Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name John

John is the anglicized version of the Latin “Iohannes”, the Greek “Iōannēs” and the Hebrew “Yochanan” all of which translate to "Yahweh (God) is gracious" or "God is generous, merciful". John is a name that originated in the Old Testament (or Hebrew Bible) as one of King David’s mighty men. However, John owes most of its popularity in usage to two prominent New Testament figures: John the Baptist and John the Apostle. Therefore, John has traditionally been a name of great importance since early Christianity. John the Baptist (like Jesus) was born under miraculous circumstances. The angel Gabriel appeared to his father (Zechariah) claiming that God will give his barren wife (Elizabeth) a son (John) to help prepare the way for the Messiah (Jesus). “And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and lived in the wilderness until he became manifest to Israel.” [Luke 1:80]. John the Baptist had the distinction of baptizing Jesus himself in the River Jordan. John the Apostle was a fisherman, the brother of James, and a follower of Christ. He is most known as one of the authors of the four gospels of the New Testament. John’s gospel focuses on Jesus as the “Eternal One of from heaven” and is considerably more theological and philosophical than the other three gospels. John is a name with many forms: Sean (Irish), Ian (Scottish), Giovanni (Italian), Jean (French), Juan (Spanish), Johann (German), Jan (Dutch), and Ivan (Russian). The name was reintroduced to Western Europeans after the First Crusade (11th century) by the Eastern Christians from the Byzantium Empire. From that point on, John became a wildly popular choice among the English, bestowed upon one in every five boys by the later Middle Ages. John has been borne by 23 Roman Catholic popes, eight Byzantium Emperors, scores of saints, many kings and several U.S. Presidents. In all of its many forms in various languages, John has been a perennial favorite. In the English-speaking world, John is arguably the most successful name ever.

All About the Baby Name – John

Personality

OF THE BOY NAME JOHN

The Number 2 personality in numerology is all about cooperation and balance. It's the number of diplomats and mediators. They are not leaders, but strive rather for harmony in partnerships. These are the peacemakers. Equality and fairness are important in their dealings, and they are willing to share power and responsibility to achieve a harmonious outcome. This personality is calm and patient, waiting for things to evolve instead of pushing aggressively for an outcome. They are good-natured and easy-going, and care deeply on an emotional and spiritual plane. Twos appreciate beauty and nature and are intent on making the world a better place.

Popularity

OF THE BOY NAME JOHN

There’s not a whole lot one can say about the popularity of the name John in America. It can be summed up by two words: extremely popular. The U.S. government began tracking naming trends in 1880. Between 1880 and 1923, John was the #1 name in America. Between 1924 and 1928, John was ranked #2 (usurped by Robert). Between 1929 and 1952, John was the third most popular male name (after James and Robert). Basically, for well over 100 years, John has been a Top 10 pick among American parents for their little boys. The name just fell off the Top 20 list in 2009 marking the first time in its history is hasn’t been a central choice. Today, Biblical characters like Jacob, Ethan, Noah and Elijah are beating out the more traditional English names like John, Robert and Thomas. Still, there’s no denying the lasting endurance of John. God was gracious enough to give the barren Elizabeth her son John. Will you pick this gracious name for your son? It’s a risk-free choice. A true English staple shared by many great men.

Quick Facts

ON JOHN

GENDER:

Boy

ORIGIN:

English

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

1

RANKING POPULARITY:

27

PRONUNCIATION:

JAHN

SIMPLE MEANING:

God is gracious

Characteristics

OF JOHN

Cooperative

Considerate

Compassionate

Nurturing

Sensitive

Patient

Loving

Kind

Gracious

Balanced

Cultural References to the Baby Name – John

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME JOHN

John Watson is the quintessential “side-kick” to the main character, being Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation to narrate the deeds of his friend, Sherlock Holmes, in all but four of the series’ stories. (This iconic series has been adapted to countless films and television series, among other media.) John Watson is an honored war veteran who goes to live with Holmes at 221B Baker Street in London and becomes his best friend and assistant, as well as chronicler. Watson is characterized as physically fit and brave; he only seems a little “slow” by his own admission, as he continually and modestly sings the praises of the cool and brilliant Holmes. But John Watson is no fool, he. After all, the great Holmes himself suffers him to be at his side in all his detecting adventures. He relies upon John Watson, in fact, to give him entry into the larger social world beyond the brainy Holmes’ narrow confines. John Watson makes Sherlock Holmes human, and that’s no small feat!

