Presented by

The Name Abigail: A cause for joy

The name Abigail accompanied people for many centuries, it was sometimes more, sometimes a little less popular. In general, the name associates with intelligence, kindness and empathy. Why Abigail is a joy for many, you can learn here.

The story of Abigail

Like so many names familiar to us today, Abigail originates in Hebrew. ʾĂvî-Ghayil means ‘my father’s joy’ or ‘my father is joyful’. The name Abigail in itself exudes joy, which is certainly one reason why it once again proves to be one of the most popular names ever in the United States, especially in the 21st century. Because of the biblical origin of the name, the meaning ‘my God is joyful’ is also conceivable, since one could interpret ‘avi’ for ‘my father’ as ‘my God’. The best known Abigail from the Bible is the wife of the rich shepherd Nabal. She proves to be a faithful woman who leads an exemplary life and stands against revenge. After Nabal’s death, King David marries her as his third wife.

The name Abigail became established throughout Europe with the spread of Christianity, giving rise to many country-specific forms. It also found favor in some African countries; for example, there is a Swahili, a Somali, and a Yoruba variant of Abigail. In England, Abigail did not establish itself as a common name until the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Puritans especially loved the name. Abigail evolved into a slang term for servant in the 17th century, as the biblical Abigail refers to herself as a servant. This is also the origin for the surname Abigail. Probably for this reason, the name went out of fashion until it experienced a revival − at least in the USA − from about 1950.

Celebrities called Abigail

Especially with the name Abigail, it is noticeable that many celebrities are actually known by a nickname like Abby or Abbey. These evolved into first names in their own right now as well. Abbey Clancy, born Abigail Marie Clancy, is an example of this. Since 2015, the model hosts the TV show “Britain’s Next Top Model.” Australian actress Abbie Cornish, on the other hand, chose her real name for her career. It is worth noting that the name Abigail is very popular among Hawaiian princesses. Since the early 19th century, several princesses have been recorded with this given name. The last of them was Abigail Kinoiki Kekaulike Kawānanakoa, who died in 2022.

To date, there were two First Ladies of the United States with the name Abigail. Abigail Adams, the second First Lady from 1797 to 1801, and the 13th Abigail Fillmore from 1850 to 1853. The former was even the namesake for one of the most famous Abigails of the present day: actress Abigail Breslin (*1996). At the latest since her remarkable appearance as a 9-year-old in the film ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, the whole world knows her. Subsequently, she starred, among others, in the zombie comedy ‘Zombieland’ (2009) and its sequel, as well as in the tragicomedy ‘August: Osage County’ (2013). Other well-known actresses are Abigail Spencer (b. 1981) and Abigail Cowen (b. 1998), who took a role in the series ‘Chilling Adventures of Sabrina‘ (2018-2020).

Special facts

‘Dear Abby’ was the most successful newspaper column in the world in the 1950s and 60s. The writer’s name, Abigail Van Buren, is just a pseudonym for Pauline Phillips. She combined the name of the biblical Abigail with the last name of former U.S. President Martin Van Buren. Pauline‘s twin sister, Esther Lederer, wrote the column “Ask Ann Landers,” which attracted a great deal of readership as well.

The name Abigail is quite popular as a movie title. A Venezuelan telenovela called ‘Abigail‘ ran from 1988 to 1989. There is also a Russian fantasy adventure film and an American short film, both of which were released in 2019. This is another example of how the name Abigail is known worldwide.

The Hawaiian variant of Abigail is Apikalia or ʻApikaʻila. However, this name does not appear in official US name statistics.

Abigail in the 21st century

Abigail may be the one of most popular names in the United States in the 21st century. One in 300 girls under the age of 10 bears this name – that’s a lot for one name. Up to the end of the 19th century the popularity of Abigail was quite high, but it reached rather middle ranks. As a rule, it ranked between 400th and 1000th. Abigail reached its absolute lowest point at 1628th place in 1921, by far the worst year for this name.

Since the 1950s, the Abigail name again experienced a significant upward trend. In 1989, it was better than #100 for the first time, and shortly after, in 2001, it was in the TopTen for the first time. The best ranking was even #4 in 2005. Until 2017, Abigail remained in the TopTen, but since then it remains not far from it. Considering this strong trend and the fact that the name stayed in the TopTen for such a long time, Abigail is rightly considered one of the most popular names of the last decades.