James Name Meaning

dark-skinned baby boy close-up

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What Does James Mean?

The name James has an interesting history, including the fact that it’s actually a translation of another super common “J” name for boys: Jacob. In fact, the name James means the same exact thing as Jacob—“supplanter” or substitute—and comes from the original Hebrew word for Jacob.

Because of its connection to Jacob, James is a Biblical name (two of Jesus’ apostles were named James). Due to its Scottish roots, it also has a royal connotation and became more widely popularized when King James VI took over the English throne in the 17th century.

  • Origin: James comes from the Hebrew name Jacob, and means “supplanter.” 
  • Gender: James is traditionally used as a boy name, but it has become more common as a girl’s name, too. For instance, the daughter of Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively is named James. There is also a fairly equal split between girls and boys named Jamie, a derivative of James. 
  • Pronunciation: jaymz

Although many baby names are separated by gender, Verywell Family believes that sex does not need to play a role in your name selection process. It’s important to select a name that you feel suits your new baby the best.

How Popular Is the Name James?

Appropriately so for a name with Biblical and royal connections, James has reigned over almost every other boy name since 1900 according to the Social Security Administration's rankings. From 1940 to 1952, it was No. 1. Even when it wasn’t numero uno, it was occupying the second, third, and fourth rankings, sitting pretty at the top of the charts.

James is so popular, in fact, that it has been among the top 10 boys' names every single decade except for two, from 1993 to 2013. Even then, it was still hugely popular, never falling below No. 19. In 2014, James bounced back into the top 10 and has been holding steady there ever since—this may be because parents in search of a new trend started opting to name their daughters James around that time, boosting its popularity yet again. In 2021, James was the 5th most popular baby name in the United States.

Name Variations 

The following names are variations on James:

  • Giacomo (Italian)
  • Iago (Welsh)
  • Jacob (Hebrew, English)
  • Jacques (French)
  • Jakob (German, Polish)
  • Jaime (Spanish)
  • Séamas (Irish)

Similar Names 

Other Biblical boy names include:

  • Abraham
  • Benjamin
  • Elijah 
  • Jonah
  • Levi
  • Noah
  • Samuel
  • Simon
  • Thomas
  • Zachariah

Other boy names starting with J:

  • Jackson
  • Jason
  • Jeremiah
  • Jonas
  • Jonathan
  • Jordan
  • Joseph
  • Joshua
  • Judah
  • Justin

Common Nicknames

You’ll have a lot of nickname options when it comes to James, some are obvious and some simply tend to run in families. Here are a few:

  • Jack
  • Jamie
  • Jay
  • Jim
  • Jimmy
  • John

Suggested Sibling Names

What sibling names does James pair well with? Here are some ideas:

  • Abigail
  • Andrew
  • Caleb
  • Emily
  • Grace
  • Jessica
  • Liam
  • Matthew
  • Olivia
  • Peter
  • Sarah

Famous People Named James 

Considering the long-standing popularity of the name James, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of historical and famous figures bearing some variation of this moniker. In fact, we could have lists just for presidents and actors named James! Famous people with the name James include:

  • James Brolin, American actor
  • James Brown, American singer and songwriter
  • James Buchanan, 15th president of the United States
  • James Cameron, film and TV director known for “Titanic” and “Avatar”
  • James Earl Jones, American actor
  • James Madison, 4th president of the United States and founding father of the U.S. Constitution
  • James Taylor, American singer and songwriter

Famous Jims and Jimmys:

  • Jim Belushi, American actor 
  • Jim Carrey, Canadian actor known for “The Mask” and “The Grinch”
  • Jim Cavieziel, American actor known for “The Passion of the Christ”
  • Jimmy Fallon, comedian and host of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon”
  • Jim Henson, puppeteer and creator of “The Muppets”
  • Jim Morrison, lead singer for “The Doors”

Famous Jamies:

  • Jamie Dornan, Irish actor
  • Jamie Foxx, American actor known for his portrayal of Ray Charles in the 2004 Academy Award-winning film “Ray”
  • Jamie Lee Curtis (female), American actress
  • Jamie Oliver, British chef and TV host

More Baby Names

Still searching for the perfect baby name? Check out these related baby name lists for even more options: 

1 Source
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Social Security Administration. Popularity of Name.

By Sarah Bradley
Sarah Bradley has been writing parenting content since 2017, after her third son was born. Since then, she has expanded her expertise to write about pregnancy and postpartum, childhood ages and stages, and general health conditions, including commerce articles for health products. Because she has been homeschooling her sons for seven years, she is also frequently asked to share homeschooling tips, tricks, and advice for parenting sites.