Jessica, Iscah

Gender: Female
Origin: Hebrew
Meaning “to behold.”
(IS-kuh); (JES-sik-kuh)

The name Jessica is an Anglicization of the Hebrew name, Iscah, which is borne in the Old Testament by a niece of Abraham.

Jessica first appeared in Shakespeare’s, the Merchant of Venice (1596), it is believed that the English author corrupted a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Yiskah יִסְכָּה, which in the Bible of Shakespeare’s time would have been rendered as Jescha or Jesca. In the Merchant of Venice, Jessica is the name of the beautiful daughter of Shylock.

Yiskah (יסכה)  is said to come from the Hebrew root sachah (סכה), which means “to see.” Adding the yud implies future tense which makes the name imply foresight or clairvoyance.

The famous French rabbincal scholar, Rashi, claimed that Yiskah was another name for Sarah, the wife of Abraham, since she was beautiful to behold and she was known for her prophetic foresight.

The name did not get much usage until the end of the 20th-century, where it became one of the most popular female names in the United States during the 70s, 80s and 90s.

She seems to have steadily rose over a 20 year span between the 1960s and early 1970s. She jumped several places between 1969 and 1970, going from the 134th position in 1969 way up to # 98 in 1970, from thereon, the name continued to rise, peaking at # 3 in 1978. She remained in the top 10 throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s, sometimes hitting the 1st place position. In 2001, she dropped all the way down to # 11, and he has been declining since, currently, as of 2010, she is the 92nd most popular female name. In other countries, her rankings are as follows:

  • # 6 (England/Wales, 2010)
  • # 8 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
  • # 11 (Scotland, 2010)
  • # 17 (New Zealand, 2010)
  • # 20 (Australia, NSW, 2010)
  • # 29 (Ireland, 2010)
  • # 42 (Canada, B.C., 2010)
  • # 43 (German-speaking Switzerland, 2009)
  • # 71 (Mexico, 2010)
  • # 82 (Dzsesszika, Hungary, 2010)
  • # 171 (Norway, 2010)
  • # 262 (France, 2009)
  • # 304 (Netherlands, 2010)

Other forms of the name include:

  • Jèssica (Catalan)
  • Jessika/Jesika (Czech/Polish/Slovak: relatively recent in usage, and is becoming more prevalent)
  • Jessa (English: contraction of Jessica)
  • Jessica (English/Dutch/German/Finnish/French/Scandinavian/Spanish: a borrowing from the English and becoming more and more prevalent, sometimes rendered phonetically as Jessika in Germanic countries)
  • Jescha (English: archaic)
  • Iekika (Hawaiian)
  • Iscah/Yiskah יִסְכָּה (Hebrew)
  • Jiska (German: very obscure)
  • Dzsesszika (Hungarian)
  • Jiszká (Hungarian)
  • Gessica (Italian)
  • Džesika (Lithuanian)
  • Dżesika (Polish: phonetic rendition and the more popular form, becoming more common in Poland)
  • Jéssica (Portuguese-Brazilian)
  • Jesica (Spanish)

Diminutive forms are Jessie and Jessy.

The names are borne by pop singer, and actresses Jessica Tandy (b.1908), Jessica Lange (1942), Jessica Simpson (b.1980), Jessica Alba (b.1981), Jessica Biel (1982).

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