He’s an Old Testament choice who was current in the nineteenth century. So why isn’t he leaping up the charts in 2009?
Thanks to Wrenn for suggesting another one from the family tree for today’s Name of the Day: Enoch.
Enoch shares his long “e” with Ethan – EE nock. Even so, you’ll sometimes here eh nuck– a pronunciation unfortunately close to eunuch.
His roots are Biblical. In the Book of Genesis, Enoch is Cain’s firstborn. Another Enoch is proud papa of the long-lived Methuselah. But he would’ve been spelled Hanokh, Hanoch, Chanoch or Chanokh.
The name appears a few more times in the Old Testament too, and has two possible Hebrew sources:
- Enlightenment or wisdom – chinuch;
- Dedicated or consecrated – hanakh.
Visit an Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and you might hear a reference to the Biblical Book of Enoch. While it isn’t considered canonical by most Christians, you can find references to the writings – even in the New Testament.
The Book of Enoch is all about fallen angels. (The angels ask Enoch to plead their case for reinstatement to God.) Back in the sixteenth century, John Dee and Edward Kelley proposed a system of magic termed Enochian, along with a divine language wearing the same name. Before you dismiss Dee and Kelley as crackpots, remember that the line between science and magic was fuzzy in Elizabethan England. Dee was a trained mathematician and respected figure – an advisor to the the queen herself. (Kelley, on the other hand, was apparently a swindler.) The tales of angelic battles are fascinating, and even today, Enoch figures in Masonic legend and lore.
Enoch probably owes some of his popularity to the Biblical figures and some to Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s 1864 poem “Enoch Arden.” Even if you don’t know the original, the story of Enoch Arden should sound familiar: man takes to the seas to support his wife and children. His ship sinks, but he survives. Years later, he returns only to find that his wife has remarried. (Cast Away, anyone? Was Tennyson himself borrowing from Homer?)
Back in 1880, Enoch ranked #202 in the US. By 1900, he’d fallen to #367. His steady decline continued, and by 1957 he’d just about left Top 1000, though his last appearance was in 1976.
A scattering of Enochs can be found throughout US history:
- Baltimore businessman and philanthropist Enoch Pratt left his fortune to help establish one of the country’s first private hospitals for the treatment of mental illness;
- A nineteenth century governor of Maine was called Enoch Lincoln;
- President Calvin Coolidge apparently bestowed the appellation on his pet goose. (He also had a donkey called Ebeneezer.)
It is tough to say why Enoch has never caught on. But perhaps the most interesting twist to Enoch is his equivalent in Islam – Idris, a name that also appears in Welsh mythology. A ninth-century Muslim leader named Idris ibn Abdullah captured Algeria. Actor Idris Elba is well-known for his work on HBO’s The Wire, as well as guest-starring as Michael’s boss on The Office.
Enoch could fit right in with Ethan and Elijah. And Idris sounds just right with choices like Isaac and Isaiah. Both are quirky, but have charm aplenty if you dare.
I have to chime in on this thread even though it’s a bit old! My 3 1/2 yr old son is named Enoch and we love it! He is called Eno [EE-no] for short, which I think is darling. Enoch IS a family name on both sides of my family, generations back, although we didn’t know this before we picked it.
My one complaint really isn’t about the name itself, more ignorance on the part of other people. We hear “E-nick” quite frequently and have to wonder how the O becomes and I… The world may never know!
Oh, and we did have a couple people (really, two) coming against us before he was born claiming that everyone would call him Ewok, like in Star Wars, but they were just being cruel. We’ve never had an Ewok issue since then. 🙂
I would love to name my son Enoch simply because of the fact that Enoch in the old testament walked with God. I want my son to have a close walk with God. 🙂
Emmy Jo says
Among the conservative Christian families I know, Enoch certainly isn’t unheard of. It’s not common, but it’s not outlandish by any means, especially when one’s other boys are Silas, Micah, and Gideon.
I want to like Enoch, but I find it so very hard to say. I feel compelled to enunciate the last syllable in order to pronounce the name correctly, saying EE-nock, but my American English speaking tongue really wants to reduce the second vowel to a schwa for ease of pronunciation (EE-nuck). It’s just so much harder to say than Ethan, and I think that could be a big reason why it hasn’t caught on.
When I hear this name I think of the man who played Enoch in a production of Carousel I was involved in several years ago. He was my favorite part of the play, so I love the name. It might be too biblical and unfriendly sounding for my husband, though, since he has no immediate reference like that.
I don’t know. It just screams Star Wars teddy-bear like Ewoks to me!! Wookiee is possibly not the best nn ever 😉
LOL, Bevin – I didn’t think Ewok, but know that you’ve said it – all I see are ferocious little teddy bears!
Allison, your taste was fabulous! At 13, I believe I’d settled on Mystina for a girl and Barron for a boy. (Yes, with two rs.) Julian Idris is lovely.
Ferdinand, Elisabeth? I love Ferdinand! Okay, I love Munro Leaf. Is that where you came across him? I’m putting him on as soon as I find my calendar … WHERE is my calendar … stand by!
Enoch is way too biblical for my secular sensibility. I had no idea about the connection to Idris; way back when I was in jr high, I was sure that if I had a son, his name would be Julian Idris. It didn’t play out that way, but hey, in retrospect, my taste wasn’t half bad for a thirteen year-old!
I like Enoch. Albeit, its a bit harsh, but its a very cool and strong masculine choice.
Christina Fonseca says
Enoch is a name I am very conscious of, since the town I live in has a now-deceased popular mayor by that name. With Old Testament names being in vogue I have wondered when I will hear this one.
That’s a great anecdote about President Coolidge naming his pets Enoch and Ebenezer.
I’m glad Wrenn suggested Enoch – I think he sounds kinda quirky.
Oh no. I don’t love the ultra-religious-sounding names. This one can go away with Malachi, Ezra, and Caleb, thank you very much!
While we’re wishing them away, let’s not forget Isaiah and Jedidiah!
Totally. Add Josiah to that list.
Thanks for featuring Enoch!
I’m still not sold on this one, but I think I’m coming around. Other obscure Bible names are starting to resurface…
I can dig it. Enoch and Boaz would make a mighty pair.
Also loving Idris, though it sounds awfully feminine to my ear. Fascinating that this is both Arabic and Welsh!!!
Which reminds me, would you consider NERYS as a NOTD? What about FERDINAND? He’s my new obsession.