Corvinus heraldry and young Matthias as depict...

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on May 14, 2008.  It was substantially revised and re-posted on June 30, 2014.

Matthew is evergreen, a name nearly as classic as James.

Step into the wayback machine, and Matthew becomes our ancient Baby Name of the Day: Matthias.

According to the New Testament, after Judas betrayed Jesus, Matthew was tapped to become the new apostle, bringing the group back up to an even dozen.

Born in Galilee, and also known as Levi, his name was probably closer to the Hebrew Matityahu – gift of God.  He’s known as one of the four evangelists, author of the Gospel of Matthew, and, of course, a saint.

Matthias and Matthaeus were the Latin versions of the name, and international versions abound.  The German Renaissance painter Matthias Grünewald was also recorded as Mathis, while the Croatian-born Lutheran reformer Matthias Flacius was Matija.  The Italian Matteo and French Mathieu, would also become Matthias in some records.

In English, Matthew was never wildly popular.  Sure there’s Commodore Matthew Perry, opening Japan to the West in the nineteenth century.  Trailblazing African-American explorer Matthew Henson accompanied Robert Peary to the Arctic in the early part of the 1900s.  Matthew has a long history of use, but has only been a Top 100 name in the US since the 1950s.  File him with Nicholas – they might be classics, but until the last few generations, they haven’t been among the most common choices.

Matthias and Mathias were even rarer.  Matthias cracked the US Top 1000 just twice in the nineteenth century, and not at all in the twentieth.  Mathias was slightly more common into the 1910s, but has been equally obscure since.

Notables who answered to the name make for an eclectic bunch:

  • It’s a family name for the Dukes of Lorraine, including two Dukes, the first in the 1100s, and the second a century later.
  • The reign of Renaissance-era ruler of Hungary, King Matthias I, also known as Matthias Corvinus, saw much armed conflict, but the king also patronized the arts and sciences, reformed the legal system, and assembled a staggering library.
  • In the 1610s, Matthias was Holy Roman Emperor – and King of Hungary as Matthias II.
  • The name persists in aristocratic families throughout the era, and there are also a handful of artists who answer to Matthias.
  • This one might be more familiar: Brian Jacques used the name for a heroic mouse in his Redwall series, known as Matthias the Warrior.  His son is called Mattimeo.

Nowadays, both the single and double ‘t’ spellings are on the rise.  Credit our affection or ancient names like Atticus and Julius.  As of 2013, Matthias charted at #608, while Mathias came in at #634.

Add in Mateo – ranked #109 in 2013 – and Matteo, standing at #377, plus still #15 Matthew, and that’s a lot of boys who could answer to Matt.

But just like Atticus requires no nickname, chances are that most men named Matthias can comfortably go nickname-free.

All of this makes for a great compromise name – a classic with Biblical roots, but a name that is relatively rare – unless, of course, you opt for the everyguy nickname Matt, which is always a possibility.

What do you think of Matthias?  Do you prefer Matthew or Matteo instead?

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 Matthias, very handsome. However in Australia they would just be called Matt 🙁 Not that there is anything wrong with Matt, But I like Matthias better.

  2. I love Matthias! I was hoping you would address pronunciation. I like it pronounced “ma-THY-us” instead of “ma-TEE-us,” but I’m not sure which is more correct/common. I could never use it as a first name anyway, though, because I have a Madelyn who goes by Maddy. It’s a definite middle name possibility — combos we are considering are Everett Matthias, Sebastian Matthias, and Jasper Matthias.

    1. Good question, Sabrina – I’m saying ma THY us … let me ask the Facebook audience and see what they think!

      1. Glad to hear you are saying “ma-THY-us.” I posed the question on Nameberry, and it seems like maybe people in Europe are more likely to use the “ma-TEE-us” pronunciation.

  3. Currently expecting my first baby…and its a boy.

    Its really frustrating to me because I’ve spent years coming up with girl names that I liked, and never spent much time considering a boy’s name thinking that the father may have some traditions or some such.

    Unfortunately, daddy-to-be does not, and so I’m hunting. And its difficult!

    I’ve come up with the tried and true, but somewhat overused James Edward – James being a favorite since childhood and Edward is both my husband’s and father’s middle names.

    I’ve also got David Nathaniel, David being another childhood favorite.

    Going through names, Ethan came up and it was the first to get any kind of a reaction out of the husband, but struggling with middle names for it…

    What is your opinion of Ethan Matthias?