Name pronunciation: JAY-kub
Origin of name: Hebrew
Meaning of name: Heel catcher, supplanter*

* See additional notes on the meanings of this name at the end of this post.

The Story Behind This Biblical Christian Baby Name

There are two people in the Bible with the name Jacob, and only one has a story. The briefer scriptural mention of the name Jacob is the father of Joseph, husband of Mary, in the genealogy listed in the book of Matthew.

The real story is with Jacob the son of Isaac and Rebekah, and the grandson of Abraham who the book of Romans calls the father of faithful Christian believers. Jacob was the second born of a set of twins, and he came out holding onto his brother Esau’s heel. Later, he talked Esau into trading his first-born inheritance for a bowl of soup and tricked his father into giving him the blessing reserved for the firstborn.

Despite this history of ambitious trickery (thus, “supplanter”, one who to takes the place of another), Jacob was chosen by God for greatness. Notable moments in his life include reconciling with his brother, dreaming about a stairway between heaven and earth (commonly referred to as “Jacob’s Ladder”), wrestling with the angel of God until he received God’s blessing, and receiving the new name “Israel” from the Lord, which means “contender, fighter” or “God prevails.” Jacob was also the father of the twelve sons from whom the twelve tribes of Israel descended.

Scriptures for the Bible Stories of the Boy Name Jacob

The primary scriptural references to the story of Jacob are found in Genesis 25-35. Read online, starting with Genesis 25:21.

Variations of the boy name Jacob

Male: Jacobo, Jacobus, Jacoby, Jake
Female: Jacoba, Jacobette, Jacobi, Jacobina, Jacobine

Additional Considerations about the Meanings of the Name Jacob

When naming a child, there can be some questions asked about the meaning of the name “Jacob”. On the one hand, he is the patriarch from which the nation of Israel takes its name, and someone the God of the Bible recognized and claimed as His own in a mighty way, calling Himself “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. On the other hand, Jacob’s mistakes certainly brought some negative associations to his name: supplanter, deceiver. Some baby naming resources actually list these as the primary meaning of the name.

However, it is our belief at Christian Meaning of Names that when all points are considered, the name Jacob is a fine and positive name, and a shining legacy to give any child. Consider this…

  • The Hebrew people often named their children based on an event or emotion at the time of the child’s birth. When the twins Jacob and Esau were born, Esau came out first and Jacob followed — holding onto the heel of his brother. This action so caught the imagination of the family that they named him Jacob. The name sounds like the Hebrew word for “heel”. The original Hebrew words associated with this name generally track back to the idea of “to catch by the heel”, “to come from behind” or “to hold back”. The implication of “supplanter” or “deceiver” came into play later — not at his birth. And thus, it’s not necessarily central to the pure meaning of the root word of the name. (Genesis 25:24-26)
  • Keep in mind that God knew beforehand — and prophesied to his mother Rebekah — that Jacob would take the dominant place away from his older brother. God always knew that Jacob would carry the blessing of Abraham to the next generation, and throughout Jacob’s life (and in spite of all his mistakes) the Lord ensured that end. (Genesis 25:21-23)
  • The word “supplant” in reference to Jacob’s story is only used once! Esau, in his bitterness at being twice tricked, was the one who spoke of Jacob in terms of what was translated “supplanter” (Genesis 27:36).Scholars originally translating the Bible into English were working with what was considered a dead language. They often had to puzzle out meanings based on the context. Because Esau bitterly referred to his brother’s name in the context of having been tricked and Jacob taking his place, they chose the word “supplant”. That doesn’t mean that our English word “supplant” is actually a good fit for the primary meaning of that Hebrew word. The root Hebrew word translated “supplant” in Esau’s accusation is only used five times in the Old Testament. Once by Esau. Once by Hosea in reference to Jacob’s act of grabbing Esau’s heel at birth (Hosea 12:3, not translated “supplant” but “took by the heel”). A survey of the three other times it is used outside the Jacob-Esau story indicates it is also associated with speaking or words:
    • Job 37:4 – in reference to God’s words, translated “stayed”
    • Jeremiah 9:4 – used twice in a row for emphasis in a passage about the deceitful words of untrustworthy brothers and translated “utterly supplanted”
  • The passage in Hosea actually puts Jacob and his name in a good light, emphasizing his overcoming nature. He takes his brother by the heel during birth. He had strength and power with God, wrestling with the angel of the Lord and prevailing. He wept and made supplication to God and God answered him. This man was imperfect, yes, but nevertheless a hero of sorts, learning to trust the God of his forefathers and “coming from behind” to take the dominant place in his family and the history of the Israelite people. (Hosea 12:2-5)

In conclusion, look at the overall story of the Bible man named Jacob. His personality and what he became during his lifetime of learning to follow God was such that God Himself renamed the man “Israel”, meaning “contender” or “fighter” and often said to mean “prince” or “prevailer” because of the rest of what God said in that passage (Genesis 32:28 KJV).  Some people choose to focus on the words of Esau against Jacob, associating the name Jacob with “supplanter” and “deceiver”. But what is the story we see? It is the story of a child of destiny who started life by taking hold of his brother by the heel and who gained the blessing of God by grabbing on and not letting go (Genesis 32:24-30).

