From the Hebrew name יִשַׁי (Yishai)
which possibly means "gift". In the Old Testament
Jesse is the father of King David
. It began to be used as an English given name after the Protestant Reformation
. A famous bearer was Jesse James (1847-1882), an American outlaw who held up banks and stagecoaches. He was eventually shot by a fellow gang member for a reward. Another famous bearer was the American athlete Jesse Owens (1913-1980), whose real name was James Cleveland (or J. C.) Owens.