About Names: “Jacob” enjoyed long run as top baby name

Jake Gyllenhaal as Jack Twist in Brokeback Mountain

Dr. Cleveland Evans writes about names for the Omaha World-Herald. In his December 19th column, he looks at the history of the name Jacob.

The name Jacob is the English form of the Hebrew Ya’aqov, name of the biblical patriarch whose 12 sons are the ancestors of ancient Israel’s tribes. Jacob was Esau’s twin. In Genesis, he’s born holding onto Esau’s heel. Traditionally, the name is derived from words for “heel” or “supplanter,” predicting Jacob later tricking Esau out of his first-born’s birthright.

Many modern scholars think the name was originally “Ya’aqov’el,” from “may God protect,” believing the “heel” explanation came later. The original Latin form of Jacob was Iacobus. Around the fifth century, alternate form Iacomus developed. Several languages have names derived from both: Giacòbbe and Giacomo in Italian, Jacobo and Jaime in Spanish, and Jacob and James in English.

Famous Jacobs besides Gyllenhaal include baseball pitchers Arrieta (1986), deGrom (1988), Diekman (1987), Faria (1993), Nix (1996) and Rhame (1993). Packers punter Schum (1989) and Patriots tight end Hollister (1993) are football-playing Jacobs.

Want to know more? Read on to find out more about Jacobs in history!