About A Name: Delilah

October 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

(c) Albert Michael/StartraksPhoto.com/HELLO Magazine: Delilah Genoveva Stewart del Toro, born August 22, 2011 - her mother's birthday!

Delilah has come a long way. From auspicious beginnings as the Biblical woman who charmed Samson into revealing the secret of his superhuman strength, that very history helped make it one of the most prevalent name choices in literature and music – so much so, that the idea of the name belonging to a temptress who betrayed a man who loved her, for money, has almost entirely faded away.

Today Kimberly Stewart’s Hello! spread with her two-month-old daughter Delilah Genoveva was released, and in it she revealed that her daughter with Oscar-winner Benicio del Toro was named for Tom Jones’ 1968 song “Delilah,” a song she’s always loved. Genoveva, which is Spanish for “juniper tree,” (a variant of the French Genevieve or Geneva) is likely inspired by del Toro’s Puerto Rican heritage.

In September, country singer-songwriter Ashton Shepherd welcomed daughter Raden Delilah – the middle name is Ashton’s as well, so Delilah follows family tradition. And a handful of celebs have also selected the name, the more exotic-looking cousin to popular, on-trend Lily or Lila. In 2007, Laurence Fishburne welcomed daughter Delilah, and in 1998, Delilah Belle was born to actors Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna. Canadian journalist (and former Much Music VJ) Erica Ehm welcomed daughter Jessie Delilah in 2003, but rock musician Gregg Allman, who has a son Elijah Blue with singer/actress Cher, was perhaps the most creative user: In 1980, he and then-wife Julie Bindas welcomed daughter Delilah Island. (I wish I could find an account of how she picked up that name! It’s great!)

In recent years the name was used in a Grammy-winning pop-rock song, “Hey There Delilah” by the Plain White T’s. The band’s lead singer, Tom Higginson, wrote the song after meeting Delilah DiCrescenzo – a nationally-ranked American steeplechase and cross-country runner. He admitted having a crush on her, but the pair have never been more than friends. Still, Miss DiCrescenzo’s naturally inspiring, literal, flowing name gave her something most girls dream of – her very own hit song!

It’s not just the Plain White T’s and Tom Jones with songs about “Delilah” – count the Cranberries, the Dresden Dolls, and Queen among them. Rock and roll offspring Kimberly Stewart is Rod’s daughter, with model and TV star Alana Hamilton. It’s not surprising she’d be drawn to a name for it’s musical qualities.

The story of Samson and Delilah plays into the HBO TV series Carnivale. Delilah (Lila) is the bearded woman of the sideshow, portrayed by Debra Christofferson, who often butts heads with the caravan leader, Samson (played by Michael J. Anderson).

Not everyone can embrace it. In the early 2000s, on Friends, Ross and Rachel considered naming their daughter Delilah, but when she was born, Rachel against played into Samson and Delilah: “Suddenly she sounds like a Biblical whore.” Their daughter was eventually called Emma – at the time one of the most popular baby names in the US. Friends was the most popular show in the US at the time, and when Ross and Rachel’s baby was born, they gave her America’s favourite name!

But Delilah has been climbing rapidly in the US Top 1000 – it entered in 1995 after sporadic use throughout the 20th Century, and by 2010 had come inside the Top 200. In Hebrew, it means “one who weakened,” from dal (weak, poor). But this is a name that flourishes in spite of it’s root – a name that’s finding it’s feet these days, perhaps because it so closely relates phonetically to names we love, like Lily and Lila, and lately, Lillian.

Can it ever shake it’s root entirely? Probably not. But can it be overlooked? Definitely. One name provides so many diminutive possibilities that a girl named Delilah can be whoever she wants to be! Lilah and Lili are obvious, and there’s Lil, Dee, Del, even Delia (Greek, meaning “from Delos,” which was the Greek goddess Artemis’ birthplace) and Della (German for “noble” – cousin to trendy choices like Adele and Adeline, and it’s a short form of Adelaide).

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