Jericho: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on October 17, 2012

Jericho Jericho (Photo credit: Seetheholyland.net)

It’s an ancient place name with an appealing sound.

Thanks to Jenny & Jonah for suggesting Jericho as our Baby Name of the Day.

With children named Camden and Savannah, Brooklyn and Boston, place names are old news.  But while some place names have made the Top 100, others are rare, even surprising.  Think of Alicia Keys’ son Egypt, or Drea de Matteo’s daughter Alabama.

Jericho definitely belongs with the rarities, but it isn’t unknown.  Just five girls received the name in 2011, but 184 boys were called Jericho.  This one definitely leans masculine.

Maybe that’s because he shares his first syllable with names like Jerome, Jeremyand Jeremiah, all recognized masculine names with a long history of use.

Back to the map.  Jericho has been inhabited for eons.  Evidence of human habitation dates to 9000 BCE – it’s up there with Jerusalem and Damascus.

With such an ancient place, there’s bound to be some debate over the meaning of the name.  But the official website of the city “welcomes you to the City of the Moon.”  This reflects the dominant theory that Jericho comes from the Hebrew yareakh - moon, or possibly a related Canaanite word sharing the same meaning.  Yerach may have been a name for the original moon god, a name that survives as Jerah, a name that appears in the Book of Genesis as one of the descendants of Shem.

There are countless stories about Jericho, but the most famous comes from the Old Testament.  Joshua’s army of Israelites set out to conquer Canaan, and Jericho was a key city.  It is said that Joshua brought down Jericho’s walls by following God’s instructions to repeat a specific ritual every day for seven days.  On the seventh day, when they’d completed circling the walls of the city, they were to blow their horns and then shout their war cry.

There’s lots here for scholars to unpack.  Site excavations confirmed that walls once stood in ancient Jericho.

Let’s move on to the city’s more recent history.

If you’re looking for reasons to discount the name, Jericho has been the site of much strife.  In the last century alone, the city has been ruled by the British, the Jordanians, the Palestinians, and the Israelis.  It is now officially part of the Palestinian Authority.

But if you’re religious, choosing a name from the Holy Land might appeal.

Plus, Jericho is near the Dead Sea, known for its palm trees, and rich in history.  Even if the city’s role in Old Testament isn’t meaningful to you personally, the idea of choosing a name rich in history could appeal.

There’s also the short-lived television show Jericho, a post-apocalyptic vision of small town Kansas.  It aired only two seasons, but its storyline continues in comic books.  Other uses include:

  • The Israelis have a series of missiles called Jericho.
  • While the Kansas town is fictional, places in Vermont and New York bear the name.

You’ll need to determine whether the meaning works for your family, but with his vibrant, upbeat sound, it is easy to imagine parents embracing Jericho.

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