The Amish are a de-centralized sect of ultra-conservative Anabaptists who believe heavily in biblical literalism and little in modern conveniences.
Today, they’re spread out in isolated, self-sustained communities in places like Lancaster, Pennsylvania and other rural towns.
Founded several hundred years ago by the headstrong Jakob Ammann in Switzerland, the group has changed very little in many respects.
One of these respects is their names — especially for men.
Names for Amish men are almost exclusively pulled from named characters in the Bible. There’s very little innovation when it comes to names in Amish communities, and you will most likely never find modern naming trends take hold among Amish families.
For example, you’ll probably never meet an Amish man named Aidan.
So which names do the Amish choose to name boys?
There are 21 that you’ll find more than others.
1. Johnathan (Also Jonathan)
Johnathan is perhaps the most common male name in Amish communities. This is because of its heritage with the biblical “John,” who was John the Baptist.
John the Baptist was Jesus’s cousin and baptized Jesus as an adult. This was a major political and social statement in the time of the Bible — literally around year zero — and it’s a practice that all Anabaptists embrace, including the Amish.
The Amish are one of many Anabaptist groups that baptize members as adults instead of children. This is the core difference between Anabaptists when compared against Catholics and Protestants, and it’s something the Amish take very seriously.
As a result, there are few other names in the Bible — much less the world — that an Amish man would want to be named.
Joshua is another biblical name, but it comes from the Old Testament.
Joshua is recounted as a charismatic warrior who had a great vision for the Israelites following their exodus from slavery in Egypt.
As a result, Joshua was named the successor of Moses to lead his people. This leadership took the Israelites to conquer the land of Canaan and claim it for themselves.
If you’re not familiar with the events of Joshua’s life, he’s the warrior-king who is credited as calling Canaan the “land of milk and honey,” a phrase that’s still used today to describe a country with abundance.
Despite the fact that the Amish are pacifists, Joshua is an influential namesake in their communities because of the challenges he’s recorded as overcoming. In a nutshell, the name Joshua would be inspiring to the Amish communities because Joshua himself was a headstrong man of God who chose to move mountains before doubting his deity.
This can lead anyone in the Amish community to believe that naming a boy Joshua would indicate that he’s a devout man of God as well.
Jeremiah is also an Old Testament name. The original Jeremiah was a Hebrew prophet who lived roughly 600 years prior to the events of the New Testament. He’s considered to be a major prophet because of his contributions to the original Hebrew Bible, including the books of Jeremiah, Kings, and Lamentations.
Jeremiah is a compelling figure because part of his books are autobiographical, which is uncommon for prophets of the Old Testament. Jeremiah not only discusses his faith and thoughts about God, but also his personal troubles with buying land from an uncle, his time spent in prison, and much more.
This means that Jeremiah possesses a rich, full life in text that’s practically unique among other prophets. Considering his contributions to the Bible as a whole, Jeremiah is synonymous with perseverance, faith, redemption, and promise.
Incidentally, Jeremiah is also one of several biblical names that’s shared in Judaism and Islam.
Abraham is one of the most common names in the world, including the Amish community, because it heralds back to the ultimate founder of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Abraham is a legendary figure that rivals many other prophets. This reputation alone is enough to make the Amish name any male child Abraham with reverence.
However, it’s worth noting that Abraham’s story is long and complicated. In fact, most of the work he does in service of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god is in the work of buying land and establishing lines of succession.
Still, Abraham — also called Father Abraham — is revered as ubiquitous in the Bible and a favored person in God’s eyes. The name is a natural fit for any Amish family.
Abram is less common than many of the other names on this list, but it bears mentioning. Abram is the name that Abraham had before committing himself to the Judeo-Christian-Muslim god.
So why would someone name their child after a man before he committed himself spiritually?
The Amish are reputed for their cultural sense of humility and modesty. Naming a child Abram incorporates that sense of modesty to an extreme, as Abram reflects the life of someone who is on the cusp of transforming themselves into a servant of God.
It’s a name that could reflect a sense of duty, servitude, and more.
So while it may not be as common as Abraham, Abram still has a powerful history on its own.
Jacob is an incredibly common name in every Amish community because, in addition to being biblical, it’s also the name of the founder of the Amish, Jakob Ammann.
In the Bible, Jacob is the grandson of Abraham (via Isaac). He’s born with a twin brother named Esau, and he’s most famous for tricking Isaac into giving him Esau’s inheritance. This made Jacob the head of the family, and he went on to have 12 sons by four wives.
At some point, Jacob also changed his name to Israel.
So as Jacob’s 12 sons fostered families of their own — each unique in their strengths and cultures — they became known as the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Jakob Ammann, on the other hand, is best known for founding the Amish denomination in general and leading his own people from Switzerland to Alsace in order to escape religious persecution.
Despite this, Ammann died in the 1700s as his own followers fled Europe and settled in areas like Lancaster.
