Today’s choice is quite rare. But if other ends-in-s choices like Marcus, Miles and starbaby Atlas are fashionable, maybe this one isn’t completely out there.

Annelise for suggesting Zenas as Name of the Day.

Zenas is properly considered part of a cluster of names, including Zeno, Zenon, Zenodoros and Zenodorus. They all pay homage to Zeus, ruler of the Gods in Greek mythology. Swap out the Z for an X, however, and the name relates to the Greek word for stranger.

Zenas is foreign to 21st century parents, but he was sometimes heard in the 19th century. He even cracked the US Top 1000 back in 1885, coming in at #935.

Nineteenth century Zenases included:

  • Z.F. Moody served as governor of Oregon in the 1880s. Z.F. stood for Zenas Ferry. Born in Massachusetts, the surveyor first arrived in Oregon via the Panama Canal. And you though air travel was arduous;
  • Zenas Gurley, Sr. was one of Joseph Smith, Jr.’s first converts to the Latter Day Saints movement – the Mormons – in the 1840s;
  • Pennsylvania-born Zenas Leonard was a memoir-penning Rocky Mountain fur trapper in the 1830s;
  • In 1856, Zenas Howard headed west, young man, finally settling in Oregon’s Rogue Valley. His descendants opened a vineyard and named it honor of great-great-great-great-grandpa – so you can now drink Zenas Wines;
  • Born in 1833, Zenas Bliss attended West Point and eventually became a Major General in the US Army.

What inspired the parents to choose a pagan appellation for their baby boys?

The Bible, of course.

Zenas was a lawyer – which probably means he was schooled in Mosaic law, not chasing ancient ambulances. He was one of the seventy disciples (some put their number at 72) dispatched by Jesus to evangelize. For his troubles, he became a saint.

There were also plenty of saints named Zeno and a pair of Greek philosophers. Zenon is also heard.

While he’s a rarity today, Google searches turn up a handful of men with the name. There’s a former professor of business at NYU’s Stern School, an attorney in Minnesota, an Atlanta disc jockey and a venture capitalist. There’s also a young female trombonist named Zenas Kim.

It is a staggeringly unusual name. And if you’re curious about the pronunciation, well – Zenas has his unfortunate nickname built right in – ZEE nahs. Zenon and Zeno might actually wear better on a modern child. But Zenas has history and that great Z at the top. For a truly daring parent, he’s one to consider.

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. Being a huge fan of S-enders on boys, I think Zenas is pretty cool.

    I didn’t immediately think of any unfortunate nicknames up on hearing this name, but then again, I have been pronouncing it as ZEE-nos (where the last syllable rhymes with “floss”), not ZEE-nis.

  2. Come on, would anyone seriously consider this for their child? It’s interesting, but it’s nearly laughable. No thanks!

  3. He’s interesting in the middle spot, Lola.

    Bek, I hadn’t thought about Enos – interesting point! And Allison, I think Zenas does read feminine – the Xena factor is probably why.

    And yet, I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a Z name. Zenon, anyone?

  4. Oh, and I didn’t even think of Xena, Warrior Princess until after I posted and scrolled up to read Allison’s post! I still think Zenas is cool. Beats Gabrielle in my book and better Zenas on my boy than Xena on my girl, where people may think I’m a fan. (I was, of Hercules, not Xena).

  5. You’ve got a positive vote here! I think Zenas is pretty spiffy. I recognise the Army General from a History course and Z.F. Moody is one of his oddball heros, of a sort. So I’m at least comfortable hearing it. Of course, I’d go with Zeno, if I had to pick one of those Zeus names for a boy (I think they’re all pretty neato) Zenon’s the one I have a problem with. It’s far too close to Xenon, the 54th Element on the table of Elements. I love it’s blue glow, but it makes the related Zenon unusable for me. Some Chemist out there could, though!

    All in all, Zenas has a neat history a cool sound and awesome looks. If his similaritry to the word penis bothers anyone, he’d make a smash up middle for any classic: Philip Zenas, George Zenas, William Zenas, Arthur Zenas.. in fact, Thomas is the only one I can think of Zenas doesn’t work well with! I’d applaud the parents of a little Zenas and invite them over for a cookout.

  6. Huh. I know a female Zena, and I actually thought it was a girls’ name before I read, so I’m not quite sold yet. But it’s definitely interesting, I will say. I can certainly see its appeal to sophisticated parents looking for something bold and unusual, and I think it’d make a pretty cool middle name. For a first name, it’s a little too flamboyant for my taste.

  7. Zeno sounds like the best of those options to me. Zenon I like phonetically, but I wouldn’t be able to resist the middle name Hexafluoride…

  8. I initially thought this was a post on an exotic girl’s name… OOPS! haha.

    So, suffice it to say, I’m not at all a fan of Zenas. Besides its unfortunate proximity to the male body, it seems terribly ‘countrified’ – perhaps because I find Enos to be so (thanks to several TV shows and movies where bumpkins bear the moniker)… A bit Deliverance even 😉

  9. Not for a boy, and especially not while Xena, Warrior Princess is still in syndication. I think the Lucy Lawless character feminized the name (ironically, in a macho kind of way) forever.