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James Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

Learn about the name James including the meaning, gender, origin, popularity, and more.

James Overview

  • Meaning: James means “supplanter” in English.
  • Gender: James is traditionally a male name.
  • Origin: James originates from the Hebrew name Ya’aqov. It grew to popularity as an English name, so many today associate it with England, Great Britain, and the United States.
  • Pronunciation: James is pronounced Jāmz or Jay-um-z.
  • Popularity: James is a very popular name in the United States.
  • Nicknames: Jimmy, Jim, and Jay.
  • Variations: Giacobbe, Hamish, Iago, Jacques, Jaime, Jacob, Seamus, Yakov.
  • Namesakes: James Brown, James Franco, James Madison, James Baldwin, James Polk, James Patterson.

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a name for your child. Are you looking for something unique, classic, or something else altogether?

If you’re searching for a classic name with a lot of history behind it, James might be the right name for you. Read on to learn more about the meaning and origins of this timeless name, its variations, and namesakes.

What Does James Mean?

The name James means “supplanter.” A supplanter is something that supersedes or replaces something else. Therefore, James means to supplant or replace something else.

Some consider James to mean “one who follows,” which is another interpretation of the definition of “supplanter.”

What Is the Origin of the Name James?

James is a biblical name with Hebrew origins. It is derived from the name Jacob, or Ya’aqov in Hebrew. It can also be spelled Yaakov in Hebrew.

The Hebrew “Ya’aqov” led to the Greek word “Iakobos.” “Iakobus” then evolved into the Latin name, Iacomus. Iacomus then became “James,” with other variations in non-English languages.

There are two apostles named James in the Christian Bible’s New Testament. There is also a third James mentioned in the Bible, but he is not an apostle.

Despite its Hebrew origins, the name James grew to popularity in 13th century England, so many people associate the name with the English. A series of Scottish kings took the name James, making it also associated with Scotland and Great Britain in general.

How Popular Is the Name James?

James has always been a prevalent name in the United States. It was the #1 most popular name from 1940 to 1952 and has appeared on the top 20 list nearly every year since 1880.

For all but two decades since the 1800s, James has been in the top ten list of most popular names. It dipped in popularity from the 1990s until 2013, when it became popular again.

Ever since, James has solidified itself as the 6th most popular baby name in the US (1).

How Do I Pronounce James?

James is pronounced Jāmz or Jay-um-z.

One common mispronunciation of James is using an “AH” sound instead of an “AY” sound. Another typical era is leaving out the s on the end of the name, making it “Jame” instead of “James.”

Is James a Boy or Girl Name?

James is traditionally a boy’s name. However, due to the growing gender fluidity in names, it may also be used as a girl’s name in the 21st century.

In fact, unisex names or names used outside of their traditional gender designation have skyrocketed in the 2000s.

Variations of James

There are many variations of the name James in English and other languages. These are a few:

  • Giacobbe (Italian)
  • Hamish (Scottish)
  • Iago (Portuguese)
  • Jacques (French)
  • Jaime (Spanish
  • Jakob/Jacob (Danish, Icelandic, Polish, German)
  • Seamus (Irish)
  • Yakov (Russian)

There are also feminine variations of the name James, such as:

  • Jackie
  • Jacqui
  • Jacqueline

Nicknames for James

While some people choose not to use a nickname for the name James, there are many common ones out there. Here are a few that we hear most often associated with “James:”

  • Jame
  • Jamie
  • Jay
  • Jim
  • Jimbo
  • Jimmy

Similar Names to James

If you like the name James but are looking for something slightly different, these similar names might work well for you. They are all popular “classic” names, many with the same Hebrew origin and English background as James.

Middle Names for James

Because of its classic feel, various names pair well with James as a middle name. Here are a few to consider when deciding on a middle name:

Sibling Names for James

These names are perfect for a sibling because they are a great complement to the name James. Here are a few of our favorite sibling names to pair with James:

Famous People Named James

You’ll find famous people named James amongst actors, musicians, politicians, and activists. Here are a few you might recognize:

  • James Baldwin: An American writer known for his novels and civil rights activism.
  • James Brown: An American musical artist in the 20th century.
  • James Buchanan: The 15th president of the United States.
  • James Cameron: Former Prime Minister of the UK and film director.
  • James Dean: An American actor in the 20th century.
  • James Earl Jones: An American actor.
  • James Franco: An American actor, filmmaker, and writer.
  • James Joyce: An Irish writer known for his novels, short stories, and poetry.
  • James Madison: The 4th president of the United States.
  • James Marshall Hendrix: An American musician known as “Jimi Hendrix.”
  • James Monroe: The 5th president of the United States.
  • James Patterson: An American author known for his thriller novels.
  • James Polk: The 11th president of the United States.
  • King James I of England: The namesake of the King James Bible.

James in Popular Culture

James is a frequently heard name in pop culture, often appearing in movies, TV shows, and music.

  • James Bond: A fictional British secret agent featured in various films, novels, and short stories for over 70 years.
  • James and the Giant Peach: A popular book by Roald Dahl with a corresponding film.
  • James the Red Engine: A character in the popular television show Thomas the Tank Engine.
  • Sweet Baby James: A popular song by musical artist James Taylor.
  • Jamestown: The first permanent English settlement in the Americas.

James FAQs

Before you decide on the name James, consider these frequently asked questions about the name.

Is John Short for James?

John is not usually considered a nickname for James. John is often used as a name on its own, sometimes paired with the nickname “Jack.” John can also be a nickname for longer names, such as Johnson.

Does James Always Have a Nickname?

James is often used as a standalone name without a nickname. While many people named James go by “Jim” or “Jimmy,” plenty of others use only the name James.

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