Saturday, December 31, 2016

Names for a New Year

Hello, readers!

The concept of celebrating a "new year" varies greatly around the globe - the Chinese New Year is based on lunar cycles, the Jewish New Year is observed in the autumn, and the Thai New Year is celebrated from April 13-15. Still, it's nice to set aside time to reflect on the past year and make plans for the year ahead, no matter where you are. For babies born in January, choosing a name that reflects this celebration is one way to start the new year - and a new life - off right.

Image via Wikimedia

Baby "New" Year

Just hearing the word "new" calls to mind modernity and freshness - look at any advertisement with the word, and it's usually followed by an exclamation point! Including the word in a name is one immediate way to encapsulate this excitement; names include Newton, Newland, and Newman. Other names with the sound often include the Latin root novus, such as Nova, Novella, or Novak

If you're looking for less obvious choices, names that mean "new" or "fresh" are all over the map. Check out these names for ideas: Arata, Aviva, Naveen, Neo, Nouvel, Raanan, and Zelenka. Though they may take a bit more explaining in the United States, all are lovely choices worth the effort!

Father Time

Marking the passage of time is another way to bring the new year into naming. Choosing names like Winter, Day, Afternoon, Dawn, Evening, or January offers a clear connection to this theme; looking up names with those meanings is another, more subtle option. The Greek zodiac sign for December 22 - January 22 is Capricorn, which could add another element to the name search!

Another way to honor time is by looking at the past year. Are there family members, friends, or role models whose presence was particularly strong this year? Are there celebrities who passed away who made a special impact on your life or your family? Names of individuals in this category for 2016 could include Bowie, Prince, Fisher, Wilder, Cohen, and Harper


And onto the year ahead! Though 2016 was almost too much too handle at times, it has made a lot of people optimistic and determined to create a better 2017. Let's look at names specific to THIS new year: 
  • In the Chinese New Year, 2017 is the Year of the Rooster! Fowl names honoring this could include Gallus, Pavana, or Poe
  • The first total solar eclipse of this century will take place in 2017 - names like Sunny, Elio, Apollonia, Ravi, and Soleil relate to the sun. 
  • What are you looking forward to? Tell me in the comments!

Friday, December 30, 2016

I Miss Debbie Reynolds - Her Best Character Names

Hello, readers!

Because this sh*tstorm of a year isn't bad enough, within a day of losing Carrie Fisher, film audiences lost another icon - her mother, Debbie Reynolds. A talented actress and entertainer, Reynolds amazed many generations of filmgoers, from her roles in Singin' in the Rain to Charlotte's Web to Halloweentown. And of course, among these roles, we have some great names to consider!

Kathy Selden
Reynolds was only nineteen when she played Kathy Selden in the classic musical, Singin' in the Rain. The name Kathy reached its popularity peak only a few years after the film was released, rising to #14 in 1958. Today, long form Katherine is favored, with Katie and Kaylee among beloved variants.

Julie Gillis
In 1955, Debbie played Julie in The Tender Trap, another musical comedy - but this time, with Frank Sinatra! The name Julie rose over the following decades, but has been on the decline. If Julia and Juliana are too common for you, look at July or Julianne.

Polly Parish
The musical comedies continue - Bundle of Joy was filmed while Reynolds was pregnant with Fisher. The name Polly hasn't ranked on the top 1000 since 1977, despite it's similarities to Holly and Molly. This adorable retro nickname for Mary could definitely make a comeback!

A mid-century choice, Debbie played the title character in the film Tammy and the Bachelor. Today, a familial Tammy may be better honored by Tamara, Tamsin, or Tamayo. The name Tammy comes from the Hebrew word for "date palm tree."

Lilith Prescott
The classic western film How the West Was Won brought us Debbie Reynolds as Lilith Prescott. Though Lily names are the current trend, Lilith only ranks at #588 - possibly due to its association with a demon in Jewish mythology.

Margaret "Molly" Brown
The Unsinkable Molly Brown brought Reynolds her only Oscar nomination for portraying a real-life survivor of the Titanic sinking. Though Molly has long been a nickname for Mary, it's also been used sporadically as a nickname for any M-name.

In 1973, Reynolds voiced the title character in Charlotte's Web, the animated film based on E.B. White's children's book. Charlotte is a literary favorite, appearing in all sorts of books dating from the nineteenth century forward. Today, Charlotte has settled into the top 10, and may rise to the top 5 soon - thanks to the little princess across the pond.

Agatha "Aggie" Cromwell
Everyone's favorite witchy grandmother, Debbie Reynolds joined the Disney Channel Original Movie family in 1998 with Halloweentown. Though Agatha has long been regarded as a less-than-attractive choice, it's getting more followers who love its offbeat yet feminine vibe.

Bobbi Adler
Portraying a semi-fictional version of herself, Debbie played Grace's mom Bobbi in Will & Grace over the span of a few seasons. Boyish classics like Billie and Bobbie (with the ending e) have been rediscovered for girls in the UK, but haven't quite yet reached the US.

One of her final film roles, Reynolds played Liberace's mother Frances in Behind the Candelabra. Frances is also her middle name (she was born Mary Frances Reynolds) and her daughter Carrie's middle name. This beautiful choice is rising quickly, thanks partially to the 100-year-rule.

Are there particularly beautiful names I missed? Debbie Reynolds had dozens of film roles not listed here. Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, December 29, 2016

I Miss Carrie Fisher - Her Best Character Names

Hello, readers!

Sadly, this week we lost a great actress, writer, and activist - Carrie Frances Fisher. From her early iconic role as Princess Leia in Star Wars to her recent advocacy for mental health education, she's been a fantastic cultural figure and inspiration to women and girls everywhere. As a name nerd, I figure the best way that I can honor her is to make her the focus of a name article!

Alright, so it's not a character name. Carrie was born to actors Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in 1956, at which time the name ranked #208. Carrie left the top 1000 in 2007, but could make a comeback, especially in the next year. 

Her first movie role was Lorna, the daughter of two main characters in Shampoo. The name is a literary invention from the nineteenth century, and it ranked in the US throughout the twentieth century. Despite its similarities to Lauren and Laura, it never garnered similar popularity. 

Leia Organa
While audiences were introduced to this Star Wars name back in the 1970's, Leia's popularity only rocketed in the past decade. With names like Lily and Layla so enticing, Leia was bound to follow! The name is still rising and will probably get a boost in 2017, but it will take awhile to find out for sure.

Annie Clark
Carrie played Annie in Under the Rainbow, a 1981 comedy with Chevy Chase. While Annie ranked in the top 10 in the 1880's, it was surpassed by more formal names - and delegated to nickname status. Today, Annie is an adorable, retro choice - not unlike Carrie!

