Thanks to LadyRay for pointing out that this post needed an update!
In Hebrew, Zebadiah means “God has bestowed.” It’s the name of more than one Old Testament figure.
It sounds like so many names from that era: Jeremiah, Obadiah, Nehemiah.
And while the Z makes it a little more current and cool, Zebadiah mostly suggests a name drawn from the ancient world.
NEW TESTAMENT NAME
The baby name Zebedee, on the other hand, feels a little more modern and far less expected.
But Zebedee is simply another version of Zebadiah.
It appears in the New Testament. He’s the father of fishermen – and future apostles – James and John. Together, they’re often referred to as “sons of Zebedee.”
We know a little bit about his story. Scholars note that Zebedee appears to be well-off. His wife is usually called Salome, and sometimes Mary Salome. Later accounts suggest that she’s related to Mary, making James and John cousins to Jesus.
But mostly it’s just his name that survives. The meaning of Zebedee is shared with Zebadiah: “God has bestowed.”
And, of course, nearly any Biblical name has enjoyed some use over the centuries.
BY the NUMBERS
And so the baby name Zebedee has remained in sparing use across the ages.
In the US, it peaked in the 1950s, when nearly two dozen boys received the name some years.
It’s back in use again. As of 2022, 21 boys were named Zebedee.
Among the men named Zebedee across the years, a few stand out:
- Artists Zebedee Jones and Zebedee Armstrong
- BBC announcer Zeb Soanes
- Nineteenth century Mormon pioneer Zebedee Coltrin
THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT
But the most famous figure to wear the name in recent years is fictional.
From 1965 to 1977, The Magic Roundabout ran on the BBC, immediately prior to the news.
It was originally French. But when the stop motion animation series was imported, they changed the characters’ names, as well as personalities and even plot points. Instead of translations, the British version is something new.
Zebedee started out as Zebulon in the original. He’s a jack-in-the-box in both versions, with magical powers.
The show also gave us Zeebad, a moustachioed jack-in-the-box bent on doing evil.
Nothing in those characters would’ve encouraged parents to consider any of the Zebs as a boy’s name.
And so Zebedee remained obscure, even as the show itself became a favorite among 70s TV in England.
Besides Zebedee, Zeb could easily be short for Zebulon, or the Hebrew Zebediah.
It might also shorten to Zed, Zee, or even Dee. But Zeb is pretty much a perfect name for the longer, more dramatic Zebedee.
HIGH-ENERGY BIBLICAL BOY
Today the picture of the baby name Zebedee presents an interesting mix.
It’s a traditional choice borrowed from the Bible, associated with two of Jesus’s disciples. As the father of the apostles James and John, Zebedee widely known among Christians, though others might not immediately place name name. That might make for a serious, buttoned-up kind of choice.
But Zebedee sounds like the opposite. It’s a high-energy choice, the kind that sounds at home zip-lining or racing a mountain bike.
And because it doesn’t end with -iah, Zebedee might be the perfect quirky, classic Biblical name for Nehemiah’s brother.
It works as a middle name option, too, giving a child that cool Z. in the middle spot.
Overall, Zebedee is one of those under-the-radar names that could be exactly what parents are after.
What do you think of the baby name Zebedee?
First posted on April 29, 2010, this post was revised and re-published on July 17, 2023.