He’s Biblical and classic, literary and cool. No wonder he’s a global sensation and a perennial favorite in the US, too.

Thanks to Melissa for suggesting Samuel as Name of the Day. And congratulations to Photoquilty on the birth of her new son Samuel, too!

Samuel has risen and fallen in the US, but he’s never left the Top 100. In the nineteenth century, he ranked in the Top 20. From the late 50s into the mid 60s, he hovered north of #80. In 2008, he was #26, falling slightly from previous years. But it is safe to call him a classic.

In the Old Testament, the childless Hannah yearned to be a mother. When her prayers were answered, she called him Shem’uel – God has heard. Her son went on to be a prophet and leader of ancient Israel. He’s revered in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, doubtless explaining much of the name’s popularity.

Like many an Old Testament moniker, he came into general use in post-Protestant Reformation England, just in time for plenty of figures in Colonial America to sport the name, including Samuel Adams. Adams was a patriot and leader of the American Revolution – and possibly a brewer, too, though thanks to Boston Brewing Company’s Sam Adams brand, that’s the image that endures.

Even without Mr. Adams, Sam would undeniably be patriotic. Said to be named in honor of a New York meatpacker, Samuel Wilson, our image of Uncle Sam has been in use since the War of 1812. He’s inspired a DC Comics superhero, the Muppets’ oh-so-serious Sam the Eagle, and the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics mascot, also Sam, also an eagle, but far more light-hearted.

There’s also Samuel Houston, as in Texas. He was president of the Republic, first senator from the newly formed state and eventually governor. He was a colorful figure, lending Sam some of his rough’n’tumble cowboy charm.

Literary Samuels include:

  • Seventeenth century diarist Samuel Pepys
  • The great Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Eighteenth century poet, essayist and compiler of the era’s definitive dictionary, Samuel Johnson
  • Samuel Clemens, the birth name of the legendary Mark Twain
  • Nobel prize winning Irish writer Samuel Beckett

Lake Champlain is named after French explorer Samuel de Champlain, a pivotal figure in the development of Quebec. He also points to one of the most appealing features of the name – if you’re looking to span two languages, Samuel is one that works well. While Samuel’s pronunciation changes in different languages, his spelling often remains the same. Samuel is Samuel in English and French, plus Spanish, Polish, Danish and Swedish.

A few notable bearers ensure that Sam keeps his cool:

  • Actor Samuel L. Jackson
  • Rat Packer Sammy Davis Jr.
  • R&B singer Sam Cook, known for hits like “You Send Me” and “What a Wonderful World”
  • Filmmaker Sam Peckinpah is remembered for his 1969 classic The Wild Bunch

And, of course, you’ll have a readymade bedtime story: Green Eggs and Ham, by Dr. Seuss, complete with frequent repetition of your kiddo’s name. The BBC’s Fireman Sam has been released on DVD, too.

Throw in ABC news anchor Sam Donaldson and Walmart founder Sam Walton and you have quite a set of Sams.

All together, it is easy to like Sam. He’s quite versatile – Samuel is the scholar, Sam is the star athlete. If you don’t care for some of the Sams, no matter. There will almost certainly be another worthy namesake in the bunch.

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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