She’s an Old Testament matriarch and a twentieth century staple.
Thanks to Kelly for suggesting Rebecca as Name of the Day.
Choose your fictional Rebecca. From Vanity Fair’s opportunistic Becky Sharp to the buoyantly optimistic Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, the name has been worn by dozens of characters.
Real life Rebeccas are equally plentiful. In the US, the name peaked at #10 in the 1970s, but has never truly fallen out of favor. Even in her least popular year – 1926 – Rebecca ranked #185. In 2008, she was #119 – past her moment, but still in steady use. She’s also in the Top 100s in Italy and Denmark, Canada and the UK.
And why not? The Old Testament Rivkah was wife to Isaac and mother of Esau and Jacob. She’s considered a compassionate and loyal character. Along with Isaac, Abraham and Sarah and Jacob and Leah, she is believed to be buried in the Cave of the Patriarchs near Hebron, south of Jerusalem. It’s among the holiest sites in the Ancient World for Christians, Muslims and Jews.
Some link the name to the word for noose or binding, while others suggest that it actually means connected – a similar word, but with a very different spirit.
Rivka became Rhebekka in Greek. During the early seventeenth century creation of the King James Bible, the Rebekah was favored. Both names were in amongst medieval Jews.
Rebecca is generally considered the Latin form, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a woman using the spelling much before the 1600s. That’s around the time she caught on with Puritan parents and came to the American colonies. Unlike fellow Biblical picks Keziah and Jemima, Rebecca has remained.
Besides the two literary characters mentioned earlier, there’s:
- Television’s Becky Conner, one of the daughters on Roseanne and Rebecca Howe, Kirstie Alley’s character on Cheers;
- More recently there’s Becky Bloomwood, heroine of the Shopaholic chic-lit series turned movie;
- Similarly, 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 de Mornay and Rebecca Gayheart;
- “Rebecca Came Back from Mecca” was a popular song in the 1920s.
But the most memorable Rebecca might be the one we never see. Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel Rebecca was a hit and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1940 Oscar-winning adaptation remains a classic. Despite the fact that Rebecca is unseen – and not blameless – the name benefits from the romance and drama of the story.
Just like Damien was boosted by The Omen, Rebecca’s ascent was helped along by the book and film. In 1937, Rebecca ranked #166. By 1941, she was #86 and would climb every year into the 1970s. A German-language musical version debuted in Vienna in 2006, and it is said to be headed for Broadway.
As for Rebekah, she’s a valid variant, but far less common in recent years. She reached the 140s in the 1980s and 90s, and stands at #354 today.
There’s nothing unusual about Rebecca, but she remains a solid choice – steadfast but with a touch of romance. For parents today, she might strike that elusive balance of familiarity without being shared – at least not by other girls in her class.
Rebecca Avice says
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.
Rebecca Hope says
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! 🙂
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
Rebecca is nice, but Reba, Becca and especially Becky are not my style at all.
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.
That’s so funny, Julie. Usually it yells at me that my name is wrong!
Rebecca has always felt rather drab and dowdy to me. I also don’t like the fact that it means “noose.’
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
How could I forget? My graduating class of 53 included a Rebekah, nicknamed Reba!
I knew a girl who went by Reba as a short form of Rebecca, but I agree that it’s not for everyone.
I used to really dislike Rebecca until recently. I always thought it was kind of plain. But now I find it quite pretty. I love Bex as a nickname.
Starbaby alert: Will Ferrell welcomes his third son! His name is Axel. http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20339657,00.html
Thanks Eva! I just got the alert. Cool name!
Bex reminds me of Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series – not high literature, but quite fun!
Definitely not my style, but a lovely, classic old name
British American says
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.
I love it in the middle spot! I knew a couple who named their daughter Esme Rebecca – I love that rhythm.