My seventh great grandmother was Fear Brewster, daughter of Elder William Brewster of Mayflower fame.
Fear’s siblings were named Love, Wrestling, Patience, and Jonathan.
Jonathan was apparently named before the Brewsters got their hands on the Geneva Bible, which became the primary Bible translation used by the Puritans (and Shakespeare).
For some reason the Puritans decided it would be a good idea to tag their children by the Bible’s translated names. This is why More-Fruit and Hate-Evil were trendy names in the 1600s.
Where did these names come from, you ask? Why, from the back pages of the Geneva Bible, where there was a handy list of names that appear in the Old Testament, along with their English translations.
I presume that Mr. and Mrs. Brewster then did what so many others did in naming their baby Puritans. They turned to the back of their Bible and ran down the list.
They could have named their beautiful baby girl, Eschew-Evil, as a fellow Puritan did. But they decided their precious dumpling would be better named, “Fear.”
It was a totally appropriate name. Really.
Not because she was a devilish newborn, though.
In fact, it really had nothing at all to do with the child that would carry this advertisement for her whole life.
The commonly told story of how Fear got her name is that she was born during a time when the Puritans were holding secret religious meetings in Nottinghamshire, England.
Since the Puritan faith was essentially outlawed by English law, its practitioners could be arrested and tried if found out.
Thus, Fear got her name from her parents’ anxiety over getting busted by the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Kind of a bummer moniker, if you ask me.
Fear’s brother, Wrestling, didn’t have it quite so bad.
Wrestling is a translation of Jabbok, and does not come with the ominous presumptions that Fear does.
In comparison to either of those, though, Patience and Love had it easy.
As a matter of fact, all four of them had it easy compared to their fellow Puritan children, More-Fruit, Faint-Not, or, horribly, No-Merit or Sorry-for-Sin.
Or, for that matter, my mother, Ruth, whose name translates to Drunk, according to “Hitchcock’s New and Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible.” She does like the little hot toddy now and then, come to think of it, even at 93.
But Drunk? I think not. (And besides, the Hebrew translation means “Friend,” which is much preferable as a name, I think.)
If you’re having a baby, and think it would be neat to have a Biblical name that’s translated from its original language, here are a few suggestions, from Professor Hitchcock’s 1869 list:
Asked of God (Samuel)
No Glory (Ichabod)
Building Me (Bunni)
Gift of God (Nathaniel)
The Father’s Joy (Abigail)
Iniquity of Trouble (Beth-aven)
Devoted to Destruction (Hermon)
A Dog, or A Crow, or A Basket (Caleb)
Who Becomes Bitter (Martha)
House of Affliction (Bethany)
Father of a Great Multitude (Abraham)
Mountain of Strength (Aaron)
You can find Hitchcock’s Biblical Names and their Meanings here. The list is a 58-page searchable pdf with many hundreds of names.
Or, there’s a more conveniently searchable list, along with more detailed information on name origins, here.
Take a minute to scan it and maybe you’ll find your perfect baby name.
I don’t recommend Fear, though.
My seventh great-grandmother Fear Brewster Allerton died early.
Possibly of fright.
Love Brewster is my 9th great-grandfather, so I guess that makes us distant cousins. =)
Looks like your 9g-grandfather got the better of the two names! 🙂
“Jonathan was apparently named before the Brewsters got their hands on the Geneva Bible, ”
While not as strange as some of the others – Jonathan is a biblical name. Son of King Saul and friend of (future) King David. Check 1st Samuel Chapter 20.
I have at least two Puritan ancestors named Jonathan and it appears to be quite a common Puritan name. They weren’t too big on David, though – for some reason.
Hi Carl – Yes, I have quite a few Jonathans, too. What I meant to say was that Jonathan escaped having his parents give him one of the odd names that were apparently listed in the back of the Geneva bible. That was the first bible to be translated completely from Biblical language to English. In the back of the Bible there was a list of about 950 proper names and their translations, and an encouragement for parents to choose their children’s names from this list as a “godly advertisement” rather than names that are the “signes and badges of idolatrie and heathenish impietie.” I don’t have the Geneva list of names, but Hitchcock’s New and Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible has a thorough list of translated names at http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/dictionaries/. Johnathan translates as “Given of God.” Not a bad name compared, say, to Caleb, which translates to “a dog, a crow, a basket.” 🙂