Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Abigail

Abigail is a Hebrew name, from Abhigayil (אֲבִיגָיִל), meaning quite literally “my father is rejoicing” from the Hebrew elements “abh” (father) and “gil” (to rejoice). The name is most often translated to mean “Father’s joy” (in the spirit of “Daddy’s little girl”). Abigail was originally borne from the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) as the third wife of David (after he slew Goliath but before he became King of Israel). We are first introduced to her in 1 Samuel 25:3, “Now the name of the man was Nabal: and the name of his wife was Abigail. And she was a prudent and very comely woman, but her husband was churlish, and very bad and ill-natured.” In other words, Abigail was wise and beautiful, but her husband was pretty much a loser. David met Abigail on his way to kill Nabal. You see, Nabal had refused David and his soldiers food and provisions after the men watched over Nabal’s sheep and protected them from harm’s way. When Abigail learned about her husband’s ungracious behavior, she went out to intercept David before he could carry out the murder. She made offerings to the future king, wisely understanding his spiritual superiority to her “naughty” husband. David thanks Abigail, accepts the offerings and sends her away in peace. Shortly thereafter, Nabal died of a heart attack (struck by the Lord) and so David asked Abigail to be his wife. Her famous reply? “And she arose and bowed herself down with her face to the earth, and said: Behold, let thy servant be a handmaid, to wash the feet of the servants of my Lord.” (1 Samuel 25:41). In fact, Abigail constantly refers to herself as a “handmaid” and “servant” throughout the chapters where she appears in 1 Samuel. As a result, the name Abigail was used for the character of a servant in Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher’s early 17th century play “The Scornful Lady”. Thanks to the success of that play, Abigail became synonymous with the term “lady’s maid”. English speakers have forgotten this once low-brow association of the name and Abigail is super popular for baby girls in the United States, Canada, Australia and England. It also fares well on the charts of Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland.

All About the Baby Name – Abigail

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME ABIGAIL

The number Five personality loves the excitement of life and can easily adapt to all situations. As natural adventurers, these personalities thrive on the new and unexpected and prefer to be in constant motion. It makes them feel alive. They'll stir up some action if there's not enough around, and as inherent risk-takers they enjoy pushing the envelope. Naturally rebellious, the Five personality has no fear and never resists change.  Traveling and new experiences feed their souls. Fives are very social and attract friends with ease. People love to be around the Five fun-loving and exciting energy.  This is also a lucky number in numerology (like the Threes), so fortune seems to shine on them, helped along by their own optimism and good-nature. Fives have a quick wit, a cerebral mind, and are generally very persuasive. 

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME ABIGAIL

The name Abigail was brought to America by Puritan colonists way back in the 17th century. It was the Puritans and other Christian dissenters who opted for lesser known names from the Bible as an act of modesty (and it was they who revived most of the Old Testament Hebrew names). Even though Abigail feels like an old-fashioned Puritanical name, its popularity is really quite modern. Since the 1950’s, the name quietly and inconspicuously climbed the female naming charts and is now one of the Top 10 favorite baby girl’s name nationwide (she hit Top 10 status in 2001). Abigail has gotten as high as position #4 on the charts (2005) which is remarkably popular. There’s something sturdy and unpretentious about the name Abigail (as opposed to the more erudite sounding classical names). The pet forms (Abby or Abbie) further strengthen the name’s popularity by offering cuter sounding options. Plus, it’s a perfect “Daddy’s-little-girl” name given the meaning: Father’s joy. Want something a little less common? Apikalia is the Hawaiian form of Abigail (since there is no B or G in the Hawaiian alphabet).

Quick Facts

ON ABIGAIL

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

English

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

3

RANKING POPULARITY:

8

PRONUNCIATION:

AB-ә-gayl

SIMPLE MEANING:

Father's Joy

Characteristics

OF ABIGAIL

Freedom-loving

Adventurous

Adaptable

Intellectual

Easygoing

Progressive

Sensual

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Abigail

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME ABIGAIL

Abigail is a character in the 1616 comedic play, The Scornful Lady, by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Abigail is the “waiting gentlewoman” to the mistress of the house, thought to have been an allusion to the Biblical Abigail who calls herself David’s handmaid. The popularity of the play led to the name’s being used as a synonym for a ladies’ maid, unfortunately, but we are a long way from the seventeenth century, and today we see and hear the name Abigail as a delightful one.

Abigail "Abby" Williams is the antagonist of the 1953 play, The Crucible, by Arthur Miller, a fictionalized story of the Salem, Massachusetts, witch trials of 1692 and 1693, paralleling the hysteria of the McCarthy Era Red Witch Hunt of the late forties and early fifties. Abigail is one bad seed of a seventeen-year-old, who had conducted an affair with the married John Proctor, and is still trying to seduce him. At the same time, she leads a covey of girls, along with her uncle’s slave, Tituba, in demonic rituals in the woods. Abigail’s sole purpose is to hex Proctor’s wife so she can claim him as her own. Soon the entire community is engaged in a hysterical, finger-pointing frenzy of accusations against each other, as citizen after citizen is led off to death. While all this mayhem occurs, the self-reliant Abigail manages to steal her uncle’s money and escape town and consequences, leaving catastrophe behind her. Abigail is based upon a historical character, but her fictional counterpart is, if anything, even more wicked and destructive.

Popular Songs

ON ABIGAIL

We cannot find any popular or well-known songs with the name of Abigail


Famous People

NAMED ABIGAIL

Abigail Adams (U.S. First Lady)
Abigail Fillmore (U.S. First Lady)
Abigail Van Buren (aka Dear Abby)
Abigail Breslin (actress)
Abbie Cornish (actress)

Children of Famous People

NAMED ABIGAIL

We cannot find any children of famous people with the first name Abigail

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME ABIGAIL

Abigail Adams was the first Vice Presidential wife in the United States, and the second First Lady. Not only that, but she was the mother of a president (John Quincy Adams). She lacked formal education; but her curiosity spurred her keen intelligence, and she devoured any book at hand. Reading created a bond between her and John Adams. Their marriage was one of the mind and of the heart, enduring for more than half a century and enriched by time. Her prolific letters display not only her high intellect and her wit, but also her political capital. This was a woman vehemently against slavery and very much pro-women’s rights.