The Amish church was founded in 1693 when there was a schism between the Swiss and Alsatian churches in Switzerland, led by Jakob Ammann. The members of the church who chose to follow Ammann and his teachings became known as the Amish. Later on, in the 18th century, a great many Amish peoples made the choice to immigrate to the United States for a variety of reasons. Since the formation of the church, several different branches have formed, mostly based on how separate the church keeps itself from the modern world and its technologies.
Most of the more commonly known Amish communities (such as the one in Lancaster County) exist in Pennsylvania, although there are more than 165,000 members of the various branches of the church scattered across the country. Most speak Pennsylvania Dutch (a form of German) although there is one community in Indiana that speaks a form of Swiss German.
Due to the differences in beliefs and opinions, the Amish often refer to people not of their church as the English. Being of the Christian religion, many of the names they choose for their children (of which there are many since they do not believe in practicing birth control) are biblically based in some form or fashion.
Since the communities are generally not that big, many first names and surnames are often repeated, and middles names are sometimes used to distinguish different people from one another. They can also refer to a close relative of the person to better differentiate. Here is a list of 25 Amish boy names that English mothers just might want to steal.
While most Amish names tend to be Old Testament in biblical origin, Paul is a name made popular in the New Testament thanks to the famous apostle. Paul, who was Saul of Tarsus before becoming a believer in the Christian religion, was the author of several different books in the New Testament. As many as fourteen of the texts have been attributed to him. The name itself is Roman in origin, coming from the family name Paulus. While the name means small (as in, small in stature, small thing, etc.) it remains a popular name in both Amish and English society thanks to its biblical popularity, and it will no doubt be chosen by many mothers, from both circles for many years to come when it is their turn to name their son.
Wayne is a name that, even though it has no biblical origins, is popular among the Amish peoples. The name means wagoner or cart-puller, and this could be a reason the Amish are using the name. Since they do not use technology, naturally they don't drive cars unless their religion allows it. This makes their main forms of transportation in their communities horses, wagons, carts, and buggies when the distance they are traveling is too far to walk. English in origin, it was also used as a surname in reference to crossing water. One if its more well-known uses as a surname is the popular fictional character John Wayne. In the English (modern) world, the name was more popular around the 50's and 60's then it is in more recent times. The fact that it is old-fashioned probably appeals to the Amish, and could be another reason why they use it.
Marshall is a name with more than one spelling variation. Out of the two most common, the first contains two L's (Marshall) Mar, while the second variation contains only one (Marshal). The name is French in its origin and while it is most often used as a first name it is also a popular Scottish last name. The most likely reason the Amish use it as a first name is the fact that it means "horse keeper" or "keeper of the horses". Since the Amish refrain from using most modern technologies, horses are used as their form of transportation and also to assist the farmers during the planting and harvest seasons. While the name is not the most popular in the English (modern) communities, like most old-fashioned names it has been used more in recent years than it has been in the past.
Reuben, which can also be spelled Rueben, is a name of Hebrew origin which means "behold, a son". A name from the biblical Old Testament, Reuben was the firstborn son of Jacob, who was also known as Israel. Born of Jacob's first wife Leah, Reuben along with his brothers would later become the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. People in the Amish communities no doubt use this name frequently because of its biblical origins, like many of the other names they choose for both their sons and daughters. In contrast, people in the English world haven't often used the name Reuben or any of its variations since 1931, and since then less than forty babies per million were given the name. However, like many of its old-fashioned counterparts, the name has been on a steep incline of popularity in the past several years.
Jonah is a name that was once only used for male babies, but in more recent years has evolved into a unisex name used by parents to name their sons or their daughters. The name itself means "dove" and the most common use of it can be seen in the Book of Jonah in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Jonah was the man who ran away from the commands of God, and as a result, ended up being swallowed by a giant fish. The Amish most likely enjoy using the name because of its religious context, while among the English the name has followed the pattern of the old-fashioned names, popular in the early 1900's, a strong decline in popularity until the late 1990's, and then a sharp spike in popularity in recent years.
