A name that arose from the earth

Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855), one of Poland’s great national poets, painted 1828 by Józef Oleszkiewicz

Adam means “man” in Hebrew, and may ultimately derive from the Akkadian word adamu (to make), the Hebrew word adamah (earth), or the almost-identical Hebrew word ‘adam (to be red; i.e., a reference to a ruddy complexion). All these etymologies obviously are very symbolic, given Adam is the name of the first man in the Biblical creation story.

The name is also used in English, German, French, Dutch, Georgian, Arabic, Catalan, Romanian, and the Scandinavian and Slavic languages. The variation Ádám is Hungarian; Ádam is Faroese; and Âdam is Jèrriais.

Adam has long been common in the Jewish world, but it didn’t become popular in Christendom till the Middle Ages. After the Protestant Reformation, it became even more popular. The name has been in the U.S. Top 500 since 1880, and began vaulting up the charts in the 1950s. It went from #428 in 1954 to #71 in 1970. Adam attained its highest rank of #18 in 1983 and 1984.

The name has remained in the Top 100 since. In 2018, it was #78. Adam is also #2 in Belgium, #3 in the Czech Republic (as of 2016), #5 in Hungary and France, #6 in Sweden, #9 in Ireland, #11 in Poland, #16 in Catalonia (as of 2016), #17 in The Netherlands, #18 in Northern Ireland (which hopefully soon will be reunified with the rest of Ireland), #24 in Scotland, #25 in Denmark, #36 in England and Wales, #39 in Israel (as of 2016), #40 in Norway, #41 in Spain, #43 in NSW, Australia, #44 in Slovenia, #50 in Switzerland and Austria, #51 in British Columbia, Canada, #55 in Italy, and #96 in New Zealand.

Adam was the name of one of my great-great-grandfathers, the father of the only great-grandfather I have memories of. Judging from the vintage newspaper stories I’ve found about him, he was quite the local character!

Scottish economist Adam Smith (1723–1790), author of one of the most boring books ever written, The Wealth of Nations

Other forms include:

1. Adamo is Italian.

2. Adán is Spanish.

3. Adão is Portuguese.

4. Ádhamh is Irish.

5. Aatami is Finnish.

6. Adomas is Lithuanian.

7. Akamu is Hawaiian.

8. Aadam is Estonian.

9. Aaden is Somali.

10. Adami is Greenlandic and old-fashioned Georgian.

11. Ādams is Latvian.

12. Adamu is Swahili, Amharic, and Hausa.

13. Adda is Welsh, though I’d avoid this in an Anglophone area. Unfortunately, many boys with names ending in A are teased, and there’s no saving grace of this being a widely-known male name like Nikita or Ilya.

14. Aden is Romansh.

15. Ārama is Maori.

16. Âtame is Greenlandic.

17. Áttán is Sami.

18. Hadam is Sorbian.

19. Jadóm is Kashubian.

20. Odam is Uzbek.

21. Adem is Turkish.

22. Y-adam is a rare Vietnamese form.

Feminine forms:

1. Adamina is English, Polish, and Romani.

2. Adama is Hebrew and English.

3. Adamella is a rare, modern English form. I’m really not keen on this name! Some names don’t naturally lend themselves to feminine versions, and look forced.

4. Adamia is English.

2 thoughts on “A name that arose from the earth

  1. I have a little strange relationship with the name Adam. I know quite a handful of people with this name, the vast majority of them really kind, decent people with high morals, very masculine, reliable and just nice, it’s even my Dad’s confirmation name, so I have plenty of good associations, but, ugh, I don’t like the name one bit! It feels boring and plain to me. Funnily enough, I have the same thing with Ewa/Eva/Eve. 😀 I agree with you that some feminisations of masculine names like Adamella look rather forced indeed.

    • On feminisations:

      Yours truly used to think that Callen and Cameron would go just as well on women, if not better.

      So I added the French diminutive.

      This was before eg: Cameron Diaz became famous – and if I had a background in Spanish or Portuguese I might have embraced it earlier [or knew more Latinx celebrities].

      The characters involved were often known by their last names – Von Troska and Unterwalder – especially later on as teachers.

      And Callen would be a good womens’ name – I needed to trust my naming instincts more – they were seriously attenuated by lack of imagination.

      On the Adam variations and Adda:

      I think it would work better in India; Pakistan and Sri Lanka – and also among Jewish relatives like the whole Amma and Adda phenomenon for a couple who would call themselves “mum and mum” or “dad and dad”.

      Y-adam – wow. If I see a pho eater called this name or who serves it.

      Mella might have made a good stretch or even Allem/Allam – which maintains the Adam form and feels very MENA. [Middle Eastern and North Africa – or Saharan Africa – had a great character in yesterday’s THE HUNTING who was called Mr Allem – specialist Maths teacher].

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