If you’re combing the Good Book for lesser-known names, here’s one that just might work.
Thanks to Julie for suggesting Apphia as Name of the Day.
Apphia surfaces in colonial America, along with many a lesser-known Biblical appellation. While she never cracked the US Top 1000, remember that list started at the tail end of the nineteenth century. Based on her frequency in census records, she may well have charted if the list were around a century earlier.
There are two competing pronunciations – AP fee uh or AH fee uh. I’m not sure which would’ve been in vogue amongst Puritan parents, but the latter – AH fee uh – seems more likely to catch on circa 2009.
Of course, that assumes that Apphia would catch on at all. Like Lois, she’s a New Testament figure. It’s really the Old Testament choices (think Rachel and Hannah) that have captured parents’ imaginations in recent years.
It doesn’t help that Apphia’s mention is exceedingly brief. She was among the evangelists preaching to the town of Colossae. Their leader, Saint Philemon, is far better known. (You can find Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians in your Bible today. It was addressed to Philemon, Apphia and Archippus.)
Some have assumed that Apphia was Philemon’s wife, but that’s not certain. The story goes that Philemon and Apphia eventually met their deaths as martyrs at the hands of a rock-throwing mob sometime in the first century. She’s not traditionally listed as a saint in the Roman Catholic church, but she appears right alongside Saint Philemon in Orthodox churches.
There are also brief mentions in the Bible of the male name Aphiah, and the Appian Way owes its name to Roman official Appius Claudius Caecus. There’s also feminine name Aphra or Afra, from a Hebrew name of debated meaning. But none of the these appear to be related. Instead, Apphia is usually listed as a Hebrew name meaning bountiful.
At first glance, Apphia is quite close to aphid – a type of ravenous insect known for infesting plants. That’s certainly a strike against the name. And there’s no obvious diminutive, save possibly the French-fried Fifi – but if you’re the type to choose an old school, New Testament name, odds are that Fifi isn’t your cup of tea.
Then there’s the Inuit Apphia Awa. Born in 1931, she told her family’s story to a researcher in the 1990s, and the resulting book – Saqiyuq – was well received. It’s an obscure reference – unless it becomes a big screen biopic starring Angelina Jolie.
Overall, Apphia seems like the kind of rarity that could be revived with a minimum of effort. Attributing a name to the Bible gives it quite a bit of credibility – never mind that we don’t know a thing about her.
She shares sounds with current favorites from Sophia to Arianna, Aaliyah to Fiona.
If modern parents can embrace Pilgrim-approved monikers like Mercy, why not Apphia? She’s a daring ancient revival choice, but comfortably on the right side of wearable.