25 Puritan Baby Names From Early America

Choosing a baby's name is one of the biggest decisions to make as a parent, in my opinion. According to the child once grown, a name can be either a blessing or a curse. With Puritan names from early America, blessings and curses are especially appropriate descriptors. While the most ordinary of the names from this slice in time and pinpointed place are common today, such as Joseph, Thomas and Samuel, or Elizabeth, Susan and Emily, the more unusual ones are rarely if ever heard today. These can be as far out there as Fear-God, Descendant, or Joy-in-Sorrow. They seem more like proclamations than names for children.

However, when plunging through ship passenger lists to America during the 1600s and 1700s, there are some less common, but still possibly attractive names for those seeking a unique handle for their newborns. The Puritans were religious people who were reformers within the Church of England; Puritan was a name used to describe them disparagingly. Reviled by both the official church and the monarchy of England, many fled to the New World, seeking a better life with religious freedom. Unlike other early settlements in America, the Puritans came in family groups and were typically quite literate and very devoted to their faith. But over time, their religious zeal led to them being as religiously prejudiced towards others as the country they escaped had been to them.

25 Mercy

The name Mercy means "compassion," and it is one of the popular of the time period "virtue names." Today it just breaks the top 1000, so it wouldn't be fair to call it popular today. However, it has been steadily rising in the polls for the last few years. The name Mercy has been used for characters in literature including in Bunyan's A Pilgrim's Progress, in Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit and in Arthur Miller's play based on real events in puritanical Salem in The Crucible. A character in Tess of the d'Urbervilles is also named Mercy Chant. Mercy has also been used as a nickname for the name, Mercedes. However, it primarily has its appeal as a character trait name.

In today's harsh world, a sweet, virtuous name has a certain attractiveness as a buffer against the rougher nature of life. There are a couple of instances of celebs using the name Mercy for their daughters. One example is Madonna, whose daughter she adopted from Malawi. This young girl's name is Mercy James. Another example is sidekick to Conan O'Brien, Andy Richter who in 2007 named his daughter Mercy Josephine.

24 Josias

Josias is Hebrew, and is the Biblical name of a king noted for his religious reforms. The name means, "God saves." Josias is a Latin form of the actual Biblical name, Josiah. King Josiah died in battle against the Egyptians, after reigning for 31 years. He died in the early 6th century, BC. Josiah became a popular name during the Protestant Reformation, and a number of Puritans who came to America (then the New World) had this name, or the variation, Josias.

Among those are Josias Fendall, who immigrated in 1654, and later became governor of Maryland in 1656. Josiah or Josias (recorded both ways in historical documents) was born in the Plymouth Colony in 1628 and was the child of the first couple to be wed in the Plymouth Colony. Josiah ranked number 55 in 2016 for boys' names, but Josias came in far lower, at #1735.

23 Patience

Another virtue name popular among the Puritans, Patience has a soft sound to it, that seemingly matches the essence of the name. Patience means "calm endurance; forebearance." It comes from the Latin "pati" which means "to suffer." Patience is the name of a comedic operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan, which had its opening in 1881. The name Patience is also in Shakespeare's Henry VIII. In less lofty works, Patience Phillips was the name of Halle Berry's Catwoman, as well as the title of a Guns 'N Roses song.

It's not been particularly popular or common since the Puritan era, appearing in 2016's list for girls' names at #1907. Patience would make a lovely trait name for a middle name if it seems too unusual for a first name. Nicknames include Pat, Pati, Paish or Pay. Some people may worry about teasing, but it's not particularly an awful possibility. "Be patient, Patience," may be annoying, and unoriginal, but hardly hurtful.

22 Theophilus

Theophilus means "love of God," or "friend of God." Probably the coolest person to ever have this name was Mozart. His true full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. Whew! Now that's a lot of names! He had to live up to that handle! However, Mozart preferred "Amadeus," to "Theophilus." Both names mean the same thing. Theophilus was also a strong name during the Protestant Reformation, and Theophilus Eaton (1590-1658) was a merchant and farmer, as well as the first governor (and co-founder) of Connecticut's New Haven colony. Theophilus North is also the name of a novel by Thornton Wilder.

In the Bible's New Testament books of Acts and the Gospel of Luke, a direct address is made to a Theophilus at the beginning. Theophilus was also the 23rd Pope of Alexandria. While it is rather rare a name today, not even making the top couple thousand, it hit its heyday in the 1880s, when it charted around the 900s. Theophilus would make a strong middle name, as Mozart's parents would agree. However, if chosen as a first name, Theo makes a solid nickname and likely the name the boy would go by most the time.

