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.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Armida March 11, 2013 at 1:32 AM

We named our daughter Naimah, the Arabic version of Naomi. The name came about when we were considering the name Noam for a boy.

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appellationmountain March 11, 2013 at 5:39 AM

Lovely name!

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SophieGray June 17, 2009 at 7:05 AM

Ah! Sorry to be the dissenting voice here, but I don’t love Naomi. I think she’s pretty enough, and I don’t hate her; I just don’t feel anything for her really. The fact that I grew up surrounded by them in the 80s and 90s probably skews my view though!

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Rachel June 17, 2009 at 2:21 AM

Also loving this name

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shay120 June 17, 2009 at 12:38 AM

I like Naomi. I like that she has an exotic and mysterious vibe yet is classic at the same time. I like the fact that it can be used just about anywhere in the world.

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AzhiaShalott June 16, 2009 at 3:28 PM

Naomi’s becoming more and more unusual to my ears as I grow older. As a child, I had a number of friends named Naomi, now I haven’t met a Naomi in years. Because of this, it’s beginning to have a fresh appeal to me. However, I still don’t think I could use it on one of my own because it has hints of attachments to the siblings’ names of the child Naomis I knew.

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Kat June 16, 2009 at 3:09 PM

Naomi was on one of my first lists of girl names last year, but the husband isn’t a fan. Sigh. I think if it weren’t for the husband, I’d have no trouble naming our daughter! He nixes a lot of my suggestions.

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Laney McDonald June 15, 2009 at 6:28 PM

I love Naomi. It’s just a little too common for me though, but it’s great in the middle name spot.

Emmy Jo, Naomi Sarah is a beautiful name. I normally dislike the H in Sarah but it works well in this case.

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Wrenn June 15, 2009 at 5:54 PM

I agree, Naomi is a good name! Easy to pronounce, good sound, not too common, etc.

Naomi Sarah is pretty! I know of an Anna Naomi. Too many “na’s” I think…

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JNE June 15, 2009 at 5:43 PM

Noami is really lovely. The sound is so open with the O in the middle and, while it’s not one I’ll use, I love to hear it on other’s girls. (Oddly, Noemi loses that great sound and flow in my ears and just sounds like you’re scolding little Emmy – “No Emmy!”) I’ve only known one Naomi personally, she is Japanese-American and her parents chose the name specifically because it was Japanese but easily understood in the US. Yes, Noami really has so much going for it – great name!

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Emmy Jo June 15, 2009 at 5:19 PM

I heartily endorse Naomi. It’s feminine, strong, multicultural, timeless, and so distinctive.

Some friends of mine recently named their daughter Naomi Sarah. Isn’t that pretty?

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