Spotlight on: Judith

Kerri and skimac both recently asked for a spotlight on Judith, which surprised me at first, and then as I thought about it I got a little excited about it — I’m a big fan of underused or undiscovered biblical names, and while Judith is certainly not undiscovered, I feel like these days it’s definitely underused.

Judith reminds me of Ruth, being biblical and with the -th ending that’s an uncommon ending for a girl’s name, and I’ve been loving Ruth lately, so that association automatically makes me warm to Judith. Kerri called it a “sturdy” name, and I do think it has that feel — it definitely holds up to any variation of the Supreme Court test (i.e., you can definitely picture a woman named Judith as a judge, Judge Judy notwithstanding). (And really, I think Judith is better for a judge than Judy.) (Actually, now that I think about it, and in a weird coincidence, former New York State Court of Appeals Chief Judge Judith Kaye has been on my mind because she died yesterday, yet I’d scheduled this post for today earlier this week and wasn’t even thinking of her when I started writing this, nor when I mentioned the “Supreme Court test.” She’s actually a great example of what I think of when I think of Judith — she was “the first woman named to the highest court in New York and the first to serve as the state’s chief judge — a job she held longer than any of her 21 male predecessors.” Successful, professional, perhaps a little bit stern.)

Judge Kaye was also Jewish, and I think that’s an association many have with the name Judith as well (in fact, the name’s meaning is given as “a woman from Judea” or “a Jewess”), though it’s certainly not inappropriate for those who are not Jewish — I also know Catholic and non-Catholic Christians named Judith. But the ones I know are grown-up women “of a certain age” — I don’t know any little girls! According to the SSA, it was most popular (in the top 100) from 1934 to 1964, peaking at #4 in 1940, which make it a popularity contemporary of names like Carol and Barbara — both of which we’ve talked about before as perhaps ready for a comeback. (Carol: here and here and here; Barbara: here and read subsequent comments too.) It’s been on a downward trend for years, coming in at #952 in 2014. So it can truly be considered an unusual and fairly rare choice, which is pretty exciting.

The Book of Judith in the Bible provides us with a pretty great role model in Judith — as one of my bibles says in its intro to the Book of Judith:

The Book of Judith is a vivid story relating how, in a grave crisis, God delivered the Jewish people through the instrumentality of a woman … The beautiful hymn of the people honoring Judith (15, 9-10) is often applied to Mary in the liturgy.”

This is the hymn:

When they had visited her, all with one accord blessed her, saying:

‘You are the glory of Jerusalem,
the surpassing joy of Israel;
You are the splendid boast of our people.

With your own hand you have done all this;
You have done good to Israel,
and God is pleased with what you have wrought.

May you be blessed by the Lord Almighty forever and ever!’

And all the people answered, ‘Amen!’

I’m not sure I could go so far as to saying Judith is a Marian name, but the ties of the name Judith to Our Lady as revealed in this passage are beautiful — I could easily see someone choosing Judith as an offbeat homage to Mary.

There are also several Sts. and Blesseds Judith, several European royal women (including an empress and several queen consorts), and another association that I came across recently is that in the Protoevangelium of James, which is not canonical, but is nevertheless considered authoritative enough to give us the names by which we remember and honor Mother Mary’s parents, Judith was given as the name of St. Anne’s maid-servant. How cool!

Behind the Name gives several variants of Judith (Jutta, Judyta, et al.), but you know it’s the nicknames I get most excited by! Judy is super cute, but maybe still feels a little dated? It has its own history as a given name, peaking a few years later than Judith but dropping out of sight quicker, so it might have a little more of a date-stamped feel, but it’s not the only option: Jody/Jodie are possibilities, according to behindthename, which makes me also think of Jo and Josie (especially, maybe, with an S middle name? Judith Siena, for example, could easily be Josie) … or maybe pair it with an N middle name for Junie or Juno? Maybe Judith Noelle? Even Julie for something like Judith Louisa? Am I scaring you yet? Haha!

What do you all think of Judith? Would you consider it for your daughter, or have you? Do you know any little Judiths? Do they go by a nickname, and if so, what? Or older Judiths as well — I’d love to hear of non-Judy nicknames.

Updated to add: Howwww could I forget Jude as a nickname?? The spotlight I did on Jude was really the impetus for this spotlight! Thanks to Mary-Agnes for the reminder! Jude as a nickname definitely modernizes Judith I think, do you agree?

47 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Judith

  1. Judith is a really cool name! I would love to meet a baby or child named Judith. I like “dated” names like Judith, because they’re completely known, people will know how to spell and pronounce them, but they’re still surprising, it’s still like “woah, interesting!”

    Though I can imagine my mother’s horror if she met a child named Judith (my mom was born in the 50s, when Judith/Judy was super popular!). We met a little Susan a few weeks ago at Church and my mom was like “Susan! Why Susan? That’s the name of a 60 year old, not a little kid” and I can completely imagine Judith substituted in there, lol.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ha! I love hearing the reactions of older generations to today’s babies, they always crack me up! It was just totally different when they were naming babies — both the pool of names that most people drew from, and the whole mindset.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Judith may not be a Marian name exactly, but when I wrote my college thesis on the Book of Judith (many years ago, and my memory of it is a bit foggy now), I ended up arguing that Judith prefigures Mary. There’s even a bit near the end of the book when, as Judith returns to her city, she says a prayer that’s awfully similar to the Magnificat. Neat stuff.
    Anyway, I love Judith the person – I wrote about her because we studied her and Esther together, and Esther got on my nerves for being this insanely subservient umpteenth wife to some king, whereas Judith was this kick*** woman who goes out and saves her people – but I’m not sure I’d use the name for a daughter of mine. At least, not a first name. It’s on the list for middle names but I don’t think my husband is a fan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved this comment Mena! I often find your comments in my spam folder (which I don’t check often enough, so sorry!), and I don’t know why — you have great things to say!

