He’s an Old Testament appellation with a bright, modern sound.
Thanks to Ashley for suggesting Asa as our Baby Name of the Day.
The most straightforward explanation for Asa is that he means healer or doctor in Hebrew. But like many a short name, there are other possibilities:
- Asa is the Portuguese word for wing;
- With different pronunciations, Asa is a given name in both Igbo and Yoruban;
- There’s a feminine name in Scandinavia, Åsa, though the pronunciation is different.
The last one also points to another meaning for Asa – the Scandinavian name is linked to the Æsir, the old Norse gods.
But let’s say this: the majority of Americans – and likely most English speakers – will have some passing familiarity with the Biblical reference. He was a king of Judah sometime in the tenth or ninth centuries BCE, father of Jehoshaphat, and generally gets decent reviews from historians.
Parents have been borrowing him from the Bible for ages. He slipped out of the US Top 1000 in the 1950s, but he’s been back since the 1980s. He ranked #586 in 2010.
Among the many historical figures we find:
- Asa Danforth fought in the American Revolution; his son, Asa Danforth Jr., became a developer in Canada. A street in Toronto still bears his name.
- Asa Packer, a railroad magnate turned philanthropist. His gift established Pennsylvania’s Lehigh University.
- Botanist Asa Gray – we’re still using his most famous compendium of plants.
- Asa Candler was the entrepreneur who gave the world Coca-Cola. He also served as mayor of Atlanta. His son, Asa Jr., amassed a private menagerie including elephants, a hyena, a tiger, and a sea lion. They’d eventually become part of the future Zoo Atlanta collection.
All of this gives Asa antique status, and yet he has a lot of energy. Some of it is that long a, heard in popular names from Jason to Jayden. He sounds an awful lot like ace – as in the playing card, the top of the deck, the best, the flying ace.
- Bridging the gap between the nineteenth century industrialists and today’s generation, One Life to Live’s Asa Buchanan was the long-running daytime drama’s patriarch.
- American Idol contestant Ace Young was born Brett Asa, named after a great-grandfather.
- Claire Danes has a brother named Asa.
- Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood is father of three sons: Jesse, Asa, and Henry.
Young actor Asa Butterfield starred in the much-lauded The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, as well as this year’s Hugo. But the role that could propel him to stardom – and push the name smack Asa into the spotlight, too – is the much-anticipated adaptation of Ender’s Game, set to hit theaters in March 2013.
Or maybe Asa will catch fire on his own. Asa has been slowly gaining in use since the 1990s. Ace comes in at #619. Parents could embrace flyboy Ace while penning the more durable Asa on the birth certificate.
Nameberry called him one of the most notable names of 2011, with fellow Biblical boy Asher just a step behind. He’s sometimes dismissed as feminine, or maybe too close to a swear word. And yet if Noah and Elijah can be so popular for boys, Asa will wear well, too.