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The Name Ethan: A Strong Companion

Choosing the right first name for your son is extremely important. A name decisively shapes the first impression you have of other people. Learn all there is to know about the very popular name Ethan. This article will be of great help when you decide whether Ethan is a candidate for your offspring or not.

The story of Ethan

Like many names known and popular in Europe since the Middle Ages and later in the USA, Ethan comes from Hebrew. The name Eitan derives from the adjective ēṯān, which means ‘firm’ and ‘lasting’. Ethan is thus the ‘strong’ or the ‘reliable’. By the way, this makes Ethan a particularly suitable name if there are any siblings in the planning!

Ethan proves to be the name of several characters in the Bible, more precisely in the Old Testament. They are marginal figures who make but brief appearances. Only Etan, the Ezrachite, managed to attract a higher level of attention. He possibly wrote Psalm 89 and finds mention in the 1st Book of Kings: Here we read a description of Solomon’s wisdom and exemplary rule. Solomon was said to have been even wiser than Etan the Ezrachite. This biblical passage is also the reason why people associate the name Ethan with ‘wisdom’, even though the meaning of the name is different.

So you see, the history of the name Ethan goes back a long way. But that does not mean it is a popular name. Only after the Protestant Reformation followers of the new Christian orientation gave their sons the name Ethan. Martin Luther started the Reformation in Germany in 1517. To further distinguish themselves from Catholicism, they abandoned traditional saints’ names in favor of more obscure ones mentioned in the Bible. Other examples of this development include Abraham, Daniel, and Tobias. In the United States, the 18th-century revolutionary Ethan Allen made his first name nationally known. More about Allen in the next section.

However, it took until the 90s of the 20th century for the first name Ethan to win over masses and become one of the most popular names in the country.

Celebrities called Ethan

Now for the exciting part: Which celebrities are named Ethan? There are quite a few, so we have reduced them to the most important ones. Of particular importance is, of course, the already mentioned Ethan Allen. He lived from 1738 to 1789 and played a major role in the American War of Independence. Allen was a colonel in the Continental Army and fought for the independence of Vermont. After three years of imprisonment in England, he returned in 1778 and worked briefly as a judge while participating in negotiations for Vermont to become an independent state. He did not live to see his goal; he died in 1789, two years too soon.

If you are not interested in history, here are the celebrities for you. Qquite a few actors bear this name, for example Ethan Peck, Ethan Suplee and Ethan Philipps. But by far the most famous is Ethan Hawke. Born in 1970, the writer and actor earned several Oscar nominations and his best-known films include ‘Training Day’ (2001) and ‘Boyhood’ (2014). He covers an enormous range of roles, having appeared in comedies, thrillers, science fiction, action and dramas.

However, the film industry offers another heavyweight with this outstanding name: Ethan Coen (*1957), one of the brothers of the Coen directing duo. The two directors are among the most successful of their guild, creating numerous classics such as ‘Barton Fink’ (1991), ‘Fargo’ (1996) and ‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007). The duo also write and edit their own films, ensuring a parodic style all their own.

Special facts

Even though Ethan is the specifically English spelling that evolved from the Hebrew Eitan via Etan, the variant appears in many countries. It is still most popular in English-speaking countries. But Ethan gains popularity in Belgium, Italy, France, Poland and Chile, to name a few.

Ethan is one of nearly 400 masculine names found in every state. But that does not mean it is equally popular everywhere. It is especially trendy in Utah and Nevada, where about 1 in 170 men have the name.

Incidentally, the name is different from Étan or Étaín, Old Irish feminine names. They probably derive from the word ‘ét’, meaning ‘jealousy’ or ‘passion’. By the way, Ethan also occurs as a last name. It is one of the rarest surnames in the entire US with about 120 people bearing it.

Ethan in the 21st century

As already indicated, the name Ethan accompanies mankind for several centuries. Yet the wave of popularity does not go back that far. Only since the 1990s, a significant, ever-growing number of parents named their sons − and some daughters − Ethan. It peaked in the early 2000s. Since then, its popularity declines again, but nonetheless Ethan remains among the most popular first names of recent years. As is often the case with such sleepers, pop culture probably caused the rapid rise. Actors becoming famous and fictional characters like Ethan Hunt from ‘Mission: Impossible’ are changing the tastes of many young parents. This is not unusual; even 1939’s ‘Gone With the Wind’ showed the same trends.

Currently, Ethan ranks as the 7th most popular first name in the last 10 years in the U.S., according to our SmartGenius stats. That means 1 in 300 boys younger than 10 are named that. In some states, the name even reached the TopTen in 2021. These are New York, New Jersey, Florida and Maryland. So, does it seem that a change is in the offing and that the popularity of Nevada and Utah will shift toward the East Coast in the next few years? We will see. Finally, it remains to say that Ethan proves relatively easy to spell and pronounce, making it a practical choice for parents who want a name that is both meaningful and easy to use in everyday life.