The baby name Eden started out as a place name, a paradise lost. Now it’s heard on nearly any playground.
Thanks to Sarah for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
Adam and Eve’s hometown has disputed origins. Most connect it to the Hebrew edhen – delight.
We understand Eden as center stage for the Book of Genesis, and a lush, green, fruitful land. It features in art and literature, from Michelangelo to Milton.
Of course, it’s also the place from which man was banished in disgrace.
That doesn’t diminish the ideal the name conveys. The meaning helps: it almost certainly means “delight,” consistent with the garden’s description in the Bible.
Well over a dozen places in the US alone are named for the garden. Factor in street names and such, and it’s broadly familiar, well beyond Christian families.
Some suggest the baby name Eden was embraced by the Puritans.
Maybe. It tracks with how they chose their children’s names. But the historical record has yet to demonstrate Eden in use a child’s given name so many centuries ago.
And yet the baby name Eden appears in records sparingly for two reasons.
First, it was sometimes heard as a nickname for Edith. An Old English name with history to spare, Edith naturally shortens to Edie, but -n endings for diminutives have been common in various traditions.
Other uses of the name give Eden to the boys. It darts into the US popularity data for boys in a small way as early as 1917.
Perhaps that’s because it’s sometimes a surname. In which case, it might share similar Old English roots with Edith. Or it could come from the river by the name in Cumbria, England – in which case, Eden is a simplified version of Ituna, from a Celtic word meaning water. Other origins are possible, too.
We can think of notable bearers. To name just one: Sir Anthony Eden served as British prime minister in the 1950s. And then there’s Barbara Eden, who starred in I Dream of Jeannie in the 1960s. But we’ll come back to her.
A June 1941 novel, Patrick White’s The Living and the Dead, gave the name to a daughter.
Never heard of White? He’s not exactly a household name today. But the Australian author would become the first from his country to win a Nobel Prize for Literature. Even though this was one of his early works, it appears to have been fairly well read in the US.
Because in 1943, five girls were given the name, marking the baby name Eden’s debut in the US Social Security data for our daughters.
So what transformed the baby name Eden from occasionally-heard rarity to modern powerhouse?
Let’s begin with actor Barbara Eden. Born Barbara Morehead, she adopted her stage name when she started singing and acting in the 1950s.
In 1965, she earned the role of Jeannie in I Dream of Jeannie. It’s exactly what it sounds like – she’s 2,000 years old, stuck in her bottle. And then Tony Nelson – an Air Force captain and astronaut – happens on her bottle. Wackiness ensues, but the couple ends up falling in love and marrying by the show’s 1970 conclusion.
The sitcom was a smash.
But there’s only a tiny rise in use of the baby name Eden during that time.
And then came soap opera Santa Barbara.
Wealthy, privileged Eden Campbell joined the cast in 1984. She fell in love with Cruz Castillo, a police officer from the wrong side of the tracks. The star-crossed lovers became a wildly popular soap opera super-couple.
By 1986, the baby name Eden had entered the US Top 1000 for girls.
We’ve long since forgot that a soap opera launched the baby name Eden.
As of 2010, it reached the US Top 200. It peaked at #139 in 2017. As of 2019, it slid just a little, to #145.
It fits with so many trends. Eden feels as meaning-rich as Grace and as tailored as Piper or Evelyn. It sits midway between place names and nature ones, a successor to Brooklyn, a sister for Autumn.
While the baby name Eden is used in far greater number for girls, it’s growing as a boys’ name, too. As of 2019, the name ranked #469 for our sons. It’s nearly tripled in use for boys over the last decade.
On meaning, sound – think Ethan, Evan, and Aiden, and history, there’s no reason this name wouldn’t wear every bit as well for a boy.
SWEET SPOT NAME
Overall, the baby name Eden hits the sweet spot. It’s immediately familiar, but not too terribly common. And while it offers plenty of meaning and history, it leans modern, too. For a thoroughly twenty-first century name, Eden is among the best.
Would you consider the baby name Eden for a daughter – or a son?
First published on October 16, 2012, this post was revised and updated before being republished on March 21, 2018 and again on March 17, 2021.
I love Eden! It’s on my shortlist for a girl. To me it is feminine yet tailored and frills free, strong yet sweet. I know Edie is usually the go to nickname but I like the idea of using Danny (Dannie/Dani?) instead even though it’s unconventional.
My beautiful daughter’s name is Eden. I loved that name since before I got pregnant with her. I think it is very feminine. She is only 9 and this can change,but I love that she has only met a couple of other Eden’s in her life.
Brooke K. says
I consider Eden to be a gender-neutral name. That’s why my husband and I chose it for a baby we lost before we ever learned the sex. However, while I can see where others might think the name tilts feminine, in my head my own Eden felt like a boy.
