He’s the original man, Eve’s other half.
Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Adam as our Baby Name of the Day.
Adam is the Hebrew word for man. The Book of Genesis tells us that he was created from the earth, and the Hebrew word adamah means ground. There are competing theories – it could refer to the color red, or come from an Akkadian word meaning “to make.” He’s an elemental name.
According to the Bible, he and Eve lived happily until the whole serpent-apple-temptation drama. The pair left Eden, and, some say, we’ve been living unhappily ever after. But the Old Testament gives us only one Adam – despite the lengthy lists of begats and other names that repeat, he isn’t among them.
Adam is, however, used in some parts of Genesis to refer to mankind – all of us who are made from the earth. The Old Testament Book of Joshua refers to a town sharing the name.
There’s evidence that this may have been a given name ancient days. An Assyrian king is listed as Adamu, found on a cuneiform tablet detailing rulers from the 8th century BC. He would have reigned between the 21st and 25th centuries BC. That’s not Eden, but that’s pretty old.
Adam disappears from the list of given names at some point, and it takes him centuries to make a comeback. There’s an eleventh century Spanish bishop called Adán – the Spanish form of the name. Another Adam penned hymns and poetry in Paris around the twelfth century. By the Middle Ages, he’s in sparing use, and medieval diminutives like Adkin and Atkin are the source of many surnames today.
The name has a history of use throughout the Western World, and notable Adams are found in Sweden, Germany, and Poland in the fifteenth through eighteenth centuries. He sees some use in the English-speaking world, too. Scotland-born Adam Smith penned Wealth of Nations in 1776. He was named after his dad.
Despite all of his history, Adam’s age has really been the twentieth century. In 1900, he ranked #187. He’d fallen to #383 by 1950, but started climbing a few years later. He entered the US Top 100 in 1970 and stands at #82 today.
It’s impossible to note all of the famous Adams, but a few that stand out are:
- Adam West, the first actor to play Batman.
- Actor Adam Baldwin, among others.
- U2’s bassist is Adam Clayton, and Maroon Five is fronted by Adam Levine, plus two out of three Beastie Boys – Ad-Rock and MCA both answer to the name. Adam Lambert is among the most successful American Idol alumni.
- MythBusters is co-hosted by Adam Savage, and the small screen has given us fictional characters wearing the name on shows from Bonanza to Dynasty to Parenthood.
That’s not counting politics, sports, or academia, all of which boast distinguished bearers of the name.
He’s also one of those rare ends-with-m names, along with Liam, Graham, Malcolm, and a handful of others.
Biblical boy names in vogue tend towards the more extravagant – Isaiah and Elijah and even Zebedee, but his status as an Old Testament appellation is a plus for many parents.
All of this puts Adam in style limbo – he’s not fashion-forward, but it would be hard to call him dated. From Lambert’s shimmering pop music to Baldwin’s tough-guy characters and Savage’s brainy persona, it is tough to pigeonhole Adam. Thanks to a long history of use, he’s difficult to peg to a particular era. Adam is a solid name, an enduring choice for a son.