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