Where did the baby name Jenin come from in 2002?

Battle of Jenin, 2022
Battle of Jenin

The baby name Jenin didn’t just appear for the first time in the in the U.S. baby name data in 2002 — it saw peak usage that year as well:

  • 2004: 16 baby girls named Jenin
  • 2003: 26 baby girls named Jenin
  • 2002: 46 baby girls named Jenin [debut & peak usage]
  • 2001: unlisted
  • 2000: unlisted


Because the city of Jenin (pronounced juh-NEEN) was being mentioned frequently in the U.S. news around that time.

Jenin, the northernmost city in the West Bank, is the site of a Palestinian refugee camp. (The first of these refugee camps formed in the late 1940s, when Palestinian Arabs began fleeing and being expelled from the newly established state of Israel.)

During 2001, Jenin was a hotbed of military activity against Israel. In August, for instance, the Washington Post reported that, of the suicide bombings carried out in Israel “in the past two months, at least nine have originated in Jenin and surrounding villages.”

(One side would classify this as Islamic terrorism, while the other would call it Palestinian resistance.)

In April of 2002, Israel retaliated by invading Jenin’s refugee camp.

The battle of Jenin sparked international outcry.

Charges of war crimes committed by Israel were made, while Palestinian authorities made unsubstantiated claims of a wide-scale massacre.

Though the reported number of casualties varied widely, the 11-day Battle of Jenin claimed the lives of fewer than 100 people (over 50 Palestinians and over 20 Israelis).

It’s hard to know how many of the Americans naming their babies “Jenin” in 2002 were doing so because they wanted to express solidarity with Palestine. Some may have simply liked the name’s pronunciation (which echoes the English pronunciation of the French name Jeannine, a diminutive of Jeanne).

The city of Jenin is often identified with the biblical city of ‘Ein-Ganim, the name of which means “spring of gardens” in Hebrew.


Image by IDF Spokesperson’s Unit

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