The baby name Delilah combines a stylish sound, a haunting hit song, and a long history of sparing use.
Thanks to Kim R. for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
If you were watching Friends in 2002 – and who wasn’t? – you might remember that Rachel and Ross couldn’t immediately decide on a name for their daughter.
Rachel always loved the baby name Delilah, but worried it had a “whiff of Biblical whore.”
They settled on Emma instead, a name already in the Top Ten, compared to Delilah’s frosty ranking of #706.
And yet, the mere mention of the baby name Delilah on such a powerfully popular series gave the name a boost. By 2003, the name rose to #611.
It hasn’t slowed down since.
BIBLICAL BAD GIRL
Where did Rachel’s worries come from?
The original Delilah casts a long shadow.
Her name comes from a Hebrew word meaning “to weaken” and she did just that. Delilah tempted Samson to reveal the secret of his considerable strength. After he confessed that his mojo was in his flowing locks, Delilah sold him out to the Philistines for cash money.
Renaissance and Baroque painters depicted her treachery, from Titian to Tintoretto, Rubens to Rembrandt. John Milton retold the story in his late seventeenth century Samson Agonistes. Camille Saint-Saens’ 1877 opera Samson et Dalila remains oft-performed.
And so Delilah became a synonym for temptress.
Pop culture references continue to drive the point home – from an episode of 30 Rock to more songs that you can list. Whether you’re into the Grateful Dead or the Judds, the Pointer Sisters or the Pixies, choose your genre and you can find a single about Delilah and her shears.
And yet, we live in an era when scholars are reconsidering stories that cast women as troublemakers. We don’t necessarily hear their sides of the story. It’s also easy enough to simply overlook the story.
In some cases, the meaning of Delilah is given as delicate rather than weakened, a more favorable interpretation.
HEY THERE DELILAH
Parents naming their children today might not think of the Biblical character at all.
Instead, this name might be all about the radio.
Easy listening deejay Delilah has long been known for reaching millions of listeners with her syndicated call-in dedication show for decades. It’s the kind of name you might recognize without ever hearing the show itself.
But the game-changer?
It’s a gently romantic hit single from The Plain White T’s.
Recorded in 2005, “Hey There Delilah” took a few years to catch on. It was released in the summer of 2007, becoming a major hit, even nabbing a 2008 Grammy nomination and the number one slot on the Billboard Hot 100. It was inspired by a real-life Delilah.
BY THE NUMBERS
The radio host and the real-life inspiration for the hit song demonstrate that the baby name Delilah has been in steady use all along.
In fact, it charts in the US Top 1000 more years than not. But until recently, the name hovered near the fringes.
Beginning in 1997, the baby name Delilah has consistently appeared in the rankings.
Following the 2002 Friends episode, Delilah rose from #706 to #611 in 2003.
But it was the song that made the name catch fire. In 2006, the baby name Delilah ranked #547. A year later, it was #297, and the name entered the Top 200 the following year.
Credit to the song, of course, but something else was happening at the same time.
We had fallen in love with L-l names. Lily and Layla and Lila are everywhere. The L sound is dominant, tucked into chart-toppers like Olivia, Amelia, and Evelyn, sitting at the top of favorites from Luna to Leah to Lucy.
Delilah fit into this pattern perfectly.
No surprise that the name reached #88 by 2019 – by far, it’s most popular ever.
The 2010 version of this post read: “Delilah is rapidly shedding the bad girl image and could become one of the hottest baby names of 2015.”
More than a decade later, that has certainly come to pass.
The name has become a mainstream favorite, a romantic name with a stylish sound and just enough history of use to feel familiar. And now that it’s reached the US Top 100, the only question is how high will it climb?
What do you think of the baby name Delilah?
First published on February 10, 2010, this post was revised substantially and re-published on February 23, 2021.
Let’s reclaim Delilah as our sister…she was surviving using her wits; a strong intelligent woman who knew what we all know…man will always cast aspertions on a strong woman whose power they can never reach. They called her a whore…I call her an empress. Naming a child Delilah is asking our daughters to reclaim the true feminine, know their strength and demonstrate their beauty, without any apologies.
This is rather late, but as to historical usage, my great-great-great-great grandmother was named Delilah, as was one of her granddaughters (my great-grandmother’s Aunt Dill.) Aunt Dill was born in 1893 (and was a rather remarkable woman, refusing to marry and having a distinguished career as a military nurse), and her grandmother was born around 1835 to German Americans in Appalachia. Of course, there are all kinds of unusual names historically used in the Appalachian region.
