Nicodemus is a rarity with Biblical roots and go-to nicknames. Is this the perfect stands-out/fits-in choice?
Thanks to Sarah for suggesting our Baby Name of the Day.
If you know your Nic- names, then you probably guessed that this name means victory, as in the Greek nike. The second element is demos – the people. It’s a triumphant, bold meaning.
But Nicodemus doesn’t necessarily sound bold. Unlike brisk, modern names like Jax or Archer, it has a reserved, even scholarly. tone. I’d almost call it a Neville name.
Or maybe that’s the New Testament figure’s influence. The Biblical Nicodemus is known for helping bury Jesus. Speculation suggests that he’s an older man, though the Gospel of John doesn’t specify. It’s also possible that he’s the same figure as a holy man mentioned in the Talmud.
Nicodemus: The Middle Centuries
San Nicodemo da Ciro is a saint from Calabria, Italy, who lived in the tenth century. He established at least one new monastic community.
The name is also found on the other side of Europe, in Sweden, seven hundred years later. Nicodemus Tessin was an Pomeranian-born architect who made his name in Sweden before studying and working throughout Europe. Drottningholm Palace, which he designed, is a world heritage site. His son, known as Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, picked up where his dad left off.
The name continues to surface, in Serbia and Germany, Greece and Russia and Quebec, over the centuries. It’s never a very common name, but neither does it become extinct.
Nicodemus: Literary Name
There’s a character by the name in Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend, though he’s called Noddy, and another in one of his short stories.
If you’ve heard the name any place other than the Bible, it’s probably from Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH, first published in 1971. It won a Newbery Medal, and then was adapted as a movie in 1982, retitled The Secret of NIMH.
Mrs. Frisby is a field mouse trying to save her home from the farmer’s plow. A group of former lab rats come to her aid. The rats were part of experiments at the National Institute of Mental Health – NIMH – and learned a tremendous amount from the human scientists. The rats can read and write and engineer – they got smart enough to escape the lab, and they are able to come to Mrs. Frisby’s aid. Nicodemus is one of the rats.
In 1877, following the end of the Civil War, a group of former slaves established a community in Kansas, a safe haven for those fleeing the South.
Where did the name come from? Possibly from the Biblical figure, but others say that it’s from abolitionist Henry Clay’s 1864 poem “Wake, Nicodemus.”
While the settlement never developed into a city, the original buildings are part of the National Park Service, and there’s something compelling about the story – it matches up with the name’s meaning quite nicely.
Nicodemus: Wearable Rarity
Despite all of this history, Nicodemus remains rare.
It’s much rarer than Nicholas, which peaked in the 1990s, but remains a Top 100 pick for boys. Many a long, Biblical boy’s name has cracked the Top 1000, including Hezekiah (#774 in 2014) and Zechariah (#671). The equally ancient Atticus became a literary darling, and other long names, like Sebastian and Nathaniel, are well-estabslihed.
But the most boys ever given this name in a single year? A mere 37, born in 2014.
With built-in nicknames Nick and Nico, there’s no reason Nicodemus wouldn’t wear well on a child born today.
Would you consider Nicodemus for a son?
British American says
I think this one would work well. I recently overheard a toddler named Nehemiah at the playground, which doesn’t seem to have a good nickname…Knee? But Nicodemus shortens so nicely to Nico.
Plus Jesus says John 3:16 to Nicodemus, so that’s also a great Biblical tie in, since that verse is so famous.
You’re right, British American! I do think Nicodemus is one of those rare names that can feel intensely and appropriately Christian. Or … not. I can imagine parents choosing this without being aware of the Biblical ties, too.
As for Nehemiah? I had a colleague with a grandson named Nehemiah, and they called him Nemo! He was SUCH an adorable little boy – though he must be more like 9 or 10 now, and I’m not sure if the nickname has stuck. I also don’t know if the nickname was something they planned in advance or something that sort of evolved – but I really love it!
Zena Eve says
I loooove Nicodemus. It’s a long name that flows off the tongue well, has great history, and has an easy nickname. But my husband said no. For now. I’m working on it.
I looove this name, and love this post! Noddy’s adorable and Nico’s so cool.
Nicodemus called Cody would be adorable.
I love the name Demosthenes. I read from a French baby name site that a mother gave this name to her son. He went by Demo , prn. Deem-oh , putting emphasis on the first syllable. I think Demo would work well for Nicodemus. While, I love the name Nicodemus as well, I honestly, just don’t see much love going toward longer Greek and Biblical names. It’s a shame though. They are steeped with soo much History and literary cred. Some are in plays or musicals even. And you would think in the day and age that we live in, with education/ libraries/Internet so available, you would think some of these gems would be used more often. Especially Nicodemus, it just feels more used than it actually is…