Yes, he does conjure up a flute-playing rocker and a television Hillbilly, too. But his pre-20th century history was far more distinguished.

Thanks to Paul for suggesting Jethro as Name of the Day.

First, about the rock band: Jethro Tull was a person, but he wasn’t a member of the group. Jethro Tull was fronted by Ian Anderson, he of the distinctive voice and mad flute skills. They’ve been around since 1962, so to most modern parents, the origins of the band’s name are obscure.

The original Jethro Tull was an eighteenth century British innovator in the field of agriculture, responsible for convincing the English to adapt new techniques. This led to the Agricultural Revolution, amping up production from the fields – laying the groundwork for the Industrial Revolution. Thank you, Mr. Tull.

Speaking of the Tull family, the agriculturist was a junior. Perhaps Jethro, Sr. got the moniker from Protestant parents scanning the Bible for an underused gem, but that’s only a guess.

We’ll get to the Biblical Jethro in a second, but if not classic rock, this one might conjure up the sounds of bluegrass and the Beverly Hillbillies. Cousin Jethro drove the Clampetts to California back in 1962, and stayed for the sitcom’s successful nine-season run. At one point, we even met his twin sister named – what else? – Jethrine.

But if you turn off the television and put down your iPod, Jethro is a Biblical patriarch, deserving of a far more dignified image that we credit him today. He’s father-in-law to none other than Moses, and a priest and prophet in his own right. In Hebrew, his name was Yitro or Yithro, from yether – abundance.

Between the Protestant Reformation and the nineteenth century, Jethro was in occasional use, even peeking into the US Top 1000 a few times, the last in 1913. A few other Jethros include:

  • On New Zealand’s TV3, the West family of criminals attempts to make an honest living on Outrageous Fortune. Dad is Wolf, mom is Cheryl, the two daughters are Pascalle and Loretta. Brothers Van and Jethro round out the clan;
  • On television’s JAG, Rear Admiral Albert Jethro Chegwidden answered to A.J.;
  • One more small screen mention is Mark Harmon’s character on NCIS – Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
  • In real life, Jethro Pugh played for the Dallas Cowboys;
  • Jethro Sumner was a general in the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. For his services, Sumner County, Tennessee was named in his honor;
  • Sir Jethro Teall was a late nineteenth century geologist;
  • Country musician and mandolin player Kenneth Burns was part of a musical comedy act known as Homer and Jethro in the 1930s.

But while Homer is starting to shed his hick image in favor of a Hollywood/hipster/classical Greek vibe, Jethro has farther to go. You’d have to be a truly daring parent to try this one at home.

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. I love Jethro, to me it is absolute perfection of Biblical, positive meaning, recognizable, easily spelled, underused, no single major negative figure, and great sound. I love it, but my husband refuses to consider it. To him it still sounds hillbilly, sigh. I’m still working on him, I have time.

  2. My sister named her oldest boy Jethro. He just turned 12. He wears it beautifully. He’s a redhead and incredibly intelligent. He wants to design fighter jets and no one doubts that he’ll be a huge success in anything he does. My sister has six kids (so far) and I think their names all work together pretty well.

    Jethro, Hazel, Ethne, Talmage, Orrin, and Wyatt.

    I think Jethro is totally prime for a comeback–especially because of the “o” ending.

    As a sidenote, Ethne’s middle name is Fay so her name means “Fire Fairy.” Sweet.

  3. I am a fan of Jethro. It probably helps that the only two associations I have with it are Gibbs (wonderful character) and the Biblical Jethro. I think I have heard of Jethro Tull, now that you mention it, but it’s not a big throw off for me. Definately going on my (also long) list. Love the Jett nn idea

  4. I kinda like Jethro. It reminds me of the NCIS guy and he’s hot, so I have a good mental image of the name. Maybe when I have children, it will start to be kinda cool again.