Patriarchal Names: Jacob.
From History of Christian Names, by
Charlotte M. Yonge, 1884.
twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah were called from the circumstances of their
birth, Esau, the hairy, and Ja'akob, the latter word being derived from âkêb,
the heel, because in the words of the Prophet "he took his brother by the
heel in the womb." This, the action of tripping up, confirmed the
mother's faith in the previous prediction that "the elder should serve the
younger," and thus that the younger should supplant the elder.
"Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he hath supplanted me these two
times," was accordingly the cry of Esau.
By the time of the return
from Babylon we find two if not three persons mentioned as bearing the name of
Akkub, and that this was meant for Jacob, is shown by its etymology; as it
likewise means the supplanter, by its likeness in sound to Yacoub, the form
still current among the Arabs, and by the fact that the Akkub, who in the book
of Nehemiah stands up with Ezra to read the law to the people, is in the book of
Esdras, written originally in Greek, called
So frequent was this
Jakobos among the returned Jews that it occurs in the royal genealogy in St.
Matthew's Gospel, and was borne by two of the twelve apostles, by him called the
Great, who was the first to be martyred, and by him termed the Less, who ruled
the Church at Jerusalem.
It is the Great Apostle,
the son of Zebedee, who is the saint, in whose honour most of those bearing this
name in Europe have been christened. A belief arose that he had preached
the Gospel in Spain before his martyrdom at Jerusalem; and though there was no
doubt that the Holy City was the place of his death, yet it was declared that
his relics were brought to Galicia in a marble ship without oar or sail, which
arrived at the port of Aria Flava, since called Patron. A little farther
inland arose what was at first termed in Latin the shrine of Sanctus Jacobus
Apostolus. Men's tongues quickly turned this into Sancto Jacobo Apostolo,
and thence, confounding the title with the place, arrived at Santo Jaco de
Compostella, or Santiago de Compostella.
A further legend arose
that in the battle of Clavijo with the Moors, the spirits of the Christian
Spaniards were revived by the sight of Santiago mounted on a white steed, waving
a white banner, and leading them on to victory. Thenceforth Santiago
became their war-cry, and the saint was installed as a champion of
Christendom. Subsequently no less than three Spanish orders of knighthood
were instituted in his honour, and his shrine became one of the most universal
places of pilgrimage in Europe, more especially as the most marvellous fables of
miracles were forged thereat. His saintly title had become so incorporated
with his name that his votaries were in some perplexity where to separate them,
and in Castille his votaries were christened Tiago or Diego. Even as early
as the tenth century the Cid's father was Don Diego de Bivar, and he himself Don
Rodrigo Diaz de Bivar, Diaz being the patronymic.
In 1207, Maria, Queen of
Aragon, considering her infant son and heir to have been granted at the especial
intercession of the twelve apostles, resolved to baptize him after one of their
number, and impartially to decide between them by naming twelve tapers after the
apostles, and calling the child after him whose candle burnt longest.
Southey has comically described the Queen's agitations until the victorious
candle proved to be that of the great Saint of Galicia, whom Aragonese tongues
called Jayme. The child thus christened became the glory of his kingdom,
and was known as El Conquestador, leaving Jayme to be honourably borne by Kings
of Aragon, Majorca, and Sicily as long as his family remained distinct.
Giacopo Apostolo was the Italian version of the name, whence they made their
various Giacopo, Jacopo, Giacomo, Como, Iachimo, and Iago according to their
various dialects. Germany recurred to the original Jakob; but the French
coming home with their own variety talked of Jiac Apostol, and named their
children Jacques, or fondled them as Jacquot and Jacqueminot. The great
church of St. Jacques, at Liège, spread the love of the name in Flanders
as is testified by Jacob von Arteveldt, the Brewer of Ghent; and so universal
throughout France was it, that Jacques Bonhomme became the nickname of the
peasantry, and was fearfully commemorated in the Jacquerie, the insurrection of
which English chroniclers supposed James Goodman to have been the leader.
It must have been when English and French were mingled together in the camps of
the Black Prince and Henry V. that Jack and Jock became confounded
together. Henry V. called the wild Jacqueline of Hainault, Dame
Jack. She, like his other Flemish sister-in-law, Jacquette of Luxemburg,
must have been named in honour of the saint of Liège. Edward VI.'s
nurse, whom Holbein drew by the soubriquet of Mother Jack, was perhaps a
Jacquette; Iacolyn and Jacomyn are also found in old registers, but this
feminine never took root anywhere but in France, where Jacobée also
occurs. James had found its way to Scotland ere the birth of the Black
Douglas, and was already a national name before it was given to the second son
of Robert III., in accordance with a vow of the queen. This James was
brought to the throne by the murder of his brother David, Duke of Rothsay; and
thus was the first of the royal Stuarts, by whom it was invariably borne till
the sixth of the line hoped to avert the destiny of his race by choosing for his
sons more auspicious names. James and Jamie thus became great favourites
in Scotland, and came to England with the Stuarts. The name had indeed
been previously used, as by the brave Lord James Audley under Edward II., but
not so frequently, and the old English form was actually Jeames. Norden
dedicates his Survey of Cornwall to James I. as Jeames; and Archbishop
Laud so spells the word in his correspondence. In fact, Jemmy and Jim are
the natural offsprings of Jeames, as the word was pronounced in the best society
till the end of the last century. Then the gentry spoke according to the
spelling; Jeames held his ground among the lower classes, and finallythanks
to Jeames's Diaryhas
become one of the stock terms of conventional wit; and in modern times Jacobina
and Jamesina were coined for female wear.
The Highlanders call the
name Hamish; the Irish, Seumuis. In fact, its variations are almost beyond
enumeration. In Italy the full name has the three varieties, Giacomo,
Jacopo, Giacobbe, so no wonder the abbreviations are Coppo and Lapo.
Due honour is paid in the
Greek and Slavonic Church to both the veritable apostles, but not to the
mythical Santiago de Compostella, whom we have traced as the root of all the
Jameses of the West.
The great Jakobos, who
appeared at the Council of Nicea, and gloriously defended the city of Nisibis,
handed on the apostolic name in the East; and it has almost as many Greek and
Slavonian variations as Latin and Teutonic ones.
The Russian nameday is the
30th of April, either for the sake of St. James the Less, whose eve it is, or
for that of a namesake who perished in Numidia in the time of Valerian, and
whose feast falls on that day. Jakov gets called Jascha and Jaschenka, and
his feminine Jacovina and Zakelina. The Illyrians twist the masculine into
Jakovica, and the Lithuanians into Jeka or Kubinsch.*
* Smith's Dictionary of
the Bible; Southey's Poems; Jamieson's Sacred and Legendary Art;
Butler; Michaelis; Pott; Brand's Popular Antiquities.