About Names: Dr. Evans on the name “Elijah”

Elijah Wood standing outside of a fan-built replica of the Hobbit Hole from the film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings (Photo: public domain)

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his January 28th column, he discusses the name “Elijah”.

Frodo’s 43 today.

Actor Elijah Wood, famous for playing hero hobbit Frodo Baggins in the “Lord of the Rings” films, was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Jan. 28, 1981.

Elijah’s the modern English version of Hebrew ‘Eliyyahu, “my God is Yahweh.” The Bible’s Elijah was one of ancient Israel’s greatest prophets, preaching against wicked King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Carried to heaven in a fiery chariot, in the New Testament he and Moses appear to Jesus in the Transfiguration.

Because of that, Elijah was the Hebrew prophet most revered by early Christians. St. Elias of Jerusalem, a fifth century patriarch, bore the Latin form of his name.

In medieval England, boys were named Ellis after the prophet and the patriarch. Families with surnames Ellis, Ellison, or Elkins descend from them.

The form Elijah didn’t occur until English Bible translations appeared during the Reformation. It was primarily used by Puritans in England. In Britain’s 1841 census, there were 4,444 Elijahs in England and only 17 in Scotland.

Elijah was even more popular with Puritans in New England. In 1851, there were 5,993 Elijahs in all of Britain, while in 1850, 22,937 lived in the United States, though total populations were similar. Puritan Massachusetts was the birthplace of 4,651 of 1850’s American Elijahs, while only 1,069 were born in Scots Irish and Quaker Pennsylvania, though Pennsylvania had more than double Massachusetts’ population.