Starring alongside Tom Hanks in the comedy-thriller The Man with One Red Shoe, her character name of Paula is a mid-century standard. While Paula may not be ready to return to birth certificates, similar-sounding Paulina, Paulette, and Paloma are cute options for baby girls today. 

Still in the top 500, April is a bright and friendly name perfect for springtime babies. The name comes from the Latin for "second," and counts sisters May and June as sweet, timely alternatives. Carrie Fisher played April in the Woody Allen classic, Hannah and Her Sisters.

Carol Peterson
Another comedy-thriller with Tom Hanks, The 'Burbs gives us Carrie Fisher as Carol Peterson. Carol is another mid-century name not yet ripe for revival - try Caroline, Charlotte, or Cora for a more contemporary take.

The quintessential French female name and a popular middle name for Americans, Marie is currently at one of its lowest points. Carrie played Marie in When Harry Met Sally (one of my favorite films), transforming from an insecure mistress into a strong and supportive wife and friend.

Carrie voiced Angela in Family Guy over a ten-year span, proving her acting abilities extended into animated comedy. Angela is currently on it's way out after a long career in the spotlight, but longer variations Angelina and Angelica are still in use.

Rosemary Howard
Emmy-nominated for her guest role in 30 Rock, Carrie Fisher played comedy writer Rosemary Howard, Liz Lemon's hero. On the rise again, this botanical choice is at once vintage and vivacious, perfect for a modern girl. Rosemary also signifies remembrance - an excellent choice to remember an excellent woman.

What are your favorite Carrie Fisher roles? Any of these names on your list of favorites? Tell me in the comments!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Suspending Disbelief - The Accuracy of TV Show Names

Hello, readers!

Many of you (my family members included) may be big fans of Law & Order - Special Victim's Unit: over 8 million viewers watch the show regularly. Me? I can't get past the first name of the main character, Olivia Benson. Her character was born in 1967, towards the low point of the name's popularity (then #512). While it's possible a baby girl born at that time would have been named Olivia, it's much more probable that she would have been a Lisa, Jennifer, or Michelle. But then again, television shows often take liberties with character names!

I suppose that if statistics were the only factor in naming television characters, we'd see a lot more Jennifer's - and every man would be named Michael. But at the same time, it can be hard to believe that an adult character has a name that wasn't common until recently.

I'll admit that Olivia is more common than Mariska, at the very least - but how well do other television shows fare when naming their main characters? Let's look at some examples!

That 70's Show - A

"What a long strange trip it's been... in Foreman's basement." This love letter to the late 1970's brought teenage Boomer culture to Gen Xers and Millennials alike. Main characters Eric Foreman, Donna Pinciotti, Steven Hyde, Jacqueline Burkhart, and Michael Kelso also have the distinction of wearing statistically probable names - all first names were in the top 100 in 1960, around the year their characters would have been born. Why no + after the A? Dear sweet Fez never has his true name revealed!

The Big Bang Theory - B

One of the highest-rated television comedies in recent years, this gem has welcomed guest stars from Neil DeGrasse Tyson to Stephen Hawking - hardly comedic masterminds. But the lovable nerdiness of its five original stars (and two subsequent additions) has kept this science-oriented show in the spotlight. First names at play include Sheldon, Howard, Leonard, Rajesh, Penny, Bernadette, and Amy.

Though their ages range a bit, the only character whose birth year is given is Howard - 1981. Going off that year, I was surprised to find that five out of seven names have similar popularity levels, ranking between #208 and #517. Though these names weren't popular, these characters have more in common than just proximity and academic interests. The two outliers are Amy, at #6, and Rajesh, off the list entirely. While I wasn't able to find name data for India (where Rajesh was born), Amy's popularity definitely lends itself to the show's accuracy.

Friends - C

A cultural touchstone of the 1990's and early 2000's, Friends rocketed six actors to stardom and still appears in writings on television criticism. The term "friend zone" first appeared in an episode of the show, and lines like "How you doin'?" and "Unagi!" are now popular references. The six characters are as follows: Chandler Bing, Phoebe Buffay, Rachel Green, Monica Geller, Ross Geller, and Joey Tribbiani.

While Joseph, Monica, and Rachel rank in the top 100 for the year 1968 - the year in which most characters were born - Ross ranks at #245, and Chandler and Phoebe don't even appear in the top 1000. While this could be due to their characters having uncommon parentage, the white, middle-class success they exhibit seems a bit unlikely. Incidentally, both Chandler and Phoebe jumped noticeably in popularity after Friends debuted in 1994, and both names are well-used today.

How I Met Your Mother - D

While the show garnered mixed reviews from fans and critics alike - especially when it aired the series finale - it was still incredibly popular during its run: between 8 and 11 million viewers tuned in every season. The antics of Barney, Lily, Marshall, Ted, and Robin have given rise to countless Internet memes, as well as memorable quotations - "Challenge accepted," "Suit up," and "Legen-wait for it-dary!"

The character names are all over the map, from popular Robin to incredibly rare Barney. Lily barely makes the top 1000, and Marshall and Ted are middling. I'm giving the show a low score, because there doesn't seem to be a trend or theme in naming - almost like the names were picked out of a (gargantuan) hat.

How do your favorite shows rank? Does a main character's name affect your enjoyment? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Names from Narnia - Aslan, Caspian and more

Hello, readers!

The holiday season is truly upon us, and with food and celebration comes another of my favorite winter elements - the culture! The stories, songs and art associated with winter and the holidays are so unique: "Christmas Songs" are their own genre.

While it's not exactly a holiday series, The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, are often brought up this time of year. Perhaps it's because of the long winter in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, or because of the Christian themes in the series. So today's post will look at some of the names in the series - all recorded in US name data between 1880 and 2015.

These names range from English classics to total inventions - let's explore!

In 2006, six little girls were given the name Narnia, following the late 2005 release of the film The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. While this is a level of bookish devotion I may never achieve, I do like the sound of the name - not unlike Nora or Nina. The fictional land was named after a small city in Italy, Narni - whose most famous resident, incidentally, was Blessed Lucy Brocadelli.

A female character in The Horse and His Boy, Aravis has been used a handful of times for little girls since 2005. There's a real-life mountain range in France with the name, but it's still an incredibly rare find. It's like Avery, Aria, or Alexis without feeling too trendy or hopelessly inaccessible.

If Leo isn't your style, why not try another leonine name - Aslan (Turkish for "lion")? It's been growing in popularity since the 1970's, and fits well with modern boys' name trends. While it may raise a few eyebrows, Aslan is bound to make a positive impression with such a magnificent fictional namesake.

