This post was originally published on August 27, 2009. It was substantially revised and reposted on September 1, 2014.
Ashley and Ashton have been wildly popular in recent decades. Now another Ash- name seems poised for popularity.
Thanks to Photoquilty for suggesting Asher as our Baby Name of the Day.
Ashley, Ashton, and Asher share a syllable, but they aren’t related. The first two are Old English place names-turned-surnames.
Asher has his roots in the Old Testament.
He’s one of Jacob’s dozen sons, and founder of one of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. Asher has a long history of use among Jewish families.
The meaning of his name is so appealing. It comes from the Hebrew osier – happiness. He’s an upbeat name for a child, a brother for Felix.
The Tribe of Asher was fortunate, too – according to some accounts, the land they were assigned was fertile and prosperous. It’s symbol in the artwork above is the olive tree – top left. Archeologists haven’t quite pinned down where the Asherites settled, but a reference to Aseru on an Egyptian monument hints at some possibilities.
There are other possible origins for the name – Ashur, the Father of the Gods in Assyrian lore, or maybe Asherah, an ancient Semitic mother goddess.
Asher was one of many Old Testament names that caught on during the Protestant Reformation, and notable men have worn it in American history since early days:
- Asher Levy and two dozen Jewish settlers came to New Amsterdam from Brazil back in 1654.
- Early nineteenth century architect Asher Benjamin helped define the look of New England.
- Painter Asher Durand was a close friend of Thomas Cole – considered the founder of the nineteenth century Hudson River School – and also an early leader in the movement.
- Nineteenth century politician Asher Robbins served in the US Senate from Rhode Island.
Much like the mega-popular Jacob, the name remained in use in Jewish circles. Asher Ginsberg – better known by his penname Ahad Ha’am – wrote widely in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries of the need for a Jewish home in Palestine.
In 1972, Chaim Potok penned My Name is Asher Lev, about the struggles of an artistic boy born into a Hassidic Jewish family in 1940s Brooklyn. Potok himself is said to have identified strongly with Asher.
Asher is worn as a middle name by 80s Brat Packer actor Judd Nelson and legendary playwright Arthur Miller.
From 1880 through the 1990s, Asher occasionally appeared in the US Top 1000 and was in sparing use.
With our affection for A names, and rising interest in ends-with-r possibilities for sons, Asher has gone mainstream in recent years. By 2008, Asher ranked #206, and in 2013, he was poised just outside the Top 1000 at #104.
He’s at home with Jacob and Noah, but Asher has another source of appeal – Lois Lowry’s 1993 novel The Giver.
In The Giver’s dystopian world, memory and individuality are nearly erased. It’s been widely read ever since, and an August 2014 big screen adaptation could boost several of the name – Jonas, Rosemary, Fiona, and Asher – a friend of Jonas.
It could be just enough to take Asher from outside the Top 100 to much higher. Who knows? With so many Biblical boys holding the #1 spot in recent years, Asher could definitely be one to watch.
Do you think Asher will reach the US Top Ten?