baby name RebeccaThe baby name Rebecca went from Old Testament matriarch to twentieth century staple. It might be time to consider it a classic once more.

Thanks to Kelly for suggesting  our Baby Name of the Day.


Before we knew the baby name Rebecca, it was closer to Rivqah, which likely came from a Semitic word meaning “to tie.” Rivka is the modern Hebrew form of the name.

It’s sometimes spelled Rebekah, depending on which version of the Bible you’re using.

But we mostly know it as the baby name Rebecca. This spelling is often considered the Latin form.


In the Old Testament, Rebecca is the wife of Isaac, and the mother of the twins Jacob and Esau.

Isaac’s father, Abraham, sent out servants out to find his son a bride. Rebecca passed the test by kindly offering to draw water for the thirsty travelers, as well as their camels.

Rebecca and Isaac might’ve been strangers, but the account suggests that they were happily and well-matched. Many hallmarks of a Jewish wedding today hearken back to the ceremony that united Isaac and Rebecca.

Their sons, Esau and Jacob, fought constantly; their stories are known beyond the Bible.

But the baby name Rebecca benefits from the Old Testament figure. She’s loyal and compassionate. It’s believed she and Isaac are buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs near Hebron, south of Jerusalem, among the holiest of sites.


By the middle of the 1500s, the baby name Rebecca appears in England. That tracks with the Protestant Reformation, when Christian parents turned to the Old Testament for religious names not inspired by Catholic saints.

Chances are that Jewish families used the name prior to the sixteenth century.

A handful of Rebeccas are found in the historical record early on. There’s Rebecca Travers, a prominent London Quaker from the early seventeenth century. Rebecca Nurse lost her life in the Salem Witch Trials in 1692.

Prominent women by the name are found in every decade going forward.


Some of the most memorable Rebeccas never lived at all.

Literary figures include:

  • The opportunistic Becky Sharp of Vanity Fair, the novel published by William Makepeace Thackeray in the 1840s.
  • Mark Twain gave Tom Sawyer a crush called Becky Thatcher back in 1876.
  • 1903 children’s novel Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is remembered thanks to the 1938 movie starring Shirley Temple.
  • The most memorable Rebecca might be the one we never see. Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca was a hit, as was Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 Oscar-winning adaptation. While we never meet this Rebecca, she drives the story.

During the 1920s, “Rebecca Came Back from Mecca” was a popular song.


The baby name Rebecca has always ranked in the US Top 500, and nearly always in the Top 300.

From 1940 through 2006, the name appeared in the US Top 100 – quite a run.

The name peaked at #10 in the 1970s. It’s been popular elsewhere in the English-speaking world, as well as Italy.

That leads to a lengthy list of pop culture figures by the name, like:

  • Television’s Becky Conner, one of the daughters on Roseanne, as well as Rebecca Howe, Kirstie Alley’s character on Cheers.
  • Becky Bloomwood is the heroine of the Shopaholic chic-lit series turned movie.
  • Rebecca Dopplemeyer graduated from the pages of the Ghost World graphic novels for a big screen adaptation.
  • Actresses wearing the name include Rebecca Romijn, Rebecca Ferguson, Rebecca de Mornay, Rebecca Mader, and Rebecca Gayheart.

Reba can be short for Rebecca, but singer and actress Reba McEntire’s given name is just Reba. Becca and Beca are also nickname options, but Pitch Perfect‘s Beca Mitchell is only ever called Beca.

Go-to nickname Becky has another claim to fame.

1992’s “Baby Got Back” became a smash hit for rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot. In the intro, a woman says “Oh my God Becky, look at her butt. It is so big, she looks like one of those rap guys’ girlfriends.” The speaker is clearly white and it’s an undeniably racist, clueless, cruel – and, well, funny – line.

Thanks to the lyric, Becky can be a generic term for a white woman.

By the 1990s, the baby name Rebecca was falling in use, possibly with a tiny nudge thanks to the rap lyrics.

