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Sam Name Meaning (Origin, Popularity & Nicknames)

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

Sam Overview

  • Meaning: Sam is short for Samuel, which means “name of God,” “told by God,” and “God hears.” When based on Samson or Sampson, it means “sun child” and “bright sun.”
  • Gender: Sam is a unisex name that is much more common for boys.
  • Origin: Sam comes from the Hebrew Shemu’el, meaning “God has heard” or “told by God.” Samuel is a prophet in the Bible. For boys, Sam is a nickname for Samuel, Sampson, and Samson; for girls, Sam is short for Samantha.
  • Pronunciation: Sam is pronounced “SAEM” in English.
  • Popularity: Sam has maintained a somewhat popular spot in the U.S. top 1,000 names. It recently ranked in the top 300 U.S. boys’ names but is quite rare for girls.
  • Nicknames: Samer, Sammi, Sammie, Sammy, SamSaam, Sam the Sham, Samu, Sem, Shammy.
  • Variations: Cam, Samm, Sem, Shmuel, Somhairlín.
  • Namesakes: Sam Elliott, American actor known for “Tombstone” (1993). Sam Giancana, Italian-American mobster boss of the Chicago Outfit.

What Does Sam Mean?

Sam is a short form of Samuel, a Hebrew boy’s name, meaning “name of God,” “told by God,” and “God hears.” It originally appeared as Schmuel, which itself came from shěmū’ē’l. Sam/Samuel can also mean “sun child” and “bright sun” when based on Sampson or Samson, which is related to the sun.

Since Sam is considered unisex, it’s also a nickname for Samantha, the feminine form of Samuel, which uses the suffix “antha,” from the Greek “anthos,” meaning “flower.”

What Is the Origin of the Name Sam?

Sam is the nickname for the Hebrew Shemu’el, meaning “God has heard” or “told by God.” It’s made up of the Hebrew Shem, meaning “name” and “El,” meaning “God.” An alternative derivation is “sh’ma,” meaning “hear” and “El,” meaning “God.”

In the Hebrew Bible, the figure of Samuel is a prophet who also appears in the Quran as “the Seer.” Sam was not used much as a name, but Samuel became more common in the Western world after the Protestant Reformation.

Sam is a nickname for Samuel, Sampson, and Samson for boys, and Samantha for girls. Other names using Sam as a nickname include Sameer, Samira, and Samjhana. Sam now stands on its own as a gender-neutral name that is more typical for boys.

How Popular Is the Name Sam?

Sam was recently ranked 269th in the U.S. for babies. A few years back, it came in at 656th for boys and 6368th for girls. Sam is more popular for boys as a given name but is used by both boys and girls as a nickname.

Sam ranked 34th in 1900, one of the earliest years it was used in the U.S. for boys. Although its popularity declined, it ranked #603 in 2018 for U.S. boys. Sam is still quite uncommon as a given name for girls.

How Do I Pronounce Sam?

Sam is pronounced “SAEM” in English.

Is Sam a Boy or Girl Name?

Sam was first a boy’s name and nickname but is officially gender-neutral. It is far more commonly used for boys than girls.

Variations of Sam

Sam doesn’t have many variations due to it being so short:

  • Cam (Russian)
  • Samm (English)
  • Sem (Dutch)
  • Shmuel (Hebrew)
  • Somhairlín (Gaelic)

Nicknames for Sam

Go for one of these cutesy nicknames for your little Sam:

  • Samer
  • Sammi
  • Sammie
  • Sammy
  • SamSam
  • Sam the Sham
  • Samu
  • Sem
  • Shammy

Similar Names to Sam

If you like Sam, you’ll love some of these alternatives:

Middle Names for Sam

Pair Sam up with any of these handsome choices:

Sibling Names for Sam

Sam’s brother or sister will fit right in with any of these fun names:

Famous People Named Sam

There is no shortage of famous people named Sam with their own claim to fame:

