|"Jessica" by William Quiller Orchardson|
Meaning: "To behold"
Other forms: Jessika, Yessica, Gessica, Jescha
I suppose you could say that Jessica is a staple in American names. She has been in the top 1000 names of the USA since 1880, though it wasn't until the 1970's that she broke into the top 100. Now, she seems dated, and is most likely to be the name of one of our mothers. In reality, she should be considered a classic; perhaps in the next twenty or so years, she'll be as fresh as Mabel, or Violet.
Something most people probably don't know, is that Jessica was invented by Shakespeare for his play "The Merchant of Venice". It is most likely that it is a form of the Hebrew Iscah, meaning "to behold". In his time, the common form of it might have been Jescha. "The Merchant of Venice" is undoubtedly racist, the portrayal of Shylock as the villainous Jewish rival to the Christian Antonio, the protagonist of the play. A great deal is made of Shylock being Jewish, and he is a stereotypical moneylender. Jessica is his daughter, who is no great fan of her father, and is seen as "morally good" for going against him. It is sad that this was the way of life so long ago, and that we ourselves are barely further than them. Still, this has not deterred people for using Jessica, and probably won't in the future.
There are so many famous Jessica's. Actresses Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel, and Jessica Lange, along with characters like Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), Jessica Rabbit, and Lady Jessica from "Dune". Jessica is a name that cross over to so many different genres and time periods, you could probably find one in almost every TV show, book, or movie.