Jeremiah is another name of biblical origin that the Amish love to use. In the Bible, Jeremiah was a prophet who authored the Book of Jeremiah, the Book of Kings, and the Book of Laminations. He was known as the Weeping Prophet. The name itself means "exalted of the Lord". Unlike most of the names the Amish use, Jeremiah was relatively well used, and has maintained similar levels of popularity over the years, with a sharp incline in its use between the years 1972-1977 before that point its original numbers of roughly around 65-90 boys per million in the population were named Jeremiah, and after which no less than 950 boys per million were named Jeremiah in the years since 1977. It's most popular year in recent times was in 2010, when over 4K boys per million were given the name Jeremiah.
Currently one of the most well-known uses of the name Elmo is in the popular character from the children's TV show, Sesame Street. The Amish most likely use the name because of its German/Dutch origin, since most Amish communities speak some form or dialect of Pennsylvania German (also known as Pennsylvania Dutch). The name was immensely popular before World War I, but since then has declined in use so severely that in the English community less than ten boys for every million in the population are named Elmo. While some may think it's an odd name, it has a very strong meaning "protector" and was also the name of a Christian saint. Saint Elmo was Erasmus of Formia, the patron saint of sailors. He was martyred in or around 303 A.D.
While unlike most of the names that the Amish choose for their sons, Harley is not a biblically based name. Most people in the country who are English and Amish alike will no doubt recognize it, however, due in part to the popularity of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle company. The Amish most likely use the name because it is considered to be an old-fashioned name, with it being more popular in the late 1800's and early 1900's than it is in today's day and age. However, like most old-fashioned names Harley (which is of English origin meaning "hare meadow") has become increasingly more popular in recent years, and instead of being used exclusively for boys, parents (especially in the modern communities) have begun naming their daughters Harley as well.
Gabriel is a popular name in the Amish communities, most likely because it is the name of one of God's archangels. A messenger angel, it was Gabriel who foretold the birth of John the Baptist to his father Zachariah, and who also told Mary the Virgin that she would become pregnant and subsequently give birth to the one who would be known as Jesus Christ. The name itself means "devoted to God" in addition to also meaning, "God is my strength". In the modern communities, the name was less popular in past years, with around 100-200 baby boys per million in the population being given the name from the late 1800's to the mid 1900's, before experiencing a sharp spike in popularity between the 1960's and the 1970's, when the name swiftly climbed through the hundreds to the thousands. It peaked in 2010 when nearly 7K boys were named Gabriel.
16 Abraham, Abe
Abraham or its shorter version of Abe is a popular name in both the Amish and English communities. The name itself is highly recognizable mostly in part to the biblical character that can be found in the Old Testament. Abraham is considered by some to be the father of the nation of Israel because it was through his family line that the twelve tribes of Israel were formed. His son Isaac was the father of Jacob (who was also known as Israel) from whom came the twelve sons who each fathered one of the twelve tribes. Because of this, the name Abraham means "the father of many nations". A widely popular name both in past and recent times, the name topped out in 2016 when over 1300 boys were named Abraham.
Caleb is a name that comes from the Hebrew word for "dog" and is often used as a symbol of, or reference to, devotion to God. In the Bible, Caleb was one of twelve spies sent by the Old Testament patriarch Moses into the land of Canaan, which was considered by the Jews who escaped Egypt to be the promised land. Caleb, alongside the other eleven spies, was tasked with examining the land to determine how it was laid out and what numbers the Canaanites possessed, in addition to attempting to bring back some type of produce to help the Israelites learn how fertile the land was. Like most names they chose for their children, the Amish most likely choose to use the name Caleb because of its biblical roots and meaning.
14 Daniel, Dan
Daniel is a name that has many different spelling variations and nicknames, the most common of which are Dan and Danny. Hebrew in its origin, and means "God is my judge". Daniel was one of many members of young Jewish nobility who were carried to Babylon after the capture of the city of Jerusalem. The most well known Bible story containing Daniel is Daniel in the Lions Den. Jealous of Daniel's station in the court of Babylon, his rivals attempt to have him executed by throwing him into a den of lions, only to discover the next morning that he survived the night by being protected by an angel. The Amish use the name and sometimes its variations because of its religious meaning. In the past several decades in the modern community, the name has been ranked among the top fifty most popular names used by parents when they name their baby boys. No fewer than 7K boys for every million in the population have been named Daniel.
