Spotlight on: Jacob

The consultation and birth announcement I posted recently have me thinking that a spotlight on Jacob would be a good idea.

Jacob! Who doesn’t love Jacob! It’s been America’s darling for years now — it’s currently at #4 but it was #1 from 1999-2012. Thirteen years at #1! Top ten for nearly 25 years! The lowest it ever got was #318 in 1950; it was in the top 100 for a good portion of the first decade of the 20th century and jumped in again in 1974 and never looked back.

Screen shot from the Social Security Administration web site

Jacob has so many things going for it — it’s Old Testament, for one thing, and a big Old Testament name at that: the Patriarch Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham; his name was changed to Israel after wrestling with God in the Book Genesis, and a whole nation took its name from him. Pope Benedict discussed the name change in one of his public addresses, including the significance of names in general, awesome stuff. (As a side note, Jill Duggar named her baby Israel.) It’s also got the amazing nickname Jake, one of my forever favorites. It’s also — hold onto your hat! — the same name as James:


I mentioned that on Instagram the other day, and one of you commented:

According to, one of my mom’s uncle’s middle name switched between Jacob and James on different documents.”

How cool is that?! Name knowledge is helpful in so many areas! So if you’re looking to honor a James — saint, family member, friend — and for whatever reason can’t/don’t want to use James, Jacob is a perfect alternative. At the same time, Jake has history of use as a nickname for James, so that’s an option too.

Even though the Church recognizes the holy ones of the Old Testament as saints (CCC no. 61: “The patriarchs, prophets and certain other Old Testament figures have been and always will be honored as saints in all the Church’s liturgical traditions“) (I wish I had come across that when I was researching this post!), including Jacob the Patriarch, I suspect that Jacob doesn’t come across to most people as saintly and/or as Catholicky Catholic as some other names. Any of the Sts. James can work as patron, but little Jacob Miles’ birth announcement really inspired me to find some holy Jacobs. lists several (here, here, here), and Bl. Jakob Gapp was the one I chose for the IG post for the birth announcement. I’ve been thinking about him ever since — I’d never heard of him before, but what an amazing and holy man he was! He fought in WWI, then became a Marianist priest and teacher. The Marianists have a beautiful profile on him, and this part really got me:

Required by his superior to wear a Swastika badge and greet people in public with a “Heil Hitler,” he conscientiously refused. He felt it his duty to continue in the schoolroom and in his sermons to denounce Nazism as anti-Christian. When a fellow teacher was reported as telling the children they should “hate and kill Czechs and Jews,” he considered himself
duty-bound to refute him in his own class.”

He was eventually arrested, interrogated, and beheaded by the Nazis:

One of his interrogators (who is still alive) says that Heinrich Himmler, head of the Gestapo, insisted on reading transcripts of all that the Marianist priest said. Himmler eventually observed to one of the judges, that if the million Nazi party members were as committed to Nazism as Father Gapp was to Catholicism, Germany would be winning the war without difficulty.”

If that isn’t an amazing, holy Jacob, I don’t know who is!

Besides James, other variants of Jacob include Giacomo, Yakub, Iago, Jaime, Jamie, Seamus, and Jacques, and there’s also the feminine Jacqueline, Jacoba, Jamesina, and Jamie. Nicknames include Jake and the super cute Coby, Cubby, and Jeb; A Dictionary of English Surnames by Reaney & Wilson also says that the English surname Cobbet(t), dating back to 1275, is from:

Cob-et, Cob-ot, diminutives of Cob, a pet-form of Jacob.”

Such a cute, unusual nickname idea!

There is so much fun info regarding Jacob, a truly great name! What else do you all know about Jacob? Would you name a son Jacob, or have you? Does he go by a nickname, and if so, which one?



58 thoughts on “Spotlight on: Jacob

  1. I love the name Jacob! I actually only know 3! Which seems like very few for how popular it has been! Maybe it’s just not popular in the parts of the country that I’ve lived in.

