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Patriarchal Names:  Abi.
From History of Christian Names, by Charlotte M. Yonge, 1884.

Common to both the Semitic and Indo-European tongues, and traceable through all their branches, is the parental title first uttered by the infant; Abba, Abi, Aba; Atta among the Slavonians, and again among the Goths; Athair among the Irish, the pater of Greece, fondly called at home papa, and apphys the pater of Rome, the German Vater, and our own father—il babbo in Italy, and daddy in English cottages.

In the East a parent is more usually called the father of his son than by his own name.  This, however, is probably a late affectation, not applying to the time when the greatest of the patriarchs received his original name of Abram (father of height or elevation), which was changed by Divine appointment into Abraham (father of a multitude), foretelling the numerous and enduring offspring that have descended from him, and even to the present hour revere his name.

No one, however, seems to have presumed to copy it as long as the Israelites dwelt in their own land, and the first resuscitations of it appear to have been among the Christians of the patriarch's native land, Mesopotamia, towards the end of the fourth century, when a hermit called Abraham, living near Edessa, obtained a place in the Coptic, Greek, and Roman calendars; and about the same time another Abraham was among the martyrs who were put to death by the fire worshipping zeal of the Sassanid dynasty in Persia.  Two other Mesopotamian SS. Abraham lived in the next century, and died, one at Constantinople, the other in Auvergne, whither in some unaccountable manner he had been carried between foul winds and man-stealing barbarians when on a journey to visit the solitaries in Egypt.

As one of the patrons of Clermont, this Abraham must have been the means of diffusing namesakes in France, especially on the side towards the Low Countries.  Abraham often occurs in the registers of Cambray; and in compliance with the fashion of adapting the name of the father to the daughter, Abra was there formed, though apparently not earlier than 1644.  Indeed the Netherlands and Holland are the only countries where this patriarchal name is really national, generally shortened into Abram and Bram; and the Dutch settlers carried it into America, where it is generally called either Bram or Aby.

Many other Scripture names bear this prefix, but it would be contrary to our plan to dwell upon those that have not been in subsequent use or are devoid of peculiar interest.

Abigail (father of joy), strikes us as inappropriate to a woman, till we remember that the eastern nations use this expression for an abstract quality, and that the title would stand for joyfulness.  Her ready courtesy to David seems to have recommended her to the earliest readers of the English Bible, for Abigail occurs in registers as early as 1573, and was for many years very frequent.  Abigail Masham's back-stair influence over Queen Anne has been generally supposed to have rendered it a soubriquet for a lady's maid; but Mr. Bardsley, in his Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature, shows it to have been the name of the waiting gentlewoman in Beaumont's Comedy, The Scornful Ladie, played in 1616.  And in a play of Killigrew's, some thirty years later, the term 'Abigail' is used for a waiting-maid, when the back-stair influence and supposed arts of Abigail Masham in the bedchamber of Queen Anne gave it a sudden fall.  Abigail turned into a cant term for a lady's maid, and thenceforth has been seldom heard even in a cottage.

Counter to his name was the course of the "Father of Peace."  He is Abishalom, or Absalom in the narrative of his life, a history that one would have thought entailed eternal discredit on the name; but it seems that in the earlier Christian times of Denmark, as well as in some other countries, a fashion prevailed, especially among the clergy, of supplementing the native name with one of Scriptural or ecclesiastical sound, and thus, about the middle of the twelfth century, Absalom was adopted by a distinguished Danish bishop as the synonym of what Professor Munch conjectures to have been his own name of Aslak (reward of the gods), though Danish tradition has contracted it into Axel.  This last is a national Danish name, and it seems as if Absalom had been popularly supposed to be the Latin for Axel; since, in a Latin letter of 1443, Olaf Axelsson is turned into Olaus Absalonis.

Before quitting this prefix Ab, it seems to be the place to remark upon a name coming to us through the Tartar stock of languages, from the same source—Ab.  Ata, (father,) the source of Atalik, (fatherlike or paternal,) is to the present day a title among the Usbeks of Bokhara.  Thence that regent of the Huns, the scourge of God, who spread terror to the gates of Rome, would have been called Attalik among his own people, and thus historians have written his name of terror Attila.

In the tales of the Nibelungen, the great Hun, whom Kriemhild marries after the death of Siegfried, and at whose court the general slaughter takes place, is called Etzel in the german poem, Atli in the Northern saga, and this has generally been regarded as identifying him with Attila and fixing the date of the poem; but the monarch of the Huns is hospitable and civilized, with few features in common with the savage of Roman history; and if Attalik were a permanent regal title among the Huns, the chieftain may have been any other of the royal dynasty.  His occurrence in that favourite poem, sung alike by all the Teutonic race, has rendered Atli very common from early times in the North as well as Etzel in Germany.  The Lombards took it to Italy, where it turned into Eccelino, and in the person of the fierce mountain-lord, Eccelino di Romagna, became as fearful as Attila had ever been to the Romans.


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