21 Faythe

This spelling was popular among the Puritans, but so was the straightforward version spelled, "Faith." One of the more enduring virtue names, Faith continues to be used in the US. It ranked at #117 in 2016, so just a bit out of the top 100. Of course the version spelled Faythe is much more rare. Faith means trust or confidence, and is generally intended as a spiritual type of confidence. Puritans liked to combine "Faith" into names such as "Faithful," "Faith-is-my-joy," or "Be-faithful." The name "Faith" comes from the Latin fidere, "to trust."

Faith is also a reasonably popular name in Great Britain, and slightly less so in Northern Ireland, and not as common, but still used in the Netherlands. Famous folks named Faith include: singers Faith Hill and Faith Evans; actress Faith Ford (remember Murphy Brown?) and Faith Ringgold, a civil rights activist and artist. Some people might shorten Faith to Fay, and many would opt for either spelling, especially when used as a middle name.

20 Symon

When reading through passenger registries for ships arriving in the New World in the 1600 and 1700s, the male name Symon appears quite frequently. Later the spelling Simon seemed the more common form. Today the spelling "Symon" occurs mainly in the Ukraine. Other forms around the world include: Symeon, Simeon, Shimon and Simen. Simon is a Hebrew word meaning, "he has heard," "listen," or "listener." When spelled "Simon," it ranked at #256 in 2016. It is a popular name today in France, Belgium and Austria, as well as Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark.

It's history includes Biblical references, including Simeon being the second son of Jacob, one of the disciples, and first head of the Catholic church, Simon Peter, as well as the name of the man who carried Christ's cross for him. Simon was an especially popular name during the Middle Ages. Simon is certainly a regularly used name, as first or middle, but for those longing for a more unusual name, the alternate spelling of Symon may do the trick. Sy is a well-known nickname.

19 Remembrance

This is definitely one of the lesser-known and rarely used Puritan virtue names. For those seeking an original sounding name that is sure to be unique in a child's school, town, perhaps state, Remember or Remembrance is a top choice. While there was a 5-year-old girl named Remember aboard the Mayflower, and occasional Remember or Remembrance's on other 1600s and 1700s voyages to the New World, the name didn't stick the way Constance or Grace did.

Ironic that the name Remember has been so utterly forgotten. Because of its function as a verb in the form "Remember," it's a name to be used with care in regards to the middle and last name. Some might prefer it as a middle name. Remembrance is not as problematic as a first name, since it's a noun. It could be used in combination with the name of a loved one, now passed. Nicknames could include Rem, Mem or Remi.

18 Bennett

This name has a wide range of variable forms, many of which have remained popular for hundreds of years. Among the Puritans it would be favored due to the name's meaning; "blessed." In 2016 it ranked at #122 in the US. It comes from the Latin "benedictus." Bennett is the English form of the medieval, "Benedict." For those literary types, Bennett will conjure images from Jane Austen's novel, Pride and Prejudice, as the main family was the Bennett's. Bennett's line traces back to Saint Benedict, a 6th century monk who founded the Catholic Benedictine order. Benedict became a popular religious name, as the name of 16 popes.

Bennett is also a fairly well-used surname and in England the name appears going back to the 13th century. Contemporary Bennett's include Bennett (Ben) Savage (actor), Bennett Miller (director) and Bennett Stewart (congressman). Famous folk who have named their sons Bennett include Jane Krakowski (3rd Rock actress); Laura Linney (film actress) and baseball player Dustin Ackley named his son Parson Bennett.

17 Grace

Again, another clearly Biblical or Christian based virtue name that has hung on in modern times. From the Latin "gratia," or favor; thanks, Grace is also an important image in Greek mythology. The three Graces or Charites were considered goddesses of fertility and crops, and were Joy, Charm and Beauty. Grace was "Grazia" in the Middle Ages, and the Puritans revived the name with the connotation of it being God's grace on mankind. Grace hit the girls' name list at #26 in 2016, and appears to be holding steady at this high spot on the chart.

One of the most endearing Grace's in history was lovely film star, Grace Kelly who later married and became Princess Grace of Monaco. Other Graces include Gracie Allen, comic wife of George Burns, singers Grace Slick and Grace Jones, as well as first lady Grace Coolidge. Celebs who have named daughters Grace include Meryl Streep (Grace Gummer is an actress, too), Kevin Costner and Mia Hamm.

