Name of the Day: Gideon

Emmy Jo recently suggested one of our favorite boys’ names. Hard to believe we didn’t think of it ourselves! You’ll find him in the Bible, and you’ll find a Bible bearing his name in just about every hotel room on Earth.

Today’s Name of the Day? Why it’s Gideon, of course.

When we meet Gideon in the Old Testament, the Israelites have turned away from God and are worshipping 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.

His name means “mighty warrior,” or more literally, “feller” as in trees – or you know, armies and false gods. But his story is one of obedience and duty, and so 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 in 180 countries, 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 the movie version of Mission Impossible and the Marilyn Monroe flick Gentleman Prefer Blondes to the scifi series Red Dwarf.

Of course, this isn’t exactly the kind of backstory that makes us want to choose the name for our child. It’s quirky and curious, and it’s easy to imagine kids on school overnight trips returning every copy of the Good Book from their hotel room to your son, because, after all, it has his name on it.

There are a handful of less reputable Gideons, too. A villian in the Marvel Comics X-Men universe bears this name. A petty thief called Clarence Gideon would go on to file the lawsuit that became Gideon v. Wainwright, a landmark case in which the Supreme Court said that all criminal defendants are entitled to legal representation, regardless of ability to pay. And a doctor friend of ours grimaced at the thought of calling his son Gideon – it’s the acronym for the Global Infectious Disease Epidemiology Network.

On balance, Gideon is attractive precisely because it is a familiar, Biblical choice that is not commonly used. The comic book, the court case, the medical database – they’re out there, but they’re far from household words.

The name has been overlooked for years as parents sought out two-syllable, ends-in-en choices for their sons. Today, it’s still a little different than Biblical hotties like Elijah and Isaiah.

While Gideon has been in steady use throughout history, it’s been quite rare in the US until recent years. It spent most of the 20th century out of the US Top 1000, only returning in 2000. The name has risen steadily since then, climbing more than 400 spots to #528 last year. It remains rare in the UK and Canada, too.

He can be Ezekiel’s big brother; or maybe Elijah’s younger sibling when their parents discover that merely choosing a Biblical name does not assure that you won’t hear it on every playground in the US.

If you’re looking for a name with history and substance, but that stands out from most names given to boys today, Gideon is a strong pick.

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17 Comments

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).

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!!!!

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. 🙂

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!)