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?