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.

A double warlike name

Polish writer Jadwiga Łuszczewska (pseudonym Deotyma), 1834–1908, painted by Mateusz Zarzecki ca. 1848–52

Hadewig is an Ancient Germanic name derived from roots hadu (combat, battle) and wig (war). Like many other names of Germanic origin, its meaning relates to war and battle. This is such a striking contrast to how many Slavic names have meanings related to love, peace, glory, dearness, and flowers.

Probably the form most familiar to people is the modern German form Hedwig, which hasn’t charted in Germany for decades. It was in the Top 20 from 1890–97, and again in 1901 and from 1903–08. Needless to say, it’s considered very old-fashioned for a reason!

Other forms of this name include:

1. Hedvig is Scandinavian and Hungarian. The Scandinavian nickname is Hedda, and the Hungarian nickname is Hédi. In 2019, this name was #78 in Sweden and #65 in Norway.

2. Hedviga is Slovak, Slovenian, Latvian, and Croatian.

3. Hedvika is Czech and Slovenian.

4. Hadewych is a rare Dutch name. It was much more common in the Middle Ages. The nickname is Hedy (also used in German).

5. Hedwiga is Czech, Romanian, and Medieval Polish.

6. Hedwige is French.

7. Heiðveig is Faroese. In Icelandic, this is a separate name derived from roots heiðr (honour) and veig (power, strength).

8. Hekewika is a rare Hawaiian form.

9. Heiðvík is Faroese.

10. Hedla is a Silesian–German nickname sometimes used as a full given name.

Hedvig Elisabeth Charlotte of Holstein-Gottorp (1759–1818), Queen of Sweden and Norway, and a prolific diarist

11. Edvige is Italian and Corsican. The nickname is Edda.

12. Edwige is French.

13. Edubige is Basque.

14. Eduvixes is Asturian and Old Galician.

15. Edviga is a rare Moldovan, Romanian, and Portuguese form.

16. Edwikke is East Prussian–German.

17. Edvija is Old Occitan.

18. Eduvigis is Medieval Spanish and Catalan.

19. Edwiga is Medieval Polish.

20. Avoise is Medieval French.

French stage and film actor Edwige Feuillère, 1907–98

21. Jadvyga is Lithuanian.

22. Jadwiga is Polish. I have two characters by this name, one a minor character who goes by Wisia, and the other a main character (in an entirely different set of books) who’s referred to by her full name in the narrative and called Wisia and Jadzia. Other nicknames include Jagusia, Jagienka, Jagna, Jagoda (which also means “berry”), Jaga, and Iga. Both of my Jadwigas were born in the 1920s.

23. Yadviga is Belarusian.

24. Heta is Finnish.

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.

A quintessentially Irish name

St. Brigid of Kildare, painted by Patrick Joseph Tuohy

One needn’t be a passionate Hibernophile to be aware Bridget is one of the most quintessential of Irish names. And unlike most Celtic names, this one spread to many other languages instead of staying a primarily native product.

Brighid means “exalted one” and “power, strength, virtue, vigour.” Brighid was a goddess of fire, poetry, and wisdom.

Another beloved bearer was the abovepictured St. Brigid of Kildare, who lived in the 5th century and became one of Ireland’s patron saints. However, because this was the name of a saint, it was considered too sacred for normal use. Only in the 17th century did Brighid, or Brigid, become popular.

As Brigitta, this name has also long been popular in Scandinavia. The 14th century St. Brigitta is Europe’s patron saint.

The most common English form is Bridget, which has never been in the U.S. Top 100. Its highest rank to date was #112 in 1973.

Beata Brigida, painting of St. Birgitta of Sweden, done between ca. 1534–66 by Jerónimo Cosida

Other forms of this popular name include:

1. Bridgette is English.

2. Brigitte is French.

3. Brigita is Latvian, Slovak, Czech, Slovenian, Sorbian, Kashubian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Romanian, and Croatian. The variant Brígida is Spanish, Catalan, and Portuguese.

