All about Nathan and Nathaniel

18th century Russian ikon of the Biblical prophet Nathan (Natan)

The English and French name Nathan comes from the Hebrew Natan (he gave). Many people are familiar with the above-pictured Prophet Nathan, who served under King David and took him to task for cuckolding Uriah and sending him to die in battle.

Though it’s long been common in the Jewish world, this name didn’t become popular in the Christian world till the Protestant Reformation. While we think of many Biblical names as going either way today, they were once considered exclusively Jewish.

Nathan entered the U.S. Top 100 in 1972, at #79, and attained its highest rank of #20 in 2004 and 2005. In 2019, it was #55. Nathan is also popular in France (#18), Belgium (#14), Switzerland (#41), Scotland (#45), Italy (#50), Ireland (#61), New Zealand (#70), The Netherlands (#77), Northern Ireland (#83), and England and Wales (#104).

Israeli human rights activist, politician, and author Natan Sharansky (né Anatoliy Borisovich Shcharanskiy), centre, born 1948

Other forms of the name include:

1. Natan is modern Russian, Georgian, Polish, Galician, Serbian, Ukrainian, Dutch, Czech, Slovak, Scandinavian, French, Finnish, Icelandic, and Croatian. Alternate forms are Natán (Spanish), Nátan (Faroese), and Nátán (Hungarian).

2. Nafan is the traditional Russian form. I’m not exactly a big fan of Russian names where F takes the place of TH in the middle of the name!

3. Noson, or Nosson, is Yiddish. I’m also not a fan of Yiddish words and names where T is pronounced like S. Nails on a chalkboard 99% of the time! There’s a reason modern Hebrew uses Sephardic pronunciation instead of Ashkenazic.

4. Nâtat is Greenlandic.

5. Nâta is also Greenlandic.

6. Neihana is Maori.

7. Natuš is archaic Sorbian.

Nathaniel Bowditch (1773–1838), American mathematician and father of modern maritime navigation, painted by Charles Osgood

The English name Nathaniel comes from the Hebrew Netanel (God has given). The variation Nathaniël is Dutch. Like Nathan, it also was largely found in the Jewish community until the Protestant Reformation, when many Biblical names were suddenly proudly embraced by the Christian world.

Nathaniel was in the U.S. Top 100 from 1978–2015, with its highest rank of #60 in 1998.

Other forms of this name include:

1. Nathanael is an English variation. The form Nathanaël is French and Dutch.

2. Nataniel is a rare Spanish and Portuguese form.

3. Natanael is the more common Portuguese and Spanish form.

4. Natanail is Macedonian and Bulgarian.

5. Natanaele is Italian.

6. Natanayil is Quechan, an indigenous language spoken in the Andes Mountains in South America.

7. Nathanail is modern Greek.

8. Nafanail is Russian. Again, it’s nails on a chalkboard to see and hear an F in place of a TH in the middle of a name!

Female forms of both:

1. Nathana is English.

2. Natana is Hebrew.

3. Natanya, or Netanya, is Hebrew.

4. Nathanya is a rare English form.

5. Nathanielle is English and French.

6. Nathaniella is English.

7. Nathaniela is English.

8. Nathaniele is English. The variant Nathaniëla is Dutch.

9. Nathanaelle is English.

The many forms of Raphael

Rudolph Valentino, né Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi, 6 May 1895–23 August 1926

The German and English name Raphael comes from Hebrew Rafael, “God heals.” Most people are familiar with Archangel Raphael, whose primary role is as a healer. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all recognise him and hold him as one of the most important archangels. He’s also a saint in Christianity.

Though the name has never been particularly popular in the Anglophone world, it’s a different story in other countries. Raphael was #20 in Austria in 2018, and has been in the Top 40 since at least 1990.

In Belgium, Raphael was #19 in 2018, and has been in the Top 100 since at least 2004. In Switzerland, it’s been Top 100 since at least 1998 (when it was #22), and was #84 in 2018. In France, as Raphaël, it was in the Top 100 almost every year from 1900–28, and rejoined the Top 100 in 1966. In 2018, it was #2.

Self-portrait of Italian artist Raphael (né Raffaello Sanzio), 1483–1520,
ca. 1504–06

Other forms of this name include:

1. Rafael is Hebrew, German, Hungarian, Spanish, Portuguese, Slovenian, Galician, Romanian, Catalan, Czech, Slovak, Azeri, Belarusian, Cebuano, Finnish, Macedonian, Scandinavian, Tagalog, and Croatian. The alternate form Rafaël is Dutch.