    I adore the nickname Jake. It just seems like a nice guy name, like the guy who would hold the elevator for you or help you carry your groceries, lol. Kinda like the name Sam (Side note: Wouldn’t Jacob “Jake” and Samuel “Sam” be awesome brother names?!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Honestly, I’ve never been fond of the name. Growing up evangelical Protestant, it was VERY popular, so to me it’s both Protestant and dated–though I do realize it’s pretty much always been very popular! This profile, and Blessed Jakob!, have made me feel a little more kindly towards it, but I feel like James is more usable at the moment. Obviously, boys names are less prone to trends than girls, but it seems to me that a wave of “dusty,” older classics is happening in boy naming, and James fits that. James is a grandpa name, Jacob is a dad name, at least in my mind, if that makes sense.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Very excited for the Jacob spotlight. I am likely to ramble – have a lot to say.

    I LOVE the name Jacob – or actually my special fondness is for the nickname Jake – it is one of my “forever favorites” like you mentioned.

    Our second son is Jacob. He was named just as it entered the top 20, so was not nearly as popular as it would become for the next 2 decades. Obviously we liked it for a reason – so did a lot of other people. We called him both Jacob and Jake growing up, but more often Jake. He is now 25 and has recently told me prefers the full Jacob so I am trying hard to make the switch to calling him that consistently. It is hard because in most of his circles he is Jake even though he tries to make the switch (introducing himself now as Jacob, making subtle corrections, etc). [That is another topic – trying to “change” your name preference when you are older.]

    WIth the popularity factor there have always been some other Jacob/Jakes in his life, but not that many. And it never bothered him. Hey I am a Mary and there were always lots of those my age, so it isn’t something I worry about – being unique with a name.

    Though our son wasn’t named for him, I did have an uncle named Jacob, too – though he went by Jack or Jackie so I never really thought of him as Uncle Jacob. Jack seems to be a common nickname for Jacob. Did you know that the author of Snowy Day – Ezra Jack Keats, was really Jacob (Jack) Ezra Katz? I recently learned that. His parents were immigrants from Poland. My grandparents were also Polish immigrants so wonder how common Jacob is in Poland.

    Speaking of Polish, there are times I wish I had been more bold and gone with one of our family ethnicity spellings like Jakub/Jakob in Polish (especially since I like Jake). Though is has a pronunciation is YAH-kupp which takes away the “J” sound. A Polish nickname is Kuba.

    Or the Basque spelling, Jakue (Spanish Basque pronounced HAH-koo-eh) or Jakobe (French Basque pronounced HAH-koo-beh).

    I love that it is connected to James. I knew it was a form of James – or rather James came from it since Jacob is much older, but even when we named him I never really associated it with St. James as a possible patron. It wasn’t until a trip to Spain and France a few years ago when I saw a sign at the French Basque town where the Way of St. James (Camino de Santiago in Spanish) starts.
    It read:
    Chemin de St. Jacques
    Jondoni Jakobe Bidea
    …and I thought, wow, St. Jacob is St. James (and when I really thought we should have named him Jakobe lol)
    [And the Spanish Basque name for it would be Done Jakue Bidea.]

