James Name Meaning

Lastest Updated March 12, 2024
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If James name meaning is what recently left you wondering, here’s everything you need. With its timeless appeal, James has graced many lists of the top classic boy names online. Such a name that stood the test of time should have something up its sleeve, right?

So, I guess that James has successfully caught your eye, but there’s no need to rush. Before putting the name on your next kid’s birth certificate, you should examine its meaning, roots, and history first.

James Is A Name
James is a name that never goes out of style!

A Summary Of The Name James

Before heading towards the main section, you can look at the general information about the name James:

Meaning “Supplanter”, “replacer”, and “one who follows”.
GenderJames has long been a predominantly male name. Recently, James can also be regarded as a gender-neutral choice. 

However, it hasn’t shown up again in the popularity chart as a female name since 1989. 
PopularityJames has long been a fixture in the US’s name pool. Its ranking has never been lower than 19th throughout history. 

In 2021, James was the 5th most common choice for newborn boys. 
VariationsSeamus, Séamas, Shéamais, Tiago, Giacomo, Jaime, Kimo, Iago, Jacques, Jacob, Jakob, etc. 
NicknamesJim, Jimbo, Jay, Jimmy, Jame, Jamie, Jack, John, etc. 
Similar NamesJay, Jason, Jeremiah, Jack, Abraham, Samuel, Simon, Zachariah, etc. 
Sibling NamesFor Boys: Benjamin, Caleb, John, Liam, Peter, etc.

For Girls: Emily, Emma, Mary, Samantha, Sarah, etc. 
Middle NamesAndrew, Ezra, Landon, Oscar, Ryan, Thomas, Vincent, etc. 

Meaning & Origin Of The Name James

James is a name steeped in history. The name is traced back to ancient Hebrew roots as it’s indirectly derived from the name Jacob or “Yaakov”.

Specifically, the Hebrew name “Yaakov” inspired the word “Iakobos” and then “Iakobus”. Subsequently, “Iakobus” led to the late Latin word “Iacomus”, from which “James” is developed.

Complex roots aside, James is mainly interpreted as a “supplanter” or “replacer”. Most importantly, there’s a whole story behind these interpretations.

According to the Bible, Jacob held on to the heel of his older twin brother Esau during his birth. That’s why this name was bestowed upon him, meaning “holder of the heel”, “to follow”, “to be behind”, “one who follows”, and “supplanter”.

The name “James” has strong biblical references, too. In the Bible, there were two apostles of Jesus bearing this name. They were given the titles James the Lesser (the Younger) and James the Greater (the Older) to not mix up with each other.

In the New Testament, James, also called James the Just, was one of the four brothers of Jesus.

Is James An Exclusively Male Title?

With its association with “Jacob” and three figures named James in the Bible, the name was originally used for males. Nevertheless, it has taken on a more gender-neutral nature recently.

This is partially thanks to Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, who chose this name for their eldest daughter. The couple went for “James” to pay homage to Ryan’s father, who passed away after battling Parkinson’s disease.

That said, James has not been returned to the top 1000 most common girl names since 1989.

How Popular Is It In America?

James is among the most enduringly popular male names in the US, per Social Security Administration (SSA) data. Over more than 100 years, the name has never dropped out of the top 20 choices.

From 1900 to 1980, James was consistently in the top 5 picks. During this period, it enjoyed a long streak as a number-one choice from 1940 to 1952. Even though its popularity had declined from the 1990s, its lowest ranking was the 19th.

In 2016, James rejoined the top 5 on the popularity chart and has been solidly there until now. The latest data from the SSA shows that James occupied the 5th spot in 2021 (1).

As a female title, James showed positive performance between 1917-1946, when it was constantly in the top 500. The name steadily declined in use and finally dropped out of the top 1000 after 1989.

Various Spelling Variations Of James

Variations Of James
James has an abundance of variants in different languages.

James is a name with remarkable popularity, not just in the English-speaking world. That’s why you can see many of its spelling manifestations across cultures. Here are the most common:

  • Seamus, Séamas, Shéamais (Irish)
  • Tiago (Portuguese)
  • Giacomo (Italian)
  • Jaime (Spanish, Portuguese, English, Filipino)
  • Kimo (Hawaiian)
  • Iago (Welsh, Spanish)
  • Jacques (French)
  • Jacob (Hebrew, English)
  • Jakob (German, English, Icelandic)

Nicknames & Similar Names

Even though James only has syllables, there are a handful of nicknames for it. Save James for more formal occasions, and instead use these laid-back, down-home pet names to call your kid at home:

  • Jim
  • Jimbo
  • Jay
  • Jimmy
  • Jame
  • Jamie
  • Jack
  • John

If you love the name “James” but need more options, take a look at the table below. Many J-starting names that sound equally fantastic or Hebrew-rooted options are available for your consideration:


Jaybird, blue-crested bird, to rejoiceLatin

To heal, healer, the Lord is salvationGreek, Hebrew

The Lord exalts, Yhwh will raise, God will upliftHebrew


God is gracious, healthy, strongBritish

Father of multitudes, father of a nationHebrew

God has heard, God has placed, name of GodHebrew

To hear, be heard, He has heard, God has heardHebrew, Greek

The Lord has remembered, Jehovah has rememberedHebrew

Sibling Names

Choosing sibling names is all about perfect pairings. When it comes to James’ brothers and sisters, there’s no shortage of monikers that can match James nicely.

