Elijah keeps climbing, a Biblical powerhouse not far behind Noah, and one of my picks for cool boy names in the Top 100.
Thanks to Saranel for suggesting her son’s name as our Baby Name of the Day.
Elijah: Steady as He Goes
The top boys’ name in the US has changed, cycling from John to Jason to Jacob and now Noah and Liam. But regardless of the name at the top of the list, Elijah has always charted somewhere in the Top 1000.
Ancient and religious, the name figures in the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Quran. It comes from a phrase meaning Yahweh is my God.
International forms abound. There’s Elias and Elia, Ilya and Elian, some of which are heard in the US, too.
But back to the original.
Back in the ninth century BC, the prophet Elijah performed astonishing feats. He even raised the dead. For his efforts, he was rewarded by riding up to heaven in a chariot drawn by fiery horses, or maybe on a whirlwind. Later, in the New Testament, both Jesus and John the Baptist are compared to the ancient prophet. He even makes a cameo, along with Moses, later in the story. One consistent theme? He always insists on the worship of the true God.
He features in customs and folk traditions, too. At Passover, Jewish families leave a place set for him at the table.
Other associations include:
- Summer storms, especially thunder, in southern Slavic cultures.
- Lightning, making him similar to Zeus and other gods.
- Mountains, especially mountaintops. It was on Mount Carmel that Elijah drew down fire to light an altar to Yahweh, besting the prophets of Ba’al.
- The sun – in fact, his story is often mixed up with that of Helios, the Greek sun god who pulled his chariot across the sky to start the day.
Elijah: Famous Figures
Cher gave the name to her son with musician Gregg Allman way back in 1976. He’s now a musician, too. More recently, there’s actor Elijah Wood, best known for his role as Frodo in The Lord of the Rings movies.
On the fictional side, Isaac Asimov used the name for a detective in his Robots series. And The Vampire Diaries, plus spin-off The Originals, includes a major character, part of the Mikaelson family, who answers to the name, too.
In both cases, the name works because of its long history. The vampire was first born sometime in the late 900s; Asimov’s detective tale takes place three thousand years in the future. Given the name’s long history of use, it’s plausible that Elijah could be heard in both circumstances.
Elijah: Cool Boy Name
When I wrote the first version of this post in 2012, I asked if the name could crack the Top Ten? That answer turned out to be yes. In 2016, the name reached #9. By 2017, it stood at #8. Elijah first appeared in the US Top 100 way back in 1995.
Why so popular today? I think it’s simply the age for softer boy names. We’ve embraced -a endings and longer, elaborate choices. If an earlier generation answered to Bob and Tom, today’s boys are Isaiah and Oliver and Sebastian – longer names, with a certain liquid, flowing style. It helps that we’re wild for El- names, too. While we tend to think of all those girls named Ellie and Ella, the boys’ Top 100 includes Eli and Elias, too.
For Old Testament strength combined with modern sound, this name feels like a winning choice for a son today – though one that many parents have embraced in recent years.
Would you consider Elijah for a son?
This post was published originally on February 23, 2012. It was revised substantially and re-posted on July 25, 2018.