Friday, August 12, 2016

Island Names - Caribbean

Hello, readers!

At long last, day 5 of island week! Despite the relative lateness of this post, I'm happy to have produced 5 new posts this week!

Onto the Caribbean!

Salamanca (Colombia)
This island is named after a province of Spain, but many Americans will recognize it as the main character's name from Walk Two Moons, or as the last name of a drug kingpin on Breaking Bad. Either way, this name makes an impression! Salamanca is lovely and feminine, if a bit of a mouthful. But she'll always be the only one in her class!

Cuba (Cuba)
A nation rich with culture and history, Cuba's recent change in relationship with the US has made this name more enticing for American namers. The island's name comes from the Taíno for "where the land is fertile" - a meaning full of opportunity. While actor Cuba Gooding Jr. brought this name to light, it's definitely an option that works for both boys and girls.

Beata (Dominican Republic)
With Beatrice rising up the ranks, other names with similar positive vibes are bound to follow. Beata means "blessed", and can be pronounced Bee-ah-tah or Bay-ah-tah. There are a few saints with the name, but it's rarely used outside of Slavic countries.

Pedro (Jamaica)
80 kilometers south of Jamaica, the Pedro Bank sits, daring ships to pass through its dangerous rocks and reefs (historically, the area is prone to shipwrecks). But Pedro is hardly a frightening name - it's one of the most popular male names in the Spanish-speaking world, and ranks at #367 in the US. It's the Spanish variation of Peter, meaning - coincidentally - "stone".

Pearl (Nicaragua)
A vintage name with all sorts of desirable traits: the connection to nature, the dazzling jewelry reference, the rare use today, and the feminine sound. The Pearl Cays in Nicaragua are home to endangered turtles, just to make it even more adorable. Pearl is also a great alternative to Ruby, today!

Craig (Trinidad and Tobago)
Another rocky name, Craig has fallen rather far from its popularity height in the mid-twentieth century. While it's still in the top 1000, it will probably fall off over the next few years - which is a great thing if you want something recognizable but uncommon! Craig also has plenty of namesakes in Hollywood and in athletics.

Eustatia (British Virgin Islands)
Though it means "good place to stay", Eustatia doesn't have many guests in its background (or am I pushing the metaphor a little too hard?) Next to Eugenia or Euphemia, however, it fits in well. The similar male name Eustace ranks briefly in the 1880's, but overall, eu- names are pretty much out.

Ginger (British Virgin Islands)
Check this out, readers - Ginger Island is currently for sale! Its breathtaking views and amazing location aside, it's got a fabulous name. Ginger has historically been a nickname for Virginia, but it could easily work on its own today (perhaps as an honorific?) It's sweet, spunky, and sympathetic - a very friendly name!

Montserrat (United Kingdom)
Another popular name for Spanish speakers, Montserrat translates to "serrated mountain", referring to a mountain range near Barcelona. In the United States, it's already reached #650, having been on the list since 2005. The island itself became a getaway for Western musicians, and is also known for its active volcano.

Eleuthera (Bahamas)
Looking for a totally original pathway to the nickname Ellie? Eleuthera is your answer! It means "freedom", and it feels elusive, ethereal, everlasting (too much?) Eleuterio is the masculine form, used occasionally in Spain and Italy, but Eleuthera is gorgeous and ought to rank on the top 1000 sometime - it's just too pretty!

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Island Names - Europe

Hello, readers!

Part 4 today! Let's get to the names, shall we?

Ireland (Ireland and the United Kingdom)
The Emerald Isle, known for its unique culture and breathtaking scenery, still has an effect on many US families today - more than 10% of Americans identify themselves as being part Irish. So why not honor your ancestral home by choosing the name Ireland? It's at the bottom of the top 1000, so it's relatively unpopular, but it's still quirky and friendly.

Skye (United Kingdom)
While the etymology of the island name is unclear, Skye has the feeling of exploration and possibility. It's been used for both boys and girls, but is currently trending feminine at #385 on the girls' list. This largest island in Scotland has long been celebrated in film and literature - only time will tell whether its brisk sound and attractive aura will climb the charts even higher.

Elba (Italy)
"Able was I ere I saw Elba" goes the famous palindrome often (mistakenly) attributed to Napoleon. The island itself was ruled by numerous empires over its history, and now belongs to Italy. Elba jumped on the top 1000 three unique times between 1881 and 1909, but has few fans now - nine girls were named Elba in 2015. It could be an uncommon route to the nickname Ellie!

