The baby name Gideon mixes Biblical roots with a cool, modern sound.
Thanks to Emmy Jo for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
OLD TESTAMENT HERO
When we meet Gideon in the Old Testament, the Israelites have turned away from God. They’re worshiping a statue of Baal instead. Gideon is chosen to destroy the idol, and to protect the people from an invading army. He smashes and bashes without much difficulty, but when it comes to the military maneuvers? God specifically instructs him to go into battle with a shoestring army as a show of faith. Gideon obeys and triumphs by wit as much as weaponry.
The baby name Gideon means “mighty warrior,” or more literally, “feller” as in trees – or you know, armies and false gods.
Because his story is one of commitment, he’s the role model chosen by the Christian evangelical organization, The Gideons International, when they were founded back in 1899. In addition to placing Bibles in hotel rooms around the world, they also distribute them to the military, students, and medical personnel.
Pop culture references to Gideon’s Bible abound, from the Beatles’ Rocky Raccoon to Mission Impossible, the Marilyn Monroe flick Gentleman Prefer Blondes, and the sci-fi series Red Dwarf, for starters.
BESIDES THE BIBLE
Despite the overtly religious ties, the baby name Gideon doesn’t seem exclusively Christian.
It helps that the Puritans embraced the name, leading to a handful of early American notables with the name. Gideon Welles served as Secretary of the Navy during the US Civil War. His successful blockade of the Confederacy is considered a major reason for the Union’s triumph.
Maybe that’s because this is the age of Elijah and Isaiah, expressly Old Testament names that are also style stars.
Or maybe it’s because Gideon brings to mind favorites like Adrian and Julian and even Sebastian, three-syllable, ends-in-n names that feel polished and accessible.
And, of course, it helps that the baby name Gideon has been used for ages, as both a first and a last.
FELL and CAT, BROTHER and MUTANT
One famous figure: the fictional detective Gideon Fell, created in 1933 by author John Dickson Carr. Carr authored nearly two dozen adventures over the next four decades, and occasional BBC adaptations followed.
In 1940’s Pinocchio, Honest John the Fox and Gideon the Cat lead Pinocchio astray.
From the 1950s into the 1970s, the fictional Chief Inspector George Gideon of Scotland Yard solved crimes in novels by JJ Maric, as well as a British television adaptation.
In 1954, the name belongs to the youngest of brothers in the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. They’re named in alphabetical order: Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephraim, Frank, and – what else? – Gideon. (He marries Alice. The brides’ names don’t follow any particular pattern.)
Country singer Kenny Rogers recorded an album in 1980 titled Gideon, themed around a (fictional) Texas cowboy named Gideon Tanner.
There’s also a Marvel New Mutants villain called Gideon, introduced in 1991.
BY THE NUMBERS
That’s a pretty accurate picture of Gideon for much of the twentieth century. The name feels familiar, but rare. It’s buttoned-up, sometimes vintage, and not exclusively virtuous. It must have been something like Jasper – we all recognized it, but few of us were considering it for our children.
In fact, the baby name Gideon appeared in the US Top 1000 just four times from 1900 through 1999.
21st CENTURY COMEBACK
The name caught on slowly.
It was the title of a minor movie in 1999; Andre Braugher starred in a short-lived medical drama called Gideon’s Crossing in 2000.
None of these – or other minor mentions – really explains the name’s comeback.
Instead, it might be down to style and sound. In the year 2000, the baby name Gideon returned at #880. It reached #460 by 2010. At that point, a Criminal Minds character answered to Gideon.
Since then, characters with a range of personalities have worn the name on Gravity Falls, Once Upon a Time, and, most recently, The Mandalorian.
All of this has helped take the baby name Gideon to #320 as of 2019. It still feels a little bit offbeat and unexpected, the kind of name that surprises. But it’s edged closer and closer to the mainstream over the years. Today it feels old school, but plenty cool.
Would you consider the baby name Gideon for a son?
Originally published on June 11, 2008, this post was revised substantially and re-published on January 5, 2021.
Lisa T. says
LOVE the name Gideon! The main reason I did not consider it for my son is because his surname also starts with a G, giving the full name a sort of comic book villain sound.
