Amish Female Names
Many Amish female names have intriguing origins and meanings. Most of them stem from the same Swiss Christian roots that make Amish town names, and Amish names in general, so fascinating to the outside world.
The Amish are famous for reusing their names across generations. Much like their traditions of crafting harvest baskets, pie carriers and recipe card boxes, female Amish names have been passed down for centuries.
In the spirit of shining a much-needed light on the vital, quietly-thriving community of Amish women, let’s delve into the most popular Amish female names.
What this article covers:
How Are Female Amish Names Chosen?
Amish female names are almost exclusively taken from the Bible, but it’s also common to find names derived from Latin and Greek.
Amish have a lot of children, which means a lot of name-choosing.
The first few children are the easiest to name, as they are named after their grandparents’ from both sides of the family.
This means, paired with their familial Amish last names, there’s a lot of repetition within families, which may sound confusing, but we’ll delve into the ways they’re able to differentiate.
In some communities, girls don’t receive a middle name, but an initial. In most cases, it’s either the first letter of her father’s Christian name or the first letter of her mother’s maiden name.
Why Female Amish Names Are Important
Basic Amish beliefs center around simple, family-oriented living. Their names are no exception.
As mentioned, it’s common for children to be named after their grandparents, so nicknames and middle names are often used to distinguish between them.
It’s not unusual to find several Mary Anns in one Amish community. As a result, the Amish have a habit of adding descriptors to the person’s name. For example, if a woman is skilled at crafting Amish dolls, they might refer to her as “Mary Ann who makes dolls” to avoid confusion.
Additionally, a woman may be described in reference to her father or husband. For example, calling a woman “Jacob’s Anna” is a standard way of referencing a particular Anna, the wife of Jacob.
Now that we have the naming process down, let’s take a look at some of the most common Amish girls' names.
A biblical name originating from Hebrew, Sarah is one of the most popular Amish woman’s names.
Sarah was the wife of Abraham, the father of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. She is therefore considered the mother of these 3 major religions.
In Hebrew, Sarah translates into English as “respect”, “strength”, and “sovereignty”. Some translations also refer to Sarah as “princess”.
These powerful meanings make Sarah a natural choice for an Amish women’s name.
Derived from Hebrew, Abigail means “my father’s joy”, making it the perfect choice for proud fathers.
In the bible, Abigail was the wife of King David, and lauded not only for her loyalty to her husband and physical beauty, but also her intelligence.
While Amish women are usually lauded for their loyalty, acknowledgement of exceptionally intelligent females is less common, which makes Abigail an even more special name.
One of the most notable characters in the Bible, Mary, Mother of Jesus, is one of the most common Amish women’s names.
Mary is the name of several important figures in Amish theology. The Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Mary Queen of Scots all bore this powerful name.
The name Mary can be traced back to the biblical name Maryam, or Miriam, also a popular Amish female.
As stated above, Miriam is the original version of the name Mary.
It derives from the Hebrew word meaning “salt of the sea”. Although the name Miriam didn’t actually appear in the Bible, it appeared spelled as Maryam.
In Latin, the name changed into “Marie”, which later developed into “Mary” in English.
If your bible knowledge needs brushing up, or you haven’t read The Da Vinci Code, Magdalene might sound like another in a long line of funny Amish names, but the name has rich, nuanced connotations in the Amish community.
Although many details of her life remain vague, Mary Magdalene is revered and remembered as being one of Jesus’ most loyal followers, remaining with him even through his Crucifixion. Following his resurrection, The Bible also lists her as the first person Jesus appeared to.
Elizabeth is a name derived from Hebrew, and means “oath” or “God”.
In the bible, Elizabeth was the wife of Aaron, brother of Moses. The Mother of John the Baptist, an important figure throughout Christianity, was also called Elizabeth.
A variation of Elizabeth is Betty; also a preferred female Amish name.
While the names Betty and Elizabeth have enjoyed ebbing and flowing popularity in the English-speaking world, they’ve remained a steady favorite in the Amish community for centuries.