2. Raffael is German.

3. Rafail is Russian, Montenegrin, Persian, Arabic, and Greek.

4. Raffaello is Italian.

5. Raffaele is also Italian.

6. Rafel is Catalan, Aragonese, and Maltese. The alternate form Rafèl is Occitan.

7. Rafayil is Ukrainian.

8. Rafał is Polish.

9. Rafaelo is Esperanto.

10. Rapolas is Lithuanian.

1835 self-portrait of Polish artist Rafał Hadziewicz (1803–83)

11. Rafailo is Montenegrin and Serbian.

12. Rafôł is Kashubian.

13. Raiféal is Irish.

14. Rafiele is Sardinian.

15. Refoel, or Rifoel, is Yiddish.

16. Rapiel is a rare Georgian form.

17. Räffu is Swiss–German.

18. Raffaellu is Corsican.

19. Rafèu is Provinçal.

20. Rafayel is Armenian.

Russian painter and photographer Rafail Sergeyevich Levitskiy (1847–1940), painted 1878 by Ilya Repin

21. Rafaels is Latvian.

22. Rafaelis is Lithuanian.

23. Rafaäl’ is Tatar.

24. Raafael is Finnish.

25. Îsrafîl is Kurdish.

26. Arrafieli is Sardinian.

27. Arrafiele is also Sardinian.

28. Ráffo is Sami.

29. Râvfaile is Greenlandic.

30. Rafajlo is a rare Serbian form.

Italian actor Rafaela Ottiano, 1888–1942

Female forms:

1. Raphaela is German and English.

2. Rafaela is Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, Galician, Polish, Kashubian, Czech, Greek, and Croatian.

3. Raffaela is German.

4. Raphaele is French.

5. Raphaella is English and Brazilian–Portuguese.

6. Raphiela is a rare Latin American–Spanish form.

7. Rapolė is Lithuanian.

8. Rafaella is Brazilian–Portuguese, Latin American–Spanish, and Hungarian.

9. Rafaëlle is a rare French form.

10. Raphaëlle is the more common French form.

11. Raffaella is Italian.

An Egyptian lotus and a Hebrew rose

U.S. suffragist and political activist Susan B. Anthony, 1820–1906

Susan, a name most popular from the 1940s–1960s, traces its etymology back to a rather unexpected source—Ancient Egypt. This is one Indo–European name that didn’t originate among the Vikings, Anglo–Saxons, Normans, Goths, Romans, or Greeks.

Sšn means “lotus” in Egyptian, and later morphed into the Ancient Hebrew word shoshan, “lily.” In Modern Hebrew, shoshan means “rose.” It gave rise to the name Shoshanah, and then was adopted by the Greeks as Sousanna.

Over time, it appeared in many European languages in various forms. In the Medieval Anglophone world, Susannah was sometimes used in honour of a woman falsely accused of adultery in the Book of Daniel, and another Biblical woman who ministers to Jesus. Only after the Protestant Reformation did it become more common, in the form of Susan.

French painter Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938) with her son Maurice

Susan was #80 when the U.S. began keeping name records in 1880, and left the Top 100 in 1885. It briefly returned in 1887, then dropped out again and gradually sank in popularity. During the 1930s, it slowly made its way back up the chart, and re-entered the Top 100 in 1937 at #97.

In 1945, it was #10, and entered the Top 5 in 1948. Apart from 1951 and 1966, when it was #6, Susan was in the Top 5 until 1968. Its all-time highest rank was #2, from 1957–60. In 1972, it fell off the Top 20, and left the Top 100 in 1985.

Susan’s last year on the Top 1000 was 2017, when it was #957.

Austrian-born painter Soshana Afroyim (née Susanne Schüller),
1927–2015

Other forms of the name include:

1. Suzanne is French, Dutch, and English.

2. Susanna is English, Dutch, Russian, Ukrainian, Italian, Catalan, Swedish, Estonian, and Finnish. The alternate form Súsanna is Icelandic, Faroese, and Irish; Susánna and Susánná are Sami.

3. Susannah is English.

4. Susana is Spanish and Portuguese.

5. Suzana is Serbian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Brazilian–Portuguese, Romanian, and Croatian.

6. Susanne is German and Scandinavian.

7. Syuzanna is old-fashioned Russian.

8. Suzanna is English.

9. Shoshana, or Shoshanah, is Hebrew.

10. Sawsan is Arabic.

Hungarian Princess Zsuzsanna Lorántffy (1602–1660), who founded and sponsored several schools, including schools offering girls a modern, equal education

11. Savsan is Tajik.

12. Sosamma is Malayalam, a language spoken in India.

13. Zsuzsanna is Hungarian.

14. Zuzanna is Polish and Latvian.

15. Zuzana is Czech and Slovak.

16. Huhana is Maori.

17. Zusana is Sorbian.

18. Syzana is Albanian.

19. Siùsan is Scottish.

20. Sósanna is a rare Irish form.

Polish poet Zuzanna Ginczanka, 1917–1945

21. Susaina is a Catalan variant, usually used on Mallorca.

22. Suzannah is English.

23. Suzonne is Norman.

24. Jujen is Marshallese.

25. Siwsan is Welsh.

26. Susane is English.

27. Suusan is Inuit.

28. Suzette is a French diminutive, also used in English as a full name.

29. Suzzanna is a rare English form.

30. Shushan is Armenian.

31. Susano is a male Filipino form.

All about Ruth

U.S. anthropologist and folklorist Ruth Benedict, 1887–1948

Ruth is an English, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Scandinavian name derived from the Hebrew Re’ut (friend), which later morphed into Rut (pronounced with a long U, not like the English word “rut”). Most people are familiar with it as the title character of the Book of Ruth. She left her homeland Moab behind to follow her mother-in-law Naomi back to Israel after a famine, and became King David’s great-grandma.

