Eden started out as a place name, paradise lost. Now it’s found on nearly every 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 man was banished from in disgrace. But that doesn’t diminish the ideal the name conveys.
Well over a dozen places in the US alone are named for the garden. Factor in street names and such, and it’s heard everywhere.
Eden: Edith’s Granddaughter
I’ve heard it called a Puritan name, and that certainly tracks with what we know of their preferences. But if that’s the case, I’ve yet to find a reference to an original source listing a 1600s-era Eden.
Instead, into the early twentieth century, this name was heard only sparingly, and mostly for boys.
Maybe that’s because it’s a sometimes surname. Think of Sir Anthony Eden, British prime minister in the 1950s.
Barbara Eden, the star of I Dream of Jeannie might deserve credit for the name’s wider adoption for girls. It rose in use during her time in the television bottle. (Though it was a stage name for the actress.)
But maybe it felt like a name, because it’s so close to so many traditional picks.
- Names like Edward and Edith come from the Old English ead – wealth. In fact, there’s a ninth century Bishop Eadhun of Winchester.
- In the UK, there’s a castle in Durham and a river in Cumbria by the name. They likely come from idun or itouna – words associated with gushing water. But other theories persist, too.
Edie has a much longer history of use, usually connected to Edith. It also makes the case that Eden works for a girl.
A June 1941 novel, Patrick White’s The Living and the Dead, gave the name to a daughter.
Never heard of White? I hadn’t either. But the Australian author won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1973. Even though this was one of his early works, it was probably fairly well read.
In 1943, five girls were given the name, marking Eden’s debut in the US Social Security data.
Eden: Small Screen
I Dream of Jeannie may have given the name a tiny bump. But it caught on in force thanks to another television series, daytime 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 name had entered the US Top 1000 for girls.
Eden: Modern Favorite
Even after the show ended, the name continued to climb.
By 2010, it ranked in the US Top 200. As of 2016, it stands at #148. It fits with so many trends:
- It’s meaning-rich, a virtue name less novel than Serenity, but not as traditional as Grace.
- We do love our tailored names for girls, from Harper to Evelyn.
- It feels like a word name, in the same category as Autumn, or maybe Brooklyn.
Factor in a continuing list of fictional characters and real-world examples of the name, and no surprise parents continue to embrace Eden for their daughters.
Eden: For the Boys
Of course, the Old Testament gives this name to the boys. And there have always been some – for longer than we’ve been hearing it given to girls.
In fact, the name has almost doubled in use over the last five years for boys.
While it remains far more common as a girl’s name, there’s no reason this couldn’t serve as an alternative to recent favorites like Ethan and Evan.
Eden: Sweet Spot Name
All of this makes Eden an intriguing mix of meaningful place name and pop culture darling. It’s a name both modern but substantial, tailored but still feminine. It hints at meanings both spiritual and from the natural world, without feeling too tied to either.
The only question is how high will this name go?
Would you consider this name 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.