Today’s choice is either an obscure Biblical place name or simply yet another twist on an über-popular unisex sensation.
Thanks to Another for suggesting our Name of the Day: Yarden.
Yarden is the Hebrew form of Jordan, as in the river. The name most likely stems from the Aramaic for “flowing down.” We can’t quite trace the transition from “yar” to “jor,” but it tracks with Yasmin/Jasmine, Yosef/Joseph and plenty of others.
Symbolically, Jordan is more than a river. Because the Israelites crossed the River Jordan into the Promised Land, it can mean freedom. In other contexts, crossing to Jordan means leaving the earthly life for paradise. In the New Testament, John the Baptist is baptized in the Jordan. In the Middle Ages, Crusaders filled their flasks with the river’s water and toted it home for baptisms. For some parents, it’s a choice with a deeply spiritual connection.
Some of those same Crusaders who carried home the water also brought back the name for their sons. In the US, Jordan has ranked in the boys’ Top 1000 almost every year since 1880. Census records confirm that Jordan was in use as a masculine moniker earlier in the 19th century, too.
Today chances are that Jordan won’t be perceived as overtly spiritual. Plenty of little Jordans probably owe their appellations to basketball legend Michael Jordan. Others are simply receiving one of the trendier J-names in recent times.
Variant spellings of Jordan abound. The following ranked in the US Top 1000 in 2007:
- Jordan (#100 for girls; #45 for boys)
- Jorden (unranked for girls; #691 for boys)
- Jordin (#583 for girls; unranked for boys)
- Jordon (unranked for girls; #739 for boys)
- Jordyn (#140 for girls; #768 for boys)
Jordan’s use for girls is far more recent. She first charted in the US Top 1000 in 1978, but appeared as a character in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby back in 1925. Fitzgerald’s Jordan Baker was a lady golfer of questionable reputation.
While Jordan has plenty of history and record of use, Yarden is quite rare. A scattering appear in old census records, but few prior to the 1900s. Many of those bear distinctively Jewish surnames, suggesting that it’s a heritage choice. Others wear it as a surname, but again, many fewer than Jordan.
Israeli wine is marketed in the US under the name Yarden, but chances are that few Americans will recognize the link to Jordan. And unlike some twists on popular names, this choice is truly distinct.
Part of it is that interesting “y” at the top. Very few choices begin with the letter Y, and many have a frillier, foreign vibe – the French Yvonne and Yvette, the Latino Yesenia and Yolanda, the Russian Yuliana and Yekaterina.
Overall, we find Yarden surprisingly pleasing. It’s gender neutral, but not clearly borrowed from the boys. The hint of spirituality and history gives the name roots. And while it is difficult to disconnect Yarden from the trendy Jordan (and Jordin and Jordyn), it’s far more original than simply crafting yet another respelling of a chart-topping name. We think it would wear well on a daughter circa 2008.