Breezy and bright, Bree is a fresh, concise alternative to declining Briana and faddish Brielle. It's originally a short form of Bridget, but in The Horse and His Boy, it's short for Breehy-hinny-brinny-hoohy-hah. While Bree has been on and off the top 1000, it's currently off, making it a perfect choice for those who want something recognizable but not trendy.

Both a beautiful inland sea and a dashing heroic prince, Caspian has a lot of positive connotations. With its handsome sound and amicable tone, it's also growing in popularity - 103 boys born last year were named Caspian. Other names with this feeling include Crispin and Casper.

One of the less-common "Ed" names, this English classic is sweet and boyish, but ages well with its wearer. It means "fortunate protector," and could make a great alternative to Edward or Eden. There are dozens of Edmund's throughout history who would make excellent namesakes, from the first man to climb Everest to a handful of saints.

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb and he almost deserved it." This opening line from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader shows us that even in 1952, Eustace was a thing of the past. The name hasn't ranked on the top 1000 since 1885, though it has a lovely meaning - "fruitful."

The name of the infamous White Witch of the series, Jadis is incredibly sophisticated and cool. It can be thought of as an updated version of Jade or Jasmine, though the name may come from the Persian word jadu, meaning "magic." Jadis has been used for both boys and girls since 1999.

At #55 in the US, Lucy is the most popular name on this list. Lucy Pevensie, of Narnia fame, is only one of the many literary Lucy's that have inspired this trend, as well as it's retro sound and friendly vibe. Lucy means "light," and isn't it fitting that Lucy Pevensie was the first of the children to reach the lampost? Longer forms include Lucia, Lucille, and Lucinda.

Another vintage find, but this time with fewer fans - Polly hasn't been on the top 1000 since 1977. However, it's been growing very slowly since the early 2000's - could it make a comeback? It's pretty and peppy, in the same vein as Sadie or Molly. It's also been on the rise in the UK, along with similar-sounding Poppy.

A Native American people and place name, Shasta has been used for girls since 1926 - though the character in the Narnia series is male. It briefly ranked in the late 1970's and early 1980's, but has fallen in usage. It could be a lovely alternative to Dakota or Cheyenne, if your name tastes tend towards honoring Native American peoples.

The last king of Narnia, Tirian transcends what could be a tyrannical name. It shouldn't be confused with Tyrion, of Game of Thrones, or Tirion, of the Lord of the Rings series - I'm sensing a pattern here. Tirian was used for six boys in 2008, but it's doubtful that the name will gain many more mainstream fans - unless an inevitable reboot mixes things up!

Other excellent names from the series include the following: Corin, Digory, Emeth, Frank, Glozelle, Helen, Hwin, Jill, Miraz, Peter, Rabadash, Ramandu, Rilian, Susan, Tumnus

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankful Names

Hello, readers!

This week the United States celebrates Thanksgiving; though it's hard not to be cynical about it, taking time to be thankful for what we have and who we spend our lives with is a worthy tradition. So, in this year of trials and tribulations, let's look at the good people and parts of our life that make us truly happy.

Here are some names from around the world that mean "thankful."

Alright, so this name may be a bit on the nose. Thankful was actually a not-uncommon name in Puritan communities, where virtue names flourished (Emily Dickinson had multiple Thankful's in her family). Today, it may not work as seamlessly, but check out some related options below. 

Also spelled Shaqir, this Arabic name was first recorded in the US in 1971. It's highest rate of usage was in 1993 - around the same time Shakira started getting popular in the states. The Colombian singer definitely had an impact on this name, so the male form may feel more unique and less iconic. 

Though origin stories differ, some sites list this mega-popular name as coming from the Hebrew word for "thankful." Jadon and it's dozen spellings have dominated the top 1000 for awhile, replacing John, Jason, and Justin. What will the next J---n name be? (Jefferson has my vote!)

This Disney Channel star single-handedly brought her lovely Z-name to the top 1000 - it debuted in 2014, and now ranks at #801 and rising. Zendaya means "to give thanks" in the Shona language (spoken in regions of south-central Africa). Another name from this origin? Tendai

Only recorded in the United States once - five babies in 1978 - this name from Malawi's Yao language is another zippy choice with personality and promise. Being that it's so rare, it may raise a few eyebrows - but families with a Yao background may find Zikomo inspiring. 

Rising in popularity for the past few years, Merci is a creative spelling of virtue name Mercy - but it's also French for "thank you." It's a fun twist on multiple names, from mid-century Marcy to pretty Marisol to the aforementioned Mercy, and may work well for a quirky individual. 

Tell me what you're thankful for in the comments!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Top Baby Names in Belgium

Hallo, lezers!

After a rather long and unintended hiatus, I'm back to posting articles on global names. Today, we'll be looking at the top baby names in Belgium (specifically Flanders). This is the Dutch region of the country, home to Brussels and Antwerp. They're also known for their chocolate!

I'll be looking at seven names from each gender that are popular in Belgium (in the top 50) but uncommon in the United States. I'm taking my data from Baby Name Wizard's lists - for Belgian boys and Belgian girls. This data is from 2014. 

Laten we gaan!

Female Names

Meaning "light" in Arabic, Noor has begun to find favor among American parents - it reached the top 1000 for the first time last year. It's been most common in Muslim families, but its similarity to Nora and Eleanor make it even more desirable for all types. 

While it's long been a popular choice among French speakers, Americans haven't followed suit - the most Manon's born in the US at one time were twenty-six girls each year during 1999 and 2000. Still, this diminutive of Marie is soft and friendly, a pretty alternative to Madison or Madeline

Though Charlie has taken off for girls in the states, Lotte hasn't - the foreign pronunciations of LAH-tah, LAH-teh, or LAH-tee can be difficult for native English speakers. Parents worried about Charlotte's popularity may take the plunge, while Lottie is another adorable option. 

This name can be found in languages all over the globe, from Japanese to Arabic to Hebrew to Dutch. It takes the current vowel trend to a new level, but its subdued sound makes it more sophisticated than faddish. Aya currently ranks at #36 in Belgium and #886 in the US. 

Originally a nickname for Jozefien, this short form has now surpassed the longer classic. Though it may raise some eyebrows, it could work well as a feminine alternative to Finn. In the US, Josephine and Josie are the more common variations. 

Another French choice, Anaïs has ranked on the top 1000 a few times over the past few decades. It comes from the name Anne, meaning "grace," and there are a few notable namesakes with the moniker - author Anaïs Nin and musician Anaïs Mitchell among them. 

