This post was originally published on May 13, 2010. It was substantially revised and re-posted on July 13, 2015.
This Old Testament appellation has never been more popular.
Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Ezekiel as our Baby Name of the Day.
Ezekiel: Biblical Boy
Noah, Isaac, Jacob. The average kindergarten has at least one Old Testament patriarch on the roster.
This name fits right in.
It means “God will strengthen.”
The Book of Ezekiel chronicles events during the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel was among the Jews of the Kingdom of Judah forced into exile during the sixth century BC. He was a priest and later became a prophet, his visions describing the eventual restoration of Israel.
While he’s not a baker, his story does include a recipe for bread: wheat, barley, beans, lentils, millet, spelt. The simple, wholesome bread that provided his sustenance during two years in the desert has inspired recipes, Ezekiel bread kits, and even Ezekiel 4:9 organic sprouted bread. (And cereal, and even cinnamon raisin English muffins.)
Ezekiel: In the New World
The prophet wasn’t the only bearer of the name in the ancient world, but he was the most famous. His name was adopted in the English-speaking world post-Reformation.
Arthur Miller’s The Crucible was a semi-fictional account of the Salem witch trials. Miller named a character Ezekiel Cheever. He was among those who made accusations of witchcraft.
There was a real life Ezekiel Cheever, but he had nothing to do with Salem. He was a widely respected and influential seventeenth century schoolmaster, the author of a well-regarded textbook on Latin and was a long-time headmaster at the prestigious Boston Latin.
Into the late nineteenth century, Ezekiel was steadily used, though not common.
Many of the best known Ezekiels are famous in fiction, and many of them answer to Zeke.
Craig T. Nelson played Parenthood patriarch Zeek on ABC for six seasons.
Jack Black voiced a sabre-toothed tiger answering to Zeke in the first Ice Age movie. The High School Musical franchise included Zeke Baylor, and Australian soap opera Neighbours includes teenager Zeke Kinski.
Disney used the name twice, for a Wizards of Waverly Place character, and again, for one of the title characters in Zeke and Luther.
Many a Zeke was not an Ezekiel at all:
- Early 20th century race car driver Zeke Meyer was born Herman.
- Olympic medalist in wrestling Zeke Jones was born Larry.
- MLB alum Zeke Bonura was born Henry.
- Former NFL player Zeke Bratkowski was actually an Edmund.
Ezekiel: On the Rise
When this post was first written, I called Ezekiel “just a little different” and a good choice for parents disappointed that Isaac and Levi had both entered the US Top 100 – even though Ezekiel seemed “headed straight into the Top 200.”
I guess the crystal ball was working that day, because Ezekiel ranked #181 in 2014, and is still climbing. Zeke came in at #735 – a dramatic rise of more than 100 places from 2013.
And yet, some of what I wrote back in 2010 still holds. Ezekiel is less common than Alexander or Gabriel. It’s a great combination of ancient roots and modern sound.
If you’re after a Biblical boy name that’s very wearable today, Ezekiel is one to consider.
Do you prefer Ezekiel or just Zeke?
Zeke is a negative slang term where I grew up (amongst surfers and skaters mostly). I really loved Ezekiel for a boy when my husband and I started having kids BUT Zeke as a nickname was a problem for us… ever since we were both kids we’ve heard “Zeke” when referring to someone in an negative way… We still live in the town we grew up in so we worried it would come up if we chose this name. Like I said, it’s obviously not widely used so I really don’t think it would be an issue for most people.
That said, I still like Ezekiel as a possible middle and love the name Zane as a fist name “z” option…
Zeke, Zeb, Zach, Ike, Hank, Baz – I love all of them as NNs, though any would need a formal name for me. My sister “won” Zeke though, partly because my husband was all too happy to let her have it, lol.
(I liked it for Hezekiah; she likes it for Ezekiel)
I *love* Eli and Ezra. Ezekiel feels more strident somehow.
I LOVE the name Zeke. I’m 6 mos pregnant with my 3rd child (first boy) and we’re naming him Zeke William! It’s a strong name with a beautiful meaning.
Congratulations on your baby-on-the-way, Sue! Zeke William is a nice balance of the unexpected and the classic. If you don’t mind sharing, I’d love to know what you called his big sisters?
I’m probably wrong, but Ezekiel seems really popular where I live. I’ve never met a little Ezra here, but there are Ezekiels all over the place. I live in a town that is over 70% Catholic and I bet Saint Ezekiel Moreno has something to do with the popularity.
Another fictional Ezekiel, is Walter Mosley’s “Easy” Rawlins.
I don’t mind Zeke, even though he rhymes with some unflattering things. So does Luke, and he’s mega-popular. I think Zeke’s cute also. Zen could also be a nickname
Lady Gwyn says
I like a lot of those Old Testement prophet names, like Malachi, Isaiah, Ezra, Elijah, and of course Ezekiel. I like a lot of Biblical names, though, so maybe that is why. Zeke is cute, too.
British American says
Zeke is the baby brother on ‘Sid the Science Kid’.
I recently spotted two toddler Zekes at the local library. It did make me wonder if it was short for Ezekiel and if the parents were Christians.
I do like the name, though 4 syllables is a little long for my tastes, especially for a boy’s name. I do like the nickname Zeke though.
I am not a huge fan of some of these Biblical names with the harsh Z sound. Ezekiel is one of them. I really dislike Zeke too. I don’t like how it can rhyme with geek.
Ezekiel and Zeke sound like an old coot from a Western TV show!
Zeke is alright, but Ezekiel is somehow a little much for me. I know, I think Zebedee is fine and Ezekiel is over the top and that might seem inconsistent, but so be it… it’s how the names strike me. If I met a little Ezekiel, I’d be happy. More interesting than another Luke or Max. If he was introduced as Ezekiel, with no nn offered, I’d think his parents were pretty religious.
Charlotte Vera says
Ezekiel is one of those “meh” names for me. I neither particularly like it or dislike it. However, I’m not much of a fan of “Zeke” (or any of its spelling variants). The nickname reminds me of when I was pre-teen and all my favourite names began with or prominantly featured those oh-so-cool letters/sounds J, K, and Z. I used them so much on my Barbies (etc!) that they feel dry and overdone now.