Everyone’s talking about holiday-themed and Christmas-themed baby names right now. Whether or not they’ll admit it, Ebenezer falls into this category! Just a few years ago, children named Ebenezer were practically unheard of. Until the 1990s, Ebenezer appeared only sporadically in Social Security Administration baby name data. That hasn’t been the case in the new millennium.
At least 40 babies have been named Ebenezer every year since 2012. 2017 saw 55 boys receive the name, which is the highest usage Ebenezer has ever reached in the birth data extending back to 1880 (though said data isn’t necessarily accurate or complete until the 1930s). Its traditional nickname Eben frequently ranks higher, though in 2021 there was only a difference of one baby with 47 boys getting Eben and 46 getting Ebenezer. Historically, Eben‘s usage has been a lot more steady but peaked at 100 boys just a decade ago. Going forward, it looks like Ebenezer may be more stalwart than its more accessible short form. And hey, Ebenezer is no longer just for boys – over thirty girls have been named Ebenezer since 2008!
But what is Ebenezer‘s deal? None of us can forget the cultural icon that is Ebenezer Scrooge. A lonely old man who’s cruel to everyone, especially at Christmas? Whose main catchphrase is “bah, humbug?” This Dickensian character creation permanently tainted a fine Biblical name for many, but we should remember that Scrooge came around at the end. His experience with the three ghosts permanently changed him for the better, and so he’s not so much a villain as someone who needed a wake-up call. Moreover, nobody is born that bitter, but it takes a lot to overcome bitterness like that. A Christmas Carol is a story of redemption and healing. We all love that at the Holidays, don’t we? I’d argue that makes Ebenezer an awesome Christmas baby name.
If you’re cynical about the Holiday Season and are prone to complaining about it, Scrooge may still be the namesake you want. Naturally, the Victorian Grinch is everyone’s main association with Ebenezer. I personally have another association via the 1948 movie Portrait of Jennie, which is coincidentally another ghost story (though much more romantic). One of the main characters is an artist named Eben Adams.
As to why the name Ebenezer has gotten a lot more popular than before, I have few ideas. It offers serious old-school Puritan and Bible vibes, which imports weight considering the widespread popularity of names like Noah, Elijah, Asher, and Ezra. Also…is it at all possible that Ebenezer is losing some of its association with Scrooge, in the way that Benedict isn’t always associated with Arnold now? It has an appealing meaning, too: “stone of help.”
Ebenezer has great nickname potential! Besides the obvious Eben, you could call an Ebenezer by Ben, Ezra, Benno, Benny, Bennett, and Benz. Because of its meaning, you could even go for Rocky! Middle names should ideally be one or two syllables, as in Ebenezer John or Ebenezer Samson.
What do you think of the name Ebenezer?
My sources were the Social Security Administration, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, Behind the Name, and Nancy’s Baby Names.
Originally published July 21, 2016.