Ranking in eight different European countries, this variation of Agnes is especially popular due to its association with a Spanish love story. Pronounced "AYE-ness" or "EE-ness," it's short, elegant, and traditional without being overused. 

Male Names

Alternatives to Biblical favorite Matthew are on the rise everywhere - from Mateo to Mathias to Matt. This French version is pronounced like the artist Matisse, though many Americans may sooner connect the name to mid-century singer Johnny Mathis.

Looking for an unusual longer name with the nickname Max? Maxime is one uncommon choice, though it may be confused with the feminine Maxine. Still, it's been slowly increasing in popularity: thirty-eight baby Maxime's were born last year.

Though it's never been recorded in the United States, it's already at #25 in Belgium. Seppe is originally a short form of Giuseppe or Joseph, and is pronounced "SEP-pah." I'm interested to see how it will take off in the US - there's a great discussion about it on this Nameberry forum!

While Stanley has been on the decline for a few decades, bright and friendly Stan may still find an audience. With short boys' names like Sam and Jack on trend, Stan could definitely fit in on the playground while maintaining its retro air.

Pronounced "Vowt" or "Wowt," this Dutch nicknamed for Wouter (Walter) may have a hard time in the United States. On the other hand, it's close enough to Wyatt to merit a mention! Walter itself has been on the rise in the US as well - thanks, Breaking Bad?

Are you a fan of Mateo, but looking for something less common? Timeo may be right up your alley! It comes from a Greek name meaning "honor," and could honor a familial Timothy. It's also related to the Disney favorite Timon and can be found in Shakespeare.

Another Greek choice, Yanis is actually a relative of John, meaning "gift of God." It's got a unique sound and form, setting it apart from most trends. Yanis was given to twenty-nine boys in the United States last year - and six girls.

Tell me your favorites in the comments!

Friday, November 18, 2016

"Oy" Vey - Dated Fad, or Vintage Find?

Hello, readers!

Looking through old name data and saying names out loud, you begin to hear the changes in trends. Try saying the top ten names from each decade in order, and see what you find! This post is about one sound that's all-but-vanished from birth certificates: "oy".

The sound "oy" or "oi" is a diphthong, which means it consists of two adjacent vowels in a single syllable. While the sound shows up quite a lot in English, it's been decreasing on name records. Check out this graph showing the decline (thanks, Expert NameVoyager!)

Let's look at some historical "oy" names, then move onto today's favorites!

Past "oy" Names

In 1905, this name peaked at #44 - but it's been off the top 1000 since 1999. Today, it's attached to numerous American boxers, from Patterson to Mayweather, but has a bit of trouble standing on its own. In my opinion, it's too early for a return, but Floyd may one day rise again!

Slightly less dated, but still relatively unpopular, Lloyd's peak happened in 1918 when it reached #51. Also like Floyd, Lloyd dropped off the charts entirely in 2003. Still, its sound is fairly subdued and its namesakes are more wide-ranging. Lloyd would be a classic Welsh choice.

Though the futuristic cartoon The Jetsons premiered in 1962, character Elroy was already rather out-of-date. The name had peaked in 1922, and didn't last beyond the 1960's. Elroy has a zany, eccentric vibe, but it may not return for awhile. Slightly different Leroy is still in style, though!

This Irish variation of Mary never got as far as Molly or Maureen, but it was attached to a character in Peter Pan - Wendy Moira Angela Darling. It's been used more frequently in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and could fit in well with names like Nora and Cora today.

This name dominated charts in the 1970's and 1980's, but was out of fashion by 1995. Singer and actress La Toya Jackson is almost single-handedly responsible for this trend. LaToya is actually a diminutive of Victoria, meaning "the winner."

Present "oy" Names

While this name was more popular in the mid-century decades, it's begun to rise up the charts again. Along with its happy, upbeat sound, it was also featured as the name of a main character in Pixar's Inside Out. Like other virtue names, Joy is likely to (positively) increase! Similar-sounding Joyce may follow it up as well.

At #465 for boys and #755 for girls, Royal is a unisex moniker that joins the hierarchical name group - King, Princess, and Royalty among them. While it's sophisticated enough to age well, it still hasn't quite permeated pop culture yet - but give Royal time!

With dozens of real and fictional namesakes, Troy is one of the few names on this list that's lasted through every year of name records in the United States. It's now at the same popularity level it had in 1957, just before getting a boost from Troy Donahue.

Luxurious but accessible, familiar but unique, Royce manages to balance between multiple name categories. It means "son of the king" and fits in with Jace and Reese, but goes beyond them with noble flair. Shorter form Roy is close behind - both names are classics, but float just under major popularity lines.

This Slavic/Arabic/Persian form of Zoe could be the next hit - it can be pronounced similarly in multiple languages, it's short but refined, and it sounds feminine without feeling overly done. Only 173 baby girls were given the name last year, so it will be awhile before Zoya reaches the charts.

Other names with the sound include: Doyle, Boyd, McCoy, Loyal, Noya, and Oyindamola.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Where Have All the Consonants Gone?

Hello, readers!

Alaya, Arianna, Isabella, Elisa - names with these sounds are dominating the girls' top 1000. Vowel-heavy, melodic choices seem to be the fashion, with 77% of names in the top 100 starting or ending with a vowel. What about the other twenty-three names?


Despite the vowel trends, these names have their own kind of sounds. Let's look at this list of names and see where smaller trends may lie, as well as more unique options that fit their individuality. 

Ending in N - Madison, Lillian, Brooklyn, Madelyn, Caroline, Peyton, Katherine, Madeline, Vivian, Quinn, Reagan

The suffix of the decade may be -lyn! It's a familiar sound with feminine overtones, and can honor familial Linda's, Lynn's, and Lindsey's. Though the Katelyn trend is subsiding, plenty of other names have risen to take its place. Less common examples include: Gwendolyn, Roselyn, and Coralyn. Names like Vivian and Lillian lend themselves easily to nicknames, like Vivi and Lily. Other names with this suffix include Charmian, Marian, and Gillian

Ending in R - Harper, Skylar, Claire, Piper, Taylor

A unisex style that allows for mix-and-match prefixes, ending in -or and -er is not just a contemporary idea: names like Esther, Jennifer, and Amber have been on record for decades. Looking for something less prevalent? Try Sailor, Lavender, or Tamar

Ending in T - Charlotte, Scarlett, Violet

While these names seem more old-fashioned, all three reached their highest level of popularity this last year. The -ett suffix seems more sophisticated and polished; feminine without being frilly. Other lovely names ending in T include Merritt, Garnet, and Yvette

