The name is derived from the Biblical Hebrew הֶבֶל (Hevel) which means “breath.”
In the Old Testament, it was borne by one of the eldest sons of Adam and Eve. Abel is usually linked with his brother, Cain.
In the Biblical tradition, Cain is considered to be the first murderer as he had murdered his brother, Abel, out of jealousy.
The name is used among Christians, Muslims and Jews.
In the English speaking world, the name has gone in and out of usage since the Middle Ages. It was in usage before the Reformation but seems to have become especially popular among 17th-century Puritans.
The name was borne by several early Christian saints and was therefore rather prevalent in continental Europe, especially in Spain, during the Middle Ages.
The Abel form is used in Basque, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, English, Galician, German, Finnish, French, Icelandic, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish and Swedish.
Other forms of the name include:
- Hābīl هابيل (Arabic)
- Ábel (Czech/Hungarian/Slovak)
- Aabel (Estonian)
- Aapeli (Finnish)
- Abel Άβελ (Greek)
- Hevel הבל (Hebrew)
- Habel (Indonesian)
- Abele/Abelino (Italian)
- Abels (Latvian)
- Abelis (Lithuanian)
- Habil (Turkish)
An obscure feminine German and Italian form is Abelina and a Spanish and Italian feminine form is Abela.
The designated name-day is January 2nd in most countries.