There’s Zoe and Zachary, Zadie and Zane. But this Z-name has been overlooked.
Thanks to Charlotte for suggesting the name of her niece as Baby Name of the Day: Zipporah. (Great minds think alike: Kelly suggested it just a few days later!)
Zipporah appears in the Old Testament. One of the seven daughters of Jethro, she and her sisters went to draw water from the well. They ran into some trouble, and Moses came to their aid. He was new in town, having gotten on the wrong side of the pharaoh in Egypt. Jethro was impressed that the stranger had intervened on his girls’ behalf, and invited him to come stay in their home. Eventually, Zipporah and Moses tied the knot.
We don’t know very much about her, though she’s described as quite beautiful and admirably pious. Her name comes from the Hebrew word for bird: tsipor or tzippor. It gives her a glimmer of a nature link, but that’s more of a bonus than a reason to choose the name. Tzipporah is the most traditional spelling of the name, still used by Jewish families of the more traditional persuasion.
There’s also an archeological element. Tzippori was the name of an ancient settlement that flourished during the time of Jesus’ life. Some suggest that Jesus’ grandparents, Mary’s mom and dad, were born there. It’s part of modern-day Israel, but the excavations have uncovered ruins from multiple settlements over the ages, including some spectacular Roman mosaics.
Zipporah lost her T in English, but even more simplified versions of her name have been used: Tzipora, Sephora, Seffora, and Saffurah are just a few. Sephora would have real possibility as a girls’ name in the US, as she’s close to the feminissa, starbaby Seraphina, and also close to the Greek word for beauty: sephos. Except, of course, that French cosmetic stores found in every local shopping mall have already embraced Sephora as their name.
In the pre-Shopping Mall era, Cecil B. DeMille’s 1956 epic The Ten Commandments used Sephora for the name of Moses’ wife. She was played by a young Yvonne DeCarlo, years before she donned her bat-wing gown as TV’s Lily Munster.
US Census records confirm that Zipporah has long been in sparing use, and not just among Jewish families. (Though that accounts for some of her success, and there’s at least one Israeli politician by the name, known as Tzipi Livni.) Bob Marley has a granddaughter named Zipporah.
But mostly, Zipporah in all of her spellings, is one of those intriguing rarities that pops up throughout the English-speaking world for centuries. Fleeting references come from eighteenth-century England and seventeenth-century America. Parents seeking an unusual name have sometimes landed on this one.
Head to Ocean City, Maryland, and you might find yourself looking at a portrait of one such Zipporah, better known as Zippy Lewis. (It hangs in the Dunes Manor Hotel.) The widowed Lewis kept faithful watch for her husband, hoping he’d return, living in a shack on the beach. It’s said she made her living by scavenging the treasures washed ashore from shipwrecks. Zippy became a local legend.
That brings to mind Haven Kimmel’s memoir A Girl Called Zippy – but that really was just a nickname.
If you’re seeking an unusual, sparky, Biblical name just on the right side of daring, Zipporah could be for you.
Personally I think Zipporah is pretty bad. It goes in one of those completely unusable Biblical names categories. So many lovely ones, so why use one that either has zipper in it or calls you poor? Fwiw, our kids all have biblical names and we do like more uncommon ones, but this one sounds like a cartoon character.
I’m a big name nerd so I will acknowledge it at least has some history, but it does not sound attractive at all. I just prefer girl names that sound or bring to mind something pretty. Zipporah does neither.
I know where Zipporah comes from. What about Zilphia? Is it a form of Zipporah?
We have a nine month old daughter called Zippora. We love to call her
Zippy. When she is older she can decide which she likes best.
Our Zippy is a darling and we hope she loves her name as much as we do.
Zipporah J says
Hey guys my name is Zipporah and I ran across this article. I love my name and I am always intriged by people who actually speak Hebrew and can pronounce it with the Hebrew accent (Tzipora) I love that my name is different though its beautiful. Here in the US my name isn’t common at all but I’ve heard from alot of people from the Iseal area that there it is a very popular name every time I meet someone from there they are like “oh my mom, or grandma, or aunt’s name is Zipporah” and I love it. I pronounce my name Zip- poor -rah i have family who calls me Zippy as well as my website has the word Zippy in it, some other nicknames of mines are Zip, Z, and Zippo! I hope this is helpful and intrested to you guys!
I have a little darling named Zipporah Jane and we call her Zippy. We live in the deep south and most people have never heard of it…guess they don’t read their Bibles as much as they claim in the Bible Belt! Oftentimes people do ask us her name when they hear us calling/talking to her. She is charming little stinker and her nickname fits her perfect! I liked the name because it 1. different 2. Biblical 3. has a catchy nickname.
Count me in on the first syllable emphasis for Deborah… I know several – the only 2 I’ve heard say they’re entire name (as apposed to Deb/Debbie) both said it with the DEB part emphasized… one was a PA native, the other NYC… it actually never occurred to me that it might be deh BOR uh … just one of the many reasons I keep on reading!
I pronounce Zipporah and Deborah as ZIP-puh-ruh and DEB-uh-ruh. I think it would be pronounced the other ways in other languages.
Zipporah doesn’t do much for me. I pronounce it ZIP-uh-ruh, so all I hear is zipper and zipper up!
Sephora, on the other hand, is gorgeous. If it wasn’t for the store, it would easily be in my top 10. Maybe the store will go out of business by the time I have kids 🙂 !
