She’s a Biblical babe revived by a pint-sized television witch, and more recently, a tough-as-nails hair stylist.
Thanks to Danielle for suggesting the intriguing Tabitha as Baby Name of the Day.
If you’ve been a name fan for any length of time, you probably know that Tabitha means gazelle – a graceful little antelope. The Aramaic for gazelle is tabhya; it’s the Arabic ghazal that led to the French gazelle, and the name for the creature we know today. The Greek version of the name – Dorcas – is all but extinct in 2010. But Tabitha might be on the verge of a renaissance.
She first caught on when Protestant parents thumbed through their Bibles to find appropriate, non-saintly names for their post-Reformation babies. Tabitha must’ve been an important figure in her day – not only is she mentioned by name, her death was important enough to bring the future Saint Peter to town – and when he arrived, Peter raised her from the dead.
Little wonder that her name caught on. Early American Tabithas include:
- Tabitha Babbitt, an early eighteenth century tool maker, credited with inventing the circular saw;
- Tabitha Brown, sometimes called the “Mother of Oregon.” Born in Massachusetts, she lived a handful of places, eventually settling in Missouri. When her son Orus, daughter Pherne and their respective families hit the Oregon Trail, she went along, eventually helping to found a school that grew into Pacific University.
There’s also Beatrix Potter’s Tabitha Twitchit, feline mama to Tom Kitten, Mittens, and Moppet.
Tabitha was fading when the US rankings were first introduced, and her final nineteenth-century appearance was in 1893, at #861. She languished in obscurity for decades, until supernatural sitcom Bewitched revived her from, well, the dead. When witch Samantha married the mortal Darren, it was only a matter of time until baby made three – their daughter, pint-sized sorceress Tabitha, born in 1966.
That’s the same year Tabitha re-entered the US rankings at #525. By the time the show ended its run in 1972, she stood at #296. Tabitha peaked in 1978 at #126, but she stayed in the Top 200 until 1992 – long after Bewitched was in reruns. There was a short-lived spin-off called Tabitha, about the all grown-up witch, but it lasted just one year.
A handful of spelling variants can be found:
- Tabatha was actually used in the first few seasons of Bewitched;
- Tabetha – possibly a bid to build in the nickname Beth – has also appeared in the US Top 1000.
There are plenty of modern-day Tabithas around, including:
- Writer Tabitha King, also known as Mrs. Stephen King;
- Former MTV News reporter Tabitha Soren;
- Australian hair stylist turned reality TV star Tabatha Coffey made her name on Bravo’s Shear Genius. She now hosts Tabatha’s Salon Takeover;
- From 1999 through 2008, sci-fi soap opera Passions included immortal witch Tabitha Lenox;
- The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants transitioned from a series of young adult novels to a pair of big screen adaptations. One of the four friends is Tabitha Rollins, nickname Tibby.
All of this has kept Tabitha visible, but she’s been sliding all the same. She ranked just #644 in 2009, and seemed headed towards obscurity. Cat-tastic nickname Tabby probably puts some parents off, but these days, plenty of girls answer to three-syllable names without adopting a short form.
But the oh-so stylish Sarah Jessica Parker and husband Matthew Broderick welcomed twin daughters in June of 2009. Their names? Marion Loretta Elwell, called Loretta, and Tabitha Hodge. It puts Tabitha in the spotlight in a very different way, and could prompt parents to rediscover this appealing choice.