The baby name Asa originates in the Old Testament, but feels right at home in the twenty-first century.
Thanks to Ashley and Liz for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
The baby name Asa probably means healer in Hebrew.
It’s an Old Testament name. Back around the tenth century BCE, Asa reigned as the third king of Judah. The history books report he ruled fairly, at least by the standards of his day, and maintained peace.
Like many short names, other possible origins and meanings attach. It’s a (female) given name in Norse languages. It might also appear – with different pronunciations – as a name, or part of a name, in Igbo, Yoruban, and Japanese. In Portuguese, it’s the word for wing, derived from the Latin word for handle.
Despite all of these possible origins and meanings, English-speaking parents almost certainly found the baby name Asa in the Bible, following the Protestant Reformation.
The American Revolution mentions soldiers like Asa Pollard, who died at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and Asa Danforth, whose son helped developed the city of Toronto. The Danforth is a major city street named after him.
More famous figures followed. Nineteenth century botanist Asa Gray authored the definitive work on North American plants. In the late 1800s, Asa Candler created Coca-Cola. (His son, Asa Candler, Jr., acquired a personal menagerie of animals, which eventually became part of the early days of Zoo Atlanta.) Politicians abound. A number of notable Asas helped establish or grow universities, from Lehigh in Pennsylvania to the University of Washington on the other side of the country.
BY THE NUMBERS
The baby name Asa appeared in the US Top 300 most years 1880 to 1900. It slowly fell, but remained in the Top 1000 into the 1940s.
It sounds distinguished, and for many years, felt a little like an aged ancestor name. There’s a reason soap opera One Life to Live chose the name for the self-made Texas billionaire father of main characters Clint and Bo. The character was introduced in 1979. There’s a small, but noticeable, uptick in the number of boys receiving the name after Asa Buchanan debuted.
By the middle of the 1970s, Asa had returned to the fringes of the US Top 1000. And it’s slowly edged its way up the popularity charts.
But the baby name Asa really gained steam in the 1990s. And that might be all about sound.
- Boy names ending with -a were rapidly becoming mainstream, thanks to Joshua and Noah.
- The long ‘a’ sound, too, had become a favorite, with Jason fading, Jacob rising, and the wave of Aidan/Aiden names about to crest.
- While our love of mini names, like Leo, Mia, and Ava, was early stages, it was beginning in the 1990s.
And yet, the baby name Asa has only rarely cracked the Top 500.
One reason parents might consider Asa: bold, built-in nickname Ace.
This unconventional choice debuted in the US Top 1000 in 2006, and has ranked in the Top 300 for the last two years, making it more popular than traditional baby name Asa.
In our age of Chase and Jace, Legend and Maverick, Ace feels like a logical choice for a son.
2008 American Idol contest Ace Young – born Brett Asa Young – helped boost the name.
In many ways, Asa bears all the marks of a rising favorite: the sound, the a-ending, the built-in cool nickname.
Young actor Asa Butterfield, of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Hugo, and most recently, Netflix’s Sex Education, has helped raise the name’s profile.
And yet, the name remains slightly obscure. You’re more likely to meet a boy named Memphis, Sterling, or Otto.
That could signal a great opportunity. Asa offers all the strength, history, and meaning of a traditional Biblical name. And yet, with a wildly cool built-in nickname and a bright sound, Asa might be among the most versatile mini names ever.
Would you consider the baby name Asa?
First published on December 19, 2011, this post was updated on July 4, 2020. It also includes an earlier post, written in 2008, featuring the same name.
Jillian F says
Asa Terrance is my sons name. He was born is 2008. Naming a child is almost like getting a new car, you don’t notice anybody else have it until you get one yourself. Personally I only heard the name twice, and both were in my family. My son is the third boy named Asa in this family. But now that I have my own, I hear is everywhere. I come from a town of 3000 and I heard someone else call to their kid, and it was asa. Same with my husband. His name is Dirk. I only heard the name in movies before and now that I’m married to him I swear I hear that name everywhere. Anyways, i love the name Asa. It is a strong name for such a little peanut, but my boy suits it so well!
Sarah A says
Just want to add that Asa has long been a favorite of mine. I would love to name twin boys Asa and Ira. I do think that Asa works best with a somewhat longer surname, like Asa Buchanan and Asa Butterfield. Thumbs up from me!
<3 Asa. We were pretty sold on it if we'd had a boy.
Asa is one of those names I would never use myself but I would totally love it if someone else used it on their own son. I think it is a cool name. It has a lot of character to it,
The Name Station says
I can see this just as easily being taken over by girls because it’s so much like Ava.
Thank you! This is a major family name for me, and I always wondered where it actually came from, since it’s been around forever in my family!
Asa has been coming to my attention more and more lately. I like that he’s similar to Ezra (which I can’t use), familiar yet not common, with the same gentle masculine feel. I’m not a fan of aggressively masculine names for boys; I prefer names with a softer sound. Asa is winner with me. Not sure I’d ever actually use Asa, but he is a handsome option to consider.
Not really into Asa, myself, partly because I’m not fond of his biblical end (he died of a disease in his feet because “he sought not the Lord, but the physicians.”). I’d rather name for a more inspiring character. There is a historical one you missed, too, that will be at the forefront of those of us near Seattle – Asa Mercer – one of the city’s founders (also namesake of Mercer Street and Mercer Island), who had a very colorful story. He was one of the guiding forces behind establishment of the University of Washington, and also brought a shipload of women from the eastern states to supply brides for the settlers of this area. That story is told in the stage musical, “Here Come the Brides!” 🙂
Oh, I love it! Thanks for adding Mr. Mercer to the list. 🙂
Nook of Names says
I know of a teenage Asa, named in honor of Asa Briggs, an influential British historian. It works very well. It’s certainly one of my favorite biblical names.
I’ve been going through the Bible picking out interesting yet wearable (Jehoshaphat doesn’t really do it for me) appellations, and I’ve found a couple good ones. I just ran in to Asa, but the two most interesting I’ve seen (and I’m only about a quarter of the way through) are Avith and Magdiel. Can I send you the (totally biased, curated on personal preference) list when I am done?
I think it’s so strong and handsome. I considered it for Ezra.
Aren’t the rise of Penelope and Scarlett very tied to the actors? Probably Leo as well.
Asa could be quite big if Ezra paves the way – I think Ezra will get there first.
Do movies really propel actors names in the top1000? I think character names have more impact. I’ve yet to see Shia crack the boys chart even though Shia LaBeouf has been in so many big budget movies. But who knows…
I think they do … or at least, they have the potential to make parents consider names that weren’t previously on their radar. I suspect the difference you’re noticing is this: actors have names appropriate to their generation. Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise haven’t inspired a bunch of boys called Thomas. Their characters, though? Cruise’s Ethan Hunt helped push Ethan to the top, even though it is unlikely that his character would really be named Ethan. (When Cruise was born in 1962, Ethan ranked #671 – but had already started his climb.)
But there are plenty of Mia Farrow was an early player in putting Mia on the map. It isn’t enough alone, of course – but if the name fits with other trends, an actor’s name can catch on.