Aaron is a name of Hebrew origin that means "enlightened". In the Bible, Aaron was the brother of Moses and served as his brother's spokesman when Moses confronted the Pharaoh. He served as one of the first high priests of Israel. The Amish use it because of its religious background and meaning. In the modern world, Aaron is one of the more popular names for baby boys, usually ranking somewhere in the top hundred each year. While the name was less popular in earlier years since the 1970's the name has been used on more than 3K boys for every million. It peaked in 1981 when more than 8K sets of parents named their son Aaron. This number is probably larger than that, however, since the name has many different spelling variations across the board, in addition to there being a feminine form of the name.
Isaiah is a name that is of Hebrew origin and that comes from the Bible. It means "salvation of the Lord". Coming from the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, the man himself was a prophet who lived and worked sometime during the kings of Judah (in or around the eighth century BC). It is believed that he authored the book that was named for him. Just like most of the names that they pick for their sons and their daughters, they choose to use Isaiah because of its biblical origins. In the modern communities, the name isn't as popular as others, but like many names that are considered "old-fashioned," it has experienced a grand revival in the past two decades. In 2016 alone around 4K boys were named Isaiah.
Stephen is a name that is Greek in its origin that means "crown" or "wreath". While it is considered a biblical name, unlike most popular Amish names it does not come from the Old Testament. Instead, Stephen can be found in the New Testament. He is considered to be the first martyr to be killed in the name of Christianity, as he was stoned to death after being sentenced for the crime of blasphemy against the Jewish authorities. He is considered a Saint by many branches of the Christian religion. In the modern community, the name Stephen has remained commonly used over the years, with an average of about a thousand boys per million being named every year. While the name became extremely popular between the 1940's to the 1990's, it has declined in popularity over the past three decades to less than one thousand boys per million.
Levi is a Hebrew name that means "joined in harmony". Just like many other popular names used by the Amish, Levi is a biblical name. There are two Levi's in the Christian Bible, and the first can be found in the Old Testament; Levi was the third son of Jacob through his first wife Leah. He would found one of the twelve tribes of Israel alongside his brothers who formed the other eleven. The second Levi was born hundreds of years later and is in the New Testament. Levi was the name of Matthew before he chose to follow Jesus Christ and become one of his Twelve Apostles. In the modern world, the name wasn't used all that much until the 1990's, before then less that 1K boys per million were given the name Levi.
Benjamin is another popular Amish name of Hebrew origin that can be found in the Bible. It means "son of the south" and some think it also means "son of my old age" or "son of my days". This is in reference to Benjamin (in the Old Testament) being the last son out of Jacob's famous twelve sons to be born. This makes him the head of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. One of the more widely used names alongside its various spelling variations and nicknames, since the late 1800's no fewer than one thousand boys per every million of the population have been named Benjamin. Like many old-fashioned biblically based names, Benjamin has been rising in popularity since the 1960's, and in the past decade or so more than 5K boys per million have been named Benjamin.
The name David means "beloved" in Hebrew. This is because in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible David was referred to as being beloved by God. In the Bible, David becomes the second king of the nation of Israel as a result of his predecessor Saul's disobedience to God's command. David is also known as the boy who killed the giant Goliath with nothing more than a slingshot. The Amish people like the name because of its ties to their religion, just like many of the other names they choose for their sons. The name itself is one of the more popular names, usually holding a ranking somewhere in the top hundred names of the year. In the past century, each year there are no fewer than 6K boys for every million in the population who are named David by their parents.
Joseph is a name of Hebrew origin that means "God shall increase" or "God shall add". This is in reference to the fact that Joseph was one of the twelve sons of Jacob. Born of Jacob's wife Rachel (who was arguably his favorite wife out of the four he had) Joseph's many half-brothers became jealous of the attention their father paid to him and sold Joseph into slavery as a result. While a cruel and unusual punishment, it became a blessing, because according to the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, Joseph rose through the ranks in Egypt to become second to only the Pharaoh, and through interpreting dreams sent by God as a warning he was able to stop the country from starving to death due to seven years of famine. One of the more popular names over the years, no fewer than 5K boys for every million per year has been named Joseph in the past hundred years.
