If Deacon can emerge as a fashionable first name, why not this equally appealing choice?
Thanks to Rocking Fetal for suggesting Bishop as Name of the Day.
Believe it or not, Bishop was once steadily in use. Between 1880 and 1912, the name ranked in the US Top 1000 most years. Sure, he wasn’t Top Ten – or even Top 100 – but he’s common enough – about as popular as Dalton or Wyatt, Ezekiel or Ignatius circa 1900.
Even if Bishop has sometimes been a given name, it has long been a title. It comes from the Greek episkopos which meant something closer to watcher, and was originally a title for a government official, or indeed anyone in a position of authority. In some New Testatment translations, you might find the term “elder” substituted for “bishop.”
In Late Latin, episkopos became episocpus, which gave us the Old English bisceop. Clergy hold the office in many churches – Lutheran, Methodist and Mormon, as well as Catholic and Orthodox.
You’ll also find bishops on the chessboard, where the term has been in use since the 16th century.
Bishop is also a fairly common surname, and that might explain some of his uses as a given name. Lest you imagine church scandal, it was probably a name given to those who served bishops – clerks and scribes.
People, fictional and real, wearing Bishop in the last spot include:
- On the big screen, Tupac Shakur played a character called Bishop in 1992’s Juice. There’s a rapper today called Bishop Lamont, presumably in honor of Shakur’s character;
- In the sci fi Alien movies, Lance Bishop is an android – and also the android’s designer. Like Ellen Ripley, he is usually referred to by his last name only;
- The X-Men universe includes Lucas Bishop, again usually referred to by his last name, during the 1990s;
- Speaking of sci fi, NBC’s Heroes includes Elle Bishop, daughter of The Company CEO Robert Bishop – and, thanks to Daddy’s experiments, something of a mess;
- In 1692, Bridget Bishop was the first person executed as a witch in the Salem Witch Trials;
- Nineteenth century philanthropist Bernice Pauahi Bishop was the last surviving descendant of King Kamehameha I. Bishop was her married name.
There’s also an old trend to bestow titles as given names. Circa 1900, the following all ranked in the US Top 1000:
- Aristocratic titles Earl, Duke and Prince;
- Military ranks Major, General, Admiral and Colonel;
- Professional roles Doctor and Judge.
A few of those choices have been in use more recently, too. But Deacon – possibly the closest relative of Bishop style-wise – didn’t rank at all until after Reese Witherspoon chose it for her son.
On sound alone, it is tempting to revive Bishop – doubly so if he’s on your family tree. But it would require quite a bit of daring and willingness to overlook (or possibly embrace) the name’s religious overtones.