Long John Silver is the famous pirate in Robert Louis Stevenson’s beloved 1883 classic, Treasure Island. And he’s a classic himself – peg-legged, wicked, wily, rakish and sporting a parrot on his shoulder. He set the bar for all pirates since. He calls himself a “gentleman of fortune” – well, there’s a nice euphemism for you. And he intends to be a true gentleman, saving his loot for the future. He is educated, he is married, he is a property owner. He just happens to make a living by pirating. He even serves as a father figure to the tale’s protagonist, Jim Hawkins, causing the young boy great dismay when his true nature is revealed. Even though he’s the “bad guy”, we just can’t help liking him – isn’t that the way with the best of villains? So, while he does plan to murder and pillage and commit all manner of heinous crimes, in the end Stevenson allows him to escape – and leaves us wanting more of him.

John Galt is the iconic hero of Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged. Coming from a humble background, John Galt’s intelligence and individualistic philosophy aid in his propulsion forward as an inventor. Alas, the society in which he labors is one of collectivism, wherein individual accomplishment is downplayed in favor of the common good. Our John’s not having that, and he sets off to arrange a monumental “creative strike” by all the best minds in the world in an effort to bring this numbing, bureaucratic modus operandi to a halt. After being apprehended and tortured by the government, John Galt is rescued by the protagonist, Dagny Taggart, and the loyalist strikers, whereupon they all convene to build a new society on the ashes of the old. John Galt has recently been given a new surge in popularity by the Tea Party, who carried “Who is John Galt?” signs at many of their events.

John Thornton is the gold prospector who rescues and comes to love the dog, Buck, in Jack London’s most beloved novel, The Call of the Wild, published in 1903. Buck starts life as a pampered pet before he is stolen and sold for a sled dog in the Yukon. When John Thornton saves him from being beaten to death and nurses him back to health, Buck gives all his affection and loyalty to Thornton, and the two become inseparable. John is a good man who is more than capable of human friendships, but his love and respect for animals is his defining characteristic. Buck undergoes a gradual return to the primitive, from whence every creature came, but his abiding love for his master keeps him from giving over to it completely. Buck returns the favor of life restored when he saves Thornton from drowning. It is only when John Thornton dies that Buck answers the call of the wild and follows the wolves deep into the forest, returning each year to pay homage at his master’s grave.

John Yossarian is the protagonist of Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, Catch-22 (also a 1972 Mike Nichols movie starring Alan Arkin). John is a B-25 bombardier in World War II stationed off the coast of Italy, whose motto is: “to live forever or die in the attempt”. To that end he employs any means at hand to avoid flying missions, including faking insanity (well, not entirely). The Catch-22 is that the Army recognizes that anyone wanting to avoid being killed is actually sane, so no luck there. John Yossarian is a complex and compelling character. At once patriotic and self-serving, brave and cowardly, life-loving and self-destructive – he is a human being par excellence. He refuses to dishonor his fellow soldiers by accepting a face-saving deal for going AWOL, and ultimately he deserts the military, stating that: “There’s nothing negative about running away to save my life.” Hear, hear. And we hope he made it to Sweden in one piece.

John Falstaff is the rotund, braggadocio comic knight who figures in three of Shakespeare’s plays, The Merry Wives of Windsor , Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II. Old Sir John is only too happy to assist Prince Hal in his youthful rebellion against his father. Falstaff is disreputable, dishonest, and disloyal; he’s a drunk and a debaucher, a scoundrel and a lazy, opportunistic cad. And people - not just Prince Hal - keep coming back for more. John Falstaff seems to embody the baseness of character that lies dormant in the best of us, and he provides us a vicarious thrill through his carefree and careless actions. Ultimately, however, Prince Hal becomes King Henry V, and as he puts on the robes of kingdom, he sheds the tatters of waywardness and rejects Falstaff. So do we, but perhaps just a little reluctantly, for laughter, no matter the source, is as necessary as bread and water.

“To Autumn” is a poem written by the English romantic poet, John Keats, in 1819. The poem is three stanzas and personifies Autumn as Keat’s describes “her” beauty of sights and sounds. The poem is highly regarded and considered one of Keat’s finest. The first stanza addresses Autumn, describing its abundance and its intimacy with the sun, with whom Autumn ripens fruits and causes the late flowers to bloom. In the second stanza, the speaker describes the figure of Autumn as a female goddess, often seen sitting on the granary floor, her hair “soft-lifted” by the wind, and often seen sleeping in the fields or watching a cider-press squeezing the juice from apples. In the third stanza, the speaker tells Autumn not to wonder where the songs of spring have gone, but instead to listen to her own music.

