Unusual baby name: Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

Samuel and Abigail Pond of Branford, Connecticut, welcomed eight children between 1705 and 1721.

The first seven got familiar names: Samuel, Philip, Bartholomew, Josiah, Abigail, Phineas and Peter.

But the last?

He was named Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin.

Where did his unwieldy name come from?

The Biblical story of “the writing on the wall” in the Book of Daniel.

Here’s a summary: In the middle of a banquet hosted by the king of Babylon, Belshazzar, a disembodied hand appeared and wrote four Aramaic words — Mene, Mene, Tekel and Parsin — on the wall. (In the King James version of the Bible, the final word is transcribed “Uphardin.”) Belshazzar called upon Daniel to interpret the words, and Daniel told him that the words foretold the fall of Babylon.

So now, the big question: Why would the Ponds choose a name like this?

There’s no way to know.

There might be no reason at all. The words could have been chosen at random from the Bible. This is likely how fellow Connecticut residents Notwithstanding Griswold (female, b. 1759) and Maybe Barnes (male, b. 1663) were named.

One genealogist wondered if Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin Pond’s name wasn’t “intended to commemorate the final downfall of the Stuarts, which seven years before had been assured by the succession of the House of Hanover.” This seems unlikely, though, given the fact that there had been two previous opportunities to bestow a commemoration name. (Older brothers Phineas and Peter were both also born after the death of Queen Anne in 1714.)

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin Pond didn’t live to adulthood, unfortunately. But I did manage to find one similarly named person who did: Mene Tekel Virgo (née Beacon) who lived in Kent, England, from 1827 to 1895.


  • Belshazzar’s feast – Wikipedia
  • Jacobus, Donald Lines. “Early New England Nomenclature.” The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Jan. 1923: 10-16.
  • Pond, Nathan Gillette. “Pond Family of Milford, Connecticut.” The Connecticut Magazine 1906: 161-176.

P.S. Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin’s older brother Philip married a lady with the fantastic name Thankful Frisbie.

One thought on “Unusual baby name: Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

  1. Mene Pond is my seven great uncle. I believe he most probably was born with Down Syndrome. His parents obviously knew something was wrong when he was born. He lived almost nine years, which would be good for a Down child back in the day. His parents obviously loved him and took good care of him.

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