  • Sam Beeton: English musician known for the album “No Definite Answer” (2008).
  • Sam Brownback: American governor of Kansas.
  • Sam Cooke: American singer-songwriter called the “King of Soul.”
  • Sam Daly: American actor appearing in “Grey’s Anatomy.”
  • Sam Hui: Hong Kong musician who influenced Cantopop.
  • Sam Jackson: Liberian footballer for LISCR.
  • Sam Katz: Canadian mayor of Winnipeg.
  • Sam Kieth: American comic book writer of “The Maxx.”
  • Sam LoPresti: American ice hockey player for the Chicago Blackhawks.
  • Sam Mendes: English director of “American Beauty” (1999).
  • Sam Moskowitz: American science fiction writer and historian.
  • Sam Neill: New Zealand actor known for “The Piano” (1993).
  • Sam Nixon: English TV presenter for “Pop Idol.”
  • Sam Okyere: Ghanaian TV personality on the program “Non-Summit.”
  • Sam Qualiana: American filmmaker of the horror film “Snow Shark.”
  • Sam Querrey: American tennis player ranked number 11th in 2018.
  • Sam Raimi: American film director known for “Evil Dead” (1981).
  • Sam Ryan: American sportscaster for ABC News.
  • Sam Sodje: Nigerian footballer for the national team.
  • Sam Waterston: American actor known for the “Law & Order” series.

Sam in Popular Culture

Sam is a favorite in films, TV shows, books, and even breakfast cereal mascots:

  • Samantha Carter: Character appearing in the TV series “Stargate SG-1.”
  • Samantha “Sam” Kanisky: Character on the sitcom “Gimme a Break.”
  • Samantha “Sam” Moore: Character from the action movie “No Holds Barred.”
  • Sam Bains: Character from “Back to the Future.”
  • Sam Crenshaw: Character in the Canadian children’s program “Today’s Special.”
  • Sam Eagle: Character from “The Muppet Show.”
  • Sam Emerson: Character in “The Lost Boys” film.
  • Sam Fisher: Character in the “Splinter Cell” video game.
  • Sam Hell: Title character in the horror film “Hell Comes to Frogtown.”
  • Sam-I-Am: Character in Dr. Seuss’ “Green Eggs and Ham.”
  • Sam Loomis: Character appearing in the film “Psycho.”
  • Sam Malone: Character from the 1980s TV series “Cheers.”
  • Sam McKinney: Character in the American sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes.”
  • Sam Seaborn: Character in the TV series “The West Wing.”
  • Sam Spade: Character in the film “The Maltese Falcon.”
  • Samuel “Jetstream Sam” Rodrigues: Character in Metal Gear Rising video game.
  • Sam Uley: Character from the novel “Twilight.”
  • Sam Winchester: Character appearing in the TV series “Supernatural.”
  • Toucan Sam: Cartoon mascot on Kellogg’s Froot Loops breakfast cereal.
  • Uncle Sam: Fictional character to represent the U.S. government.

Sam FAQs

There is more to know about the unisex name Sam below.

What Is the Name Sam in Hebrew?

In Hebrew, Sam means “(he) puts” (present) or “put” (past).” Even as a nickname for Samuel, it comes from Sh’muel, often associated with the meaning “asked from God.” Sam (as Samuel) is a Hebrew prophet and judge in the Bible. When Sam is presented as Sammi, it can also mean “elevated” and “sublime” in Arabic.

What Does Sam Mean in the Military?

Sam may be a nickname for Samuel, Samson, and Samantha, but it also has military connotations. In the military, the acronym SAM stands for “surface-to-air missile.” This kind of missile is made to destroy planes in the sky when launched from the ground. SAM is also a more general acronym for “safety and maintenance.”

Is Sam an Egyptian Name?

In the 1952 book “Lehi in the Deseret,” the author Hugh Nibley claims that Sam is an Egyptian name. It was an Egyptian Pharaoh’s throne name ruled during the Eleventh Dynasty. He was called Sam-Tawi, which means “uniter of the two lands.” This likely referred to the Upper and Lower Kingdoms in ancient Egypt.

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About the Author

Maryana Vestic

Maryana Vestic is a Brooklyn-based writer, editor, and food photographer with a background in entertainment Business Affairs. She studied film at NYU, Irish Theatre Studies at Trinity College Dublin, and has an MFA in Creative Writing Nonfiction from The New School. She loves cooking, baking, hiking, and horror films, as well as running a local baking business in Brooklyn with her boyfriend.