Etymology & Historical Origin of the Baby Name Yusuf
Yusuf is the Arabic equivalent of Yosef (Hebrew) and Joseph (English) which translates to “(God) shall add (another son).” This is a fitting etymology since Joseph was Jacob’s eleventh son in the book of Genesis. In fact, Joseph was Jacob’s favorite son, so much so that “he made him a robe of many colors” because he was “the son of his old age” (Genesis 37:3). As it would in any family, Jacob’s favoritism of Joseph inspired jealousy among his brothers so they concocted a plan to sell Joseph into slavery to Egypt, in essence ridding themselves of the family’s “golden child”. Although once in Egypt, Joseph rose to become chief steward to Pharaoh after wisely advising Pharaoh to stockpile food during a period of abundance (in essence, preparing Egypt for the coming seven year famine). Once the famine struck all the surrounding lands, Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy corn from the very brother they betrayed earlier. The brothers reconciled (clearly Joseph was a forgiving guy) and Jacob came to Egypt to be reunited with his beloved son. Aside from the important Old Testament (Hebrew Bible) Joseph, there is, of course, the New Testament Joseph, i.e., the husband of the Virgin Mary who essentially became foster father to Jesus Christ. Lastly, the name Joseph is also borne in the Bible by a rich Jew who took Jesus down from the cross and buried him. According to medieval legend, this Joseph (Joseph of Arimathea) brought the Holy Grail to Britain. The Old Testament Joseph is a highly regarded prophet by Muslims which is why we find Yusuf/Yousef a common name among Arabs. There are slight differences between the Yosef in the Hebrew Bible vs. Yusuf in the Qur'an but it’s essentially the name story (for instance there’s a lot of emphasis on Yusuf’s handsomeness in Islam). In terms of Western usage, the name Yusuf shows up on the charts in countries with considerable Arab citizenry (for instance the U.S., France, Germany, Norway and the Netherlands). It is also one of the most popular boy names in Turkey and Tajikistan.