6 Elijah, Eli
Another biblically based name, Elijah means "Yahweh is God". Elijah was both a prophet and a miracle worker who lived during the reign of Ahab, according to the Books of Kings that can be found in the Christian Bible. Elijah himself was most well known for running his school of prophets and being carried off to heaven alive in a whirlwind. While he never technically died, according to the biblical account, his return to Earth is foretold in the Old Testament Book of Malachi. Many different communities use the name for various reasons, but the Amish and the Jewish communities are most well known for using it because of its biblical origins. While it was well used by parents in years past, the popularity of the name has been on a severe incline since the 1990's.
Amos is another popular name among the Amish, and like many of their favorite names, it comes from the bible. A name of Hebrew origin that means "to be troubled", the Book of Amos was one of the smaller books of the Old Testament. Amos himself was one of the Twelve Minor Prophets of Israel who worked during the reign of Jeroboam II. The name itself was extremely popular in the later 1800's but has since dropped severely in popularity. In the past two decades, around 100 boys out of every million in the U.S. population have been named Amos, in comparison to numbers over 1K for every million in the 1880's and the 1890's. There has been a small incline in popularity over the past several years, and maybe in the next decade or so we will see this name resurrected.
Have you ever sang, "John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?" Well, his name is their name too. John is an extremely popular and widely used name in both Amish and the modern community. The Amish most likely use it because of the biblical origins of the name, while the rest of the country just really likes the name, John. In fact, the name is so popular that for many years, starting in 1880, it was the number one most popular baby boy name, and in the past hundred years, it has been one of the top five popular baby boys names. Everyone in the country knows somebody named John or who has John as a nickname. The name itself is of Hebrew origin and means "God is gracious". In the New Testament of the Bible, John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus who preached along the river, and he also baptized Jesus.
Jacob is another name popular among the Amish due to its biblical origins, and it means "supplanter". Jacob, who was also known as Israel, would father many sons who together would go on to father the twelve tribes of Israel. Joseph, another famous biblical figure, was also one of his children. Though the name has both risen and fallen in popularity over the past twenty years in the modern communities, in more recent times the name has had a sharp spike upward in popularity, not in thanks to its biblical origins, but rather in thanks to American author Stephanie Meyer and actor Taylor Lautner. Meyer wrote the character of Jacob Black (whom Lautner portrays) in her popular novel series, and due to the fame of the series Jacob has become more widely used in the past several years.
A name of Hebrew origin, Isaac is a male name that means, "He will laugh". Some people say the reason the name means "He will laugh" because his mother Sarah laughed at the mere idea that she would give her husband a child since she was well past her child-bearing years when Isaac was conceived. Popular among the Amish because of its biblical origin, Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sarah that Abraham very nearly sacrificed on the instruction of God, only stopping because God had commanded him to. Isaac would later go on to marry Rebecca, and she would later give him the sons Jacob and Esau. His son Jacob would famously father through his wives and mistresses the twelve sons from whom is descended the twelve tribes of Israel. Like many other old-fashioned and retro names, it became less popular in the mid-1900's and has risen in popularity in the last two decades.
Samuel is a name of biblical origin that means "heard God" or "asked of God". In the bible, there are two books named for him (1st Samuel and 2nd Samuel), and Samuel was a prophet and a judge, and he is most well known as the person who anointed both David and Saul as the kings of Israel. The Amish people most likely use the name because of its biblical meaning and origin, in addition to the fact that it is easily shortened into the popular nickname of Sam. The name itself became a great deal less popular in the mid-1900's, though it has risen in popularity since then, especially in the past twenty years. Some famous people who bear the name are actor Samuel L. Jackson and the Irish writer Samuel Beckett.
Sources: behindthename.com, babycenter.com, amishamerica.com, 9babynames.com/AmishBabyNames, babble.com
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