Arran (United Kingdom)
Popular in Scotland, Arran is an energetic boys' name with individuality and history. It may be confused with Aaron (okay, it will definitely be confused with Aaron), but its murky etymology points to a different kind of origin - either "kidney" or "altitudinous", depending on your preference. Still, Arran is a great choice for fans of creative spellings and Scottish accents.

Sicily (Italy)
Names like Cecilia and Cicely have been around for decades - why not add in a place name with a similar sound and spicy vibe? Sicily is one of the most famous (and infamous) regions of Italy - trying to sum up its culture in four lines would be folle! Sicily was given to fifty-seven girls in 2015, and Sicilia to twelve.

Rhodes (Greece)
Nameberry lists the meaning of Rhodes as "where roses grow", though I've yet to find that definition elsewhere. Aside from its meaning, the name is strong, masculine, and polished - it sounds like the name a successful Ivy League graduate would have. The island of Rhodes is home to one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, as well as a World Heritage site.

Cyprus (Cyprus)
Looking for an unusual alternative to Cyrus or Silas? Check out Cyprus, a handsome Greek name given to eleven boys last year. It's another name with sketchy origins, but most possibilities relate to plants or minerals, and its sound is like the cypress tree - perhaps an addition to nature name lists? It offers the retro nickname Cy, too.

Margaret (Hungary)
When we visited South America earlier this week, we looked at the Spanish variation, Margarita. However, the classic English name Margaret has an equally rich history and tons of admirable namesakes (too many to list here). The Hungarian island was named after thirteenth-century Saint Margaret, who lived on the island for a period of time.

Milos (Greece)
Though it's traditionally pronounced MEE-lowsh, the name may be mistaken for either Miles or Milo in the United States. Still, it's a lovely option for those thinking outside the top 300! Milos' etymology links it to "gracious" or "good", and it has been popular in many Slavic nations. The island is famous for the statue of the Venus de Milo, as well as its many archaeological sites.

Jersey (United Kingdom)
It's not just a state anymore - the island of Jersey has a fascinating history dating back to the Neolithic era, with thousands of years of intrigue and excitement following. The name itself fits in with Kelsey and Journey, which is probably why over 100 girls were named Jersey in 2015. Still, there are a few drawbacks - New Jersey jokes, Jersey cows, and football jerseys.

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Island Names - North America

Hello, readers!

Today, part three of Island Names! This time, we'll be looking at the continent I call home, North America. I've been to a few of its islands, but I still have many to explore. Share any island experiences of your own in the comments - or even better, name-related island experiences.

Also - because there are so many, I'll be covering Caribbean island names in a separate post!

Catalina, by Justin "jmarty" on

Let's begin!

Catalina - United States of America
This island has a special significance for me - it's where my parents lived for the first few years of their marriage, shortly before I graced their lives with my birth ;) After already having a few distinct names, Catalina was named in honor of Saint Catherine by Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno, a name that stuck. Today, Catalina is growing in popularity as an alternative to Caitlin or Catherine, with the bonus nickname Lina. Another option - the only city of the island is Avalon, a gorgeous choice. 

Madeline - United States of America
Named for Madeleine Cadotte, the daughter of a Native American chief and the wife of a French fur trader, Madeline Island can be found in Lake Superior. The English spelling of the name - as opposed to French Madeleine or modern Madelyn - tops out at #90 on the US top 1000, a beloved pick! It's feminine, literary, and historical, with dozens of fabulous namesakes. 

Elizabeth - United States of America
Off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the Elizabeth Islands were named for QEI in the early seventeenth century. Elizabeth needs no introduction - it's a classic girls' name that has maintained usage without ever feeling trendy or dated. Its multitude of nicknames - old Bess, mature Liz, and young Ellie, for example - offer more opportunities for individualizing it. Elizabeth won't surprise anyone, but it will absolutely stand the test of time and place. 

Alexander - United States of America
Another classic, but this time on the boys' side, Alexander currently ranks at #8. Nicknames Alex and Xander are in the top 300 as well, with a bevy of variations on the girls' list too. The Alexander archipelago is in southern Alaska, named for Tsar Alexander II of Russia. This name will also work for any age or background, with real timelessness. 

Teresa - United States of America
While looking up its name origins, I found out that Teresa Island has the highest elevation of any freshwater island - but I couldn't find out who the original Teresa was. Tessa is the most popular name in this family as of 2015, but Teresa ranks on the list at #665. It peaked in 1962 and has been on a gradual decline, but it's a beautiful, mature option that will stand on its own. 