Virtue names - Grace, Genesis, Faith

Though more virtue names overlap with vowel-heavy names - Nevaeh, Serenity, Trinity - there is a certain elegance that these polished options offer. Other virtue names in this trend include Hope, Justice, and Constance

Unisex names - Harper, Skylar, Peyton, Taylor, Quinn, Reagan

All of these name rank within the top 100 for girls, and the top 1000 for boys. Many are also occupational choices, which tend to be less gender-normative and allow for more imagination. Another common trait? Many happen to be popular last names, which let parents honor figures in their life more directly (at least, more so than the infinity of John's). Other options include Thatcher, Lincoln, and Copper

Color names - Scarlett, Violet, Hazel, (and Skylar, indirectly)

If Rainbow is too much, don't worry - there's plenty of names in its wide range of hues. The trick is to choose a color name that's also a retro choice: while Aquamarine is a bit over the top, Lilac and Navy feel more vintage. Gemstone names like Ruby and Pearl also fit into this trend. Other uncommon options include Saffron, Indigo, Amethyst, and Opal

French origins - Charlotte, Claire, Madelyn, Madeline

Even though these names are used often in English-speaking countries, they still maintain a bit of that je ne sais quoi. It can be hard to force the transition - choosing Mireille or Anais may result in some interesting pronunciations in the states. But there are other names with French origins who would stand out gracefully: Juliette, Simone, and Mauve among them. 

What other trends-within-a-trend do you see? Tell me in the comments!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Why I'm Going to Keep Writing About Baby Names When the World is Crashing Down Around Me

Hello, readers.

I use exclamation points a lot. I get very excited about name origins and nicknames. But this week, I'm having trouble bringing myself to end a sentence with even a period or ellipses. A lot of thoughts just trail off, spoken or written.

Like many of my fellow Americans (more than half of the country, according to the popular vote), I woke up on Wednesday with the combination of shock, sadness, and anger weighing me down. It took a lot of energy yesterday and today to get out of bed, get dressed, and go to work. My emotions are on a roller coaster - from low points where I contemplate self-medicating for four years, to high points where I feel physically ready to yell, fight, and win against 50 million people single-handedly. I have depression so I'm used to a bit of emotional turbulence. But no amount of Cymbalta can take the edge off our dire situation.

On Facebook and Tumblr, I'm constantly commenting, sharing, and signal-boosting political articles -How to Channel Your Post-Election Anger, Sadness, and Fear Into Action and 20+ Resources to Help You Process After the Election of Donald Trump among them. Through the stream (or tidal wave) of political articles, I've been catching more common posts, like "Happy Birthday to my mom!" or "10 Kittens Wearing Bow Ties You Must See." Part of me recoiled - how can we pretend the unthinkable didn't happen? But then I talked to my loved ones.

My best friends told me they loved me, and we shared thoughts and articles and jokes. My mom reminded me about the power of meditation and the importance of self-care - "you cannot pour from an empty vessel." My sister made me laugh - she's good at that. My dad insisted that fear and the unknown can be worse than reality, that our government and our people can work through terrible divides. My Ethan - partner, boyfriend, bestest friend, foil - got me out of bed two days in a row, let me cry into his shoulder, shared inspiring articles with me, and already has plans to lead the country into a better future.

Suddenly, those 50 million people shrunk in size compared to the strength, courage, and love of those I care about. The act of choosing to be happy - to take in positive media, to reach out to family and friends, to refuse to be defeated - those are radical acts.

Names make me happy. And here's another thing about them - there are thousands of name origins. Every name I click on in research reminds me of past immigrant populations - from every continent and every country, who came here and made a life and spread their culture. I see Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish names on the rise; I see Aztec and Tagalog and Polish names popping up on lists and discussed in forums. Through racist immigration quotas, Japanese internment camps, Jim Crow laws, multiple waves of feminism, the AIDS crisis, and countless wars, Americans have been naming their children radically and uniquely, celebrating their heritage and their heroes. We have over 130 years of name data supporting the trend towards diversity and inclusion, and the next four years won't destroy that.

So I'm going to get excited about Kythe - a Scottish name I heard for the first time yesterday. I'm going to get excited about Suzume, and Mei, and Yael, and Itzel, and Priya, and Artem, and Genevieve, and Seraphina, and Joao, and Sofia, and Amihan, and Emily.

And I'm going to use exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Leaders of the United Nations

Hello, readers!

Today is the 71st anniversary of the founding of the United Nations - an organization which, for good or for bad, was created to promote international cooperation and prevent wars. Their influence is controversial, but the idea behind it should be celebrated - in these days of conflict, it's nice to remember that many still strive for peace and unity.

The 26 United Nations Flags from Dr. Francisco Castillo Najera, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Manuel Quezon, and the U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull in July 1942 (Wikipedia).

Here is a list of the past and present Secretaries-General of the United Nations (all men) and their names. I also included the dates of their leadership.

Gladwyn Jebb (1945-46)
Thanks to DMNES for the background! This rare English name means "bright friend," and hasn't been recorded in the United States since 1927. With the resurgence of Welsh names - Brynn, Dylan, Gwendolyn - in English-speaking countries, Gladwyn may fit in sooner than later. And you have to like a name that starts with "glad"!

Trygve Lie (1946-52)
A Scandinavian name meaning "trustworthy," this name's statistics surprised me - it's been recorded in the US in forty-five separate years, rising in 2015 (fourteen Trygve's were born last year). But with names like Trig and Trevor on the playground, it's no wonder the sound was adopted. the pronunciation is something like "trihg-vuh".

Dag Hammarskjöld (1953-61)
Another Scandinavian name with a few namesakes - most recently as a character in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Dag was used briefly in the States between 1961 and 1971. It seems that this particular Secretary General was especially influential! The name means "daylight," and it has more popular diminutives: Dagny and Daggett.

U Thant (1961-71)
One thing I love about the name community: I'm always learning something new! Burmese name conventions usually result in an individual having one name (often monosyllabic) and the ability to change their name at will. "U" is loosely translated to "Mr.", and Thant comes from the word for "clean" or "wholesome," according to a few (albeit not completely vetted) websites.

Kurt Waldheim (1972-81)
Many Americans are familiar with this name today via novelist Kurt Vonnegut and musician Kurt Cobain. It reached its peak popularity in 1964, but never made the top 100. Its similar tone to Keith or Kent make it more than viable. Kurt is also a short, "courteous" choice - as single-syllable boys names rise up the charts, Kurt may follow.

Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1982-91)
A popular name in the Spanish-speaking community, Javier is a variant of the well-loved Xavier. The name is Basque, and originally developed as a religious honorific for Saint Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuits. Javier means "new house," and this choice has a lovely positive vibe - softer than its X-counterpart, but just as strong.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1992-96)
Famous for his double name, among many other things, Boutros Boutros-Ghali was in the news earlier this year: he died in February at the age of 93. His name is an Arabic form of Peter, meaning "stone" or "rock." Though Boutros has international flair, it may be mistaken for Brutus - a positive or negative consequence, depending on your name style.

Kofi Annan (1997-2006)
West African naming conventions - the Akan people, in this instance - often bestow names based on the day of the week a child is born. Kofi Annan was named based on this custom; his name means "born on a Friday." With Kai and Cody so popular, Kofi might work - but many people will mistake the name for "coffee." Kofi has been in use in the United States since 1970.

Ban Ki-moon (2007-16)
More naming conventions! Historically, Korean families would include one element of a name specific to each new generation. Names can also be spelt with multiple characters, so finding a singular meaning for this name doesn't apply. On a related note, thirteen children were given the name Moon last year.

António Guterres (2017-present)
Starting next year, the United Nations will have a new leader - António Guterres, a Portuguese diplomat. This name is not strange to Americans: Anthony currently ranks at #25, Antonio at #152, Tony at #504, Anton at #960, and Antoine at #1000. Though the meaning of the origin is unknown, this name was popularized by Christians after Saint Anthony.

Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Friday, October 21, 2016

Unusual Names from the Lost Generation - Fitzgerald and Hemingway

Hello, readers!

The "lost generation" was a term coined by Gertrude Stein in describing the generation of men and women who had survived World War I, coming of age then and in the subsequent Jazz Age. Referring to the sense of wandering and melancholy that plagued many during the era - especially the expatriates - this term now often applies to artists of the time.

In their books, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway included a variety of characters who personified the period in different ways. Here are some of the names of those "lost" souls who have influenced American literature today.

Ernest Hemingway, his wife Hadley Richardson, and friends in Pamplona, Spain, 1925

Hemingway's names: 

Not a name he picked, but this name was a unique choice for women of the era - the name had been used rarely for boys, and wasn't even recorded for girls until 1964. Her birth name was Elizabeth Hadley Richardson, Hadley being a family name. In 1998, this pretty English choice began its ascent up the top 1000, and now ranks at #102. It means "heather field."

Another name more often associated with men, the female protagonist of The Sun Also Rises is named Lady Brett Ashley. Her name identifies her as "one of the boys," and she's very much an equal in their social group (unusual for 1926). Now that Brett is on the decline for boys, the girls could make a claim for it - it's not too far off from Brynn or Kate, either. 

Though he's a minor character in A Farewell to Arms, Ettore Moretti has an unusual name for an American - hence the addition to this list. Ettore is the Italian variant of Hector, and it means "holding fast." It currently ranks at #64 in Italy, but is incredibly rare in the United States. Ettore would be an attractive and uncommon alternative to names like Giovanni or Leonardo.

A beautiful Spanish choice that's never ranked in the US top 1000, Pilar can be found in literature, religious texts, and films. It comes from the word for "pillar," referring to a moment when the Virgin Mary appeared on a pillar in Spain. The character in the novel is known for her strength and compassion - not a bad namesake for any little one.

Often linked to the eponymous saint, Anselmo is a rare but long-standing choice for speakers of Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese. It means "divine protection," and has two very cute short forms: Ansel and Elmo. With it's soft sound and o-ending, this name could fit in nicely with today's trends.

Fitzgerald's names:

Like Hadley, this woman has been referenced in history as the wife of a great author - but she herself was a great writer and artist (check out Save Me a Waltz). Zelda recently jumped onto the top 1000, as feminine vintage names become more and more popular. Will Zelda shoot to the top 100 or maintain a low profile? Only time will tell.

An incredibly romantic name, Amory Blaine makes it clear that the protagonist of This Side of Paradise is ruled by passion. Though the name has been growing in use in recent years, it's still a unique choice. But it's closeness to Avery and Emory make it more than viable for today's youth. The etymology is unclear, but Amory is related to either "beloved" or "industrious."

Another name signifying that this woman is on par with the men in the novel, Jordan Baker is a minor female character in The Great Gatsby. She was named for two contemporary car companies, representing her modern personality. Though Jordan has always been more popular for boys, both genders have the name on a decline since their heyday in the 1990's and 2000's.

A variation of an English name meaning "coal miner," Collis fits right in with Colin or Silas. The character in Tender is the Night doesn't stick around for too long, and Collis itself has been on the decline for awhile. Still, it's an uncommon option that isn't too far from the trends.

Names I've missed? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dynasty Names

Hello, readers!

While researching names for articles, I've learned to recognize patterns - how long it takes names to go from the top 100 to the top 10, how quickly a named is deemed "passé," how names are discussed whether they're Hebrew, Japanese, or Spanish in origin. One tiny thread I've noticed between quite a few names? The 1980's soap opera, Dynasty.

Dynasty premiered in 1981 and ended in 1989, spanning a hugely important decade in American culture, politics, and style. At its height, it was the #1 show in the United States, with over twenty-one million homes watching (thanks, Wikipedia!) It's certainly no surprise then that the series popularized quite a few names - with the data to prove it.

Now, the parents who picked these names weren't all inspired by the show - but when a name starts becoming more prevalent in social conversation, it spreads ("So-and-so had a baby last month, and named him Blake. Isn't that unusual?") While Dynasty certainly prompted interest, it wasn't the deciding factor every time. But let's look at some choices that link directly to the show that "has it all and more!"

A classic Biblical name already on the rise, Adam's highest rank at #18 occurred during the Dynasty show run - when long-lost son Adam Carrington entered the scene. The name means "earth" or "man" in classical Hebrew, and it's been in the top 100 since 1970.

This trendy unisex name jumped eighty places when the estranged ex-wife and mother came on the scene: Alexis Carrington is often credited with helping this name become a household name. The name rose, fell, then rose again, ultimately reaching its peak in 1993 at #3.

In the top 10 from 1976 through 1995, Amanda had a good two decade run as an American favorite. Dynasty capitalized on this popular choice - the character arrived when Amanda was at #4. Still an English standard, Amanda has been updated today via Amelia, Amandla, and Amada.

Though Anders is a more modern pick in the United States - it only debuted in the top 1000 in 2006 - it has long been a Scandinavian favorite. Now that Andrew is more common, however, international variants are on the rise! Anders more than doubled in average usage during Dynasty's run, as the last name of multiple characters.

