And yet, it’s easy to understand the appeal, and so this dark-light choice is our Baby Name of the Day.
BEFORE THE FALL
It’s not easy to talk about evil personified. I’d always dismissed Lucifer as just another name for the devil.
And yet that’s a vast oversimplification.
Lucifer comes from the Latin lux – light and ferre – carry. Poetically, the meaning is given as shining one, light bringer, or bringer of dawn. It’s also a term used to refer to the morning star, or the planet Venus.
In ancient myth the dawn gives birth to the morning star. Eos and Phosphorous in the Greek; Aurora and Lucifer in the Latin.
Even before the Greeks, Canaanite myth had a story about Attar, god of the morning star.
And there are some places where the image of the morning star is associated with Jesus.
The King James version of the Bible refers to Lucifer by name in Isaiah 14:12, but plenty of other translations do not.
Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost also called the devil by name.
I suspect that prior to Milton and the King James Bible – both products of the early 1600s – Lucifer might not have been widely used in English to refer to the devil.
SINNER AND SAINTS
More proof that the devil came late to the party?
The first bishop of Siena wore the name, sometimes around 300. Saint Lucifer of Cagliari lived in the fourth century. A second bishop of Cagliari took the name a century later, presumably in homage.
In the early seventeenth century, a Dutch-born pirate named Hendrick Jacobszonn acquired this name as a nickname. Fitting, right? Not so fast. Jacobszonn was known for using fire and smoke to surprise his enemies. It seems that was the source of his nickname – a very literal description.
We’d expect Lucifer to cameo as a bad guy in comic books, and he doesn’t disappoint.
Neil Gaiman borrowed him for his comic books series The Sandman. It was based on an earlier DC Comics character, but Gaiman made the story all his own. The series debuted in 1988. Eventually, Gaiman’s version of Lucifer Morningstar was spun off into a separate series.
The comic inspired a television series with an irresistible premise: what if the devil got bored? He leaves Hell and relocates to Los Angeles to run a nightclub called Lux. But then tragedy hits close to home, and he finds himself helping the LAPD solve a murder case.
And then another. And another.
After all, Mr. Morningstar can’t be killed. He can prompt others to reveal their deepest desires – and sometimes force them to admit their crimes. The show is entering its fifth season, now on Netflix. The character has continued to evolve, doing far more good than you might expect.
Tom Ellis plays the title role, and he’s wickedly charming. But Ellis wasn’t the first small screen version of the Prince of Darkness. Supernatural introduced their version of the character in 2009.
But it’s the Netflix series that’s pushing the baby name Lucifer up the popularity charts. After all, we’re watching the character behave in ways that might be called heroic. It certainly reinforces the idea that the name isn’t all bad, and could be worthy of reconsideration.
BABY NAME LUCIFER?
Let me clear: television series aside, I don’t think you should consider the baby name Lucifer. It’s just too darn polarizing.
And yet, I’ve been wrong about bold names before. Messiah and Maverick are mainstream. And we do love a good Luc/Luke name.
A record high of 26 boys received the name in 2018.
Still, regardless of your personal beliefs, I think it’s just too big, too shocking a name to consider. Not because it will offend others – but because it would make your child’s experience of his name needlessly awkward.
What do you think of the baby name Lucifer? Am I too quick to dismiss it?
First published on February 23, 2016, this post was updated on August 29, 2020.