Popular Songs

ON JOHN

John Riley
a song by Joan Baez

Geraldine and John
a song on Joe Jackson

Who Killed John Lennon
a song by Ellis Paul

John Lennon
a song by The Outfield

I Just Shot John Lennon
a song by The Cranberries

Marilyn & John
a song by Vanessa Paradis

Matthew (John Denver)
This is a beautiful song John Denver wrote about his uncle named Matthew.

Daniel (Elton John)
A very popular song with a lovely melody by Elton John.

Working John, Working Joe
a song by Jethro Tull

Abraham Martin and John
a song by Smokey Robinson

Abraham, Martin and John
a song by Emmylou Harris

Abraham, Martin, and John
a song by Harry Belafonte

Ballad of John and Yoko
a song by The Beatles

Ballad of Spider John
a song by Jimmy Buffett

Big Bad John
a song by Jimmy Dean

Big John
a song by The Shirelles

Big, Bad John
a song by Johnny Cash

Blue John's Blues
a song by The Barclay James Harvest

Brother John
a song by Big Head Todd & the Monsters

Dear John
a song by Aimee Mann

John
a song by Lil Wayne [explicit]

John Wesley Harding
a song by Bob Dylan

Famous People

NAMED JOHN

John Milton (poet)
John Locke (philosopher)
John Adams (U.S. President)
John Keats (poet)
John Steinbeck (author)
John F. Kennedy (U.S. President)
John Lennon (musician)
John Quincy Adams (U.S. President)
John Denver (musician)
John Elway (football player)
John Glenn (astronaut)
John Kerry (politician)
John McCain (politician)
John Travolta (actor)
John Tyler (U.S. President)
John Wayne (actor)
John Hancock (Founding Father)
John Coltrane (jazz great)
John Ford (director)
John McEnroe (tennis player)
John Cleese (actor)
John Barrymore (actor)
John D. Rockefeller (businessman)
John Bonham (musician)
John Cusack (actor)
John Fogerty (musician)
John Hurt (actor)
John Belushi (actor/comic)
John Cassavetes (actor)
John F. Kennedy, Jr. (aka John-John)
John Turturro (actor)
Little John (legendary fellow outlaw of Robin Hood)
John Walsh (TV personality)
John Milton (poet)
John Locke (philosopher)
John Adams (U.S. President)
John Keats (poet)
John Steinbeck (author)
John F. Kennedy (U.S. President)
John Lennon (musician)
John Quincy Adams (U.S. President)
John Denver (musician)
John Elway (football player)
John Glenn (astronaut)
John Kerry (politician)
John McCain (politician)
John Travolta (actor)
John Tyler (U.S. President)
John Wayne (actor)
John Hancock (Founding Father)
John Coltrane (jazz great)
John Ford (director)
John McEnroe (tennis player)
John Cleese (actor)
John Barrymore (actor)
John D. Rockefeller (businessman)
John Bonham (musician)
John Cusack (actor)
John Fogerty (musician)
John Hurt (actor)
John Belushi (actor/comic)
John Cassavetes (actor)
John F. Kennedy, Jr. (aka John-John)
John Turturro (actor)
Little John (legendary fellow outlaw of Robin Hood)
John Walsh (TV personality)
John Milton (poet)
John Locke (philosopher)
John Adams (U.S. President)
John Keats (poet)
John Steinbeck (author)
John F. Kennedy (U.S. President)
John Lennon (musician)
John Quincy Adams (U.S. President)
John Denver (musician)
John Elway (football player)
John Glenn (astronaut)
John Kerry (politician)
John McCain (politician)
John Travolta (actor)
John Tyler (U.S. President)
John Wayne (actor)
John Hancock (Founding Father)
John Coltrane (jazz great)
John Ford (director)
John McEnroe (tennis player)
John Cleese (actor)
John Barrymore (actor)
John D. Rockefeller (businessman)
John Bonham (musician)
John Cusack (actor)
John Fogerty (musician)
John Hurt (actor)
John Belushi (actor/comic)
John Cassavetes (actor)
John F. Kennedy, Jr. (aka John-John)
John Turturro (actor)
Little John (legendary fellow outlaw of Robin Hood)
John Walsh (TV personality)

Children of Famous People

NAMED JOHN

Nick Lachey; Elton John;

