Merry Christmas Eve! If you’re anticipating a blessed event of your own, you might be thinking about a seasonal baby name.
According to our poll, readers were most curious about Malachi.
Malachi was an Old Testament prophet who foretold the coming of Christ. This makes it perfectly seasonal but nicely subtle, too. And with the resurgence in Biblical boys’ names, Malachi doesn’t sound too extreme. In fact, he ranked a popular #155 in the US last year.
The Hebrew mal’akh means messenger. While we’ve traditionally interpreted Malachi as a moniker, most Biblical scholars suggest that’s not the case. It’s more of a title, and the author’s identity is open to debate. Some suggest that Ezra wrote the Book of Malachi. Others contend that Malachi was more than one person.
Nevertheless, Malachi has become a moniker, discovered during the Protest Reformation search for lesser-known Biblical appellations.
Parents will also find the name in the historical record:
- St. Malachy lived in the early 1000s in Armagh, an ancient city in Northern Ireland. As Archbishop of Armagh, he promoted reforms and established monasteries.
- Two High Kings of Ireland were called Malachy. The first lived in the 800s and the second about 200 years later.
While this makes Malachy seem like an appealing Irish heritage pick, it’s important to note that Malachy was simply the preferred Latinised version of Máel.
Both the “y” and “i” endings are equally valid, but Malachi is the more common version today. That said, respellings of this name abound. In the US, Malakai and Malaki both rank in the Top 1000, at #709 and #789 respectively. Malakai likely appeals to parents seeking a formal name for the popular, but unrelated, Kai.
You might also stumble on Malachai, but that spelling conjures up Halloween rather than Christmas. In Stephen King’s 1977 short story Children of the Corn, Malachai was one of the murderous kids worshipping “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” in rural Nebraska.
While that wouldn’t seem like much inspiration for a name’s revival, Malachi’s rise begins shortly after Children of the Corn became a movie in 1984. He’d often appeared at the upper reaches of the US rankings in the 19th century, disappearing after 1910. In 1987, he reappeared at #993. A decade later, he was in the Top 500.
While this probably has more to do with the trend favoring Biblical names in general, we suspect that many parents are familiar with Malachi because they heard him in the darkness of a movie theater. (After all, Regan rose following the big screen success of The Exorcist.) If that’s the case, the name could get another bump next year. A remake of Children of the Corn is slated for television in 2009.
But back to the holidays at hand. Malachi wrote to encourage his fellow Israelites to reform their lax, unobservant ways and promising the coming of a messiah: “Return to me, and I will return to you.”
For parents hoping for a spiritual choice with a current sound, Malachi could work quite well.