For Sons

Not sure where to start with your new boy after James? The good news is James and any of these names will give off a family vibe.

  • Benjamin: Benjamin dates back to the time of the Old Testament but never feels too old-timey. This Hebrew name means “son of the right hand” and “son of the south”. The name is borne by the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob in the Bible. He was also known as the founder of the Israelite Tribe of Benjamin later (2).
  • Caleb: Caleb has two widely-accepted roots. The first is the Hebrew “kelev”, referring to “dog”. The other is from two Hebrew elements, “kal” and “lev”, meaning “whole-hearted” when combined. Thanks to these meanings, the name “Caleb” embodies devotion and loyalty.
  • John: John is an equally classic name compared to James. It comes from the “Yohanan”, which is a Hebrew word for “graced by God” or “God is gracious”. This ever-popular name projects wisdom, kindness, and strength at the same time. If you’re one the theme of J-starting, one-syllable names, John fits the bill nicely.
  • Liam: This short boy name is a modern and charismatic alternative to the classic William. This Irish name similarly means “strong-willed warrior” and “protector”. These interpretations can channel strength and courage to your little one. Younger generations will likely know Liam Payne, a British singer and formerly of the boy band One Direction.
  • Peter: Peter is another name that signifies strength, as it means “rock” and “stone”. The name supposedly stems from the Greek “Petros”. The name “Petro” itself was developed from “peta” – an ancient Greek word for “rock”. This is the name that Jesus bestowed on Simon bar Jonah, who later became Saint Peter.

For Daughters

These feminine names will make for a perfect duo with James regarding the classic theme. Information about their meanings and roots is elaborated right below:

  • Emily: Emily means “rival”, “wily”, “excel”, or “emulate” in Latin. A girl with this name seems never to settle and always strives for newer heights in her life.
  • Emma: For 19 years straight, Emma has been in the top 3 most-often-used names in the US. Originating from the old Germanic word “ermen”, this feminine name means “universal” and “whole”.
  • Mary: Mary is a Hebrew name with multiple ways for interpretations. It can mean “bitter”, “beloved”, “rebellious”, or “drop of the sea”. The name also boasts religious and royal connections. There were up to seven Marys mentioned in the Bible, including Mary, the mother of James and Joses (3). Several British Royals also started to adopt the name in the 16th century.
  • Samantha: Samantha’s roots are quite obscure. The general belief is it’s a version of the Hebrew male name “Samuel”. Thus, you can interpret it as “God has heard”. Another possible root is the Greek word “Anthea”, which gives it the meaning of “flower” or “blossom”.
  • Sarah: It’s hard to believe Sarah is among the oldest names of humankind’s history, considering its modern and stylish touch. Sarah primarily translates to “princess” and “noblewoman” in Hebrew. This Old Testament name is borne by the wife of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Judaism, and therefore, Sarah was regarded as the mother of Hebrew people or the mother of nations.

Middle Names To Flow With James

Flow With James
A great middle name choice will help your little James stand out!

Middle names are also part of your kid’s identity. If you go with James, you should expect your little one to mingle with many people of the same name. So, he will likely appreciate something extra that helps distinguish himself, like a beautiful middle name:

  • Andrew: Andrew is a Greek name that speaks for its intended gender. It means “strong” and “manly”. Like James, it boasts presidential credentials. Two former American Presidents are bearing this name, including Andrew Jackson (the 7th president) and Andrew Johnson (the 17th president).
  • Ezra: Pronounced “ez-rah”, this male title exudes kindness and strength simultaneously. This Hebrew name refers to “help”, “aid”, and “protect”. Ezra was the priest and scribe who helped restore the Jewish community on the foundation of the Torah.
  • Landon: Many long-standing English names started as habitual surnames. Landon is a case in point. This British male name means “long hill”. If you’re a soccer fan, you might’ve heard about the former LA Galaxy and US soccer superstar – Landon Donovan.
  • Oscar: Oscar can be either an Irish or Norse masculine name. Its popular interpretations are “God spear”, “deer-lover”, and “champion warrior”. In addition, Oscar is also an Irish mythological warrior known for his strength and fierceness. If you want a strong boy name to elevate James, Oscar should be on your roster.
  • Ryan: Formed by two Gaelic words, “righ” and “an”, Ryan ultimately translates to “little king”. With such a meaning, the name exudes a royal flair and will encourage your kid to grow into a capable man.
  • Thomas: Thomas is a Hebrew/Aramaic name that means “twin”. Despite its somewhat peculiar meaning, Thomas is a well-loved name among modern parents. Since 2000, the name has mostly been in the top 50 names. It’s perhaps due to its biblical reference: St. Thomas was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus.
  • Vincent: This V-starting name is both classy and stylish. The name has been widely used since the Middle Ages, first by the French before traveling to the English-speaking world. Derived from the Latin spelling “vincere”, Vincent means “conquer”.