    Another funny thing about our children’s names are we cover patriarch Jacob’s family pretty well – though it was not intentional at all and only really realized later. We have Jacob, his lesser loved wife, Leah, and the favorite son of favorite wife, Joseph. Only our David is not in the family – lol. We did realize we would have a Jacob and Leah but didn’t think that would be an issue – and it isn’t.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ll admit I’m not a Jake person. It always seems “cooler” than I am. Like the guys who wouldn’t give me the time of day in college. James is more my speed, because despite the James Dean thing, it has a more earnest and bookish flavor to me. And obviously, I loooove James, it’s been my favorite boys’ name since I was 11, and is my older son’s name. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I’ve heard Jack used as a nickname for Jacob. One of my cousins has a son named Jacoby, which I assume is another variant. I think Jacob was fairly common with German Catholic immigrants in the early 20th century, judging by historical records and obituaries I’ve seen.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I have a James but Jacob was always a favorite. As an aside, someone I knew was expecting a baby boy and wanted to name him Jacob James and I was like “I think they are the same name!” and she did look it up to check, so whew! Avoided that one, lol. We also call our James “Jimmy” which I know is not popular now, as it was in the 1950s (my FIL is a Jim/Jimmy) but it makes him stand out from the many Jameses we know!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Wow! That’s so great you were able to let her know ahead of time! I knew a family with a James and a Jacob … on the one hand, same name! On the other though … could be a not-terrible way to honor two different family members with the same name? Or Grandpa James and Grandpa Jacob? What do you all think? I feel like few enough people know that James and Jacob are the same that it wouldn’t be that big a deal to anyone but people like us, and all I’d need to hear is “it’s for the two Grandpas, James and Jacob” and I’d be good. (Not that my opinion matters!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think James and Jacob have diverged enough in the English-speaking world for that to be ok. I mean, they are printed differently in the Bible! And have been for at least 400 years. So for a minimum of 400 years, those names have been used separately. They convey a really different feel. I also think it’s ok to do Elizabeth and Isabel in the same family, even though they are the same name. They sound different enough and have been used as different names for so long in the English-speaking world that it’s almost safe to say they’re not the same anymore. (I think the divergence is even greater with James and Jacob.)

        Liked by 3 people

      • I know a family with a James and Jacob also. Like Grace says I think that the names have diverged so much that they are very separate now.

        We would make a list of possible redundant names that seem separate.

        James Jacob
        Jackson John
        Hannah Grace
        Isabelle Elizabeth
        Miriam Marie

        Liked by 2 people

      • Well, not that funny other than the fact that they obviously didn’t realize the redundancy. Obviously they must’ve liked the name Jack, so they went with Jackson as a “formal” first name, and John was after the uncle/godfather. I’m certain they didn’t realize they were naming him “John’s son John”. Because who would do that, right?!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I know a few Jim/Jimmys who are under 25 but would say the majority now do the full James which is so classic.

        And a couple of the James that I knew growing up went by Jamie – not Jim/Jimmy.

        Liked by 2 people

  7. I obviously ended up loving the name Jacob, lol. We plan to use the full Jacob, and not shorten it to Jake. And I love it even more knowing about Blessed Jakob Gapp! I had been kind of liking some of the WW2 saint names, but so many of those names were being used a LOT in the Catholic circles, so I dropped that idea. Now I am super excited to know Will got his brother Jacob, I got Mary and Mercy in the name meanings, and we also have a WW2 patron for our little guy! My heart is all aflutter. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have always really liked Jacob and Jake. It feels laid back and a little cool but in a nice guy way. Because hubby and I have done a lot of youth ministry work in years past, we hit the vein of Jacobs in the high school to young adult range and met quite a few. They were to a one very nice kids. Some were clearly, definitively Jake and others Jacob only, please and a few who were okay with both. I work with a Jake now, 26 years old, so on the earliest end of the popularity. Again, like the others, he’s a great guy and has the same easy going vibe.

    Jacob never quite fit with the names we used for our family, although we’ve always considered it. I like Jacoby too. So in a novel that I wrote, I named the hero’s best friend, Jake, and he shares many of the chacteristics of the teens that we worked with, caring, friendly, laid back and funny.

    There are just so many good things to say about Jacob.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. We have a Jacob Augustine! So glad to learn about this bl. Jakob because we had never heard of him!

    Our Jacob’s sisters are Grace Elizabeth, Claire Gabriella and Lucy Anastasia

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love this Bl. Jakob too — he was a new discovery for me as well, I love him! Jacob Augustine is an awesome combo, I love it!! And your girls’ names are gorgeous!!


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