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME JOHN

John Wayne was the iconic and hugely successful American movie star born in Iowa with the unfortunate moniker of Marion Morrison. Called “Duke” (happily) from a young age, the man whom the studios dubbed John Wayne came to movies by way of odd jobs and bit parts. It took the genius of director John Ford to insist on his being cast in 1939’s Stagecoach to send John Wayne to superstardom via almost 150 movies, most of them Westerns. Among his most popular movies were Rio Bravo, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and True Grit, for which he won an Academy Award. John Wayne was known in later years as much for his conservative politics as for his movies, as he boosted Republican causes, championed the war in Vietnam and bemoaned the state of contemporary American youth. As much as he stood for a militant aggressiveness, he never joined the armed services, although he tried. Deferred because of his age and family status, he was also the object his studio’s efforts to keep him on the lot cranking out pictures. Nonetheless, he epitomized the fighting patriotic American to the day of his death. Married three times, John Wayne fathered seven children and died of stomach cancer, after having beaten lung cancer some years earlier. He remains one of the best known and most popular figures of American culture to this day, and even has an airport named after him. Not bad for a boy named Sue, er, Marion.

John Lennon was one of the most famous and celebrated singer-songwriters, arguably of all time, who made musical history as part of the Beatles, as well as in a soloist role and in collaboration with his second wife, Yoko Ono. Born in Liverpool, England, John and the other “Quarrymen” evolved into the Beatles in the 1960s and rose to immeasurable fame, wealth and notoriety. John was always known as “the intellectual one” in the quartet, and both amused and scandalized the public with his irreverent remarks, his brush with Eastern religions, his political activism and his drug use. Lennon had two sons, Julian by his first wife, Cynthia Powell, and Sean by his second wife, Yoko Ono. He was gunned down by Mark David Chapman outside his apartment building in New York on December 8, 1980.

Casey Jones is arguably the most famous railroad engineer in American history. He was made famous by an epic folksong called “The Ballad of Casey Jones” (written in tribute by a black engine wiper who had been a devoted friend to Jones). Casey Jones actually received his nickname from the town from which he hailed, Cayce, Kentucky. He was a loveable, teetotaling Irish family man known for his signature whistle sound which let the people know it was him blowing through their towns. On the night of April 29 and early morning of April 30, 1900, Casey Jones was a last minute substitute for another engine driver who wasn’t feeling well. Doubling back from where he came, Casey was on a light “Cannonball” train with only his fireman as a fellow passenger. Intent on getting to his destination in record time, his train was going at 70 miles an hour around a blind curve. Up ahead on the tracks was a stalled freight train. Casey Jones told his fireman to jump, and he collided into the caboose while holding the train’s throttle in one hand and the whistle in the other. His friend Wallace Saunders immortalized him in song which quickly spread the country (especially after vaudeville musicians adopted it) and Casey became a folk hero. The lyrics sing in part: “May his spirit live forever throughout the land / As the greatest of all heroes of a railroad man.”

Casey Jones is arguably the most famous railroad engineer in American history. He was made famous by an epic folksong called “The Ballad of Casey Jones” (written in tribute by a black engine wiper who had been a devoted friend to Jones). Casey Jones actually received his nickname from the town from which he hailed, Cayce, Kentucky. He was a loveable, teetotaling Irish family man known for his signature whistle sound which let the people know it was him blowing through their towns. On the night of April 29 and early morning of April 30, 1900, Casey Jones was a last minute substitute for another engine driver who wasn’t feeling well. Doubling back from where he came, Casey was on a light “Cannonball” train with only his fireman as a fellow passenger. Intent on getting to his destination in record time, his train was going at 70 miles an hour around a blind curve. Up ahead on the tracks was a stalled freight train. Casey Jones told his fireman to jump, and he collided into the caboose while holding the train’s throttle in one hand and the whistle in the other. His friend Wallace Saunders immortalized him in song which quickly spread the country (especially after vaudeville musicians adopted it) and Casey became a folk hero. The lyrics sing in part: “May his spirit live forever throughout the land / As the greatest of all heroes of a railroad man.”

John Wayne was the iconic and hugely successful American movie star born in Iowa with the unfortunate moniker of Marion Morrison. Called “Duke” (happily) from a young age, the man whom the studios dubbed John Wayne came to movies by way of odd jobs and bit parts. It took the genius of director John Ford to insist on his being cast in 1939’s Stagecoach to send John Wayne to superstardom via almost 150 movies, most of them Westerns. Among his most popular movies were Rio Bravo, The Quiet Man, The Searchers, and True Grit, for which he won an Academy Award. John Wayne was known in later years as much for his conservative politics as for his movies, as he boosted Republican causes, championed the war in Vietnam and bemoaned the state of contemporary American youth. As much as he stood for a militant aggressiveness, he never joined the armed services, although he tried. Deferred because of his age and family status, he was also the object his studio’s efforts to keep him on the lot cranking out pictures. Nonetheless, he epitomized the fighting patriotic American to the day of his death. Married three times, John Wayne fathered seven children and died of stomach cancer, after having beaten lung cancer some years earlier. He remains one of the best known and most popular figures of American culture to this day, and even has an airport named after him. Not bad for a boy named Sue, er, Marion.