My nephew is Gideon. Such a cutie. And besides Gideon, he is called just “G”. 🙂
I have a Gideon! He’s a little love, and though I fought my husband on the name choice because of the lack of nickname (I loved the full name, but HATED “Giddy”!), we have found one that works as a shortened version for our family. Like the abbreviation for “Indian” used in Tom Sawyer, “Injun,” we found ourselves calling him “Gijun”, and have shortened it to “Gij” while he’s a little guy (currently 22 months).
What a great set of kids’ names! I’m blown away. 🙂
Glad you like them. 🙂 We also have a Levi, and are awaiting #7’s arrival in about 6 weeks! I’ve always loved names, and had fun making lists. We are always surprised on what we’re having, so we go into labor with 10 names or so for each, then after birth, my husband and I get out the right list, and look the baby in the face while he/she is awake. We have always both gone directly to the same name on the list, as the little one’s face tells us who he/she is without fail! 🙂 Once (for Levi), we didn’t have his name on the list, but both agreed this one wasn’t on our list, and kept looking through the book til we found it! Loving your name taste, and enjoying looking at your stories for several we had been considering, plus adding a few more to the list as we peruse! Thank you!!!!
Oh, and I’m also an Amy, born in 1973! 😉
Another one! 🙂
I thought there was a Mandy Patinkin/Gideon link, and sure enough … besides the character that you mention, he called his son Gideon! What fabulous taste. 🙂
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Poopy Butt tops Mooser. But I’d still rather be Sunshine. Or Grace. Then again, we call Alexei by all sorts of ridiculous nicknames, so I suppose it’s just one of those things. Your poor sister, though! That’s tough to live down.
Aww, Gideon is so cute! It’s also in the move Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. They all had biblical names going from A-G, but Fred or Frank or something, I think. It was also a character on Criminal Minds, played by Mandy Patinkin. I’ve had a crush on that man since I was old enough to see The Princess Bride (He played Inigo Montoya). He was also in Dead Like Me, another one of my favorite shows.
Point being, I don’t like the lack of obvious nickname, but I do adore the name a lot. It’s one I always forget to list on my favorites list, but I love hearing.
My childhood nickname was Sunshine because I was morose. Likewise, Amelia was called Grace because she was that kid that actually did walk into doorknobs and sideview mirrors of cars, so she had black eyes practically all the time. My neighbor was known as Poopy Butt, which I think tops Mooser. Poopy Butt (AKA Aaron) had a brother named Jeremy who we all called Moose. He was an 11 lb baby!
I used to go to a club called Eon’s, LOL! But I do think it’s the most promising short form out there.
Katharine, I guarantee you I’d call my kid Giddy-Up if I ever thought of it. It’s just too tempting a nickname for a small boy. I’m sure he’d hate it by the time he hit the tween years. But then, my childhood nickname was Mooser, so I always feel like nothing is worse than that.
BTW, I’m delighted that there are Gideons out there! Thanks for all the name-spotting.
I have come acroos two Gideon’s one was known as Giddy-up(!), the other sometimes referred to as Gid….
we are thinking of using Gideon, but if he needs a nick name it will be Guy- both are distinctive and we like Guy, but wouldn’t want to call a son that as his legal name.
Ian? Different name, but it sounds right. Or Eon!!!
I’ve hearted Gideon for years. There was a veejay on MTV named Gideon Yago. He’s also a great screenwriter too, watch out for him. 🙂
What, no one likes Giddy? It’s descriptive, as well as a shortened verstion of Gideon. 😉
Emmy Jo says
Thanks, Verity. I do love Gideon. Unfortunately, I’m marrying someone whose last name starts with a G, so I think I’ll have to cross it off my list. I always thought “Eon” (pronounced like Ian) could be a possible nickname, though I probably would end up calling a son “Gid-Kid” as well. 🙂
It *is* problematic for nicknamers. I’m sure I’d end up calling him “Gid the Kid” and “Gid the Squid” and maybe, I dunno, Deo? That last one is kinda heavy metal. 😉
There’s also the 3-syllable Donovan, which lends itself to Van, which I kind of love. But I can’t help find Gideon the more appealing full name.
I’ve never met a Gideon, but surely they’re out there. Anyone?
Gideon IS great, unless you’re a nicknamer, like me. What is there? Gid? Not very pleasant. Deon? Maybe, but it’s not one that appeals to me, I know several Deons who don’t make it pleasant for me. I suppose that would be the most mainstream nickname too.
Bur Gideon in full is charming, strong and handsome. Very nice! I would love to meet one (or more!)