Vashti

Gender: Female
Origin: Debated
Meaning: Debated
ושתי (Hebrew)
وَ شتی آ (Persian)
(VAHSH-tee)

The name is found in the Book of Esther as the name of the first wife of King Ahasuerus. When her husband ordered her to dance naked in front of his guests, Vashti refused, and as a result, her husband divorced her; Ahasuerus later married Esther.

The Biblical queen also happened to be the granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzer, the Persian king who destroyed Solomon’s temple and drove the Jews into exile. She was the daughter of Belshazzar, another Biblical villain, who was known for using the sacred chalices of the Jewish temple for his lavish banquets, for which he was struck down by the hand of God through the invasion of the Medes. Vashti was said to be the only survivor of her father’s royal entourage.

According to the Talmud, Vashti had abducted young Jewish women and forced them into slavery. She would often demand that they undress before her and forced them to work on Shabbat. In Jewish lore, she is seen as a villainess. Among modern feminists, however, she is seen as a woman who refused to be degraded by a patriarchal society.

Though most agree that the name is most likely derived from a Farsi word meaning “beauty” or “goodness,” other scholars believe that the name may be from the Old Persian superlative vahista meaning “best, excellent”, added with the feminine termination -ī, it becomes vaisti changing the meaning to “excellent woman!,” or “best of women!”.

According to Hitchcock Bible Names, the name is Hebrew and could possibly mean “that drinks,” or “thread.”

Still others have argued that it is derived from the ancient Elamite name, Mashti, a name of uncertain origin or meaning but one that was attributed to an ancient Sumerian goddess.

Modern historians have tried to identify the Biblical Vashti with that of the historical Persian Queen, Stateira and have even suggested that the name can be traced back to Stateira, arguing that Vashti is actually just a diminutive form of Vashtateira.

The name is currently born by English singer and songwriter, Vashti Bunyon. It is still relatively common in Iran and the name was quite popular in early America, among the Puritans.

Other forms include: (Note: these forms exists, though they are not necessarily in usage):

  • Vasthi (Dutch)
  • Waschti/Wasti (German)