4. Berit is Scandinavian.

5. Brygida is Polish.

6. Birita is Faroese.

7. Brigitta is German, Dutch, Hungarian, Italian, and Russian.

8. Bríd is modern Irish.

9. Brìghde is Scottish.

10. Birgithe is a rare Scandinavian variant.

1924 self-portrait of U.S. miniature painter Birgitta Moran Farmer (1881–1939)

11. Birgit is Scandinavian and German.

12. Ffraid is Welsh.

13. Piritta is Finnish. Nicknames include Pirkko, Priita, Pirjo, and Riitta.

14. Breeshey is Manx.

15. Birte is Norwegian.

16. Bergit is Scandinavian.

17. Berc’hed is Breton.

18. Birgitte is Norwegian.

19. Britta is German and Scandinavian.

20. Birkide is Basque.

German actor Brigitte Helm (1908–1996)

21. Bregida is Occitan.

22. Brigyta is Lithuanian.

23. Bríxida is Galician.

24. Bedelia, or Bidelia, is an Irish diminutive.

A name that fathered multitudes

Last known photo of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln alive

Abraham, a name many consider extremely old-fashioned, stodgy, geriatric, and/or religious, has never been quite as unpopular as its image suggests. While it’s never been Top 100 in the U.S. since records began being kept in 1880, it’s never sunk below #499 in 1967 either. Its highest rank to date was #124 in 1911. Abraham is currently on a surprising, gradual up-and-up, ranking at #164 in 2018.

The name is used in English, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, and the Scandinavian languages. The alternate form Ábrahám is Hungarian, and Ábraham is Faroese.. Its original form is the Hebrew Avraham (father of many/multitudes). While it’s long been popular in the Jewish world, it didn’t become common in Christendom till the Protestant Reformation.

Because Avraham and his wife Sarah were the founders of the Jewish nation, all converts’ Hebrew names end in bat/ben Avraham v’Sarah. Since we don’t have Jewish parents, the original parents of our nation become our symbolic parents.

Kurdish writer and politician Ibrahim Ahmad, 1914–2000

Other forms of the name include:

1. Avrum is Yiddish.

2. Aabraham is Finnish.

3. Aapo is another Finnish form.

4. Abram is Russian and Georgian.

5. Abraam is Georgian.

6. Abraão is Portuguese.

7. Ibrahim is Arabic, Albanian, Bosnian, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Dhivehi (a language spoken in the Maldives). The alternate form İbrahim is Azeri and Turkish, and Îbrahîm is Kurdish.

8. Ebrahim is Persian and Arabic.

9. Ibragim is Chechen and Ossetian.

10. Abramo is Italian.

U.S. General Abram Duryée (1815–90), who served in the Union Army in the Civil War

11. Bram is Dutch and English. Like many modern Dutch names, this too began as a nickname.

12. Braam is Limburgish and Dutch.

13. Ebrima is Western African.

14. Ibrahima is also Western African.

15. Brahim is Maghrebi Arabic, a dialect spoken in North Africa.

16. Aaprahami, or Aaprahammi, is Finnish.

17. Abrahán is Spanish.

18. Abraomas is Lithuanian.

19. Abreham is Ethiopian.

20. Âbréhan is Jèrriais.

Israeli soldier Avraham Avigdorov (1929–2012), recipient of the Hero of Israel award (now the Medal of Valour), in 1949

21. Âparâme is Greenlandic.

22. Ápparan is Sami.

23. Avraam is Romanian and modern Greek.

24. Avrom is Yiddish.

25. Brāhēm is Balochi, a language spoken in Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

26. Ebәrham is Abkhaz.

27. Ibraahiim, or Ibraahim, is Somali.

28. Ibrahimu is Hausa, a language spoken in northern Nigeria.

29. Iprakhim is Chuvash.

30. Obran is Mordvin.

Irish writer Bram Stoker (1847–1912), best-known as the author of Dracula

31. Ôbróm is Kashubian.

32. Habraham is a rare Latin American–Spanish and French–African form.

Female forms:

1. Abra is English. This is also the Latin word for “maid.”

2. Avra is Hebrew. I’ve always really liked this name.

3. Abrahamina is Swedish. I’m not a fan of this one!

4. Abrahamine is Norwegian. I don’t like this one either.

5. Abarrane may be an obscure feminine form of Abraham. Its etymology is unknown.