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