On the second day of Shavuot, this short book of the Bible is read, and many conversion certificates quote the moving words Ruth tells Naomi:

“Do not entreat me to leave you, and to return from following after you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people, and your God my God; where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried; the Lord do so to me, and more, if anything but death part you and me.”

Latvian lawyer, writer, and politician Ruta Šaca-Marjaša (1927–2016)

Though the name has long been common in the Jewish world, it didn’t come into widespread usage in the Christian world till the Protestant Reformation. Ruth received a big boost of popularity several centuries later, from U.S. President Grover Cleveland’s firstborn child, born in 1891. She was born between his two non-consecutive terms, and sadly died of diphtheria in 1904.

Ruth was #93 in the U.S. when name popularity records began in 1880, and it jumped from #19 to #5 after the birth of Ruth Cleveland. In 1893, it was #3. The next two years, Ruth was #6, and it remained at #5 until 1907. It then was #4 for two years, then back to #5 again till 1922.

The name remained in the Top 10 till 1930, and was Top 20 till 1937. Ruth left the Top 50 in 1951, and left the Top 100 in 1962. In 2018, it was #265.

Ruth Cleveland

Other forms of the name include:

1. Ruta is Polish, Ukrainian, and Maori. The alternate form Rūta is Latvian and Lithuanian.

2. Rute is Portuguese.

3. Ruut is Finnish and Estonian.

4. Rut is Hebrew, Spanish, Icelandic, Scandinavian, Sorbian, Italian, Maltese, Indonesian, Afrikaans, and German. The alternate form Rút is Czech and Slovak.

5. Ruf is Russian. I’ve never been a fan of Russian names where TH is replaced by F in the middle of the name. It just sounds ugly to my ears.

6. Rutt is Estonian.

7. Hrut is Armenian.

8. Hirut is Amharic.

9. Luka is Hawaiian, and not to be confused with the entirely separate name with the same spelling which is several languages’ form of Luke.

10. Luti is Nyakyusa, a language spoken in Tanzania and Malawi.

11. Rutu is Maori and Yoruba.

All about Tobias

Scottish writer Tobias Smollett (1721–71), painted ca. 1770

Tobias is the Greek form of Hebrew names Toviyahu and Toviyah (God is good). Besides Greek, this form of the name is also used in English, German, Slovak, Portuguese, and the Scandinavian languages. The alternate form Tobiáš (To-bee-AHSH) is Czech; Tóbiás (same pronunciation) is Hungarian; Tobías is Spanish, Catalan, and Galician; and Tóbías is Icelandic.

Though the name only enjoys modest popularity in the U.S. (#275 in 2018, with a high of #246 in 2016), it’s much more popular in Austria (#10), Norway (#17), the Czech Republic (#24 as of 2016), The Netherlands (#50), England and Wales (#98).

Tobias enjoys the most sustained popularity of all in Austria. It started at #39 in 1990 and jumped into the Top 10 in 2000, at #9. The name was #3 from 2002–04, #2 from 2005–09, #4 from 2010–12, and #1 in 2013. It’s been in the Top 10 for almost twenty years.

Brazilian poet, philosopher, literary critic, and jurist Tobias Barreto de Meneses, 1839–89

Other forms of this lovely name include:

1. Tobiasz is Polish.

2. Topias is Finnish. One of the nicknames is Topi.

3. Tobia is Italian.

4. Tobiah is an alternative, old-fashioned Hebrew transliteration.

5. Tuviyah, Tuviah, Tuvya, or Tuvia is modern Hebrew.

6. Tevye is Yiddish. Probably everyone knows this name as the protagonist of Fiddler on the Roof!

7. Tobie is French.

8. Tobies is a rare Catalan form.

9. Tobit is Amharic. This is also the title character of a book of the Bible.

10. Tobejas is Sami.

Polish-Belarusian partisan hero Tuvia Bielski, who together with his three brothers saved over 1,200 people from the Nazis (1906–87); image used to illustrate subject under fair use rationale

11. Thobias is a Scandinavian variant.

12. Tobiasi is Kven, a Finnic language spoken in northern Norway.

13. Tobiôsz is Kashubian.

14. Tobyś is Vilamovian.

15. Tovias is a rare modern Greek form.

16. Toviya is Russian.

17. Tovija is Serbian.

18. Tobija is Slovenian.

19. Toby is English. This is also sometimes used as a female name.

20. Toviy is Russian.

Polish-Israeli Nazi-hunter Tuviah Friedman, 1922–2011

Female forms:

1. Tobina is a rare Swedish form.

2. Tobia is also a rare Swedish form.