James In Pop Culture

The name James is also commonly used in works of fiction and TV shows. Many people might be familiar with James Bond, known for his classy demeanor. Yet, there are also many fictional characters named James that can inspire your kid:

  • James Bond: a fictional British secret agent, codename 007, in the novel of the same name by Ian Fleming in 1953.
  • James Conrad: a fictional character in the film Kong: Skull Island, played by Tom Hiddleston.
  • James Henry Trotter: a protagonist of Roald Dahl’s book and live-action film James and the Giant Peach.
  • James Matthew “Jem” Blythe: a fictional character in the 1908 Green Gables book series by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
  • Jamie Sommers: the main character in the American science fiction series The Bionic Woman.
  • James Tiberius Kirk: a character in the Star Trek series, portrayed by actor William Shatner.

Notable Figures Named James

From biblical times to the modern day, there are many noteworthy figures sharing this name. James undoubtedly will stay strong in the future, so expect to see more successful young James:

  • James I the Conqueror (1208-1276): Early 13-century King of Aragon and King of Aragon and Lord of Montpellier.
  • James I of Scotland (1394-1437): King of Scots from 1406 to 1437.
  • James Baldwin (1924-1987): American writer.
  • James Cook (1728-1779): 18-century English explorer and captain in the British Royal Navy.
  • James Earl Carter Jr. (born 1924): Also known as Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States, served the country from 1977 to 1981.
  • James Earl Jones (born 1931): American actor.
  • James Edward Franco (born 1978): American actor.
  • James Hillier Blunt (born 1974): English singer-songwriter.
  • King James VI/I (1566-1625): King James VI of Scotland and King James I of England and Ireland. He was the only son of Mary Queen of Scots.
  • James Joyce (1882-1941): Irish novelist.
  • James Madison Jr. (1751-1836): the 4th United States of America president. He was also known as the father of the Constitution.


Before leaving, you can give these related questions a quick look to get to know the name better:

If you’re looking for a French alternative to James, consider “Jacques”. It is a variation of both “James” and “Jacob”, and means the same thing – “supplanter”, “replacer”, and “one who follows”.

James is a long-standing classic male name in the US. While its meanings might not seem favorable, James boasts a significant connection with the Bible. Therefore, it’s a choice of many religious parents.

People bearing this name are known for their kindness, generosity, and responsibility. They not only care for themselves but also have a huge interest in aiding and serving others.

James can be used as a neutral-gender name. However, if you prefer something extra feminine, consider Jamie, Jami, Jamey, Jamesa, and Jamesina.

Three biblical figures share this name: James the Lesser (the Younger), James the Greater (the Older), and James the Just. These prominent men can be a huge source of inspiration and lessons for your little one.

Will You Go With James For Your Next Boy/Girl?

While there are various ways to go about choosing a baby’s name, the major ones are “traditional”, “trendy”, and “unique”. If you’re a traditional type, James is especially a stand-out name.

So, with all the necessary information about this name, I hope you can easily decide on it. But if you’re not quite confident, feel free to specify your concerns in the comment box below. Lastly, please give this post a big thumbs-up and share it with your acquaintances.


  1. ssa.gov. 2022. The Popularity Of A Name.
  2. wikipedia.org. 2022. Benjamin.
  3. rsc.byu.edu. 2004. Sorting Out the Seven Marys in the New Testament.
Helen Doanna

Helen Doanna

Editor in Chief, Educational Specialist, and Senior Content Creator


Child Development Specialist, Child-care Coordinator, Family Support Specialist, Content Writer, Communications Specialist, Educational Consultant, STEAM Teacher


1. University of Social Science and Humanity, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Faculty of Literature and Journalism
  • Focus: In-depth knowledge of Literature, knowledge and skills to perceive, create literature or work in related fields; Basic knowledge of communications.

2. University of Social Science and Humanity, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Education Faculty
  • Focus: Core knowledge of social sciences and humanities – the root for the development of progressive values of education, Multicultural communication in education, Contemporary education in the context of globalization, Learning in the digital technology era, Basic issues of STEAM education, Classroom Management, Special education.

3. Oregon State University, Oregan, US

  • Program: Bachelor’s degree in Faculty of Human Development and Family Sciences – Child Development
  • Focus: Different stages of development, from infancy to adulthood; Develop a strong foundation for a career in early childhood programs or classrooms; Learn strategies for supporting young children’s development in early childhood settings.

Helen is an experienced educational specialist and content creator, known for her innovative approach to children’s learning. With a background in literature and child development, she composes engaging educational content for SimpleKids.net. Her work emphasizes creativity, engagement, and simplicity, aiming to make learning enjoyable and accessible for children and their families.

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