Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Jacob

Jacob is a Latin derivation of the Hebrew name "Yaakov" traditionally believed to be derived from the word "akev" which literally translates to "at the heel". Given Jacob's Biblical story, this etymology makes perfect sense. In Genesis 25:26, Jacob was born the younger twin to Isaac and Rebecca; he came out of Rebecca's womb "with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob." The Lord told Rebecca that the younger would be stronger, and that the older would serve the younger. As the Biblical story progresses, the cunning Jacob eventually supplants his older brother by stealing his birthright and his father's blessing. "Is he not rightly named Jacob?" Esau asks in Genesis 27:36. "For he has supplanted me these two times." Therefore, the name Jacob is also associated with the verb "to supplant". For more information on the Biblical Jacob see Historic references below. Jacob is an ancient Hebrew named embraced mainly by Jews until after the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. Incidentally, the name James is an anglicized version of Jacob (from the Latin translation Iacomus). Today Jacob has become the most fashionable name for baby boys in North America, ranked #1 in the United States and Canada. It is also a favorite in England, Australia, Northern Ireland and Scandinavia.

All About the Baby Name – Jacob



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Tried-and-true, the name Jacob has always existed within the top 400 names for boys in the United States in the past 120 years, never leaving the list. Around the turn of the century in 1900, Jacob was consistently in the Top 100, only to lose ground from the 1920s through the 1960s. In the early 1970s, the name came surging back into fashion and within two decades Jacob hit the Top 10 list of most commonly used boy names in America. As we’ve crossed the threshold into the 21st century, Jacob sits on his perch as the #1 masculine name in the country (a position he’s held for 13 consecutive years now). Jacob is notable for stealing away the top spot from Michael who held #1 for almost 40 consecutive years. We wonder what boy’s name will eventually “supplant” Jacob? Surely, parents will eventually tire of this name choice since it’s become so ϋber-popular and overused. Nevertheless, Jacob is a timeless classic with a modern sensibility so we totally see its appeal. Jake is the obvious pet form, but Coby can also be used. You'd be surprised to discover that Jacob is actually the “father” of many masculine names. Its translations in various other languages is quite diverse, such as James (English); Séamus (Irish); Jacques (French); Jakob (German and Scandinavian); Giacobbe (Italian); Jaime and Yago (Spanish/Portuguese); and, our personal favorite, Kimo (Hawaiian).

Quick Facts













At the heel; The supplanter










Cultural References to the Baby Name – Jacob

Literary Characters


Jacob is the biblical character associated with the tale of “Jacob’s Ladder”. Jacob was the younger twin of Esau, and Jacob cheated his brother out of that natural birthright by trickery. Fearing (rightly) Esau’s anger, Jacob flees to the home of relatives in a neighboring land. Lying down one night on a stone pillow, he dreams of a fabulous ladder to heaven, upon which angels are ascending and descending. At the top of the ladder is the Lord God, who speaks to Jacob and tells him that He will be with Jacob always, and that Jacob will continue the line of Abraham and Isaac. Upon awakening, Jacob anoints the holy stone and pledges to give one tenth of all he has to God. Now, all this is well and good, and perhaps Jacob got his comeuppance in some fashion (he had to work seven years for his wife Rebecca, only to be told he must marry her sister, Leah, first, then labor another seven years for Rebecca); nonetheless, we think Esau got the short end of the stick in this story. Poor old Esau – his father, mother and brother all operated against his natural birthright, and yet, Esau prospered and lived to forgive Jacob and bore ill will against him no longer (after that initial, understandable, fury). Just goes to show – if God is on your side, almost nothing you do can turn to pottage – just ask Jacob.

Jacob Marley is a pivotal character in Charles Dickens’ beloved 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, the subject of innumerable adaptations. His character is the ghost of his former self, Scrooge’s business partner, who comes back to warn Scrooge of the dire consequences of his continued mean spiritedness. The erstwhile Mr. Marley is one heck of a ghost – he has all the trappings down. He is transparent, he rattles his chains, he moans, he shrieks, he causes mirrors to crack, bells to ring, winds to blow, small children to run in terror (well, ok, there weren’t any small children around, but still…). And after all this, does he get any respect? No, the nefarious Scrooge humbugs around and declares that Jacob Marley is probably a figment of his imagination, in fact, probably “…an undigested bit of beef.” Insult upon injury! Good Mr. Marley, however, soon convinces Scrooge of his authenticity and prepares him for the three ghosts to come, before flying out the window to continue his eternal, fruitless, remorseful roaming of the earth, paying for his sins for all time to come. We are more than a little sorry for Jacob Marley, and wish him the best on his journey. We hope he catches a break, because he did a great job.

Jacob Black is a central character in Stephenie Meyer's famous books known as the Twilight series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn). He is of Native American descent, and a friend to Bella Swan. He eventually competes with Edward Cullen for Bella's love as he develops feelings for her. However, Bella only sees him as a friend. As the stories develop, Jacob is able to transform himself into a werewolf, and is destined to become an Alpha male. His character is warm, friendly, strong, good-looking and honorable. No wonder he's such a popular character!

Childrens Books


We cannot find any childrens books with the first name Jacob

Popular Songs


Wake Up Jacob
Harry Belafonte

Jacob's Ladder

Famous People


We cannot find any celebrities or significantly famous people with the first name Jacob.

Children of Famous People



Historic Figures


Jacob is an important character in the Book of Genesis in the Bible, as he is the father of twelve sons who eventually gave their names to the twelve tribes of Israel. Thus, Jacob is an especially common name in the Jewish community, but it has been widely used among Christians since the 1900's. Jacob was born after the Lord granted Isaac's prayer for his barren wife, Rebecca, to conceive. Rebecca's pregnancy was difficult as the twins struggled together within her, so she went to the Lord who said "Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger." Jacob was born the younger and eventually supplanted his older twin brother Esau by tricking him out of his birthright. Later, Jacob dreams of a ladder that reaches to heaven, from which God speaks to him and foretells his success and prosperity. God blesses Jacob and promises not to leave him. Eventually, Jacob has twelve sons by Leah, Rachel and two of their servants. In Genesis 32:22, Jacob wrestles with an Angel of God who changes Jacob's name to "Isreal" - thought to be a reward from God for his tenacity.