Esther (given name)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Biblical Queen Esther depicted in a portrait by John Everett Millais.
Gender Female
Word/name Persian
Meaning "star"

Esther (Hebrew: אֶסְתֵּר‎) is a feminine given name known from the Jewish queen Esther, eponymous heroine of the Book of Esther.

According to the Hebrew Bible, queen Esther was born with the name הֲדַסָּה‎ Hadassah ("Myrtle"). Her name was changed to Esther to hide her identity upon becoming queen of Persia. The root of Esther in Hebrew is hester (הסתר) "Hidden".[1]

The name can be derived from the Old Persian stāra (NPer. ستاره setāra, meaning "star") although some scholars identify Esther with the name of the Babylonian goddess of love Ishtar.

History of usage[edit]

Esther first occurs as a given name in Europe and the British Isles at the time of the Reformation prior to which the occurrence of Biblical names – unless borne by saints – was unusual.[2] The modified form Hester has seemingly co-existed with the original Esther throughout the name's usage in the English-speaking world, where despite a theoretic slight pronunciative difference Esther and Hester were long largely – perhaps totally – interchangeable, with it being routine for a woman cited as Esther in one document to be elsewhere documented as Hester. One specific example of this is Esther Johnson, the "Stella" of Jonathan Swift, whose baptismal record identifies her as Hester but who always signed herself Esther.[3] Similarly Swift wrote letters to his "Vanessa": Esther Vanhomrigh, in which Swift sometimes wrote her first name in the respective address as Esther and sometimes as Hester.[4] The commonality usage of Esther and Hester had essentially been phased out by 1900 [5] with Esther retaining a high usage profile especially in North America whereas the usage of Hester has shown a progressive decline.

The 9 September 1893 birth of Esther Cleveland, daughter of US president Grover Cleveland, was heavily publicized as the first birth of a presidential child in the White House with the press announcements of her name stating it meant "star". The 1891 birth of Cleveland's first daughter, also Biblically named being christened Ruth, had caused a media sensation and boosted Ruth into the Top Ten of American girl's names,[6] and while the public endorsement of Esther as the choice of name for Cleveland's second daughter was more muted the name Esther did reach its all-time zenith of US popularity soon after Esther Cleveland's 1893 birth, Esther being ranked as the #27 most popular name for American girls for the year 1896.[7]

The sixth most popular name bestowed on Caucasian baby girls born in New York City in 2006,[8] Esther has remained a favored name in some Jewish communities.

International variants[edit]

Alternate forms of Esther are:

As a given name[edit]

Middle name[edit]

Derivative name[edit]

As a surname[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Esther: Hidden Beauty". Retrieved 2017-11-20. 
  2. ^ Behind the Name
  3. ^ Damrosch, Leo (2014). Jonathan Swift: his life and his world. New Haven CT: Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300205411. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Palmer, Arnold E (2015). In Their Footsteps: a 500 year genealogical odyssey. ISBN 978-1-5144-2123-9. 
  6. ^ Algeo, Matthew (2011). The President Is a Sick Man: wherein the supposedly virtuous Grover Cleveland survives a secret surgery at sea and vilifies the courageous newspaperman who dared expose the truth. Chicago: Chicago Review Press. pp. 50, 172. ISBN 978-1-56976-350-6. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ New York City Health Department. "What's in a Name? Health Department Releases New York City’s Most Popular Baby Names For 2006"