Editor’s note: This post was originally published on June 1, 2008, and was substantially revised and re-posted on November 29, 2011.
He fits right in with popular picks like Noah and Sebastian, all names that capture the Softer Side of Boys.
Thanks to Bo for suggesting today’s Baby Name of the Day: Ezra.
Turn on the radio in the spring of 1995 and you couldn’t avoid hearing this song:
Lookin’ around the house
Hidden behind the window and the door
Searchin’ for signs of life
But there’s nobody home
The song was called Good, and the artists were a previously little-known group formed back at Louisiana State University. The band is known as Better Than Ezra, and their success helped to quietly push Ezra back into the spotlight.
The musicians have declined to discuss the meaning of their band’s name, but there’s no shortage of material. Ezra has been in use as an appellation for more than two thousand years.
The first Ezra, sometimes called Esdras, was a poet and scribe mentioned in the Old Testament. While the historical details of his life are open to debate, Ezra’s role as a teacher and interpreter of Jewish law is well established. It’s not quite like naming your son Moses, but it is a name rich with religious significance. The name’s origins are debated, but he may be derived from a phrase that means “God helps.”
Ezra has been worn by some accomplished men, two of whom have ties to the Ivy League:
- An early president of Yale University, Ezra Stiles, bore the name in the late 18th century.
- A few decades later, Ezra Cornell made a fortune in the telegraph business as partner to Samuel Morse in the founding of Western Union, and in 1865 would found a university in Ithaca that still bears his name.
Before Abercrombie & Fitch peddled goods to teenagers in every mall in America, outdoorsmen and business partners David Abercrombie and Ezra Fitch established the company as an upscale emporium for the well-outfitted adventurer.
Then there’s the poet Ezra Pound. Born in the wilds of Idaho when it was still just a territory, Pound spent most of his adult years in Europe. In later life, his political views were scandalous. Living in Italy during World War II, he supported Mussolini and eventually did time at a US Army detention camp in Pisa. Nonetheless, his artistic accomplishments as both a translator and author are considerable, and lend Ezra a literary sheen.
There’s also the classic storybook, The Snowy Day, by celebrated children’s author Ezra Jack Keats.
Parents likely shied away from this one for so long because his -a ending was out of favor for boys. That’s no longer a barrier, thanks to well-established choices like Joshua and Noah, as well as up-and-comers like Judah and Isaiah.
In 2007, Ezra was the 342nd most popular name for baby boys born in the US. As of 2010, he’d risen to #243. Along with Abel and a few other underused Biblical appellations, Ezra is one that is catching on.