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.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Krista April 27, 2013 at 12:35 AM

I am curious what pronunciation has 3 syllables, as I have only heard it with four.

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karen April 26, 2013 at 6:26 PM

My father wanted to name me Hezekiah, as one of his possible choices for a girl!

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Kaeli April 24, 2013 at 5:31 PM

Yay, thank you, Abby! I love this post on Hezekiah. I love the background you gave on King Hezekiah, as he’s one of my fav Bible characters and would be who I’d be naming a son after if we used it. It is a great name. Very cool!

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Dellitt April 25, 2013 at 5:27 PM

I agree, King Hezekiah is a complex Biblical character with a fascinating story.

It’s not a name I’d expect to run into and I’m surprised that there are so many of them! I do like it, but I like a lot of those ‘clunky’ Biblical boy names. I did meet an Azariah recently, so you should never rule these things out.

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Zena Eve April 24, 2013 at 2:18 PM

I love this name, has a strong sound, good associations, and hardly used. It’s also one of the very few boy names that my fiance and I agree on.

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Allure April 24, 2013 at 2:05 PM

I know a Hezekiah, he goes by Kiah :) I really like it :)

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Jordanna April 24, 2013 at 2:19 AM

I love this one. Clunky but cool (to me anyway) and Zeke is laidback and chill. My sister was grumpy about the Zeke thing though – she has earmarked/dibsed Ezekiel. And then my husband (who is more of the Isaac/Gabriel persuasion than the Hezekiah/Zebulon angle) happily ceded it to her and now says “well we CAN’T use it, I promised your sister.”

He didn’t like it anyway, the big meanie.

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