Bethany is found in the New Testament as the name of a town where Lazarus, Mary and Martha, lived. It was also here where Christ raised Lazarus from the dead.
Its origin and meaning are strongly contested, some scholars have argued it to mean “house of figs” being derived from the Hebrew elements, בֵּית־תְּאֵנָה (beit-te’enah). Others suggest that it from a Syriac source meaning, “house of misery; house of the afflicted” or “house of the poor” as in Biblical times the town was the site of a huge almshouse.
Its usage as a female given name most likely started off as a religious name taken by nuns. It was usually used in honour of Mary of Bethany. In recent years, the name has become particularly common among Evangelical Christians, especially within the United States.
Currently, Bethany is the 59th most popular female name in the United Kingdom, (2010), and she ranked as high as # 11 back in 1999. Her rankings in other countries are as follows:
- # 65 (Northern Ireland, 2010)
- # 79 (Scotland, 2010)
- # 369 (United States, 2010)
Another form is the Spanish Bethania, sometimes used in conjunction with Maria.
- Capper, Brian J., “Essene Community Houses and Jesus’ Early Community” (2006)