16 Obadiah

Obadiah is a Hebrew name meaning, "servant of God." Obadiah was a minor prophet, and his book is the shortest of the Old Testament and was written around 586 BC. A popular Biblical name, there were several Obadiah's in the Bible. There have been 2 US senators named Obadiah, and in the novel, Tristam Shandy a character is named Obadiah. In pop culture reference, in the first Iron Man movie Jeff Bridges played the villain, Obadiah Stane aka Iron Monger.

Obadiah was popular among the Puritans, who favored Biblical names especially for their sons. Obadiah could be spelled Obadia, Obediah, or Obedia. Nicknames would include Obe, Obie or Diah. For those unwilling to commit to such a rare name, (it didn't even make top 10,000 in 2016) Obadiah could work as a middle name, too. Nicknames to avoid, Bad or Badi. Definitely not fitting with the meaning, "Servant of God!"

15 Hopestill

Many Puritan names combine virtue-words such as Fear-God, Lovejoy, Makepeace and What-God-Will. Hopestill sounds decidedly feminine to modern ears, but both sons and daughters were dubbed Hopestill in Puritan times. Hopestill hasn't charted in about that long, though. Hope however, springs eternal, coming in at #297 in the girl names list in 2016. There's a 2nd century Italian saint by the name of Hope, who was tortured and martyred for her faith at the age of 10, along with her sisters, Faith (age 12) and Love (age 9), and their mother, Sophia.

While it's a good name for those from the Christian faith, along with other virtue names, it's not necessarily tied to Christianity. Many people love the name because of the meaning of the name. Hope is a concept not tied to any one faith or philosophy. After all, what would life be without hope? Hopestill makes it a more unusual choice, that can be shortened to the form "Hope."

14 Ezekial

Ezekial is another Biblical name, ever so popular with the Puritans. Ezekial was a major prophet and a book of the Old Testament bears his name. He lived in early 6th century Jerusalem, then later Babylon when the Jews were taken into captivity. While one of the favored names of the early religious settlers to the New World, it has seen a surge in popularity in recent years. In fact, in 2016 it landed at #140. From the Hebrew, Ezekial means "God strengthens." The prophet foretold the restoration of the kingdom of Israel.

Ezekial is not only big in America; other countries also use the Biblical handle, such as in England and Wales. Ezekial Cheever is a character in Arthur Miller's play, The Crucible. Ezekial could be either first or middle name source material, but it's best combined with a simple, most likely single syllable name to avoid tongue twisting. The name could be spelled Ezekiel, and shortened to Ezie, Zekial, Zeke or Kiel.

13 Amity

This is a lovely old name that originally came from the Latin amicitia, or "friend," and is also then related to the old Middle English "amite," and the French, "ami or amie." Those old enough may relate this name to less favorable contexts, such as the name of the city in the book and movie, Jaws or the horror flick Amityville Horror. While it may be hard to imagine, children born now are not too likely to have these strong negative associations. Kids under 15 or so today probably aren't too familiar with either of these, and will not immediately think of these scary name associations, so parents shouldn't let these 2 films scare them away from such a pretty name.

Amity is a less familiar virtue name once popular with the Puritans. It has a simple sound, and while three syllables long, it isn't a mouthful. Friendship and harmony are sweet ideals to have built into a name, and little girls will appreciate this concept in particular. Amity has a logical nickname in "Ami."

12 Minister

This masculine name wasn't exactly common in Puritan times, but it was used and was a name that fit the Puritanical ideal, of course. It belongs to a grouping of occupation or title-type names, like Elder, Deacon or Reverend. Minister is a noun as well as a verb. The noun is the person who performs the duties of a minister in a church. To minister (verb) means to care for, or to give service or aid to someone. This is a pretty positive definition for a name.

A word to the wise, though, title names such as these are not permitted in the Australian state of Victoria. Minister made the banned name list. It may be best to use as a middle name, if you don't want people getting confused over name versus title, however. Minister would work with Min, Minst or Mini as nicknames. Or maybe go the initial name route, such as Minister James, and refer to son as MJ.