As for Rebekah? It ranked in the US Top 200 from the late 1970s into the early 2000s, but now it’s falling out of use even faster than Rebecca.


That popularity data probably explains why parents think of the baby name Rebecca as dated. It’s more mom – or grandmother – name than a choice for a child today.

But use it in full, without a nickname, and Rebecca sounds like a sister for Beatrice or Amelia. Traditional and strong, Rebecca is the name of some outstanding women across human history. And Becca could fit in nicely with names like Stella and Gemma now.

If you’re after a classic name for a daughter, less expected than Elizabeth or Katherine, but every bit as enduring, Rebecca might be the one for you.

What do you think of the baby name Rebecca?

First published on January 27, 2010, this post was revised on February 19, 2024.

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 my name! It has history and is traditional, without giving off an image of an old lady. I am named after my aunt Becky, and we both love the name. My parents did struggle with a nickname as Becky was taken and they didn’t like Becca. They played around with Rosie or just sticking with Rebecca. I ended up naming myself Rocky when I was very young. I was the only Rocky in my school and kinda loved that! As I am a little older it is nice having an adult name and not being another 27 year old Ashley.

  2. This is really late but I was doing research on my name for school and I came across this! I love my name! Rebecca is common to an extent but very pretty and I have not met a Rebecca, Rebekah, etc. that I didn’t like! Rebecca’s Rock! 🙂

  3. I absolutely love my name and the spelling of it. Throughout my life people have always remembered me. At school my careers teacher named his daughter after me which was an incredible compliment. I cant imagine being called by any other name. Love your name, love yourself and others will love you too

  4. My ex-SIL is a Becky and I used to nanny a hell-child named Becca, so I dislike the most common nicknames. But Rebecca is nice enough and makes a nice middle name (much better than the overused Elizabeth.)

    Bek, I think it’s interesting that my spell check wants to change Rebecca to… Rebekah.

  5. Rebecca has always felt rather drab and dowdy to me. I also don’t like the fact that it means “noose.’

  6. This is going to sound odd, but as a Rebekah, I’ve always hated Rebecca. Probably because my own name was so often spelled incorrectly – by well-meaning people trying to correct me. On my own name. In college I started using Bekea (prn. Becky still) so people might take the time to realize I don’t have any Cs in my name. It actually worked…

    I’ve always thought Rebekah was pretty, though a bit formal for me. I’m most often Bek/Bekea.

    Anyway, I agree, nothing terribly exciting, but a nice, solid choice 🙂

    1. I am also a Rebekah, and I don’t really like the name Rebecca either. It’s just the fact that well-meaning people are so used to the -cca, that they spell my name wrong all the time. As a nickname, I really like Bekka for other Rebekahs.

    2. Same here. My name is Rebekah, because my parents named me after Rebekah in the Old Testament. Everyone always assumes it’s Rebecca when I tell them, which is probably why I hate that particular spelling. I always thought Rebekah looked nicer. My whole life I’ve gone by Bekah, though my brother calls me Bek and a few people call me Becky. Despite the huge popularity of the name (I know 5 other Rebekah/Rebeccas), I think it is a pretty, classic name that you can grow up with.

  7. Definitely not an ‘exciting’ name, but it’s a nice enough one. I know several, ranging from age 3 to ‘senior’ with the majority around my age (in their 30s). Becky, Becca, and Becks are the most common nn variants among those I know, but I suppose Reba is valid, especially if you want to get your country on. I could definitely see this as a very good compromise between traditional and not too common.

    1. Smacks forehead!

      How could I forget? My graduating class of 53 included a Rebekah, nicknamed Reba!

    1. Bex reminds me of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series – not high literature, but quite fun!

    1. My middle name is Rebecca, after the du Maurier novel that my Mum liked.
      I like it as my middle name, as it’s not a very common middle name.

      I’m not as keen on the nickname Becky – doesn’t seem as pretty as the full name.

      1. I love it in the middle spot! I knew a couple who named their daughter Esme Rebecca – I love that rhythm.