Jude: Baby Name of the Day


This post was originally published on May 26, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on July 7, 2014.

The Beatles scored a hit with this name in 1968, but only in recent years has it become a mainstream choice for a son.

Thanks to Natalie for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day: Jude.

Michelle was already popular when the Fab Four first recorded their franglais ballad, singing Michelle, ma belle back in 1965.  The name rocketed from #18 to #4 in 1966, and reached #2 by 1968.  “Hey Jude” was as big a hit – bigger, even – but the name didn’t benefit in the same way.

Back then, if you knew a Jude, it was probably short for Judy or Judith.  Judy peaked at #11 in 1946, and remained a Top 100 choice for twenty more years.  The more formal Judith was a Top Ten pick in the 1940s.

In the Old Testament, Judah is one of Jacob’s twelve sons, and the name means praised.  He’s on the family trees of both King David and Jesus, so there’s no shortage of significance for Judah.  He’s currently at his peak of popularity, ranked #265 as of 2013, following Isaiah and Elijah up the charts.

Judas, the Greek form of the name, has a big role in the New Testament, since Judas Iscariot is the apostle who betrays Jesus.  While Judah and Jude have long histories of use, Judas is far less common.

But there’s another apostle, called Jude, Thaddeus, or Jude Thaddeus.  Today we know him as Saint Jude, patron saint of lost causes, or, more hopefully, desperate situations.

Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, was a struggling entertainer when he prayed to a statue of St. Jude, promising that he’d honor the saint should he succeed professionally.

Then there’s the literary Jude, Thomas Hardy’s the title character in his 1895 novel, Jude the Obscure.  Hardy’s leading man encountered nothing but desperate situations and dashed hopes – perhaps a reason why parents have been reluctant to bestow the name.

But now there’s another image that comes to mind.  Born David Jude Law, and known professionally by his middle, the English actor is a Hollywood A-lister, and he gets credit for much of the name’s rise.

Jude first appears in the US Top 1000 in the 1950s and 60s, the era of short names like Todd and Dean.  But he never really caught on, and by the 1980s, Jude was fading.

Then Law’s star started to rise.  In 1999, he appeared with Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley, earning an Oscar nomination, and Jude spiked, from #948 in 1999 to #679 in 2000.

The name has climbed steadily since then, and stands at #162 as of 2013.  Judah is up to #265.

And yet don’t give Law all of the credit for his name’s success.  With a Biblical backstory and a literary tie, Jude has quite a bit of appeal – traditional, but not traditionally common.  A single-syllable boys’ name that’s long on style, it is easy to see why Jude is catching on.

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I ADORE Jude. It has been my boy’s name choice since we had our first child 11 years ago!
4 girls later we’ve yet to use it, but I’m currently pregnant with our 5th child and I’m really considering using it even if we have another girl. It’s just gorgeous

We named our twin girls Jude and Joss.
Their names are not short for anything.
We wanted very strong names that wernt childish sounding.
Some of the names today, make me cringe when I think about these girls getting older and having names like the overused and babyish Sophia, Ellie, Olivia and Avery type names. Not to mention there would be many kids w the same name, in their classes throughout school.
We love our girls names and we couldn’t care less if they are gender neutral, it’s 2014 people!
It blows me away that people still act like a name defines a particular sex. That’s a very close minded, 1950’s way of thought.
We wouldn’t change their names for anything!

I have a Judah! He is 10, and wow! is his name climbing. We’ve heard of tons of Judahs in the last 5 years or so. My Judah was born during Hanukkah, and Judah Maccabee is the hero of the Hanukkah story, so that figured in to our decision to use it on him. Jude is a nice nickname, too.

I do like Jude a lot. The only problem is that Jude is a girls name in Arabic, a name that happens to be quite popular in many parts of the Middle East right now for girls. And as you’ve said, Jude on a girl seems unfashionable here in the U.S. Moreover, I strongly dislike gender neutral names so I couldn’t see myself giving this to either a girl or a boy. That said, it’s a beautiful name.

Jude in the middle spot is a nice substitute for the predictable John or James!

In the 70s and 80s, the only common baby boys’ name that ended in an -a sound was Joshua, and of course he was called Josh. Today there’s Joshua, Noah, Elijah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, all in the Top 100. So Judah fits in – but still manages to stand out!

My husband – who was almost named Jonah, back in 1974 when it would’ve been a mighty unusual choice – has the same reaction to all -ah names. Apparently, men who grew up with Josh, Jason, Matt, Rob and Dan just can’t fathom calling their boy Jedediah. 🙂

You’ve highlighted two of my favorite names here! I love Jude and Judah (though I’m having a hard time convincing my fiance, who swears Judah sounds too feminine). Jude makes a great middle name for parents looking for a one-syllable option and wanting something less predictable than James or John — and it can make possible the nicknames C.J., R.J., D.J., etc, for those who like such options. Great Name(s) of the Day!