While Ace races up the charts, this Old Testament choice is largely overlooked.
Thanks to Liz for suggesting the distinguished Asa as Name of the Day.
Ace seems best reserved for a goggle-sporting flyboy, or possibly the guitarist for a glam metal band. But the name was bestowed on more than 300 baby boys born in 2008, making him the 714th most popular name in the US. That’s still pretty uncommon, but consider this – in 2006, he ranked #841. With Chase, Jace and Trace in steady use, Ace could take off.
Let’s turn our attention to the unrelated, but similar sounding Asa. While Ace is novel, Asa is ancient. You’ll find him in the Old Testament, as a King of Judah. Scholars suggest he reigned sometime around 900 BC.
Asa comes from the Hebrew for doctor. There may have been others back in the BCs, but the historical record is silent. Instead, you’ll find many an Asa in the Puritan era and beyond. He was worn by notables such as:
- Asa Pollard died at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolution. He’s remembered in many retellings of the battle;
- Asa Candler, an Atlanta business leader known for establishing the Coca-Cola soft drink empire;
- Entertainer Al Jolson – born Asa Yoelson;
- Botany pioneer Asa Gray;
- Politicians like Kentucky’s Asa Grover, Maine’s Asa Clapp, Texas’ Asa Brigham, New Hampshire’s Asa Fowler and New York’s Asa Fitch;
- Dartmouth University president Asa Dodge Smith and the founding president of the University of Washington, Asa Shinn Mercer.
I’ve left off tons of accomplished men. Into the 1880s, Asa was a perfectly reasonable name, comparable to Simon or Dalton today.
By the 1940s, he was out of favor. It took three decades for Ace to re-enter the rankings.
Today he stands at #633 – more popular than Ace, true, but less often discussed. Thanks to One Life to Live’s Asa Buchanan, he sounds affluent, patriarchal – and a bit aged.
But he’d wear well on a modern child, thanks in part to his international ties:
- The Arabic Aza;
- The Nigerian Asa means hawk – but is pronounced ASH ah;
- There’s an Asa River in Kazakhstan, and another in Japan, where asa means morning;
- The Swedish female name Åsa is related to names like Astrid – though a quick search revealed that she’s not in the current Top 100, and her pronunciation is closer to au suh.
That last piece gives some pause. With Ava all the rage, it is easy to imagine parents poaching Asa for a daughter.
But you could also take a page out of American Idol’s Ace Young’s book – born Brett Asa Young, he uses the thoroughly masculine Ace as a nickname.
If you love the brisk, all-boy Ace, but want to ensure he can still grow up to be a banker or a biologist, Asa is the name to put on the birth certificate.