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Rachel Name Meaning: Origin, Popularity & Nicknames

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

Rachel Overview

  • Meaning: Rachel means “ewe in Hebrew or “one with purity.”
  • Gender: Rachel is a popular female name mainly used in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, and France.
  • Origin: It is an anglicization of Rahel (Hebrew). It is also a name in the Christian Bible.
  • Pronunciation: Rachel is pronounced “RAY-chel,” “RAH-kel,” or “RAH-shell,” depending on the spelling and the region. “MEG-an” is the most common pronunciation.
  • Popularity: Rachel was at its highest popularity in 2000. It was the 21st most popular in the United States. Currently, it sits in the top 250 names for girls in America.
  • Nicknames: Ray, Rach, Rachey, Shelle, Chel.
  • Variations: Raechel, Rachael, Racquel, Raakel, Racha, Rachela, Rachelle, Rachele, Rahel, Raheli.
  • Namesakes: Rachel (From the Bible), Rachel Bilson (American actress), Rachel McAdams (Canadian actress), Rachel Green (fictional character from the television show “Friends”).

What Does Rachel Mean?

Rachel is a name that means “ewe” or “one with purity.”

It is commonly used as a name because it is used in The Bible.

What is the Origin of the Name Rachel?

Rachel is an anglicization of the name Rahel (Hebrew).

According to baptismal records, Rachel first appeared to be used by English-speaking countries in the sixteenth century. It gained popularity amongst Protestant people in the mid-1500s because of its use as a moniker for a Biblical figure (1).

It was first used as a name by the Hebrew people. Its influence extended to the Ashkenazi Jewish custom of providing matronymic surnames with a popular surname in this culture being Rokhlin (2).

How Popular is the Name Rachel?

Rachel is very common in English-speaking countries. Its variations and use as a surname are still popular among Hebrew and Ashkenazi Jewish communities.

In France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Israel, it is presently one of the five hundred most popular names for newborns.

In the United States specifically, it is ranked the 239th most common female name. In the past 20 years, it has always been above that ranking, with its highest ranking being the 21st most popular name in 2000 (3).

How Do I Pronounce Rachel?

Rachel is a disyllabic name that is pronounced similarly to its spelling. The phonetic pronunciation is “RAY-chel.”

In some countries, it is pronounced “RAH-kel” or “RAH-shell.” Spelling plays a role in the pronunciation of the name. Regardless of spelling, it is a disyllabic name, emphasizing the first syllable.

Is Rachel a Boy or Girl Name?

Rachel is a girl’s name. Based on history, Rachel is predominately a female name.

The Ashkenazi Jewish last name stemming from Rahel is given to men and women. The origin of the surname is matrilineal. Beyond that, there is not much evidence that suggests it is gaining popularity as a boy’s name.

Variations of Rachel

Here are a few versions and variations of Rachel in other countries and cultures.

  • Racha (Arabic)
  • Rachael (English)
  • Rachela (Polish)
  • Rachele (Italian)
  • Rachelle (French)
  • Rachíl (Greek)
  • Racquel (English)
  • Raechel (English)
  • Ráhel (Hungarian)
  • Rahela (Hawaiian, Croatian, Romanian)
  • Ráichéal (Irish)
  • Raahel (Malayalam)
  • Raakel (Finnish)
  • Raheli (Swahili)
  • Raquel (Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, Spanish)

Nicknames for Rachel

Here are a few common nicknames for Rachel that you should know:

  • Chel
  • Chela
  • Chelle
  • Quel
  • Rach
  • Rachey
  • Ray
  • Shell
  • Shelley

Similar Names to Rachel

Many names are similar to Rachel. If you like the name but want something slightly different. Here are a few name ideas that are similar to Rachel:

Middle Names for Rachel

Rachel is a classic name that lends itself to pairing well with many middle names. Rachel is a shorter name as it has only two syllables in most spellings and languages. In short, its brief nature makes it aesthetically pleasing with names of any length. Here are some ideas for middle names:

Sibling Names for Rachel

If you are looking for a name to pair with Rachel, try to find one with the same syllable count, the same beginning letter, or the same theme and origin. Fortunately, the name Rachel pairs well with many other names.

For a brother:

For a sister:

Famous People Named Rachel

There are more famous people named Rachel than you might think! With the name gaining popularity in the 1990s and 2000s in mainstream vernacular, you might recognize the following:

  • Rachel: The biblical figure, the wife that Jacob loved.
  • Rachel Allen: Irish celebrity chef.
  • Rachel Bilson: American actress.
  • Rachel Brosnahan: American actress.
  • Rachel David: Indian actress.
  • Rachel Evans: Welsh chemist.
  • Rachel McAdams: Canadian actress.
  • Rachel Riley: British television presenter.
  • Rachel Yakar: French opera singer.

Rachel in Popular Culture

Since the name gained popularity in the 1990s, there have been plenty of characters from popular culture named Rachel. Take a look at the characters you know and the ones you might have missed:

  • Rachel Aldrige: Character in the television show “Downton Abbey.”
  • Rachel Berry: Character in the television series “Glee.”
  • Rachel Green: Character in the television series “Friends.”
  • Rachel Lynde: Supporting character in the 1908 novel “Anne of Green Gables.”
  • Rachel Roth: Character in the DC Comics Universe.
  • Rachel Summers: Character in the Marvel Universe.


These are some of the most commonly asked questions about the name Rachel.

Why Does Rachel Mean “Ewe”?

In the Christian Bible, Rachel is the wife of Jacob. Jacob meets her while tending to his sheep, so the Hebrew word for ewe, or sheep, is “rahel” and thus is the inspiration for the name Rachel.

How Old Is the Name Rachel?

Rachel was first recorded as a name in sixteenth-century baptismal records. These records show that it was used at least in the 1500s as a female name. However, its presence in the Bible leads some people to think it may have been used before the 1500s.

What Is the Difference Between Rachel and Rachael?

There is no difference. These names are pronounced the same and have similar meanings, but Rachael is a more English version. Many people prefer using the traditional Rachel.

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