11 Constance

Constance is a feminine virtue name from the Latin "constantia," meaning steadfast, knowledgeable or firm of purpose. It was a popular Puritan name, and a girl aboard the Mayflower was named Constance Hopkins. She lived a long life once traveling to the New World. Other Constances include a character in Shakespeare's King John, the name of the writer, Oscar Wilde's wife, as well as Mozart's wife's name. Constance ranked #1395 in 2016 here in the States. It ranks much higher, within the top 150 or so, in France, however.

Constance is frequently  shortened to Connie, and that name has a bit of a dated feel to it. Frequently today, when parents name their daughters Constance, they opt not to use that nickname at all. My best friend in high school was named Constance, and went by Connie. Her brothers called her "A constant-pain-in-the-butt." But that was just her! Other nicknames for Constance could be Con, Stance, Stan or Coco even.

10 Aymes

Aymes is related to the same root source as Amity, the Latin word, amicitia, which means "friend." While it wasn't nearly so common as the Biblical names given to boys in the Puritan era, Aymes did show up on ship passenger lists from England to the New World in the 17th and 18th century. Aymes is more common as a surname, and has variations in spelling such as Aimes, Ames and Ayme. It also makes a good trait name, as aim, which hints at determination and goals. Aymes sounds like a more modern name than many of the other Puritanical era monikers.

This name doesn't make the top 1000 baby names, so choosing this will definitely mean a boy's name that won't be shared by multiple children at school. It may work well as a short, one syllable middle name to a longer, more sonically complicated first name. It probably wouldn't be easily shortened to many acceptable nicknames, however. It would work well however, as initials, such as Aymes Joshua becoming AJ. That gives the child the chance to choose a name to go by as an adult, as well.

9 Verity

This is another trait name, and somewhat favored among the Puritan settlers to America. Verity comes from the Latin word, "veritus" which means truth or sincerity. It has a distinctive feminine flavor to it. While it only ranks in the top few thousand names in the US, it is more popular in other parts of the world. For instance, in England and Wales it ranks in the top few hundred names for girls.

Verity appears as a character in one of Agatha Christie's mysteries and Verity was the name of James Bond's fencing instructor in Die Another Day (as played by Madonna). Verity is the name of some British and Australian celebs, typically actresses. Verity is also the name of a character in one of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books. Verity doesn't need shortened, with that final "y," but should one want a nickname, it could be Vee, Ver, Veri or Vere. It would also make a fine middle name for a girl, for families wanting a character trait inspired name.

8 Gyles

Pronounced JILES, Gyles is more commonly spelled Giles in modern times, especially. Puritans liked this name, too. The actual original source of the name is Greek, and means "young goat." It came to refer to the goatskin used on warrior shields. However, it's association is mostly with St. Giles, a hermit who left Greece for France during the 7th or 8th century and became known for miraculous deeds. He is among the famed "Fourteen Holy Helpers." He lived in a cave near Arles. Giles or Gyles is more favored in Europe than in America, for certain.

It ranks in the mid 7000s in the US. It was popular in Europe in the Middle Ages, and today while it's used as a first name much more often than in the US, it is mostly seen as a surname. Gyles would make a strong middle name in combination with a longer, perhaps 3-syllable first name.

7 Blessing

Another feminine virtue name ever so beloved by the Puritan settlers is Blessing. It means the same thing as the word, "divine gift." This makes it a perfect name for a perfect baby girl, or every daughter! It seems an ideal match for a middle name with many types and sounds of first names, but for a truly special and unusual choice, Blessing could be the first name. In 2016, the name "Blessing" was #1316 in the US. Blessed would be an alternative choice to Blessing.

Nicknames for Blessing are pretty limited, consisting of perhaps Bless, Blessi or Les. There are whole webpages devoted to names that mean blessing, so why not go directly to the source name and have a baby girl named Blessing? A famous Blessing is Nigerian track and field start, Blessing Okagbare. While a traditionally religious name, I'd consider it more spiritual than strictly Christian.

6 Enoch

Enoch is a notable figure in the early Old Testament, a man who was so close to God he took a walk with him and walked into eternity with him. Enoch was also the father of Methuselah, who lived to be 969, according to the Bible. Enoch was a popular Biblical name among the Puritans. Today it's not so big, coming in at #965 in 2016. The highest it's known to chart was at #202 in 1880.

Enoch comes from the Hebrew (naturally) and means, "dedicated." Enoch Powell was an important British thinker, politician and poet, a truly rare trifecta. Enoch has been a literary character in works by Tennyson, Dean Koontz and Flannery O'Connor. Enoch is a strong Biblical, old-world name with a sort of cool modern sound. After all it doesn't have the -iah ending so many masculine Bible names do. Enoch doesn't require a nickname, but possibilities include Eno, Enny, Noch or Nochy.