Shannon - Greenland (Denmark)
Named for a ship that explored the island in 1823, Shannon Island is the home of all kinds of Arctic wildlife. The name Shannon has gotten the cold shoulder in recent years - despite relative popularity in the 1970's and 1980's, it's now totally gone from the top 1000. But with Welsh and Irish names popping up the charts, it may make a comeback!

Victoria - Canada
A third island named for a monarch, Victoria Island also has the distinction of being the eighth largest island in the world (and actually contains another island within its borders). While I shy away from using the word "classic" too much, Victoria really has very few peers - except those listed earlier. It might be time to generate new nicknames, though - Nameberry recommends Plum, and I think Via or Ria are viable options. 

Devon - Canada
The largest uninhabited island worldwide, Devon Island was named for the region of Devon in England. The name Devon reached its height in the mid-1990's, riding the coattails of similar-sounding Dylan, Logan, and Kevin. However, Devon is more than a trend - it's now an established, friendly name for boys and girls alike. 

Guadalupe - Mexico
Found off the coast of Baja California, Guadalupe Island hosts a few fishing camps and military outposts today. It's a religious name with a lot of history, originally translating to "river of the wolf" in Spanish but now mostly referring to the Virgin Mary, "Our Lady of Guadalupe". Nicknames Lupe and Lupita add a bit of feminine frill to this serene choice. 

Carmen - Mexico
A city with an exciting history - it was named in celebration of the eviction of pirates from its borders! (After the Virgin Mary of Carmen, of course). It loosely translates to "garden", and has maintained consistent usage since name recordings began. It's a great name to cross English and Spanish-speaking cultures, and will continue as a lovely choice for awhile

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Island Names - South America

Hello, readers!

For the second part of my Island Names series, we'll be heading to South America! While there are literally hundreds of islands off the coast of this continent, I've chosen ten names to focus on today. If you'd like to see more names, please comment!

Isla de la Luna, by Christopher Walker from Krakow, Poland - Tree on the shore of Lake Titicaca, CC BY 2.0, 


Alright, so this isn't the name of an island; it's "island" in Spanish. Isla is notable for its meteoric rise to the top 200, beginning its journey at #623 in 2008, and ranking at #141 today. Isla's popularity may have something to do with its similarity to Isabella, as well as its prevalence in the UK and Australia. Overall, Isla is a sweet, feminine name with a pretty sound and romantic meaning.

Luna - Bolivia
Arguably the most prominent name to come out of Harry Potter, Luna has long been a classic in Spanish-speaking countries (like Bolivia). The island itself is named for a story in Incan mythology - the god Viracocha commanded the rising of the moon from Isla de la Luna. It's ethereal but accessible, girlish but strong - Luna is bound to soar over the next few years.

Vitória - Brazil
Named in honor of a "victorious" battle of the Portuguese over the Goytacaz Amerindians, this island is now the capital of a state of Brazil. Vitoria has been recorded in the US intermittently since the 1970's, and has probably stayed unpopular because of its closeness to Victoria (correcting the name constantly will get old). However, if you live in a Portuguese-speaking community, confusion is bound to be less prevalent, and more people will appreciate the delicateness of this name.

Magdalena - Chile
A religious name with thousands of years of history, Magdalena has yet to again reach its peak rank of #311 in 1882. It's rarely been heard outside of the Spanish-speaking community, but as more and more Spanish speakers immigrate to the US, more and more Spanish names will follow! Magdalena is an excellent alternative to Margaret or Madelyn, with the cute nickname Maggie.

Rosario - Colombia
Another classic Spanish name, but this one is even more special because it ends in O - only more modern girls' names like Willow and Harlow seem to have this trait (correct me in the comments!) It translates to "rosary", and could work as an honorific for a familial Rose. Actress Rosario Dawson has also brought this name into the spotlight, but Rosario still has its own individuality.

Alicia - Colombia
Alicia peaked at #40 in 1984, and it's been on the decline since. Alice is the current favorite in this family of names! However, switching the pronunciation from English "Ah-lee-sha" to Spanish "Ah-lee-see-ah" adds a bit more elegance and poise. Alicia's meaning is "noble".

Palma - Colombia
A lovely island name, Palma calls to mind swaying palm trees and Easter Sunday - summer and spring all in one. It ranked in the US until 1942, but has been very uncommon since. With Alma and Paloma in play, perhaps pleasant Palma will rise again! It also offers the vintage nickname Polly.

Margarita - Colombia
Though it's feminine and melodic, most English speakers are likely to associate Margarita with the eponymous drink. It means "pearl" or "daisy", and other variations - Margaret, Marguerite, Margot - are more likely to pass the playground test. Still, if you must choose Margarita, try a pet name with style: Rita, Margie, or Meg are unique options today.

