- masc. proper name, biblical son of Saul, from Hebrew Yonathan, short for Yehonathan, literally "the Lord has given" (compare Nathan). Also compare (see John.
As a pre-Uncle Sam emblem of the United States, sometimes personified as Brother Jonathan, it dates from 1816. Traditionally it is said to be from George Washington's use of it in reference to Gov. Jonathan Trumbull Sr. of Connecticut (1710-1785), to whom he sometimes turned for advice (see II Samuel i.26); hence "a New Englander," and eventually "an American." But this story is only from the mid-19c. and is not supported by the record. There is some evidence that Loyalists and British soldiers used Jonathan to refer to the Americans in the Revolution, perhaps because it was a common New England name at the time (see Albert Matthews, "Brother Jonathan Once More," Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Transactions, 32 (1935), p. 374). As a variety of red apple it dates from 1831, so called because it was introduced in the U.S.