From the classic James to 80s fave Jason to the trendy Jayden, the most frequently heard boys’ names start with J. So does today’s choice – but this one is a rarity.

Thanks to Lola for suggesting our Name of the Day: Jubal.

Jubal has an inviting musical meaning. Crack open your Bible to the Book of Genesis, and there he is -history’s first musician. All those who play the lyre, harp and the flute are in his debt, as legend has it that he invented them.

Some contend that Jubal comes from the Hebrew yabal, or stream. Others cite a more appropriately musical meaning. Jubal could also link to a term – yobhel – for the blast from a ram’s horn, an early instrument.

While either attribution is pleasant, it hasn’t been enough to make Jubal among the popular J- names. He’s never ranked in the US top 1000. In fact, he’s been used so sparingly that we can cite virtually every use here. Besides the Biblical music man, we find:

  • Unrepentant Civil War General Jubal Anderson Early. He fled the US when the Confederacy surrendered, briefly living abroad in Cuba and Canada, and later wrote his memoirs before returning to his Virginia home. While his writings serve as an important part of the historical record, he apparently never fully accepted that the South had lost.
  • The historical figure inspired at least two fictional bearers of the name. The first is a bounty hunter on cult favorite Firefly. That Jubal Early has the distinction of uttering the very last words on the last episode of the show.
  • Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land featured Jubal Harshaw. He’s not terribly inspiring to parents, either.
  • On the silver screen we find Jubal, a 1956 Western. Glenn Ford played Jubal. It wasn’t much of a hit, but you might find it on AMC some night. This character was inspired by the Biblical figure.

A few other Jubals appear in the US census records, but it never took off.

Today the name feels a little bit Southern-fried, but overall quite jaunty. It’s pronounced JOO bahl, a simple enough sound. In fact, jubilee traces its roots to the same word.

Still, this one might be too unusual for a first name. Musical parents might consider tucking Jubal in the middle spot, just like Christina Aguilera’s Max Liron. It’s a more inventive way to get the middle initial J. than Joseph.

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. well…. distinctive..but I don’t love the sound of either syllable and I agree on potential bad nicknames. I’m afraid most of my boy name favorites are not adventurous. for a J name I”d much rather have Jonathan, Joseph or Jason (but not Jayden). and I just really love the name John.. I know, is now considered a boring name by many.. and still pretty well used. But he might actually stand out a little on a playground among the Jaden-Brayden crowd. But I’d use a distinctive middle name. My last name is very unusual and is pronounced but not spelled the same as a common word in English… it draws enough attention so I like a familiar first name with it. But I’m sure I could come up with some unusual boy’s names I like.

  2. I don’t really care for this one. A possible nickname for him, Ju, might get him made fun of, especially if the kid ends up being born into a Jewish family.

    It is not terrible though. I just wouldn’t use it.

    It also reminds me of a folk tale I read when I was in 8th or 9th grade. One of the characters was named Jubal. It was in a book of scary stories, along with alot of other ones. Good book. that’s a link to the author’s page. The book is called SHORT & SHIVERY: Thirty Chilling Tales. The author wrote alot of books like this, but the first one is the only one I’ve read so far.

  3. Oh, Lola, I knew there was an unpleasant association, but I couldn’t quite think of it! That’s it, though. I like Jubal’s sound but am conflicted because of the “slave name” connotation. I also fear “Jew Balls.” Eventually some smart aleck would think that up. I wouldn’t use it myself, but Jubal is distinctive and actually quite lovely. I never thought about this name before, but I think I rather like it!

  4. Heinlein’s where I found Jubal but the bible’s where I fell in love with him. He’s definitely middle material but not because I think he’ll be teased (Who, me, with Cosmo, Remus, Cassius and such on her lists?) No, it’s because he was also historically used as a slave name somewhat frequently. It show up in rolls of the time (having a darling of a cousin in SC helps with things like that) and that taints him a teensy bit for me. He’s so cheerful, handsome and yes, lyrical, that I can’t help but hang onto him despite that.
    I can’t see him appealing to a whole lot of people so I’m hoping that he’ll remain uncommon, even as a middle. I like my middles to be distinctive! 🙂