Regardless, the name Jacob is used frequently in the Amish communities for one or both of these reasons.
Uri is a name that’s practically unique to the Amish, and it should not be confused with the Russian name Yuri, which is entirely different.
The name Uri refers to a lot of different concepts throughout history. However, the most likely to inspire the Amish to name a child is found in the Bible.
In the Bible, the name Uri is mentioned a total of seven times. In these times, the name is interpreted as having an English meaning along the lines of “my light” or “illumination.”
There’s also a man named Uri who’s a member of the Tribe of Judah — Judah being one of Jacob’s sons — and also someone who took “strange wives.”
Most likely, the Amish are not naming their boys after a man who takes “strange wives” purely for the connotation of an Amish man having multiple wives and that those wives may not fit the social norms established by the Amish themselves.
(It’s also worth noting that “strange” has a different meaning to the Amish, usually explicitly stating that something is “different” as opposed to “odd.”)
Instead, it’s most likely a reference to a named member of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Noah is a common name in Amish communities because of the original Noah’s legend of saving his family from a legendary flood.
In the biblical story, Noah then restarts humanity with God’s blessing to give everyone the chance to live and thrive.
There’s a lot more that the Bible records in terms of Noah’s deeds and character, but Noah is more defined by his actions that made him the savior of humanity before the time of Jesus.
Eli was a high priest recorded in the Book of Samuel. In fact, Eli is the father figure who raised Samuel himself in a tabernacle.
Eli is eventually admonished by God for his failure to control the abusive tendencies of his sons, and Eli and his children are smote.
While this may not sound like the kind of story for which you’d want to name a child, Eli is a popular figure because his story is both a warning and a promise.
The name Eli reflects the reverence that someone should have for God in the Amish community, and it’s a promise of spiritual growth. Beyond that, Eli is also a heavy admission of sin in the human experience, which plays heavily in Amish tradition and teaching.
The Amish may not be the standard “fire and brimstone” kind of denomination, but they still lean into concepts of original sin and redemption very heavily.
The name Eli encapsulates that in just a few letters.
Amos was another prophet of the Hebrew Bible, but he features much less prominently than others.
Amos is significant because he’s one of the first prophets prior to Jesus to speak against the disparity of wealth between the very rich and very poor. Centuries after Amos’s life, Jesus would repeat these same concepts almost verbatim.
However, Amos also spoke at length about God’s omnipotence, justice, and divine judgment.
This makes Amos partly a social activist and partly recognition of God’s divine wrath.
In other words, he strikes the perfect balance that describes the Amish perspective of religion, many of which harken back to Jakob Ammann’s own feelings on justice and consequences.
Isaiah is another prophet from the Hebrew Bible that is perhaps better known for the number of times he’s referenced in the New Testament than the contents of his own book in the Old Testament.
Isaiah is referenced so often because he made so many prophecies, literal predictions that concerned God and the things that would happen concerning Israel in the future.
In fact, the Book of Isaiah, chapter 53, is referenced as the prediction of Jesus Christ coming to Earth as the son of God.
As a result, Isaiah’s name carries a profound sense of faith, devotion, preparation, and sense — particularly among the Amish.
Samuel is a biblical name referencing a highly influential figure in the political formation of a kingdom under Saul and then to David.
He is regarded as “the seer” and also “the king-maker” for the work that he does in establishing an Israelite kingdom, one that is essentially a theocracy under Jewish rule.
However, Samuel is held in high esteem by Jews, Christians, and Muslims as an equal to Moses, an exemplar of fulfilled commitments, and preaching against idolatry, respectively.
The Amish regard Samuel similarly, considering his name to be a pillar of spiritual strength and devotion against opposition.
Moses is one of the most popular names in the world across hundreds of cultures and all three Abrahamic religions. It’s little wonder that it’s also a big part of Amish naming traditions for men.
The original Moses was the leader of the Israelites who led them out of slavery in Egypt. His story has inspired millions of other works of fiction, and it’s considered an archetypical story of someone who rediscovers their original roots and, despite the odds, chooses to do the right thing.
But it doesn’t stop there. Moses is also a man who is tried time and time again, each time persevering through mindblowing challenges to rescue his people and lead them to the fabled Promised Land.
Leadership. Wisdom. Courage. Perseverance. Faith.
Moses means all of this and more, including to the Amish.
Levi was one of the 12 sons of Jacob — the progenitor of his own tribe of Israel. But unlike many of the other tribes, Levi and his followers, Levites, were chastised and cursed by Isaac for a series of misdeeds committed at the siege of Shechem (which was originally in retaliation for the rape of Levi’s daughter).
Eventually, Levi passes away and claims to have two visions. He then dictates these visions to his children.
The first concerns the end of the world, the “seven heavens,” the Jewish Messiah, and other essential parts of Abrahamic religions.
The second concerns seven angels anointing Levi as a true man of God, a warrior-king, and someone worthy of the previous deeds of those in his family lineage — including Moses himself.