While this name isn't unusual, Blake's steepest jump in popularity was between 1980 and 1981 - seventy-nine places up the top 1000, and over 700 *more* boys born. It's now in the top 100 for boys, and in the top 500 for girls. Other than its Dynasty link, Blake is liked for it's brisk sound and friendly vibe.

Never a top 1000 member, Carrington did septuple in use between 1980 and 1989 - from nine boys a year to sixty-three. The name was also used for girls occasionally during the decade. This surname is English in origin, and could work as an alternative to Harrison or Carson.

Though it was strictly a surname on Dynasty, Colby moved from #546 to #250 during the series. Since then, it's gone up and down, but now is mostly on the decline. Colby gained more fans during the run of Survivor in the early 2000's - another TV show with clout!

Dexter "Dex"
This name has two origins - from the Latin for "right-handed", and from an occupational English surname meaning "dyer." Dexter also has two television shows to thank for its popularity - the 1980's spike from Dynasty, of course, and the eponymous HBO show about a serial killer. While Dexter is often associated with devilish characters, the name is a solid yet uncommon choice.

With a name like Dominique Deveraux, it's no wonder audiences took notice. The name moved up almost 250 places on the top 1000 from 1983 to 1984 - when Dominique's character debuted. It peaked at #83 in 1985, but may never have made the top 100 without the Dynasty boost.

Now more likely to be associated with Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, this Irish surname made waves when connected with the Carrington daughter. Fallon only ranked between 1981 and 1995, however, declining along with average hair volume.

Like Fallon, Kirby only lasted a few years on the girls' top 1000. For boys, on the other hand, the name had long been in use, receiving a boost during the run of the show. Today, Kirby is close enough to Keira and Shelby, Kieran and Kobe, to be used for any gender.

With probably the most creative spelling on this list, Krystle had been recorded as far back as 1969. But only twenty-six baby girls were named Krystle in 1980; in 1981, that number soared to 446. Today, that number is down to six, as most variations of Crystal begin to wane.

Sabella "Sable"
In 1986, Sable ranked #904 - never before or since. With animal names, like Bear or Fox, on the rise, it could definitely make a comeback. Sabella has been in use since the show's debut, with seventy-one babies born last year - an almost-too-close alternative to Isabella.

Samantha Josephine "Sammi Jo"
The last name on the list, with a rather interesting statistic - "Sammijo" was recorded a total of forty times between 1983 and 1991. Samantha had been on the rise by the time the character appeared on the show, ending up as one of the top names of the 1990's and 2000's.

Any names I missed? Other shows with a big impact? Tell me in the comments!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Rainy Day Names

Hello, readers!

It's finally raining in California (at least in the Bay) and I've had "Singin' in the Rain" stuck in my head all morning. Also acceptable musical choices - "Rainy Days and Mondays," "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" and "It's Rainin' Men." A dear friend suggested I write about about names for rainy days, so here we go!

Image via Pixabay

Why not start with the obvious? Though it's never ranked on the top 1000, Rain has been used for girls since 1956, and for boys since 1971. It's a simple, sleek nature name that would also work as an unexpected middle choice. 

Generally regarded as too girly or too bohemian, Rainbow's image may be changing. There are more Rainbow's than ever, from pop culture to celebrity status, and even the oldest Rainbow's (born in 1971) are only 45 years old. This may be a name to watch!

Strong in sound and meaning, Storm was first recorded for both boys and girls in the same year - 1946 (Any theories on why that year?). The name is also popular for boys in Scandinavia, and there's a female Storm in the X-Men. 

With Grayson and Grace among 2010's favorites, why not pick a similar-sounding understated color choice? Grey currently ranks at #916 for boys, but the sophisticated moniker works for all genders. Like Rain and Storm, this would also make an attractive middle name.

Names that mean "rain"

A feminine Basque option, Euria has never been recorded in US name history. It's euphonic and melodic, and doesn't sound like many other names out there (with the exception of Slavic Yuri). For more Basque options, check out this list - Basque Names

In its original Sanskrit usage, Indra was given to boys. But in the United States, more girls than boys have been given this elegant, substantial name. Indra refers to the Hindu god of lightning, storms, and rain - dynamic, but not too daunting. 

An Arabic name for boys, Mazin sounds like an amped-up alternative to popular Mason - and it may get mistaken as a "kre8tiv" spelling. Its meaning is "rain clouds", and it's originally pronounced "Mah-zahn" - though that may get corrupted in the US. 

This pretty Hindi choice gained more popularity via Bollywood star Varsha Usgaonkar - thirty girls in the United States were given the name last year. Varsha is soft and unique, yet still accessible to English speakers - a multicultural choice, perhaps?

Names that mean "rainbow"

Both vintage and contemporary, Iris is a pretty botanical choice that doesn't come across as overly feminine. The name for the flower comes from the name of the Greek goddess of the rainbow, and there's a beautiful van Gogh painting of irises - great for a nursery!

Also spelled Ixchel, Itzel is the Mayan goddess of midwifery and medicine. The name is popular with Latin American families, and now ranks at #492 on the top 1000. The "Itzel" spelling helps with the pronunciation, and the name is definitely fresh and vivacious. 

An uncommon Hebrew name that's yet to be recorded in the US, Keshet ("Keh-shet") has a sound outside the norm. The "sh" sound softens the name, but the "k" and "t" sounds on the ends give it some substance. While Keshet may require some repetition, it's truly a lovely choice. 

No, not like the actor Christopher Walken. This Australian Noongar Aboriginal name is pronounced "Wall-ken," and is used for boys. Though the explanation might grow to be tiring, this is a cool pick to fit in with "en" trends and similar name Walker

An Armenian name in recent pop culture news - a short film with a character and title Ziazan premiered in 2014 - this choice is bold and adventurous. Nicknames Zizi or Zaza make it even more fun!

Other names related to this lovely weather: Raina, MistyCloud, Thunder, and Autumn

Friday, October 14, 2016

Super-Heroine Names

Hello, readers!

If the Disney villains earlier this week weren't your type, why not try a super-heroine? Many of our favorite female fighters came out of mid-century comics, like Superman or The Avengers. But these badass ladies are timeless, and can be found all over pop culture today!

Diana Prince (Wonder Woman)
Though her first appearance was in 1941, Princess Diana of Themyscira has gotten quite a lot of attention lately - a live action Wonder Woman film is set to hit theaters next year. With super strength, the power of flight, indestructible bracelets, and a lasso of Truth, it's no wonder Diana Prince is so popular. The name Diana has been on the decline, but it has quite a few positive traits - its Roman goddess mythology, multicultural appeal, and dozens of wonderful namesakes, to start.

