Michelangelo Sistine Chapel ceiling - Ozias, J...He’s a Biblical boy name beginning with the popular letter J.  Why haven’t we heard more of him?

Thanks to Emily for suggesting Jotham as our Baby Name of the Day.

We’re wild about Jacob and Jonathan and even Josiah nowadays.  So why has this Old Testament appellation lingered in obscurity, never cracking the US Top 1000?

No, seriously, Jotham is really obscure.  In 2011, he was given to 27 boys, but he was back down to just 13 in 2012.

Two bearers of the name appear in the Old Testament:

  • It was the name of Gideon’s youngest son.  And Gideon had lots of kiddos – seventy boys.  But Jotham was the only one to escape a death sentence that took his older siblings.
  • Another Jotham reigned as King of Judah for sixteen years.  Archeological evidence agrees with the Bible on this one.  It’s said that he had an exceptionally good run – rebuilding infrastructure, winning a war.

That second Jotham appears on the Sistine Chapel, though Michelangelo spelled his name Joatham.  It’s part of the Ancestors of Christ series, and while it’s not as famous as say, The Creation of Adam, he’s undeniably a part of that famous work of art.  The ancestors appear in the arches above the windows, holding up the ceiling.

Jotham shares his first syllable with so many popular names, including John – the jo refers to God.  The second syllable is translated different ways: complete, upright, perfect.  It’s a positive meaning for Christian parents.

Over the years, a handful of politicians have answered to the name, and he feels something like a Colonial throwback.

Jotham has a literary edge, too, thanks to:

  • James Fenimore Cooper’s The Pioneers includes a character by the name.  Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales – there are five in all – are full of Biblical rarities: Elnathan, Hiram, Ishmael – and great names in general, like Cora.  Jotham Riddle is a minor character, but he fits right in with the colorful tales.
  • In Ethan Frome, Jotham is the hired man on Frome’s farm.  His presence is significant, but he himself manages to stay out of the drama swirling around him.

Could it be that we’ve avoided Jotham because of his sound?

In Hebrew, Yotam is the modern spelling – and his correct pronunciation is yo TAM.  He’s had a good run in Israel in recent years.

In English, I’m tempted to rhyme Jotham with Gotham.  There’s a village called Gotham in Nottinghamshire, a storied place.  It’s been a nickname for New York City at least since Washington Irving wrote in the early nineteenth century, inspired by the English town. Batman is the defender of Gotham City.

Does this make Jotham pronounced like Gotham more or less appealing?  I’m not sure, but I do think that our familiarity with the place name will encourage many to use this pronunciation.

Jotham could lead to the familiar nicknames Joe and Joey, making him more wearable still.

If parents are willing to delve deeper into the Good Book to find names not already in use, then Jotham is one that deserves some consideration.  That -m ending is shared by the rapidly-rising Liam, and the letter J remains a popular letter for boys’ names.

If you’re looking for something completely different, and yet exactly in step with current trends, Jotham is one to consider.

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About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. The most annoying part of being named Jotham is that people always read it as “Jonnathan”. It’s like – Do your eyes even work? Or do you just not care?? Then the tendency for people to shorten it to “Joth” which I never cared for.

    And like other posters mentioned, it’s always a conversation starter. Uncomfortably so in my case. Within 20 seconds of meeting EVERY PERSON I don’t feel comfortable giving a spiel justifying my parent’s choice of an obscure biblical name.

    Since I moved in 6th grade I’ve made a point to go by Jay. And unless I have to use my legal name (medical, employment etc.) I tell people to call me Jay. It’s so much simpler, I don’t have to justify or explain it and they don’t make a funny face while trying to say it (usually wrong).

  2. Hi all, been carrying this name 35 years and must say it’s a blessing. Leads to a double-take and conversation-starter every day. Plus people are saying “God is perfect” even when they don’t know it. 20 babies per year (or however many) is so tiny that most people never meet another one, and it’s only been through the internet that I see there are others out there. btw I pronounce long “o” in Jotham, so there’s no rhyme with the short “o” of Gotham.

  3. How am I only just now seeing this post? Thanks for covering Jotham!

    There’s something about Jotham I really love. The first time I heard it was when I read Ethan Frome in high school, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head ever since. It never occurred to me to pronounce it like Gotham…

    1. You’re welcome! And I might be crazy with the rhymes-with-Gotham thing. I read Ethan Frome a few years after college, and just *assumed* that is how it sounded. It has stayed with me all this time.

  4. Love this name! I definitely think it’s one which has flown under the radar for far too long.

    I actually never connected it to Gotham, or thought they would be said the same … not enough Batman in my life? Dunno …

  5. Jotham is unbearably cool. It’s definitely a name I’d like to see used more often. Some people might find the Batman connection off-putting, but to me it feels like a name that a little boy would love to wear. There’s also the possibility for easy nicknames like Joe or Joey.

  6. Jotham Duggar, lol! Oh, please don’t ruin this name, Duggars, I was really starting to dig it after reading this post! 😛

    1. Oh dear, Liz! I wonder if any of the Duggar kids would dare use J names for their children? So far, the only other Duggar with kids went with M, right?