks of the kingdom by interpreting the king’s dreams. In an often-told Bible story, enemies of Daniel conspired to get him thrown in a den of lions—a death sentence—for his religious beliefs. Daniel survived after God sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions, and they did not attack him.

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#7. Michael (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #14 (10,514 babies born)

The Old Testament’s Michael was an archangel who protected Israel, and in the New Testament’s Book of Revelation, Michael headed heaven's armies in battle against Satan. A popular name among Byzantine emperors and common from the Middle Ages onward in Western Europe, it was the most popular name for American boys in nearly all of the second half of the 20th century. Famous namesakes are pop superstar Michael Jackson and basketball legend Michael Jordan.

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#6. Jacob (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #13 (10,679 babies born)

In the Old Testament, Jacob tried to trick his twin brother Esau out of his birthright as firstborn. He had 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. The popularity of Jacob as a given name grew in America from the 1970s to late 1990s, and it was the No. 1 boys name from 1999 to 2012. The names Jacob and James come from the same roots.

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#5. Alexander (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #11 (11,230 babies born)

Alexander was the name of several characters in the New Testament, but no one carried the name quite like Alexander the Great, a Macedonian king whose conquests created an empire that stretched from today’s southern Europe to southern Asia, mixing cultures, sharing languages, and helping develop trade and travel. The name has been used by emperors, kings, and popes.

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#4. Ethan (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #10 (11,241 babies born)

In the Old Testament, Ethan the Ezrahite, known for being wise, is believed to be the author of Psalm 89, which begins with the words: “I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever.” The name grew in usage in America around the time of the Revolution, when patriot Ethan Allen organized a militia unit called the Green Mountain Boys that helped take Fort Ticonderoga from the British.

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#3. Benjamin (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #7 (12,942 babies born)

Benjamin was the youngest of Jacob’s 12 sons who founded the 12 tribes of Israel. The Benjaminites are described in the Old Testament as warriors, trained to attack left-handed so as to catch their enemies by surprise. Well-known namesakes include American statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin, British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli, U.S. president Benjamin Harrison, and actors Ben Stiller and Ben Affleck.

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#2. James (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #6 (13,087 babies born)

In the Bible, James the Just was the oldest of Jesus’ brothers. He lived as an ascetic, became an early believer in Christianity, and was put to death in Jerusalem in 62 A.D. The name was used by a number of Scottish kings, including the 17th century’s James VI and I, who succeeded to the English throne. Others with the name include Irish writer James Joyce, actor James Dean, U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and fictional British spy James Bond.

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#1. Elijah (boys)

- Name popularity rank in 2019: #5 (13,300 babies born)

The Old Testament’s Elijah was a Hebrew prophet in the ninth century B.C. who could perform miracles. When he died, he was taken to heaven in a horse-drawn chariot of fire, as described in the Second Book of Kings. The name was used in the Middle Ages, died out, and was later brought back into use by the Puritans. Variations include Elias and Ilya.

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