Yes, we know that "Tyler" is his last name, but we wanted to throw him in here given his obvious influence on the popularity of the name Tyler as a given name in America. John Tyler was the 10th President of the United States. In the previous term, he had been William Henry Harrison’s VP – and when Harrison died suddenly of pneumonia within a year of his term, Tyler ascended to the Chief Executive position. A southern gentleman (he hailed from Virginia), Tyler had a long political career. He wants power and he has a plan, which isolated him from many. Seen as aloof, stubborn, aristocratic and independent – he was a one-term President. Nonetheless, his presidency is marked by two important achievements: the annexation of Texas and a treaty with England to establish the Canadian border. Oh, and the man also procreated 15 children in his lifetime!

Yes, we know that "Tyler" is his last name, but we wanted to throw him in here given his obvious influence on the popularity of the name Tyler as a given name in America. John Tyler was the 10th President of the United States. In the previous term, he had been William Henry Harrison’s VP – and when Harrison died suddenly of pneumonia within a year of his term, Tyler ascended to the Chief Executive position. A southern gentleman (he hailed from Virginia), Tyler had a long political career. He wants power and he has a plan, which isolated him from many. Seen as aloof, stubborn, aristocratic and independent – he was a one-term President. Nonetheless, his presidency is marked by two important achievements: the annexation of Texas and a treaty with England to establish the Canadian border. Oh, and the man also procreated 15 children in his lifetime!

Casey Jones is arguably the most famous railroad engineer in American history. He was made famous by an epic folksong called “The Ballad of Casey Jones” (written in tribute by a black engine wiper who had been a devoted friend to Jones). Casey Jones actually received his nickname from the town from which he hailed, Cayce, Kentucky. He was a loveable, teetotaling Irish family man known for his signature whistle sound which let the people know it was him blowing through their towns. On the night of April 29 and early morning of April 30, 1900, Casey Jones was a last minute substitute for another engine driver who wasn’t feeling well. Doubling back from where he came, Casey was on a light “Cannonball” train with only his fireman as a fellow passenger. Intent on getting to his destination in record time, his train was going at 70 miles an hour around a blind curve. Up ahead on the tracks was a stalled freight train. Casey Jones told his fireman to jump, and he collided into the caboose while holding the train’s throttle in one hand and the whistle in the other. His friend Wallace Saunders immortalized him in song which quickly spread the country (especially after vaudeville musicians adopted it) and Casey became a folk hero. The lyrics sing in part: “May his spirit live forever throughout the land / As the greatest of all heroes of a railroad man.”

Born on Independence Day 1872 in Vermont, Calvin Coolidge’s family had deep roots in New England dating back to the time of early colonial settlements. In fact, his great-great-grandfather was an American military officer in the Revolutionary War. Calvin Coolidge became a country lawyer in Vermont and joined the Republican Party (dominant in New England during his time). After becoming involved in politics, Coolidge went to Massachusetts and diligently worked his way up the political ladder until he became Governor. After gaining national political capital stemming from the 1919 Boston Police Strike (during which time he held fast against the strikers whom he referred to as “deserters” and “traitors), Coolidge would gain the candidacy for Vice President on the 1920 Republican ticket with Warren Harding. In 1923, Coolidge would assume the presidency after the sudden death of Harding and was again elected in his own right in 1924. His presidency was marked by his laissez-faire approach, a small-government proponent and a man of few words. As a Coolidge biographer put it, "He embodied the spirit and hopes of the middle class, could interpret their longings and express their opinions. That he did represent the genius of the average is the most convincing proof of his strength." This reduction of government would not be revisited in any significant way until Ronald Reagan.

Yes, we know that "Tyler" is his last name, but we wanted to throw him in here given his obvious influence on the popularity of the name Tyler as a given name in America. John Tyler was the 10th President of the United States. In the previous term, he had been William Henry Harrison’s VP – and when Harrison died suddenly of pneumonia within a year of his term, Tyler ascended to the Chief Executive position. A southern gentleman (he hailed from Virginia), Tyler had a long political career. He wants power and he has a plan, which isolated him from many. Seen as aloof, stubborn, aristocratic and independent – he was a one-term President. Nonetheless, his presidency is marked by two important achievements: the annexation of Texas and a treaty with England to establish the Canadian border. Oh, and the man also procreated 15 children in his lifetime!