He’s Biblical, his meaning is fabulous and distinguished bearers can be found in nearly any field.
Thanks to Corinne for suggesting Isaac as Name of the Day.
Isaac has much to recommend him. From the Hebrew tzahaq, it means “he laughs” – a joyful meaning for your baby boy. It also helps balance the story of the Binding of Isaac. That’s the Biblical tale about Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his only son. (If you don’t recall your Old Testament, never fear. It was only a test. Isaac descended the mountaintop unscathed and went on to father Esau and Jacob.)
In fact, Isaac became a patriarch, and his story had sequels in both the New Testament and the Qur’an. This means the name works across linguistic and cultural barriers – a real bonus for many families.
The seventh-century Isaac of Nineveh is remembered as a theologian, and counted among the saints of the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In English, he was one of many names rediscovered following the Protestant Reformation, and a steady stream of notable Isaacs appears in the historical record from the seventeenth century onward:
- Science’s Sir Isaac Newton, born in 1643;
- Two early 19th century Americans, both called Isaac Smith, served in the US House of Representatives – one from New Jersey, one from Pennsylvania;
- 19th century inventor, Isaac Singer, he of sewing machine fame;
- Spanish submarine innovator, Isaac Peral;
- Former governor-general of Australia, Isaac Isaacs;
- 20th century sci fi legend Isaac Asimov;
- Legendary violinists Itzhak Perlman and Isaac Stern;
- Israeli prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin and Yitzhak Shamir;
- Rock’n’Roll Hall of Famer and Academy Award winning singer-songwriter Isaac Hayes – also known as South Park’s Chef;
- Alt rock’s Isaac Slade (of The Fray) and Isaac Brock (of Modest Mouse);
- Designer-turned-television-personality Isaac Mizrahi.
The list goes on and on.
And therein lies the problem. While you might not have grown up with an Isaac – the name was at a low point in popularity during the 1960s and 70s, bottoming out at #364 in 1962 – that’s the exception.
For most of the past four centuries or so, Isaac has enjoyed fairly steady use. In most decades, Isaac was more popular than current favorites like Elijah, Isaiah and Noah. He’s risen again with the current wave of Biblical baby names, reaching #37 in 2008.
While Isaac doesn’t require a nickname, some parents have opted to use Isaac as a means to get the nickname Zac or Zach. (But, of course, with Zachary a Top 20 pick in recent years, that makes your son’s name sound ever more popular.)
If Isaac appeals, but you’re looking for a less common nickname, you might like Ike. While the most famous 20th century Ike was a Dwight, it is a traditional diminutive for Isaac.
It’s easy to like Isaac – there’s his z-sound, his interesting-but-legitimate “aa” spelling. He’s not Jacob or Joshua, Jayden or Aiden. But Isaac was bestowed upon nearly 10,000 newborn baby boys in 2008 alone.
So if you’re looking for a classic, enduring Biblical choice with a great meaning and appealing sound, Isaac is for you. Just keep in mind that many, many other parents will share your good taste.