Sure, everyone knows a John, Paul, or Mark, but how many people have met someone named Lazarus?
While Lazarus is one of the most famous biblical figures, his moniker has never exactly set the world of baby names on fire. But according to some baby name tracking sites, it could be making a comeback.
“It’s one of the third-wave biblical boys’ names—first came Adam and Luke, next was Noah and Moses, once strictly longbeard names,” says Pamela Redmond Satran, baby name expert and co-creator of baby name site, Nameberry. Satran, along with the Social Security Administration, says that bible-sourced names have been on the rise since around the 1960s. Right now, the most popular baby name for boys in America is Noah.
“Their popularity is due to several factors: the fundamentalist movement, the hippies’ revival of old-fashioned back-to-basics names, the taste for vintage and unusual names in general,” says Satran.
The name Lazarus is usually associated with the biblical figure more accurately known as Lazarus of Bethany, who could be seen as one of history’s first zombies. According to his tale, found in the Gospel of John, Lazarus was a follower of Jesus who fell ill. Before Jesus could come and heal him, Lazarus died. When Jesus did arrive, finding Lazarus four-days dead, he rolled the gravestone aside and brought him back to life with a prayer.
Thanks to this famous tale, the name Lazarus has become synonymous with resurrection.
However, there is another biblical Lazarus whose story is told in the Gospel of Luke, that is unrelated to the more famous undead figure. This Lazarus was a sore-covered beggar who died on the steps of a rich man’s house. When they both got to the afterlife, the rich man was sent to hell to burn, while the beggar got into heaven. When the rich man asked if he could get a little help, no less than Abraham himself told him it was too late. The rich man had it good in life, and the beggar had it bad, and now their roles were reversed.
Although there have been a handful of saints and other religious figures that have carried the name, these two tales are still the touchstones most people associate with the name Lazarus. But for modern parents looking to give their child this name, it can have an even more basic meaning.
The name Lazarus has its roots in the Hebrew name Eleazar, which translates to “God will help.” Lazarus is the Greek version of the name that appeared in The New Testament. Given the somewhat charmed fates of the two big biblical Lazaruses, this translation would seem to hold true. While naming your baby Lazarus isn’t likely to ensure the child an extra life, it could give them a single charmed life.
In terms of modern occurrences, Lazarus, while often appearing as a surname, isn’t winning any popularity contests as a first name. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t making a comeback. According to another baby-naming site, Baby Center, which pulls data from reports from its users, as well as info from the Social Security Administration, the name is now more popular than it’s been in over 100 years.
With yearly information dating back to roughly 1900, the site lists the name Lazarus as the 1,355th most popular male baby name in 2016 so far. While this seems like a pretty low ranking, it does show a rise over previous decades. Back in the 1990s, the name ranked around the 2,000s, while throughout much of the 1900s, Lazarus floated in between the 3,000th and 4,000th most popular names. The early 20th century was the last time the name Lazarus achieved a popularity like it is seeing today. According to the site, in 1900 it was the 1,105th most popular name in the nation.
Despite the numbers, it’s still pretty rare to find someone with the name in this day and age. “I actually love the name Lazarus and have recommended it several times, though no one has taken me up on it,” says Satran. In the 21st century, it won’t take a miracle to bring Lazarus back—just some brave parents.