Lady Gwyn says
Zipporah is pretty, but I am not sure if it would go over in my neck of the woods. People think anything that isn’t Madison or Isabella is weird, though…Anyway, it’s lovely, but my obscure Bible name of choice for girls would probably be Keturah or Kerenza.
^^I hated Zippy. They should have zipped his mouth permanently.
I like Zipporah although I get the feeling most people would actually LOL and/or WTF? at it here. I doubt most would recognise it as a name which is a shame.
A Kiwi born model is Zippora Vermillion Rose Seven.
That model’s name is attention getting.
Zipporah would go over just fine here, where lots of kids have names that are religious, though more of the uber-Catholic (Gloria, Regina, John-Paul) variety.
Charlotte Vera says
That’s funny, I never thought of the name as distinctly religious-sounding. Perhaps that’s because I was acquainted with a Zipporah (when I was younger), before I became familiar with the story of her biblical namesake.
British American says
There was a British children’s TV show called ‘Rainbow’ that ran from 1972 to 1992. It featured a puppet character called Zippy ( http://www.btinternet.com/~acbarrett/nzip.jpg ) and so that puts me off the nickname ‘Zippy’.
I personally wouldn’t use Zipporah, but it would be nice to meet one. I’d be impressed with their naming tastes.
I like Z names… I like Zipporah (my instinct is to say ZIH por ah)… and I really like the totally accessible and absolutely, delightfully lighthearted Zippy nn! I can’t imagine using it myself… Zebedee and Zinnia are my two “I’d really truly consider pulling the trigger” Z names, but I’d find it fantastic to encounter a Zippy Zipporah! Congrats on your niece, Charlotte Vera – the mns are a nice, more oft-heard balance with the first – although I’m biased a little!
I pronounce it similar to Deborah: ZIP-or-ah.
Doesn’t appeal to me, but it has a lot to recommend it.
Charlotte Vera says
Interesting, I pronounce Deborah the same way as I do Zipporah, de-BOR-ah. I’ve known Deborah’s (pronounced the way I’ve just described), and Debra’s — the two names are said quite differently.
Hmmm; I’ve only heard of Deborah’s that rhyme with menorah; mostly I’ve heard the three-syllable pronunciation I described. And Debra’s are closer to DEH-bruh, at least the ones I’ve met. Always interesting to learn so many variations!
I’ve always pronounced Deborah like DEB-uh-ruh. And Debra like DEB-ruh.
Charlotte Vera says
How does everyone else pronounce the name? We say zi-POR-ah, but I’ve heard some say ZI-per-ah. Our Zipporah’s full name is Zipporah Emma Jade.
My neighbor was tzip-POR-ah. The accent was on the middle syllable.
That’s the way I’ve heard it, too, though I suspect this one is subject to regional variations. I’ve only known one Deborah well enough to use her full name, and she said it DEB rah. (I’ve met bunches, but they were always Deb or Debbie.)
I find Zipporah/Tzipporah an intriguing name. One of those that is slightly exotic because it’s so closely connected to one particular group of namers – in my mind that’s orthodox Jews or Amish people (who I think use pretty hardcore Biblical/OT names).
I’d probably pass out if I met one down here, though I did know some in NJ
My Israeli, orthodox Jewish, next-door neighbors had three daughters: Sharon (pronounced sha-RONE), Liora, and Tzipporah. She was called Tzippie. It doesn’t thrill me, and when I hear it, I just think Jewish thoughts.
Liora, however, I always thought was a pretty name. BNotD?
Liora is really beautiful! I second that request, though my brain is nagging me that perhaps Leora was done before. Yes? No? Off to search!
Leora was done! https://appellationmountain.net/2009/07/24/name-of-the-day-leora/
Liora/Leora has really been growing on me. I think It’s gorgeous!
Not digging Zipporah. It reminds me of Zebra and Zipper.
One of the “Dear America” books featured a Russian-Jewish immigrant named Zipporah. My eldest step-daughter read the book, and I had mistakenly thought it was a variant of Deborah. Zipporah really has an old-fashioned charm, but I think it (like Shoshana) could be difficult for a gentile to pull off.
Did you see that Jools and Jamie Oliver’s newborn son is named—-Buddy Bear Maurice?
I’m not surprised at all.
That’t downright subdued for the Olivers!
I did! Someday I can imagine Poppy, Petal, Daisy, and Buddy sitting around, all later in life, debating which name was the wackiest.
And then there’s this: http://www.buddy-baer.com/en.html
Zipporah rocks! I used to know one, Google Kenny & Zipporah and you might find a mention of the now defunct musical duo. What a lovely woman she was. I have a serious case of Zipporah love but the other half shoots her down for “Zippy” despite knowing the same Zipporah I did. (We used to go to their shows when we were dating)! I adore their “Armadillo Song”. Back to Zipporah, I think she’s a stellar choice, completely lovely and a familiar, yet uncommon choice. Zipporah gets an A+ from me!
And Charlotte Vera: how awesome you’ve got one in the family! Huzzah!
Charlotte Vera says
Thanks so much for this! Our little Zippy already wears her name well, both in its full and its abbreviated form. I was thrilled that my sister and her husband went ahead and used Zipporah, despite the naysayers they encountered, because I think it has both elegance and snazz.
What a great name of the day! I’ve always thought it was a cool name, a little crazy to actually use though. I think Elie Wiesel had a sister called Tzipporah.