Husband and I passed a string of signs for Moab (the city in Utah) while driving to Arches National Park last week. Husband eventually asked, “Where does the word Moab come from? Is it Native American?”
It was a good guess — we’ve certainly spotted Native American place names (Kaibito, Kanab, Paragonah, Parowan, etc.) on road trips through the Southwest before — but Moab is actually biblical. I couldn’t recall at the time if it referred to a person or a place, but I told him that the ab probably meant “father” as it does in Hebrew names like Abigail and Abraham.
Now that I’m back at my computer and can access the magical Internet, I see that Moab was the name of a person in the Old Testament — a guy who was both the son and the grandson of Lot, via incest (lovely) — and that Moab’s descendants were the Moabites, who inhabited a region also known as Moab. The etymology of the name isn’t known, but theoretical definitions include “from the father,” “seed of father,” “who’s your father,” and (a non-father possibility) “the desirable [land].”
The Utah settlement was dubbed “Moab” sometime during the 1800s, but many early residents were not fans of the name and at least two attempts were made to change it: the first in 1885 (to Uvadalia), the second in 1890 (to Vina). Both attempts failed.
So has Moab ever been used as a personal name in modern times?
Sure has. Though it’s never appeared on any of the SSA’s baby name lists, I’ve found hundreds of people in the U.S. with the name, several born as recently as the 1990s. According to the records I’ve seen, the name was used most often as a boy name, and it was most popular during the 1800s. Unlike Sedona, though, Moab doesn’t have a strong in-state following; most Moabs were born in the Southeast/Bible Belt area.
What do you think of the name Moab? Usable generally, usable for religious folks only, too bizarre to be usable at all…?