Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Caleb

Caleb is an ancient Hebrew name that first appears in the Old Testament’s Book of Exodus (Caleb was a contemporary of Moses). The name comes from the Hebrew Kalebh meaning, quite literally, "dog-like" from “kelebh” (dog). Caleb was one of two (Joshua being the other) who set out with Moses from Egypt and lived long enough to reach the Promised Land (Numbers 26:65). Both Joshua and Caleb were one of the 12 spies sent by Moses on a reconnaissance mission to Canaan (The Promised Land). Only Joshua and Caleb trusted God’s covenant; the other ten spies told Moses conquering Canaan would be impossible. So of course God punished the doubtful and rewarded the faithful. “For the Lord had said of them, ‘They shall die in the wilderness.’ Not one of them was left, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.” The meaning of Caleb’s name is probably in reference to his “dog-like” devotion to God. We can thank the Puritans for resurrecting this Hebrew Old Testament name after the Protestant Reformation in the 17th century. Today the name is readily bestowed on both Jewish and Gentile babies with equal enthusiasm. In fact, we would go as far to say that Caleb has become quite trendy. He does best in North America (Canada and the United States), but Caleb is also very fashionable in Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Australia.

All About the Baby Name – Caleb

Personality

OF THE BOY NAME CALEB

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 BOY NAME CALEB

The name Caleb dates back to the late 19th century in America (which is as far back as the U.S. government has been tracking name data). We know, however, that Caleb has existed in circulation long before that. As a Purital revival name, Caleb was likely brought to America in the 17th century. The Puritans were mainly responsible for bringing Old Testament Hebrew names to the Gentiles. They embraced names like Caleb, Ethan, Josiah, Elijah, Abigail, Pricilla, etc. Caleb in particular did not sustain any significant popularity on the charts in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In fact, the name basically took a hiatus from usage for almost 60 consecutive years (between 1910 and 1970). Suddenly in the 1970s everything started to change for this little “puppy”, when the name gained over 600 positions in that decade alone. By 1990, Caleb was a Top 100 favorite. Not content to stop there, the name kept climbing the charts with “dog-like” zeal. Today Caleb is at his peak popularity (around #30). He shadows the revival of other Puritan-inspired Biblical names like Elijah, Ethan, Josiah and Isaiah. There’s a certain sweetness to the name Caleb which likely adds to its appeal. Caleb is clearly man’s best friend!

Quick Facts

ON CALEB

GENDER:

Boy

ORIGIN:

Hebrew

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

2

RANKING POPULARITY:

33

PRONUNCIATION:

KAY-lib

SIMPLE MEANING:

Dog-like

Characteristics

OF CALEB

Freedom-loving

Adventurous

Adaptable

Intellectual

Easygoing

Progressive

Sensual

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Caleb

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME CALEB

Caleb (Cal) Trask is the twin brother of Aaron (Aron) in John Steinbeck’s famous American novel “East of Eden” (1952). They reflect the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. Cal is the “dark” twin who is intensely jealous of his more likable brother, Aron, yet he struggles to lead a good moral life. He learns of the Hebrew word "Timshel" (meaning "thou mayest") and accepts that he is neither compelled to strive for sainthood nor is he doomed to sin (overcoming his fear that his mother’s evil had been passed down to him). He accepts he has the power to choose. In the end, he reveals to his brother Aron that their mother is a prostitute which results in Aron’s death (he flees to the army and dies in WWI). When Cal is asked about Aron’s whereabouts, he sneers: “Am I supposed to look after him?” In other words: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Popular Songs

ON CALEB

Caleb Meyer
a song by Joan Baez

Famous People

NAMED CALEB

Caleb Bradham (inventor of Pepsi-Cola)

Children of Famous People

NAMED CALEB

Octomom;

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME CALEB

We cannot find any historically significant people with the first name Caleb