Leading lady Gwyneth Paltrow chose this Old Testament prophet for her baby boy’s name back in 2006, but he remains relatively underused.

Thanks to Sarah for suggesting Moses as our Baby Name of the Day.

Unlike some Biblical figures, Moses needs no introduction.  The image of Oscar-winning Charlton Heston holding aloft the Ten Commandments is cemented in our collective memory.  Even if you’ve never set foot in a church or synagogue, odds are that you have a general sense of the figure’s significance.

First came the death sentence, when the Egyptian pharaoh ordered all Hebrew boys killed as a check against the rapidly growing minority in his kingdom.  Floated downstream in a basket, the river led him into the arms of the Egyptian royal family.  When he grew to adulthood and discovered his true heritage, he became the leader of his people, parting the Red Sea to lead them to safety, receiving the Ten Commandments from God himself.

The Old Testament gives us a meaning for his name – Mošeh, from the root mšh, to draw.  The pharaoh’s daughter explains that she is choosing the name because she drew him out of the Nile River.  But she was probably falling into the same habit so many of us do today – confusing a similar-sounding word for the name’s meaning.  Most suggest that Mošeh is derived from the Egyptian mes – son.

Given Moses’ significance, the first meaning is truly irresistible.  It’s been stretched even further; depending on the source, you’ll find his meaning listed as one who delivers.   (Incidentally, if you’re wondering about Moses’ birth name, it appears that it was Moses.)

But that’s not the only possible reason to use Moses, and indeed, Paltrow and hubby Chris Martin of Coldplay were thinking of something entirely different when they chose a name for Apple’s little brother.  Martin had written a song titled “Moses” for his wife as a wedding present.

Other uses of the name include:

  • The sculpture pictured above is one of Michelangelo’s masterworks, commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1505.  And yep, those are horns;
  • There are at least two Saints Moses from the early church;
  • In Islamic tradition, there’s also a noteworthy Imam called Moses;
  • Torah scholar and leading thinker of the Middle Ages Maimonides was born Moses ben Maimon.  There’s also a famous medieval Spanish rabbi, Moses de León.

The name remains in use for centuries, but most of the notable bearers are Jewish, up until relatively recent years when we find:

The most surprising thing isn’t that Moses currently ranks #503.  With all of the Biblical boys in vogue, Moses is a natural for parents to consider.  The surprising thing is that Moses – unlike many of his Old Testament companions – was far more popular in the past.  In 1880, he stood at #119.

Could it be that Moses is one case where a celebrity’s choice is making a name less attractive?

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. The Jews I know who use this name seem to figure if they’re going to use a pick like this, they might as well go all the way, and use Moshe. (The Hebrew form)

    I was going to have Moses (anglicized) as a middle name if I were a boy, though.

    The non-Jewish ones I’ve met seem to mostly be Latino? Not that it’s incredibly popular as a Spanish name.

  2. Moss is the medieval version of Moses…
    And I think it’s another nature name that actually works for boys….and pays homage to moses w/o the ‘heavy’ connotation…i find some of the biblical names, though beautiful, are very heavy both in history and tone. Moss is kind of cool-maybe he’s a football player like graham or nathan, or maybe he’s a writer. he’s masculine but soft at the same time. Reminds me of Heath in vibe,too.

  3. I like Moses more and more as I think about it. It’s got a great sound and I can just imagine a darling little boy wearing that name.

  4. I love the name Moses. I think it’s a good balance of normal sounding but still distinctive — like you said, Sarah, something between Joseph and Hezekiah.

    I like the biblical character, too. I love how he is described as one “whom the Lord knew face to face.”