Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Leah

Biblical in origin, Leah means “languid, weary” from the Hebrew “le'ah” (לֵאָה) – although we try and spin that meaning with a more positive etymology of “relaxed, unhurried, dreamy”. Borne from the Hebrew Bible and Christian Old Testament, we are introduced to Leah in the book of Genesis as Jacob’s first wife. She is also remembered as Rachel’s older sister and sister-wife. The Biblical story reads as follows: Jacob falls in love with Rachel, Leah’s younger (and more beautiful) sister. In exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage, Jacob must first avail himself to seven years of servitude to Laban (Leah and Rachel’s father). At the end of the obligatory seven years, however, Laban tricked Jacob into marrying Leah by switching the sisters at the altar. As Laban explained: “It is not our custom to give the younger before the firstborn” (Genesis 29:26). All’s well that ends well, however, when Jacob finally weds Rachel after another seven years of labor (in Biblical times, having more than one wife was socially acceptable). The only physical description of Leah we get from the Bible is in Genesis 29:17: “Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.” While the Bible contrasts the beautiful Rachel with the “weak-eyed” Leah, the Lord does Leah a solid by blessing her with more children (which really bothered her barren sister, Rachel). Would you rather be pretty and barren, or fertile while wearing coke-bottle glasses? Hm, tough one. Like Rachel, Leah has always been a popular choice in the Jewish naming tradition; she is seen as a symbol of a fruitful marriage building up the tribes of Israel. The Puritans adopted the name Leah during the Reformation and it has since become just as widespread among Christians everywhere. In the Bible, Leah played second-fiddle to her more beautiful sister Rachel so the Puritans liked the name for its humility and modesty. Interestingly, throughout the entire Western World, Lea(h) out-performs Rachel by a long shot. So maybe Jacob liked the pretty Rachel best, but when it comes to baby girl names, Western parents prefer Lea(h) the most!

All About the Baby Name – Leah

Personality

OF THE GIRL NAME LEAH

The number Eight personality has everything to do with power, wealth and abundance. Somehow, this personality has been blessed on the material plane, but their authoritative and problem-solving traits provide evidence that their good fortunes are not just the luck of the lottery. They are well earned. This is the personality of CEOs and high-ranking military personnel. Eights are intensely active, hard-driving individuals. Success is only meaningful to them after a job well-done.  They are remarkable in their ability to see the larger picture right down to the smallest details, and organize a strategy around success. They then have the ability to direct a group around them toward any goal, and realize individual potential to get the most out of their team.

Popularity

OF THE GIRL NAME LEAH

The Puritans are mainly credited with bringing Leah to the New World in the 17th century, thus widening the name’s appeal outside of the Jewish community. Leah enjoyed moderate popularity for most of the 20th century but started to gain real notice in the 1970s. In fact, 1979 marks the first year Leah achieved Top 100 status in the country. She fell off America’s Top 100 list a few times in the 1990s, but she seems to be recovering nicely as we’ve turned into the 21st century. Although she may have peaked in popularity at her highest ranking of 24th place in 2010, Leah is still holding strong to America’s Top 50. There’s nothing pretentious about the name Leah; it sounds both sweet and sophisticated.

Quick Facts

ON LEAH

GENDER:

Girl

ORIGIN:

Hebrew

NUMBER OF SYLLABLES:

2

RANKING POPULARITY:

33

PRONUNCIATION:

LEE-ah

SIMPLE MEANING:

Languid, weary, weak-eyed

Characteristics

OF LEAH

Authoritative

Powerful

Tough

Tenacious

Wealthy

Problem-solver

Achiever

Cultural References to the Baby Name – Leah

Literary Characters

OF THE BABY NAME LEAH

Leah Clearwater is a female, shape-shifting wolf from the Quileute tribe in Stephanie Meyer’s wildly popular Twilight series of books. Having been left by Sam Uley for her cousin Emily, Leah is heartbroken. Leah embodies a cynical, negative attitude that annoys her pack brothers, whom she antagonizes by thinking about things to make others uncomfortable. Eventually she joins Jacob’s pack to break free of Sam and transforms into a happier, more positive person.

Leah Price is one of the four daughters in Barbara Kingsolver bestselling novel "The Poisonwood Bible" (1998). Leah is an idealistic, compassionate and intelligent 14 year old who worships her righteous father, the Baptist minister Nathan Price. She believes in the God he has created until the realities of Africa begin to take shape in her maturing mind. She eventually comes to detest her father – seeing his self-centered ways – and realizing the distortions of his religion. She becomes far more concerned with the social-justices of the Congo.

This one is a bit of an obscure reference, but we’re going with it. Leah is the tragic heroine and title character in Belle K. Abbott’s melodramatic 1856 Victorian romance novel. She is a beautiful and alluring young Jewess in the 19th century. The main conflict of the book is between the lovers Leah and Emile (who is – gasp – Christian). Leah is torn because she would never consider disobeying her father and marrying a Gentile. On top of it all, she must suffer her very cruel and heartless stepmother. In the end she flees with Emile to Havana where they procreate a daughter. That is, until the stepmother reappears and drags Emile away to jail in America. Things get more disastrous from there until Leah finally succumbs to her death, dying a tragic heroine.

Popular Songs

ON LEAH

My Beautiful Leah
a song by PJ Harvey

Leah
a song by Roy Orbison

Ah! Leah!
a song by Donnie Iris

Famous People

NAMED LEAH

Leah Remini (actress)

Children of Famous People

NAMED LEAH

Kate Gosselin;

Historic Figures

WITH THE NAME LEAH

Leah appears prominently in the Bible in Genesis 29:15 as the daughter of Laban. “Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel.” In exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage, Jacob served Laban for seven years. In the end, Laban tricked Jacob into taking Leah as his first wife, promising Rachel after another seven years of service. When Jacob asked Laban what he had done to him, Laban explains: “It is not so done in our country to give the younger before the firstborn.” Although Leah was not Jacob’s first choice, their marriage was a fruitful one. Leah mothered seven of Jacob’s children.

Leah shows up in the Bible in Genesis 29:15 as the daughter of Laban. “Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel.” In exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage, Jacob served Laban for seven years. In the end, Laban tricked Jacob into taking Leah as his first wife, promising Rachel after another seven years of service. When Jacob asked Laban what he had done to him, Laban exclaims: “It is not so done in our country to give the younger before the firstborn.” Although Leah was not the first choice of Jacob, she still bore him a couple of sons and thus began the 12 Tribes of Israel.