Blanca - Peru
For years Southern Blanche reigned supreme, then graceful Bianca took the lead. Could Blanca have a better chance with recent trends favoring Latin names? Blanca has long been a popular choice in Spain - where it currently ranks at #43 - and there have been more than a few fictional Blanca's on television, in movies, and in literature. Time will tell whether Blanca has a shot!

Kwana - Suriname
The only island in Suriname, Kwana's name is derived from a local fish species, which I have been unsuccessful in researching. Kwana has been used as a name sporadically in the United States, probably due to the popularity of ends-in-ANA names and masculine names like Kwame and Kwan. It's absolutely quirky, but friendly and gorgeous.

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Island Names - Africa

Hello, readers!

Due to circumstances outside of my control, I haven't been able to write as much as I'd like to. To remedy this, I'm starting a series of posts to jump-start my blog again! I'll be looking at names based on islands around the world, separated by continent. This isn't meant to be a complete list of options; more of an inspirational start!

As summer comes to an end, vacations we enjoyed (or wished we had) are on many of our minds. The classic dream is the island vacation - but, since islands around the world exist in all sorts of climates, there's not really one kind of getaway attached to the concept. A trip to the Isle of Skye is a bit different than a trip to Oahu. Today's post will look at islands around the coast of Africa, with other continents to follow.

Félicité, by Jmhullot - Own work, CC BY 3.0,

Let's begin!

Félicité - Republic of Seychelles
This lovely French name meaning "happiness" has an English version in the US top 1000 - Felicity. This foreign variation is très mignonne, and if you can get past the pronunciation confusion, it's a very pretty choice. Felicia and Flicka are other variants heard in the English-speaking world.

Marianne - Republic of Seychelles
Another classic French name, but this one works far better cross-culturally. Marianne is also the personification of France (where the island got its name), and adorns a main character in Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. It fits in with similarly-styled Vivienne and Adrienne.

Thérèse - Republic of Seychelles
Thérèse got a bit of Oscar press recently, as it was featured as the name of a main character in Carol. But Thérèse has yet to make a comeback in the United States. It ranked on the top 100 from 1880 to 1984, surpassed by Theresa and Tessa today. Still, Thérèse is an elegant, mature option for a name that will grow with your baby through her lifetime.

Picard - Republic of Seychelles
A pop culture pick - Picard is well-known as the captain's last name on Star Trek: The Next Generation (played by Patrick Stewart). While I haven't been able to find information on the reason for this island bearing the name, some light research indicates that Picard translates originally to "pike-bearer" in French. This is definitely a nerdy choice, but a sweet one at that.

Florentin - Republic of Seychelles
An alternative to medieval Florian and a unique way to access nicknames Finn or Flynn, Florentin is a fabulous uncommon pick. It provides a more masculine way to honor a Flora or Florence, but keeps the flowery origins at bay. It can be pronounced Flo-ren-TIN or Flo-ren-TAHN.

Rémire - Republic of Seychelles
Another name with a short historical record, I'm including Rémire for its ability to fit in stylistically with other boy's names: Amir, Remy, and Ramiro, for example. It translates to "to look again" in Spanish - an intriguing meaning, in my view. The island itself was named after an English ship that passed it by in 1771.

Etoile - Republic of Seychelles
An island in the same group as Rémire, Etoile was named after a French ship that was part of Bougainville's circumnavigation of the globe in the eighteenth century. Etoile also translates to "star" in French, and could be an ornate alternative to Estrella or Stella. It is pronounced Ay-TWAH.

Providence - Republic of Seychelles
A Puritan name among French and Spanish classics - depending on the pronunciation, of course! It refers to the idea of "divine direction", or God's foresight on individual lives. With Constance, Patience, and Prudence in intermittent use, Providence might fit in well as an unexpected first or middle.

Brava - Republic of Cape Verde
Meaning "brave" in Esperanto, Brava could be worn well by a confident little girl. It's upbeat, adventurous, and encouraging - not bad associations to have! Brava may get a bit of "brava, bravissima" teasing, but a perpetual adoring audience is not necessarily a drawback.

Santiago - Republic of Cape Verde
The most popular name on this list, Santiago currently ranks at #127 on the US top 1000 for boys. It's a literary favorite, from Hemingway to Rice, and works well in many languages. The literal translation is "Saint James", which could offer honorific options. International variations include rare names like Yago, Tiago, and Xanti.

Tell me your favorites in the comments!