Hezekiah: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on April 24, 2013

Lunette in the Sistine Chapel depicting Amon w... Lunette in the Sistine Chapel depicting Amon with Hezekiah and Manasseh. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

He’s an Old Testament appellation staging a modest comeback in the twenty-first century.

Thanks to Kaeli for suggesting Hezekiah as our Baby Name of the Day.

Noah and Joshua are mainstream.  Abel and Ezra are catching on.  While Nameberry has rightly pointed out that there’s always some ancient patriarch’s appellation in the Top Ten, today feels like an era especially rich with Biblical borrowings.

Maybe the biggest surprise isn’t that we’re sourcing baby names from the Good Book, but that some parents are willing to embrace even the clunkiest of the possibilities: Zechariah, Ezekiel, Jedidiah, and yes, even Hezekiah.

Despite his length, Hezekiah has a lot going for him:

  • First, he’s got a great meaning: God strengthens.
  • Second, unlike some figures from history, the most famous Hezekiah has a solid reputation as a good egg.  Among other religious reforms, he cracked down on idol worship.  He’s also credited with fortifying Israel against attack and siege, by adding a wall and protecting the water supply.  One last factoid?  His wife wore the name Hephzibah.  What a pair!  Hezekiah ruled Judah back in the 700s to 600s BC.
  • His three syllables contain some very stylish sounds – that zippy z, the stylish ky.  Obvious nickname options include Zeke and Kai.  But if boys can answer to Elijah and Isaiah, it isn’t clear that he requires any short form at all.

Hezekiah endured in the east, and in the Jewish community.  In the ninth century, a ruler of the Khazars answered to the name.  About two centuries later, there’s Hezekiah ben David, the head  of an important school of Jewish learning.

In English, he was nearly unknown as a given name until the Protestant Reformation.  But after the Reformation he made a comeback.

  • Bermuda-born Hezekiah Frith, Sr. amassed a fortune in the eighteenth century as a gentleman privateer – a.k.a. a pirate.
  • Hezekiah Hosmer came from a New York political family and served in Congress in the 1790s.
  • Hezekiah Niles published a weekly news magazine from Baltimore in the early 1800s.
  • H.L. Bateman was an American-born actor in the first half of the nineteenth century.  His initials stood for Hezekiah Linthicum.
  • Hezekiah Smith represented New Jersey in Congress, successfully filed patents for newly mechanized woodworking tools plus a bicycle, and in between manage to marry not one, but two wives, simultaneously.
  • Hezekiah Bundy represented Ohio in Congress in the late nineteenth century.

The name ranked in the US Top 1000 most years from the 1880s into the 1910s, making him somewhat unusual but not truly rare.  He faded completely in the 1920s, and for most of the twentieth century, two dozen boys or less were given the name every year.

But that’s changed in the twenty-first century.  By 2011, 236 boys were called Hezekiah, making him the 876th most popular name in the US.

If you’re looking for a quirky Biblical choice that isn’t completely unknown, Hezekiah is one to consider.  He’s less common than Isaac, but with his cool nickname options, is just as wearable as the most popular options in this category.

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