I forgot to mention that Aunt Dill’s father was an ordained minister of the Christian Church.
I’m planning to name my girl delilah. She’s due in September 2011. I think it’s a beautiful name. The sound of the name makes me think of a beautiful woman. The woman who tricked Samson might be a whore called delilah but this doesn’t mean that all delilah’s are bad (hopefully). I know some girls called Eve, who aren’t very nice girls.
I’d say the name does deserve a comeback. The name just sounds too beautiful to be wasted; especially not because of a ‘biblical whore’ :))
I really like Kelly and Dana on boys.
Laney McDonald says
I don’t like Delilah. For me, it is a reminder of the upscale strip club/gentleman’s club in Philadelphia (I am originally from Philly) called Delilah’s Den, so all I can think of when I hear the name is ‘stripper’. No offense. I like Lila and Leila though, and Layla is alright. Lily is nice too. I just wouldn’t use them on my child. Too popular for my taste. I would be more likely to name her Lilia or Delia.
Yeah that would pretty much take a name off my list, too! It’s one of those associations that you can’t quite forget.
Love it but sadly, probably too tarty for my taste. How about Dinah? (The Red Tent, see also the Bible)
I think Delilah is so pretty and sultry. Lilah is such a sweet nickname option and the meaning is quite nice. My turn off is the Biblical story, religious or not, I think the name will always have dubious associations, especially in a Judeo-Christian society.
Has Eve ever been NOTD? I searched and couldn’t find it.
Yes! Check here: check here or https://appellationmountain.net/2009/10/19/name-of-the-day-eve/
I believe my (pathetic) search feature is a straight text search, so trying to find “eve” pulls up every time I’ve used the words every, even, ever … Sorry ’bout that!
Thanks, British American! It’s gone over pretty well IRL with this pregnancy. It’s funny the marked difference I can see in just a few years, since our top girls names haven’t changed.
And thanks for the link, AM. I thought I had remembered seeing it, but the search function does give me difficulty on occasion. 😛
Delilah is intertwined with Lilah in my head (which reminds me of how far I’ve come with names. When we didn’t yet know the gender of my first son, we chose Ava, which everyone here IRL loathed, even though it was ranked in the 20s at the time. When I found the SSA list, we changed to Lilah, but then its rise scared me a bit too. On to Willa, which has been our #1 name for three pregnancies, and the one I get to use now. 🙂 How’s that for a random tangent?). When names soar like Delilah and Lilah, it turns me off. There’s too much of a date stamp, in my opinion. Lilah is the nicer name to me. It’s prettier without that Duh- and less fussy too. Each of those names has somewhat of a down-market vibe to me as well. Delilah, Lilah, Scarlett, they seem like they could be a stone’s throw away from Crystal in this next crop of babies. My family would probably be horrified if I used Delilah, though I wouldn’t anyway. Now Eve I would use in a heartbeat.
British American says
I like Willa. 🙂 (My husband didn’t.)
Delilah’s not one I either like or admire on other people. Maybe it’s because I’m just past 40 but she’s always the treacherous, greedy biblical tart to me. No song or time itself changes that. Delilah? Blech. Give me simple Lila any day!
How ’bout Lyle on a girl? My sister suggested it a few years back, and I’ve always liked it …
Lyle? I actually think it would appeal more on a girl (*horrors*) but yeah, I’d give the girls Lyle, (and Kyle too, for that matter!) if I could have Remy & Clancy for the boys! 😀
I’ll let everyone know you’re willing to broker that deal, but I’d like to add Kelly to the list of reclaims for Team Blue. 🙂
Yes, please bring Kelly back. And shhh, but I think Dana on a guy is hot as all get out.
I don’t know about Lyle with that spelling, but maybe Lisle could work for a girl?
This is a tricky one for me. Based purely on sound- I ADORE it. I love
Juliet, I hear you!
I stumbled across a claim that Delilah was in use by Puritan parents, but then apparently one or two of them really did name their kids Flee-Fornication so I’m not sure that’s a ringing endorsement … and I didn’t verify the Puritan claims …
I know what you mean! I think the name is beautiful;but, because of my environment & the Biblical reference I wouldn’t use it.Also, since my fav name is Eden & I desperately hope to use it one day, I think Eden & Delilah would be a bit ironic & a bit much considering everything lol
British American says
I agree. I like the sound of Delilah and the