We hope this baby name information is useful to you. If you like this resource, tell your friends about the Christian Meaning of Names website, or link to us at www.ChristianMeaningOfNames.com!

34 thoughts on “Jacob

  1. Would you be able to give us the Biblical meaning for her name and a scripture to go with it.
    Thank You Mrs. Yoder

  2. Thank you for your question! Roxanne is not a biblical name, so there are no scriptural stories with it.

    The origin of the name is Persian or Greek, and it means “star”, “bright” or “dawn”.

  3. Kaye, your name isn’t in the Bible as a biblical name. There is some question about the origin of the name “Kaye”. As a girl’s first name, it likely means “pure” (rooted in the meaning of the longer name Catherine).

    Hope this helps!

  4. Hello,
    Could you please share your thoughts on naming our son Jacob? We love the name, but can’t wrestle through the ‘deceiver’ implication, but then have verses like Psalm 135:4 that have a beautiful reference – “For the Lord has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.”

    Our other son is a Jonathan, so it’s kind of hard to compare biblical stories. But after three weeks, our extended family is threatening to pick for us =D so we’d love to close the book on this Jacob dilemma one way or another. Any input you might have would be greatly appreciated!
    Thank you ~ Kim

  5. Kim, we’ve added a section at the bottom of the article above: “Additional Considerations about the Meanings of the Name Jacob”. It is our hope that this additional study about the Hebrew word meanings will assist you in your decision making. What a blessing a child is! Whatever you decide, may many blessings be yours and great protection and favor and grace be upon you and your new baby!

  6. Amy, the name “Amy” is not in the bible, as far as I can tell. I haven’t found it in any obvious form in Hebrew or Greek.

    The name seems to be of Latin origin, and means “beloved”.

  7. Technically, this is correct, “There are two people in the Bible with the name Jacob…” — but you might know that all of the men in the New Testament named “James” were actually Jacob (Jakobbos in the original). They became “James,” due to the King by that name (obviously, “James” is not of Biblical origin, but came later) — and modern translators haven’t disturbed this particular aberration through the years.

  8. Jacob R. T. – Interesting! After a brief search online, there seems to be some support of your comments. Definitely worth including on this page via your comment. As I have further confirmation, I may edit the main article itself with this info. Thank you for sharing this with us, JRT!

  9. In my search for the origin of the name “James” in English translations of the Bible, I came across Mr. Tennesen’s comment from a Google search.

    “but you might know that all of the men in the New Testament named “James” were actually Jacob (Jakobbos in the original). They became “James,” due to the King by that name (obviously, “James” is not of Biblical origin, but came later) — and modern translators haven’t disturbed this particular aberration through the years.”

    Further research shows this claim regarding the King James Version forcing the name “James” into the Bible (either as a threat by the king or as a willing honor to the king) is an unsupported myth. The name James also appeared in the Wycliffe Bible (late 1300’s) and the Geneva Bible, which was not only published about 50 years before the KJV but was also banned by King James. While the name Jacob is the anglicized version taken directly from the Hebrew Ya’akov and Greek Iacobus, the name James is the anglicized version derived from the French Iacomus, which is derived from the Greek Iacobus, which in turn is derived from the Hebrew Ya’akov. The appearance of the name James in the Bible seems to be merely an unfortunate linguistic evolution of a name.

    Though, based on further research, I disagree with the origin of the name James in the Bible, I do agree with Mr. Tennesen that it could have been corrected in later translations back to a form of the name that is closer to the original. I do see using anglicized names like “Jesus” and “James” as helping to perpetuate the great disconnect between the OT and the NT.

  10. Thank you so much for your positive & true meaning of Jacob. We chose the name for our first boy, second child. We were in a Bible Study before the birth & I took hold of the strong points of Jacob’s crying out to God and holding on to God until God blessed him. That’s what I wanted this child to grow up to do, to always call on God & wait for Him to bless. Over the years the other references as in Psalm 135 have been encouraging. I hope people who dwell on the negative of the name read your great site for the deeper real meanings. Who wouldn’t want to name a child the name of a person who God loved so much he pursued him. God didn’t let go either!