Mandie L. says
The first time I heard Eden as a first name was on the TV show Heroes. She was a character in season 1.
I like it for a girl. I think it would be hard for a boy to wear. It’s not a name I would use, mainly because our sibset has gone in a different direction, but I might have considered it when I was younger and childless if I had come across it then.
I think Eden is a boy’s name. Like Hayden and Brook. They are short, curt, masculine sounds and go with the other names Ethan, Braden, Nathan, Kayden, Jordan. Morgan, etc. and sound a bit “hard” for girls. Except for Lauren and Megan, real feminine names traditionally would have added the -ne suffix, Glorienne, Jeanne, or a diminuitive sounding -ette. Female names often end in “ie” or “a” and that makes them sound prettier. I know the Garden of Eden is often alluded to for a girl, but that place has also always sounded masculine to me. The name Brook is definitely masculine, like River and Ford. Even the nickname Brookie sounds masculine. Lake should also be a male name and does not suit girls.
Mandie L. says
All the Rivers and Brookes I know are female. (And Eden, too, for that matter). I would never consider those names for a boy! I don’t think all girl names have to be soft/”pretty”. (Some people actually prefer to avoid that style.). And I actually think River is pretty/soft/”girly” to begin with. Of course, I’m the Mom of a Winifred and Aunt to a Wren, both of which also fail your very narrow “girly-ness test”, so obviously our ideas of what makes a name feminine differ.
lol River is a lot more common for boys than girl. And it sounds masculine not feminine sorry. The most famour River was also a man, River Phoenix.
There’s no question that the rise of the name River is connected to River Phoenix and his tragic death. BUT Phoenix passed away in 1993 – nearly three decades ago. That means that a 28 y.o. first time parent may not find Phoenix their first thought. In more recent years, Doctor Who and Firefly/Serenity used the name for significant female characters.
So while River *is* statistically more common for boys – just as Eden is statistically more popular for girls – there’s no hard bright line that says it has to be that way. Or that it will remain that way in the future …
I’m sorry I didn’t see and reply to TJ’s comment earlier. TJ, I understand your perspective, and many languages *do* follow rules like this, where feminine and masculine have distinct sounds. But that’s not the case in English, and certainly not our experience in the US, thanks to so many heritages influencing our ideas about names. There are absolutely NO rules related to sound, spelling, or pronunciation that make names feminine or masculine in English. The only thing that determines a name’s gender is use. So if Eden is used more often for girls – which it is – then it’s perfectly appropriate as a girls’ name. It’s not a satisfying answer in some ways, because of course, Eden can be used for boys, too. But there just aren’t black and white lines when it comes to these questions.
Brittany K says
My daughter’s name is Eden Hope. I’ve loved the name for over 10 years. She is 7 months now. I think it goes well with her brother’s name Kanaan (Canaan) both Bible place names that aren’t crazy or super common. I also love Zion and Judah if we ever have more boys and Galilee and Moriah for girls.
Even though Eden is genuinely unisex, I think male when I hear it as a given name. Not for my usual reasons though [ 😉 ] — this one makes me think of Edan and Etan and Ethan.
On a girl, I think of Barbara Eden.
Katie M says
I have a young cousin named Eden. It suits her well, but not something I would ever consider myself. I can’t even imagine it as a male name.
I also know a little girl named Nevaeh. Again, something I would never use.
My two-year-old is named Eden. Eden Fiona to be exact. It suits her very well. Great post!
The Name Station says
I really love this name, but as a personally non-religious person I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t use it. I do agree she’ll rise a bit higher, though I’m not sure when/if she’ll crack the Top 100.
There’s also a soap actress named Eden Riegel – she played Susan Lucci’s daughter Bianca on All My Children.
I considered the name Eden for my cat. It was my mom’s suggestion!
I see why Eden has gained in popularity, but I so much prefer Edith or, if wanting a tie to the creation story, Eve. I suppose Eden’s sound is just too modern for my liking. A bit too blunt and forceful.
Marcia Cross has a daughter named Eden (with twin Savannah)- I love the name! I’ve never thought of using it for a boy.
C in DC says
I went to college with a girl Eden. My first thought for the popularity of the name is Barbara Eden.
Edan is an anagram for Edna, and I thought about using Eden as a tribute to my grandmother.
When I was younger I knew a little girl named Eden, sister to Bethany. These names may have started my obsession. Eden is a beautiful name but I do see it almost exclusively on a girl.
Charlotte Vera says
While I’ve known *of* girls named Eden the only Eden I actually know is an adult male, which makes the name unisex in my mind. It’s not my personal style, but I can understand why it’s gaining in populrity. Plus, Edie is a cute nickname.
Yeah its definitely unisex imo. I prefer it on a girl though