Patriarchal Names: Isaac.
From History of Christian Names, by
Charlotte M. Yonge, 1884.
verb to fight or to rule furnished both the names of the wife of Abraham; Sarai
(quarrelsome) was thus converted into Sarah (the princess). If we may
judge from the example of the bride of Tobias, the daughters of Sarah were
occasionally called by her name, and Zara has been, with what correctness I know
not, used as an eastern name.
now and then occurs in England, as with Sara Beauchamp, (temp. Ed. I.,),
but I suspect that she as well as Sarrota de Multon, who lived in the former
reign, were alterations of some of the derivatives of the Teutonic prefix Sigvictory,
as the masculine Saher or Serlo certainly came from Sigeheri. Sarah was
never commonly used till after the Reformation, when it began to grow very
popular, with its contraction Sally; and at the same time it was adopted as the
equivalent for no less than three Irish namesSadhbh
(pronounced Soyv), Sorcha (bright), and Saraid (excellent). The two first
are still in use; but Highlanders make a still stranger use of Sarah, which they
use to translate their native More (great), perhaps in consequence of its
Elsewhere the name is
occasionally used without the h that our biblical translators gave
it. It is not, however, very popular, though the French have used it
enough to make it Sarotte; in Illyria its diminutive is Sarica; in Lithuania it
the first glad tidings of he Child of Promise were announced, Sarah laughed for
very joy and wonder, and Laughter (Yizchak) became the name of her son; known in
Ἰσαὰκ, in Latin and to the European word as Isaac.
It was not revived among
the early Jews; but, like Abraham, it was used by the eastern Christians, and
St. Isaac, bishop of Beth Seleucia, was put to death with other Christian
martyrs by Sapor II. of Persia. Another eastern Isaac was a hermit at
Spoleto, in the sixth century, and Isaak has always been a favourite name in the
Greek Church. Several of the family of Comnenus, both at Constantinople
and Trebizond, rendered Isaak a royal name; and Isaak or Eisaak, whose feast
falls on the 30th of May, is the patron of the cathedral at Petersburg.
The name is frequently used in Russia and the other Greco-Slavonic countries,
though not much varied.
had not much favour in the West, though it appears once in Domesday Book, and
occurs in the Cambray registers. Mr. Bardsley thinks that it, with some
other Patriarchal names, became familiar through Mystery plays. But its
chief popularity was after the Reformation, when it is continually to be found
among the Huguenots, and it seems to have passed from them to other French
families, since it is sometimes found in pedigrees, and the noted de Sacy, a
grandson of the Arnauld family, was thus christened long after his forefathers
had conformed to the Roman Catholic Church.
us Izaak, as our ancestors spelt it, is just so prevalent among us as to have a
recognized contraction, Ike or Ikey.
wife was called from rabak (to bind). The word Ribkâ meant a cord
with a noose, and probably was given as conveying the firmness of the marrige
bond. The Septuagint and Latin gave Rebecca; the authorized version
Rebekah; and both spellings are adopted by those bearing the name, who are
generally called Becky.
Here too should be
mentioned the faithful nurse of Rebekah, who was so lamented that the tree
beneath which she was buried was known as the oak of weeping. Her name of
Deborah came from a verb meaning to hum or buzz, and signified a bee, or, in
after times, eloquent.
found no favour as a name except among English Puritans, and has acquired a
certain amount of absurdity from various literary associations, which prevent
'Deb.' from being used except by the peasantry.
Rebekah's two daughters-in-laws, Rachel signified a ewe.
made lantica Rachele, with her beautiful eyes, the type of heavenly
contemplation, ever gazing at the mirror that reflected heavenly glory; but her
name was not popular, although the Manx princess, otherwise called Affrica,
assumed it upon her marriage with Somerled, Lord of the Isles, somewhere about
the eleventh century.
But Puritan days loved the
sound of the word, and "that sweet saint who say by Russell's side"
has given it a place in many an English family. Polish Jews call it Rahel;
in which form it was borne by the metaphysical lady who became the wife of
Varnhagen von Ense.
less beloved and less favored sister had a name that came from lawah (hanging
upon, dependence, or, as in her case it is explained, weariness)Leah,
in French Lea, in Italian Lia, under which title Dante makes her the emblem of
active and fruitful, as is her sister of meditative love. It was from the
same word that she named her third son Levi, when she hoped that her husband
would be more closely united or dependent on her. Levi's name was carried
on into the Gospel times, and belonged to the publican who was called from the
receipt of custom to become an Apostle and an Evangelist. His Aramean name
was, however, that by which he calls himself in his own narrative, or more
correctly speaking, by its Græcized form. The
old Hebrew Mattaniah (gift of the Lord) was probably the origin of both the
names that we have in the Greek Testament as
and Matthias as the Latin renders them. Some, however, make the first mean
a faithful man; but it is not possible to distinguish between the various forms
that have risen out of the two among persons who, probably, had no idea that the
Apostle who supplied the place of Judas was a different person from the
Evangelist. The Emperor Charles V. was born on St. Matthias' day, and the
text "The lot fell on Matthias" was regarded as a good augury, whence
Matthias came into favour in Austria and its dependencies. Matteo heads
the Milanese Visconti, who were mostly named after the Evangelists.
Apostolic names are
particularly common in Bavaria, probably from the once frequent representations
of the Mystery of the Passion. In Germany, SS. Matthew and Matthias have
produced the surnames Matthies, Matys, Thiess, and Thiessen, Latinized after a
queer scholarly fashion into Thysius.
* Books consulted:Proper
Names of the Bible; Le Beau's Histoire du Bas Empire; O'Donovan on Irish
Proper Names; Michaelis, Personen Namen.