Abram: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on May 27, 2013

c. 1625

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on June 14, 2011.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on May 27, 2013, for Kristin.

He’s part Biblical patriarch, part Colonial throwback.

Thanks to Lindsay for suggesting Abram as our Baby Name of the Day.

Many an Old Testament figure took a new name. Abram became Abraham in the Book of Genesis, and from there became the father of the Israelites, dad to Isaac and Ishmael, as well as ancestor of Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed. He’s significant in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and there’s really too much of his tale to tell here. Suffice to say that either Abram or Abraham is a name that ripples with a certain spiritual currency.

The meaning of Abram is pretty straightforward.  The ab- element comes from father, and -ram means exalted.  There’s some lively debate about the meaning of the switcheroo from -ram to -raham, but the consensus seems to be that -raham means multitudes – hence, the father of all those Israelites and world-changers.

Abraham, worn by a host of saints and martyrs as well as the ill-fated American President Lincoln, has remained in the US Top 500 every year since 1880. As of 2012, he stood steady at #194.

Abram has always been a few steps behind, frequently out of the Top 1000 entirely, and coming in at just #392 last year.

There is a subtle stylistic difference between the full bearded patriarchal qualities of Abraham and the slimmed down, youthful Abram. Notables have worn both forms, but if we limit our list to the latter, there’s:

  • Major-General Abram Gannibal, one of the more fascinating figures from Russian history. Born in Africa, he came to imperial Russia as a gift for Peter the Great, and was treated as a member of Peter’s family, receiving an education and going on to distinguish himself in military service. He knew Voltaire and Diderot; he’s the great-grandfather of Alexander Pushkin.
  • Revolutionary War soldier turned Virginia Congressman Abram Trigg.
  • Union Army general Abram Duryée, who became New York City police commissioner after the war.
  • Abram Ryan, a Maryland-born Catholic priest who supported the Confederacy and penned several memorable poems about the losing side.
  • Industrialist Abram Hewitt was elected mayor of New York City in 1886 and developed the plans for the city’s subway system. His daughters established the Cooper Union Museum for the Arts of Decoration, now known as the Cooper-Hewitt, part of the Smithsonian.
  • More recently, This Old House’s Norm Abram has achieved fame as a craftsman and carpenter.

Perhaps Abram’s greatest appeal is his spare sound, one that nudges him closer to Bram, as in Stoker, the author of legendary vampire novel Dracula. (Though Stoker was born Abraham.) You could, of course, also use the standby Abe as a short form, one that is perfectly stylish in our era of Gus and Max, but he does feel a little stovepipe hat.

Abram makes for a great, underused Old Testament name. He’s rarer than Aaron, more conventionally masculine than Elijah. If you’re looking for a globe-spanning A-name with history, Abram is one to consider.

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Allie June 16, 2011 at 10:49 PM

My daughter would have been Abram if a boy. I love the nickname Bram, too. I knew a Bram in primary school, long, long before I had ever heard of Stoker!

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rockingfetal June 15, 2011 at 10:32 PM

Abram was one of the names I wanted for my first born. My daughter would have been Abel is she was a boy. Abel’s been pretty much scratched for sounding punny with her name, but I’d still use Abram. I find it really handsome. Abe would be the nickname of choice. Oddly, Bram doesn’t really do anything for me.

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Charlotte Vera June 14, 2011 at 7:05 PM

I’m not a huge Abram fan — for some reason, although it’s not exactly the same sound, all I hear is Golde’s character from Fiddler on the Roof yell, “We’ll be staying with Uncle Avram!”. I do prefer Abram to Abraham, but think my favourite versions of the name are both the nickname Bram and the more Arabic-sounding Ibrahim. The former has positive associations with both Stoker and the male singer from The Elephant Show, a childhood favourite. Ibrahim is the last name of family friends of ours.

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Julie June 14, 2011 at 1:47 PM

Abram is a long-time favorite of mine, I’ve recommended the name so many times I should know hundreds of little Abrams and yet none of my friends or family have taken the bait. ;( I’m not surprised the name is raising, to some parents it must seem like a “fresher” form of Aidan.

You didn’t mention the Vietnam war General Creighton Abrams and his namesake M1 Abrams tank… That’s how I sold my husband on the name. Until I mentioned the tank, Kurt thought Abram sounded “soft.” Now he loves it and it’s probably his #1 boys name.

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KatieB June 14, 2011 at 1:27 PM

Abram & Abel have to be two of my favorite biblical boy names…I tend to gravitate toward underloved names with interesting sounds. (I too love possible nn Bram, sooo handsome!!!) I’m not sure if I’d ever use either when I get around to having kids…but both are on my short list.

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Sarah June 14, 2011 at 10:13 AM

Abe was on our short list briefly before I fell in love with Abel. If Alice was a boy she would be Abel Wallace.

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appellationmountain June 14, 2011 at 11:42 AM

I absolutely adore Abel! A friend of mine was pulling for it for his second son, but it ended up in the middle spot.

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Sarah A June 14, 2011 at 9:39 AM

I actually don’t like Abram. DH is a screenwriter and a big Lost fan/enemy, so Abram is all J.J. Abrams to me and thus has a negative connotation as hubby does NOT like Abrams’ work.

Abraham is on our long list, so I’m not really keen on short forms like Abram or Bram. However, I would definitely choose Bram over Abram because what holds me back from loving Abraham is that long A at the beginning. It’s why I actually prefer Avraham and Ibrahim. But I’d rather meet a little Abram over another Aidan :)

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Panya June 14, 2011 at 8:29 AM

I was taught that the second part of Abraham came from the Hebrew hamon [hey.mem.vav.nun sofeet], which is a cognate of the Arabic ruham.

I adore Abram, and Bram. Abe is okay — I wouldn’t mind if my [hypothetical] Abram were sometimes called Abe instead of Bram.

This is one of those names that I like so much, I wish I could have a hundred kids so I could use all of the names I like. :-)

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appellationmountain June 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Isn’t that true, Panya! I have names for five Duggar-sized families, too. :)

You may be right about the hamon/ruham – I was so certain I knew the meaning of this one that I didn’t give it much thought – until I realized that, as with nearly any significant Biblical figure, there’s TONS of discussion about the etymology. It’s just that “father of multitudes” fits his story so well …

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Lola June 14, 2011 at 8:20 AM

I really like Abram! I’ve toyed with putting Abram on our list to potentially honor my Mom, Fran(ces). Similar sounds, you know?
I really, really dig Bram on it’s own. I have a soft spot for Stoker. A shared adoration of vampires is what brought the Mr. & I together all those years ago. With the loss of this last one, I’m fairly sure we won’t be having any more but with Leo being married now, the possibility of grandchildren doesn’t seem so far off! Abram & Bram both are on the “Grandkid” list! Abram’s got just the right amount of everything for me.

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Sarah A June 14, 2011 at 9:43 AM

Lola, I’m so sorry for your loss. Glad that there’s a near future possibility of grandkids for you.

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appellationmountain June 14, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Oh Lola, I’m so sorry!

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Panya June 14, 2011 at 2:22 PM

Lola, I’m sorry for your loss. (((((HUGS)))))

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Charlotte Vera June 14, 2011 at 6:58 PM

So sorry to hear of your loss, Lola.

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rockingfetal June 15, 2011 at 10:34 PM

So sorry.

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