  11. saya ingin minta pendapat, mengenai pemberian nama untuk calon putra saya nanti.. rencananya saya ingin memberi nama “james” namun ingin diikuti dengan kata yg bermakna ” diberkati dengan limpah” atau “memperoleh kekuatan dari Tuhan”

    terima kasih atas sarannya..

  12. Thanks for writing, monalisa! There are a lot of names with meanings related to “blessed” (implying abundance) and “strength”, too many to list here. Although the website has a lot of ads, there is a name meaning search here: http://babynamesworld.parentsconnect.com/meaning-search.html?navid=BNW_rightRail You can type in “blessed” or “strength” and look at some ideas! God bless you and your son!

    Below is my above reply after running it through Google Translator (hope it works!):

    Terima kasih untuk menulis, monalisa! Ada banyak nama dengan makna yang terkait dengan “diberkati” (menyiratkan kelimpahan) dan “kekuatan”, terlalu banyak untuk daftar di sini. Meskipun situs web memiliki banyak iklan, ada pencarian makna nama di sini: http://babynamesworld.parentsconnect.com/meaning-search.html?navid=BNW_rightRail Anda dapat mengetikkan “diberkati” atau “kekuatan” dan melihat beberapa ide! Tuhan memberkati Anda dan anak Anda!

  13. is Jacob the feminine name for Jacqueline? because am jacqueline and dint really understand it

  14. Jacqueline, from what I’ve seen your name is the female form of Jacques, which comes from James, which comes from Jacob. So the meaning described here applies to your name. However, the name “Jacqueline” doesn’t actually appear in the scriptures.

  15. My name is kattia
    I have been trying to have conceive for about 6 years. Many doctors didnt give us much hope. And I was not willing to go under harsh treatments yet my faith in Jesus was definally strong even when in the eyes of others I was a fool. Thank God I got pregnant right after we celebrate our marriages ceremony. I promise I was going to name the baby Ian to God yet think our baby has gone to some many marricles even without been born yet. So, we are not sure if to name the baby Jacob Ian. I was reading the story in the bible and it is beautiful. I have been praying for answers on the nam. Please let me know any thoughts or insights about this dilemma.

  16. The meaning on Jacob’s name was eye opening. My son is named Jacob and he struggled with the meaning but I knew if God called Jacob our forefather to greatness so be it for my son. I found most of my children’s names on here except the name Jonathan. I hope you can work on that name soon. Thank you.

  17. On a name card by a company called Kristone it is reported that James’s Hebrew origin means “guardian of light”. I find nothing to support this. Do you know anything about it? Thank you.

  18. No, I haven’t seen anything relating the name “James” to the meaning “guardian of light”. My sources all seem to point toward James coming from Jacob and give it the same meaning. Hope this helps settle the issue for you!

  19. I have just called my son JACOB without even looking for the meaning of it…I just love how it sounds but it was interesting to learn the origin of it…Thank you for the info….I also have a daughter called Mariah I just love biblical names

  20. I named my son Jacob and he is valedictorian and just received a full ride scholarship ! Great name , great son!

  21. I dont like that name jacob(isreai) but as i read the meaning i begon to like the name.

  22. We have twin boys Isaac and Jacob funnily we had not read this before we did Isaac being the first born and not knowing the meanings we chose because he was larger and we felt was best suited the names be alphabetical and Jacob the second born. A very funny coincidence I now think we should rename Isaac Esau :)… Lol

  23. I know the origin of my name, Cynthia, of either the Greek or Roman gods and goddesses meaning “Goddess of the Moon.” In a Christian bookstore, I once saw a Cynthia “name meaning” print that used “Radiant One” as an alternate meaning for the non-Biblical name. Is that appropriate? I would like to think so.

    My son, by the way, is a Jacob (1981) before its huge rise to #1 boy’s name. He is a wonderful son, husband, brother and father.

  24. My name is Jacob Benjamin (Benjamin, I believe, means “son of my right hand”) but as an infant my great grandmother called me Israel. I named my first born, Jacob Jr & my second born, Israel.

    Like Cindy’s son I was born in 1981 when it was relatively rare. My Jacob was born in 1999, the year before it was the #1 boy’s name 🙂

  25. I can see why. Jacob was renamed Israel by God, and he was the father of twelve sons whose descendants became the twelve tribes of the Israelite nation. So he was the father of the Hebrew or Jewish nation. So in some ways, his name could be considered equivalent or to mean “Jew”. But not because the definition is literally “Jew”. Just because he was the father or ancestor of them all. Thanks for that tidbit!

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