Originating from old German, and meaning “whole” or “universal”, Emma is a natural choice for Amish female names, with its Swiss Germanic roots.
Emma was a popular name in medieval England and, owing to a large influx of famous Emmas, continues to be an immensely popular name across the globe.
In the Bible, Queen Esther was the Jewish wife of the King Xerxes of Persia. In Persian, the name Esther translates as “star”.
Esther’s legacy is that of a savior. She risked her life to save her people from annihilation.
It is thought that the name is well-liked in Amish communities because of its association with nobility, a trait they value.
Rebecca, originally Rivka in Hebrew, was the wife of Isaac, son of Abraham.
In Hebrew, Rebecca means “to tie firmly”, “to bind”, “to captivate” or “moderator”.
Rebecca was a key figure, as she was the mother of twin boys, Esau and Jacob, who both founded entire nations.
Most notably, her son Isaac became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel. Today, he’s synonymous with the nation, as he was known to have changed his name to Israel in later years.
As his mother, Rebecca is considered the Mother of Israel.
Originally from Hebrew, meaning “God is gracious”, it’s clear why Joanna is a popular female Amish name.
It’s also the feminized version of the French name “John”.
When the Amish were exiled from their homes in Switzerland and fled to Alsace, the mountainous area between France and Germany, it is thought that French culture influenced them, allowing the name Joanna to make its way into their communities.
The name Rachel derives from Hebrew, and surprisingly translates as “ewe”, a female sheep.
Initially, this name might be seen as an unusual choice. However, in the Bible, Rachel was Isaac’s favorite wife, the one he loved the most, and with whom he had 2 children.
It is therefore seen as an honor to be named after her.
In the Bible, Ruth was a prominent figure. She married Boaz, son of Isaac.
After her husband and father-in-law died, she refused to leave her mother-in-law, Naomi and stayed to take care of her. Ruth would glean the fields during the harvest to collect the leftovers to make bread for her.
Ruth’s practice of bread-making is still a tradition among Amish women, providing the ideal niche for their exquisite bread baskets.
Ruth is also known for her connection to the lineage of Jesus Christ. What’s more, she is one of only five women mentioned in the genealogy of Christ.
It’s an immense honor to bear the name Ruth, as a whole book in the Bible was named after her.
Many Amish women look to emulate Ruth today.
Also from the Bible, Leah was the other wife of Isaac.
Isaac had two wives: Rachel, whom he loved the most, and Leah, who he loved less. Because of the rivalry between them, Leah's legacy is one of patience.
She was also known to be active and hardworking. Leah is revered within the Amish community for her continued loyalty, even in the face of emotional difficulty.
An Anglo-Saxon name, which was particularly common in ancient Britain, and is now an Amish female staple.
It translates as “gentle strength” which perfectly reflects the Amish culture.
While the use of this name has waned in popular culture, its continued favour in Amish communities is indicative of the strength of tradition within Amish culture.
The name Barbara has Greek origins and means “foreign” or “strange”, which is appropriate because it’s rather alien when it comes to Amish culture.
Barbara is well-known in the Catholic tradition. Her father martyred her and was consequently killed by lightning as a punishment.
Later Barbara was made Saint Barbara, and her legacy has continued in the Catholic Church.
This occurred before the Amish were established, so it’s thought that the name Barbara was already common in Christianity, and Amish people already bore the name. Since then, it has remained a popular Amish female name.
While there’s a heavy reliance on biblical reference when naming Amish girls, there’s more to it than just an unwavering devotion to their faith.
Their names act as an indicator of beliefs and values as a whole that make the Amish community truly unique.
They name their girls in accordance with their hopes and aspirations for the continued survival of their way of life.
Their emphasis on loyalty, familial duty and nurturing tradition when naming their children reflects their desire for their culture to remain steadfast for generations to come.
Female Amish names take on increased significance when viewed through the intended lens: the past has just as much value and relevance as the future because what truly matters is not advancement for the sake of advancement, but the strengthening of faith and familial bonds.
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