If you think the Puritans dug up all the best options from the Good Book, rest assured that there are plenty left to discover.

Thanks to Emmy Jo for suggesting a particularly promising one. The Name of the Day is Jair.

Jair appears in the Old Testament. The related Jairus pops up in the New Testament. Jairo is a Spanish variant of both. Maybe you haven’t heard them, but in Central and South America, they’re reasonably familiar. In fact, Jair and Jairo have both charted in the US Top 1000 for the past few years. In 2007, the ranked #778 and #579.

Most Spanish speakers probably read Jair as HY uhr. But the more likely pronunciation in English is JAY uhr – sort of like the initials J.R. Jairo, on the other hand, is almost also said HY ro, while Jairus is read JAY russ.

Despite potential pronunciation troubles, Jair has quite a bit of history and appeal.

Jair comes from the Hebrew Ya’ir and means “shining one” or “enlightened one.” The Old Testament figure was a judge from Gilead. Another Jair was a descendant of the patriarch Manassah. And Havoth-Jair – the settlements of Jair – is a collection of villages on the east banks of the Jordan.

Skip ahead to the New Testament, and Jairus seeks out Jesus to cure his sick daughter. By the time they reach the girl, she has died from her illness. But, thanks to her father’s faith, Jesus is able to bring her back to life.

While the name has been uncommon in the English-speaking world, there’s a long list of noteworthy Jairs from elsewhere:

  • Brazilian footballer Jair da Rosa Pinto was among the most famous athletes in his country in the 1940s and 50s;
  • Brazilian musician Jair Rodrigues also has a son called Jair. The son performed on a popular Brazilian children’s television show before moving to the US to pursue a musical career;
  • Jair Benitez is a Colombian footballer;
  • Jair Rosa is an Uruguyan footballer;
  • Jair Baylón plays – you guessed it! – football in Peru;
  • But Curaçao-born Jair Francoise Jurrjens plays baseball. He’s currently the starting pitcher for the Atlanta Braves;
  • Jair Lynch competed for the US men’s gymnastics team in the 1996 Summer Olympics. His mother is from Colombia.

Then there’s Jair-Rôhm Parker Wells, a bassist and experimental musician. His biography skims over his early years. I can’t help but think that his name is a creative respelling of Jerome – whether by his parents or by the artist himself, I can’t say.

Terry Brooks’ Shannara series includes a character called Jair Ohmsford. Brooks has been writing the series since 1977, so safe to say that many a sci fi and fantasy fan will recognize the name.

On balance, Jair is similar to names like Blaise or maybe Cillian. He seems trendy, even invented. But it isn’t so – Jair’s got history to spare. If you don’t mind explaining the pronunciation, this could be a great pick – fresh, but not new.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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What do you think?


  1. Jairo… I had never even heard of or thought of the name before I met my boyfriend with that name. I realize that people who meet a person with any given name will attach their own meanings to it. A name I once thought was so weird, I now associate with confidence, intuition, strength, and dignity.

  2. G’day!
    As an Australia-based Braves fan, I found your blog on google and read a few of your other Braves posts.
    I just added you to my Google News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

  3. I’ve always said JAI russ too, like Iris with a J. I like both pronounciations.

    I like all of these names, but Jairus is probably the one I’d use if I had to pick. Jair sounds like it’s missing something and Jairo is a bit too Spanish for someone without a trace of Spanish or Hispanic blood in her veins!

  4. “do you mean JAI russ like sort-of-not-quite-rhymes with Iris?”

    Yup! That’s basically the way I say it.

  5. I love Jairo which I was first introduced to in… a Spanish-language telenovela (soap opera)! My kids have a cousin named Jairo whose mother picked it up from the same telenovela (Yesenia, which generated a lot of little girls with that name). Jairo’s character had a brother named Dario, a form of Darius. I know someone who named her first-born Jahir and pronounced it ya-EER with a silent h.

    I’m thinking I ought to tune in for a week at a time three times a year just to keep up with names currently being used in novelas. They’re a common source for baby names in Latin America.

  6. I like Jairus, but then I’m a sucker for those S-enders. I think either Jair or Jairus would wear quite well on a little boy.

    Like Charlotte, I’ve mostly heard the name pronounced JIE-russ (JAI-russ) in church. I’ve seen JAY-russ listed as the proper pronunciation on name websites, though. I like it pronounced either way.

  7. Interesting name! I’ve always pronounced Jairus as JYE-rus, but I’ve never been particularly intuitive about pronunciations and usually have to look them up.

  8. Hmm, I’d never really considered any of those names. I’m not so sure what I think of Jair or Jairo, but I rather like Jairus (which I’ve always pronounced “JAI-russ”).

    1. Charlotte, that’s interesting – do you mean JAI russ like sort-of-not-quite-rhymes with Iris?

      I love the look of Jairo and want to rhyme him with Cairo, but I can’t find any evidence to suggest that anyone (other than me) has ever done so. 🙂

  9. I saw the header and immediately thought “Shannara!” but then, I re-read those at least once every other year or so. The first three were pretty great.

    I’m not a fan of his sound but really wouldn’t mind anyone else using Jair. He’s interesting, for sure! Me, I’d rather use Blaise. 😉

    Jair’s cool. I would be pleased to meet a few!