The name is derived from the Biblical Hebrew word רְעוּת (re’ut), which means “friend; companion.”
In the Old Testament, the name is borne by the central character of the Book of Ruth, a Moabite woman who later became a loyal and faithful Jew. She is considered the ancestress of King David, and in Christian tradition, she is also considered an ancestor of Jesus.
Since Ruth is considered an ideal heroine in Judaism, the name has always been common in the Jewish community, among Christians, the name did not catch on until after the Reformation, especially in the Anglo-phone world, where the name became especially common among Puritans.
The highest the name ever ranked in U.S. naming history was back in 1893, where she came in as the 3rd most popular female name.
Currently, she ranks in as the 362nd most popular female name.
In other countries, her rankings are as follows:
- # 94 (Ireland, 2006)
- # 488 (the Netherlands, 2008)
The Ruth form is also used in Catalan, Danish, Dutch, French, German, Norwegian and Swedish.
Other forms include:
- Rut (Afrikaans/Aragonese/Catalan/German/Hungarian/Indonesian/Italian/Javanese/Maltese/Polish/Spanish/Swedish)
- Rút (Czech)
- Ruut (Finnish/Estonian)
- Rutt (Estonian)
- Routh Ρουθ (Greek)
- Rut רות (Hebrew Modern: In Israel, Ruti is the common diminutive form)
- Rúth (Hungarian)
- Rǘt (Irish Gaelic)
- Ruthu (Kiswahili)
- Rūta (Lithuanian: also coincides with the Lithuanian word for the rue plant)
- Rūtenė (Lithuanian)
- Ruthi Рѹѳь (Old Church Slavonic)
- Ruta (Polish/Croatian)
- Rute (Portuguese)
- Ruf Руфь (Russian)
- Ruthven (Scottish)
- Rutu (Yoruban)
A common English diminutive, which is also sometimes bestowed as an independent given name is Ruthie. Ruthanne/Ruth-Anne is a common English compound form.
A Lithuanian masculine form is Rūtenis.
The name was borne by former first daughter of the United States, “Baby” Ruth Cleveland, daughter of President Grover Cleveland (1891-1904)
The designated name-day is January 4.