Baby Name of the Day: Moses

Moses

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?

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22 Comments

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.

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.

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.

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.”

I’m actually glad that Moses doesn’t seem to be getting a favorable reaction…maybe it’s an indication that he will stay in the 500s 🙂 My friends kids names range from Lorelei to Joaquin to Amani, so I’m prepared for negative reactions no matter what we decide if/when the time comes.

@Charlotte Vera – we all have different tastes, that’s for sure. My mother always teases me that my name taste sounds like a Jewish old folks home (Abraham, Ruth, Tzipporah, Solomon, etc.). Actually hubby and I originally landed on Moses years ago when I suggested Hezekiah and he suggested Joseph; Moses seems like a good mesh of our tastes. But Felonie Lynn should be a felony! Hopefully she’ll be able to go by Loni or something.

I think I’d rather have Apple. I’m less than enthused about the Biblical character of Moses. Actually, that’s a gross understatement.

Regardless, the name does not appeal one iota.

I like most Biblical names, especially Old Testament names, but I am not really fond of Moses. I am not sure why, I’m just not sure I could use it myself. That being said, I would rather meet a little Moses than a little Caden/Brayden, etc.!

I also find Moses to be a bit much, but the more I read, the more I realise everyone is entitled to their own taste in names! There’s a discussion taking place on my birth board about names that people find to be terrible. The name one lady mentioned as “pretty terrible” is actually our current top contender should this baby turn out to be a boy. Then another lady posted this link to a birth announcement in her area: http://nmrmc.netreturns.biz/Nursery/BabyDetail.aspx?BabyId=43345003-3f2c-4d5a-b796-5c619437c628

@rockingfetal – I see what you mean about Moses being too much; I’ve had that reaction from a few friends. But with names like Isaac, Elijah, Abraham, etc. being really popular, I don’t think Moses will stand out as ‘too much’ these days. Also, the nickname Moe is out. My brother is a Mohammed who was never allowed to let people call him Moe so that nickname just screams ‘assimilation’ to me in a very negative way.

@ShellyOk – Thanks! My mother prefers Musa as well, but hubby doesn’t like the idea of using an Arabic name on the bc if there is an English equivalent. Like I said, we’re getting close to ttc so it’ll be a little while before we start making lists 🙂
Boy backups so far are Omar, Abraham/Ibrahim, Solomon/Suleiman, and Eamon/Ayman (I know Eamon and Ayman are not the same name but it still works!) I’ll most definitely be headed to Nameberry’s message boards if/when the time comes!

I think it’s because Moses is so tied to one individual for me and seems like it could be a lot to live up to. Again though, I think culture plays a role here. I see how that could be completely different for someone else. I have nothing against the style. I have an Ezra. 😉 I really love Zipporah.

I love Zipporah too! I could never get my husband to go for it though. I’ve loved it since The Prince of Egypt movie. lol. I totally knew she was Moses’ wife, but never thought f it as a pretty name til that movie.

I think Moses Butler sounds so dashing! And I actually prefer Musa to Moses, but I knew a fabulous Musa who really did justice to the name.

Out of curiosity, what are your back ups?

I have a well documented love of biblical names, but Moses is actually too much for me. It seems like naming a child something like Jesus, which I know is normal in some cultures, but I personally find odd. I do like the sound and the nickname Moe. I met at baby Moses a couple of years ago.

Thanks for doing this post Abby! Moses is pretty much the only boy name that my husband and I can agree on and we’ve been talking about it more as we get closer to actually ttc. My main hesitation in actually naming a child Moses that I don’t really care for the Arabic version, Musa. Since my dad’s entire family speaks only Arabic, it’s really important to me to find names that we like in both Arabic and English…no small feat! That said, I really love Moses and I really want to use names from the OT and the Quran.

I’m still surprised Moses is not as popular as Abraham or Isaac. Maybe it is the Gwyneth Patrow connection. I like her as an actress but that would have zero impact on us.

Oh, another thing I love about Moses is that he passes my Google test. When I google Moses plus hubby’s last name Butler the first hits are ancestry sites with birth and death records from the 17th and 18th centuries. I love the old man sound of Moses Butler!

I think you’re right about the celebrity association. I love the name Moses. I am also a big Gwyneth Paltrow fan, however, I could never bring myself to use a name so strongly associated with a celebrity child.

Luckily for me, our last name has too many S sounds for Moses to work anyway. It’s been on my future pet name list for years, though.

I don’t mind Moses and find him far more appealling than Apple. Moses is simple, familiar and Mose? Cool sound, Mose!
All in all, I’d rather see more of Moses than a few other Biblical names (that I shall not mention). Moses rocks!