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  3. I think there is nothing wrong with the name Judith itself, but it creeps me out because the biblical Judith cut someone’s head (an enemy of Israel, but still) . It is a beautiful name, and I like the sound of it, but I wouldn’t name a child Judith because of that. I really like the connection with Mary, though. It’s kind of what happens with Hannah’s prayer being similar to the Magnificat.

    As for nicknames, maybe Jude, if you don’t mind that it is traditionally masculine.

    I would also like to ask for another spotlight: on the name Benedicta. It’s one of my favorite names and I would like to know if it is considered Marian.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Gah! Jude! Of course! How could I forget! I’ve added Benedicta to the list, love it!

      I did find quite a few paintings by famous artists of Judith cutting off Holofernes’ head when I was researching the name, so it’s definitely something to consider!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Judith! It’s my mother’s name. I tell her that her name (Judith Louise) and my dad’s name (Emmett Francis) are set to come back in a big way because of the upward trend of these great, dignified old-fashioned names and they just can’t believe it. Believe it, Mom and Dad!

    Liked by 3 people

  5. 1. I ADORE girls’ names that end with “-th”. I may have mentioned somewhere in the annals of Sancta Nomina that Gwyneth is my dirty little secret name which I would totally try to use if it weren’t just OWNED by Gwyneth Paltrow. (And also that I have a hard and fast love for her two most famous exes, so it might also feel a little wrong! Lol!)
    I have loved the name Gwyneth since I first heard in in the early 90’s when I was approximately 14 years old. When we were expecting our oldest, I was also in a HUGE Ruth phase and really considered it. I loved at the time that Ross and Rachel (on the show Friends) tossed the name Ruth out as a possibility for their baby’s name because I was pregnant at the same time (fictional Emma was born just after my little girl), and that was when I was really into the name Ruth.

    2. I agree, Judith is an extremely cool, feminine, and powerful name.

    3. Judith Noelle nicked Juno may be the first nickname I’m actually swooning over. It’s PERFECT!!!

    4. Only three women in scripture have the privilege of being called “blessed among women” and it’s not who we’d expect! They are Jael, Judith, and Mary. Jael and Judith both won victories for Israel by killing the enemy leader. This is an important connection to Mary, because it shows us that when she is addressed as “blessed among women” it has a specific meaning, not just “oh, how nice, you’re blessed.” It means that Mary is the VANQUISHER of the enemy! We think of Mary as meek, which of course she is, but she is also INCREDIBLY powerful, she is the enemy’s greatest fear.

    5. On the same day, I can make jokes about euphemisms for anatomy on one post and go all theological on another. I am JUST THAT RANDOM.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Oh! And
    6. Yes, I know a little Judith. She’s a little girl at my sister’s church and goes to the Catholic school where my husband teaches. She is 5 years old, her middle name is Noemi, and she goes by Judith!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I really like the name Judith. My husband and I have considered it for both our girls but we bypassed it because we don’t agree on the nickname Judy. I like it–I went to school with a Judy and she is super cool. Hubby says it reminds him of the Jetsons. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I would guess that any buzz around the name Judith is due to it being used for a character in The Walking Dead–the number one show on TV these days. It’s the main characger’s little baby.

    (It’s actually a main contender if #3 that I’m expecting is a girl–Judith Marie.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This post (and the comments) is totally making me crush hard on Judith. I actually love Jude as a nickname, and Judy totally sounds cool and bad-@!$ to me because of the Ramones’ “Judy is a Punk.” I also loooove the “th” sound in girls’ names, and so does my husband. We considered Ruth, Thea, and Thora (family name) for our Martha! So, yes: Judith just got bumped higher on my list!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Got to meet a little Judith born this summer. I love the idea of it coming back. Haven’t known anyone other than people my age (50s) with the name. To me I always think of it as a female name variation on the male St. Jude, rather than the biblical Judith – but Grace’s comment on “blessed among women” is so cool that my emphasis would likely be back on Judith herself.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Judith is the girl’s name we’re fairly set on for my 2nd baby (sex unknown) due in about 6 weeks! Thanks for pointing out the Ruth connection — that’s another great name. I love that Judith is so sturdy, or Judy could be cute, or Jude could be very *cool*. My first daughter’s name is Miriam, which has some of the same perks (Miriam is sturdy, but she could easily be a Mimi or a Miri..though she’s always Miriam with me) …

    I have to say though, one of the reasons I’m attracted to the name is because of the beheading story! Giving a little girl a bit of Warrior Woman attitude in her name isn’t the worst thing I can think of (my confirmation saint is Joan of Arc!). And there is so much great art depicting that story!

    Anyway, thanks for featuring it, it makes me feel more excited about using it as a potential baby name! Yay!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. […] A reader requested a spotlight on Jael, which is a name I’m almost completely unfamiliar with. My only two associations with it are a girl I used to work with named the variant Yael (though I didn’t know her well enough to ask about her name), and the Judith spotlight I did a while ago, on which Grace left the following comment: […]

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