5 Honour

Another feminine sounding name with an alternative spelling of Honor that is strongly making a comeback since its Puritan zenith of popularity. Honour comes from Latin and means "esteem and dignity." In 2016 Honor (not the English spelling of Honour) made the list at #1768. Honor is a top 100 name in the UK however. Famous Honor/Honours include Honor Blackman (star of The Avengers and Pussy Galore in a James Bond film), Honor Mary Crowley (Irish politician), and Honor Marie Warren, daughter of Jessica Alba and Cash Warren.

Honor or Honour is a lovely name by itself, but would work very well as a middle name where a soft two-syllable name is the right fit. Related names include Honoria and Honorata. Some folks like Honor for a baby boy as well, including actress Tilda Swinton who named her son this. Nicknames don't leap automatically to mind, but Hon is one possibility, or the preferred British diminutive, Nora.

4 Justice

Justice is a virtue name, and one of the relative few that have been associated with boys as well as girls. Today people are choosing Justice once more, and gaining faster (slightly) for girls than boys. Justice began sliding up the charts in the early 1990s in the US. In 2016, Justice as a girl's name was #630, and #555 for boys. If considering the other form Justus, many historic male figures bore the name such as three saints, as well as Justus Lipsius a 16th-century philosopher, and one of Mia Farrow's sons has a  middle name of Justus.

Justice is a virtue name that doesn't have strong spiritual or religious connotations. Instead, it appeals to our sense of fairness in humanity and the ideals of society. Justice could be shortened to Jus, Just, or Justi. For those who shy away from so-called "word" names, Justus may be a more palatable choice.

3 Tacita

Another name loved by the Puritans, this trait name means "the silent," and is from the feminine Latin of "Tacitus." It is actually the name of a Roman goddess of death, who started out as a chatty nymph. Tacitus was a first century historian. Modern Tacitas include Tacita Dean, a visual artist born in 1965. Tacita doesn't sound like the meaning of it, unlike "word names" like Justice, Honor and Patience. That might be an advantage with a name that means silence.

Tacita is easily shortened to nicknames that are cute and appealing, like Taci, Tace, or Tacey. Tacita is a very feminine name and doesn't necessarily sound like an old name from Puritan ship registers. Tacita would work well as a first name with a short, simple middle name. Or conversely, it would be pleasing as a middle name to a shortish first name.

2 Charis

Pronounced CARE-is, Charis was a named used by Puritans due to it's virtue meaning of "grace and kindess." Charis is the name of one of the Greek Charites, similar to the Roman Graces, or goddesses and in The Iliad, Charis was the wife of Hephaestus. Charis is a character name in one of JK Rowling's Harry Potter books as well as the novel The Robber Bride, by Margaret Atwood. While popular in the Puritan era and for a brief period in the 20th century, today it is a rarely used name, charting at #1911 in 2016 in the US. Charis is sometimes pronounced with the /ch/ sound, such as in chair.

Nicknames include Char, Chari, Riss or Rissi. Charis has a lovely feminine sound with a virtue meaning, and some flexibility in spelling and pronounciation, so it could be paired with a middle name of varying sounds and syllables, or would serve as a middle name with a wide variety of first names.

1 Gideon

Meaning "one who hews or cuts down; great warrior," Gideon was another Biblical name popular with Puritans for naming baby boys. Gideon in the Old Testament, aka Jerubbaal, was a renowned military leader, a judge and a prophet mentioned in the book of Judges. Gideon is primarily still used in the US, but also as a modern Hebrew name. It ranked #342 in 2016 in the US, and in the Netherlands it was in the low 400s. Gideon is primarily a boy's name, and does have multiple forms such as Hadeon, Gidion and Gedon.

Gideon has a decidedly Old Testament flavor, but is making a solid comeback from its heyday in the Puritan era. Gideon would work as either a middle or first name, and would probably flow best with another name of only one syllable, or possibly two. Nicknames include Gid, Deon or Dee. With alternative spelling, it could be a feminine name for a girl, such as Gidiann, Gidyonne or Gideanne.

Sources: BabyNamespedia.com, NameBerry.com, BabyCenter.com, BehindTheName.com, PackRat-Pro.com, CyndisList.com, Jezebel.com, NameNers.com, WinthropSociety.com

More in Baby Names