Name of the Day: Naomi

by appellationmountain on June 15, 2009

Nothing sounds quite like this Biblical – and surprisingly cross-cultural – choice.

Thanks to Sassy for suggesting Naomi as Name of the Day.

Naomi makes most of us think of Ruth’s mother-in-law from the Old Testament. The name means something like pleasant, joyful or agreeable. The Biblical character was none of these things. After the death of her husband and sons, she’s most famous for asking those around her to call her Mara – bitter.

The masculine version of the name is Noam – though philosopher/writer Noam Chomsky is pretty much the only one that comes to mind.

Up until the Protestant Reformation, Naomi was solidly reserved as a Jewish name. But once parents started leafing through their family Bibles for inspiration, Naomi found favor. She’s never been a chart topper, but she’s been in steady use in the US, ranging between 118 and 411 since 1880.

The high point of #118 was just reached in 2008. With Abigail, Hannah, Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel so popular, could Naomi break into the US Top 100 in the next few years?

There are plenty of news-worthy Naomis from recent years, including:

  • Early 20th century Scottish poet Naomi Mitchison;
  • Activist and best-selling author Naomi Klein;
  • Feminist writer Naomi Wolf;
  • Supermodel and tabloid darling Naomi Campbell;
  • Australian Actress Naomi Watts nabbed an Oscar nomination for her role in 21 Grams;
  • County music legend Naomi Judd – though she was born Diana;
  • On another musical note, there’s Israeli songwriter Naomi Shemer.

Two fictional Naomis can be seen on the small screen. Lost featured a minor character named Naomi Dorrit – she’s not a good guy. Then there’s poor little rich girl Naomi Clark, of 90210 fame.

Naomi can also be heard on the other side of the world, in Japan, where the name relates to the word nao – honest – and is used for both genders. Naomi Uemura was a male bearer of the name. He took off on spectacular adventures – traveling to the North Pole, rafting the Amazon, peaking Mount McKinely – all on his own.

Speaking of mountains, if you travel to the wilds of Utah and Idaho, you’ll find yourself in the Wasatch-Cache National Forest, home to Mount Naomi – the highest peak in the Bear River Mountains.

While she’s not a true rarity – in 2008, over 2,800 girls were given the name, about as many as Molly, Nicole or Rebecca – her sound is distinctive. With her religious and cross-cultural vibe, she’s tough to pigeonhole, too. Naomi could be a logical little sister for Rachel or Ophelia, Pomeline or Avery.

If you like Naomi’s sound, but are hoping for something less often heard, there’s always Noemi or NoĆ©mie – the Italian and French variants. Instead of nay OH mee, you’d pronounce these closer to no ay MEE or no EHM ee. But be forewarned – they might be less common, but Noemi had already climbed to #624 in 2008.

Still, if you’re looking for a classic Biblical choice that is less often heard than Sarah and not likely to be confused for any other popular choice, Naomi is an appealing name for a daughter – just on the right side of fitting in while undeniably standing out, too.

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