As a result, the name Levi carries the connotations of foresight, redemption, and forgiveness, making it a popular choice in Amish communities.
David is another legendary figure in biblical history, playing a crucial role in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
David is the unification king of Israel and Judah. He’s a poet. He kills Goliath. He writes poems about God. He’s anointed king at age 30, and he dies at age 70. With four full decades of rule during his life, David does just about everything you could do — including cheating on his wife and announcing his illegitimate son as his heir — that you could do as a ruler.
David’s story is one of complex characterization, frequent mistakes, and constant forgiveness. Most perplexingly, he’s often called “a man after God’s own heart,” even when he exhibits such flagrant disregard for the wellbeing of others.
Finally, David is the progenitor of the holiest of bloodlines — the one that leads to Jesus Christ.
Consequently, David is perhaps the most human character exhibited in the Bible. He’s strong in his faith, but he also constantly fails — and then he redeems himself.
The name David carries all of this significance and more in the Amish faith — just like many other Abrahamic religions.
Peter is famously Jesus’s closest apostle, confidant, and friend. He also denies that he knows Jesus three times during Jesus’s trial, prior to his death, in an attempt to disassociate from Jesus during the most trying time in his life.
Then, Peter goes on to found the Catholic Church — and Christianity.
Aside from Jesus himself, Peter is arguably the most important person in Christian history. He’s the one who actually creates a church, preaches Jesus’s teachings, and passes all of it onto the next generation.
Thousands of years later, his name rings through history in countless families and nearly every culture that’s been touched by Christianity.
Catholic, Protestant, Anabaptist — all of these branches of Christianity embrace Peter as one of the most powerful and significant names in history.
The Amish are no exception.
Daniel is an exceptionally popular name throughout many cultures in the world, and like many other popular Amish names, it is biblical.
The Daniel of the Bible is best known for being taken captive by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. During his time in the king’s service, Daniel maintains his faith in the Hebrew God despite serving pagan rulers.
This is most notable during Daniel’s time in a den of lions. This was to be used as a death sentence. But when Daniel arrived in the den, the lions didn’t attack him.
Then, Daniel patiently waited for Nebuchadnezzar to release him, and the rest is history.
Despite the fact that Biblical scholars are fairly certain Daniel never actually existed, his story persists as a source of inspiration and the rewards of stalwart faith.
It also has a certain ring to it that makes it incredibly popular — even among the Amish.
Aaron is another biblical name that hails back to the brother of Aaron.
However, despite being Moses’s brother, Aaron had a vastly different upbringing.
Moses was raised in the high courts of the pharaoh of Egypt. Aaron was raised among the eastern fringes of the Egyptian border.
When the time came for Moses to free the Israelites, Aaron acted as his orator and prophet. He also spoke directly to the pharaoh many times, which is significant for someone who is both an outsider and low-born in Egyptian social hierarchy.
Despite the fact that Aaron doesn’t live nearly as along as Moses, he’s eventually called the high priest of the Israelites and held in exceptionally high esteem for millennia to come.
While Aaron plays a role in the Hebrew Bible only, he’s still remembered and mentioned in the New Testament, which makes him even more relevant to Christians.
Add that to his faith, service, and esteem throughout history, and you have a powerful namesake for the Amish — a culture that values faith, service, and esteem.
Phenomenally, Elmer is a popular name in Amish communities despite the fact that it is not found in the Bible.
Instead, it’s a Germanic-English name that means “noble” or “renowned.”
How this name became prevalent in Amish circles is kind of a mystery. The Amish are notably humble and modest, so naming someone “noble” seems counterintuitive.
Most likely, this name traces its origins all the way back to the German-speaking origins of the Amish themselves, being treated as a family name that has held sway throughout more than a dozen generations of Amish men.
Adam is obviously a biblical name that harkens back to the first man crated by God in the Book of Genesis.
More than any other significance, this the power behind the name and why it persists in so many cultures, including the Amish.
Finally, Simeon is another popular biblical name that once again traces its origins back to the progenitor of one of the 12 Tribes of Israel.
Simeon is known for taking part in the siege of Shechem with his brother Levi to avenge the rape of his niece.
Just like Levi, Simeon is cursed by his father to have his descendants divided and scattered, essentially exiling them from the remaining tribes.
Then, over time, the Tribe of Simeon dwindles from history.
Despite this, Simeon’s support of his brother and acceptance of his punishment makes him a strong, repentant figure in biblical history.
In this way, his name persists in Amish communities.
Question: Why Don’t the Amish Name Men Jesus?
While the Amish are devout in their beliefs around Christianity, they don’t use the name “Jesus.”
This is because the majority of Amish sects would agree that there is only one Jesus, and it’s simply not possible to be as good (or better) than the original.
In addition, Jesus’s status as the Son of God in the Christian belief system makes the name unique for the Amish, to the point where it’s essentially held on a pedestal and kept for the biblical Jesus only.
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