What Would Your Quaker Name Be?

What Would Your Quaker Name Be? May 30, 2024

In Outlander Season Eight (now in production) we will meet Quaker characters, named after Christian virtues.  What would your Quaker name be?

Quaker men
Llyfrgell Genedlaethol Cymru / The National Library of Wales from Wales/Cymru, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re an Outlander fan like me, you might be sad to learn that Season eight will be the final chapter of this great TV series. Set for release in late 2024 or 2025, the final season will be based on Diana Gabaldon’s latest novel in the Outlander series, Go Tell the Bees That I am Gone.  Though Gabaldon plans to write more in the Outlander book series, producers plan to wrap up the television series with season eight.


Outlandish Names

The Outlander books have many names familiar to native English speakers, like Jamie, Claire, Roger, Frank, and Jenny. Yet, there are many other names, from varying languages such as French, Gaelic, and Kanyen’kéha. I giggled when one fan of the books mispronounced certain names that they had never heard spoken out loud. When all you see is how it appears in print, how are you supposed to know how to pronounce names like Laoghaire, Geillis, Phaedre, and Tehwahsehwkwe? These names are truly outlandish—if we understand that word to mean “not from this land,” or “foreign.”

Quaker Names

In “Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone,” the Fraser family attends a Quaker meeting. There, they discuss the outlandish names Quakers of that period chose for their children—names like Patience, Charity, and Prudence. Historically, Quakers named their offspring after virtues they wanted the children to embody.  In the book, they asked the question, what would you call yourself, if you named yourself after a virtue? Here are some examples of Bible characters named after virtues:

  • The apostle Saul (named after Israel’s first king, a giant of a man) changed his name to Paul, which means “small.” He must have wanted to offset his lofty call to ministry by giving himself a humble name.
  • Paul’s friend Joseph changed his name (or had it changed for him) to Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.” It’s no question what virtue he wanted to embody.
  • In the Hebrew Scriptures, God changed the name of Sarai (meaning “She who Strives”) to Sarah— “Princess.” It seems she took her position as mother of a nation quite literally!


Named After Virtues

Not everybody has to change their name, to be named after a virtue.  When I was young, I learned that my name, Gregory, means the nouns “Protector” and “Watchman,” as well as the adjectives, “Vigilant” and “Fierce.”  I always took that to heart.  Both as a pastor and now as a case manager, I have seen myself as a guardian of other people.  So, I didn’t have to change my name to be named after virtues.  Knowing my name had a virtuous meaning was significant in my self-understanding.  If I could pick any virtuous name, it would probably be exactly what it already is.


What Would Your Quaker Name Be?

So, what would you call yourself, if you could change your name to reflect any virtue?  Would you be Piety, or Holiness, or Constance?  Maybe Welcome or Assistance or Selflessness? If, by changing your name you could shift your focus, what would you become?  What Virtue do you hold most dear, and what would you do, to embody that character trait even more in your life? The author of 2 Peter 1:5-7 says:

…Make every effort to support your faith with excellence, and excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with endurance, and endurance with godliness, and godliness with mutual affection, and mutual affection with love.

Make every effort, the scripture says.  What if you placed your foremost virtue so prominently in your mind that it became as familiar to you as your own name?  You become what you focus on the most, so pretty soon, you would become that outlandish virtue, and it would become you.


How Do You Want to be Known?

Jesus must have thought that names were important–so he chose to be called Immanuel, or “God with Us.”  Whether you change your name or not, the question remains—how do you want to be known?  Thus, by living out your ultimate virtue, you create a legacy that will outlast you.  If your goal is to be like Jesus, you’ll want people to see a bit of God when they look at you.


For related reading, check out my other articles:

About Gregory T. Smith
I live in the beautiful Fraser Valley of British Columbia and work in northern Washington State as a behavioral health specialist with people experiencing homelessness and those who are overly involved in the criminal justice system. Before that, I spent over a quarter-century as lead pastor of several Virginia churches. My newspaper column, “Spirit and Truth” ran in Virginia newspapers for fifteen years. I am one of fourteen contributing authors of the Patheos/Quoir Publishing book “Sitting in the Shade of another Tree: What We Learn by Listening to Other Faiths.” I hold a degree in Religious Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University, and also studied at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond. My wife Christina and I have seven children between us, and we are still collecting grandchildren. You can read more about the author here.
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