—From Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)
1) From the Hebrew name רִבְקָה (Rivqah), possibly meaning “a snare” or “a noose” in Hebrew, or perhaps derived from an Aramaic name. This was the name of the wife of Isaac and the mother of Esau and Jacob in the Old Testament;
2)Rebecca is the English form of a Hebrew name, Rebekah. Until the 17th century, Rebecca was almost exclusively a Jewish name. After the Reformation, however, it became one of many Old Testament names adopted by Protestants. Rebecca was especially popular with the Puritans. It was revived in the late 20th century. In 1900-1910, it was 161st most popular baby name in the US. In 2003, it was the 64th most popular.
I’ve always been really interested in names. When I hear news of a birth, the first question I’m likely to ask is, “What did they name her (or him)?” After all, your name is the one thing about yourself that probably will never change – unlike your skin, hair color, and certainly height and weight, your name isn’t affected by the ravages of time. So, unless you take the time and trouble to change it legally, it’s yours intact from birth to death.
When I was a kid back in the 60’s I was the only girl named Rebecca in my entire school. I liked that actually. I was never a child who felt compelled to be like everyone else, so I was secretly proud of the fact that I wasn’t one of the three of four Kathy’s or Debbie’s or Linda’s that always seemed to be in my classes. I did go through a phase of spelling Becky with an “i” on the end (I know, really stupid), but that didn’t last long.
I’ve also always liked the fact that Rebecca is a Hebrew name, particularly since I discovered that some of my earliest ancestors here in America were actually Jews from Germany, who arrived here in the mid 1700’s and settled in the area that is now Pennsylavania. However, I’m not fond of the Hebrew etymology. A “snare,” or “noose”? Not a very attractive image to fulfill. Modern baby name books use the word “captivating” as the meaning, which is certainly much more appealing.
I remember asking my mother why she chose this particular name, since it was rather unusual in the mid-1950’s when I was born. And she said just what I would expect her to say – that she wanted my name to be special and unique, because that was the kind of person she wanted me to be. (On the rare occasions when I did complain about not having or doing something that “everyone else was doing,” my mother always gave me a withering look and asked pointedly, “Do you really want to be like everyone else?” Grudgingly, I had to admit that I really didn’t.) So, perhaps it was partly because of my “special and unique” name that I’ve always been quite comfortable in my own skin, even when I don’t blend in with the crowd.
How about you? What’s in your name?