Katherine "Kitty" Pryde (Mutant, X-Men)
Canonically, she's the youngest member of the X-Men, and she may be one of the youngest superheroes on this list - her first comic book appearance was in 1980. Her main power is "intangibility," the ability to move through solid objects, though she also can communicate with her alien pet dragon (#goals, amirite?) The Katherine spelling is currently the most used in its family, but Kitty hasn't ranked on the top 1000 since 1966. With both animal and vintage names on the rise, could Kitty return?

Jean Grey (Phoenix, X-Men)
Another female mutant (and founding member) in the X-Men, Jean Grey possesses both telepathy and telekinesis. She was recently portrayed by Sophie Turner in X-Men: Apocalypse - though Sophie was born after Jean dropped off the top 1000 (1994 vs 1996). Jean got all the way up to #12 in the late 1920's and early 1930's; it's chic, concise, and sassy. It's derived from John, if you're looking for an unexpected honorific - but if it's still too dated, Phoenix is another excellent choice.

Barbara Gordon (Batgirl/Oracle)
A disabled female genius computer hacker... in 1967? Barbara Gordon broke new pop culture ground, to say the least. Her character is still a favorite among comic fans, and her kick-ass abilities are inspiring for young women today. The name Barbara peaked at #2 in the 1930's and 1940's, and has been declining ever since. While the name is considered fairly dated, foreign variations could honor an aunt or grandma - Babette, Basia, and Varenka among them.

Selina Kyle (Catwoman)
This Batman villainess is a cultural icon - from Michelle Pfeiffer to Halle Berry to Anne Hathaway, Selina Kyle's portrayals have been influential. In fact, Selina's stint on the top 1000 started in 1959, with the 1960's Batman television series bringing the name to a wider audience. Though it's been off the list since 2008 (Selena and Celine still rank), Selina is a lovely, feminine choice that means "moon goddess" or "heavenly", depending on the origin.

Jessica Jones
Her first appearance was in 2001, making her younger than Kitty Pryde, but Jessica Jones reached new levels of popularity just this year - the eponymous Netflix show has created a new fan base. Jessica has super strength, the power of flight, and some telepathic powers; while she appears in Spider-Man and New Avengers storylines, she's got an attitude all her own. Though Jessica is still in the top 10 across the pond, the name is on the decline in the USA. Similar names that aren't quite as ubiquitous include Jessa, Jessenia, and Jerica.

Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow)
Another super-heroine who's gotten a bit of attention in recent years - thanks, Scarlett Johansson - Natasha Romanoff is a Russian-spy-turned-American-spy and a member of the Avengers. Known for her fighting and weaponry abilities, she first debuted in 1964 with black hair (later changed to red). Natasha currently ranks at #666 (happy Halloween!) and is a great alternative to trendy Natalie. Fun fact: First Daughter Sasha Obama's first name is Natasha - Sasha is her nickname.

Kara Zor-El (Supergirl)
Superman's cousin and another alien from Krypton, Supergirl has jumped in and out of DC Comics since her debut in 1959. She now has a hit series on the CW, with guest appearances on other DC television shows. Kara has similar abilities to Superman - strength, flight, etc - as well as numerous mental powers. Kara is just below the top 500, with variant Cara further down the list. It's pretty, simple, and classic - a lovely choice for any "super girl"!

Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk)
Though she's a counterpart to the Incredible Hulk, she has better powers - she retains her intelligence and emotional control when transformed. However, there has never been a live-action She-Hulk, only animated versions and video game characters. Jennifer, of course, was the top name of the 1970's and maintained popularity into the 1990's, only now declining (as moms named Jennifer choose other options). Ginevra and Juniper are more modern, beautiful choices today.

Susan "Sue" Storm (Invisible Woman, Fantastic Four)
With three Fantastic Four film reboots in the last 25 years, the Invisible Woman is visible everywhere. Sue Storm, in addition to being invisible, can project invisibility and manipulate force fields. While Susan is a long-time classic in English speaking countries, it's had quite a run - let's look at other related names! Susannah, Suzette, and Zsazsa are intriguing options, with Lily being a subtle honorific (based on Susan's meaning).

Janet van Dyne (Wasp)
She's got the power to shrink, fly, and shoot electric energy - not bad for a super-heroine based on a bug. Janet cameoed in 2015's Ant-Man, with Marvel suggesting that there may be more of Wasp in films to come. Though Janet peaked in the 1940's and 1950's, its sound is still cute and girlish, not grandma-ish. If you'd rather have a bee-related name, there are plenty available: Bina, Erlea, Deborah, and Melissa.

Pamela Isley (Poison Ivy)
The only character on this list to share her initials with her alter-ego, Poison Ivy is a force to be reckoned with. She can control plant life and release botanical toxins - fitting that she debuted in 1966, just as the green movement was getting underway. She's often paired with Harley Quinn, and wouldn't Harley and Ivy be an adorable nerdy sibset? The name Pamela, on the other hand, dropped off the top 1000 in 2011, and may need some time off before jumping back on. To contrast with the above-mentioned bees, Pamela means "honey" - as does Melina, Permilia, Esti, and Yaara.

Any super-heroines that I missed? Which is your favorite? Tell me in the comments!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Emily Dickinson Names

Hello, readers!

I just finished reading a fantastic biography of Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite poets. The book is My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson, by Alfred Habegger. Though it's quite a long read at 800 pages (which includes notes, appendices, etc), I highly recommend it. It's got every detail related to Dickinson's life, as well as substantial comparisons to other Dickinson biographies. The other great thing about it - there were a lot of amazing names!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Early nineteenth-century New England was full of all kinds of names - rare Biblical, virtuous Puritan, classic English. As I was reading, I kept a list of all of the great names I came across; some are friends and family of Dickinson, some are other figures around her life and time. There may be a few fictional - character names were excellent in 1800's novels! A few have notes attached if I felt the name was super rare or unique, or had cool data.

Let's begin!

Asahel Nettleton - Asahel means "created by God"

Osmyn Baker

Theophilus Packard

Betsey Fay Norcross

Claudius Herrick

Jemima Montague

Zebina Montague - Very little data available

Perley Gunn

Thankful Dickinson - One of the most common Puritan virtue names in the seventeenth century

Kingsley Underwood

Seneca Holland

Appleton Dickinson

Lucretia Dickinson

Gertrude Graves

Sabra Howe - Sabra means "prickly pear"

Orril Munn

Erasmus Norcross

Lamira Jones

Eudocia Carter Converse

Theodora Ward

Abiah Root - Abiah means "God is my father" - this could be a nice alternative to Abigail

Almira Hart Lincoln Phelps

Samuel Learned

Brainard Harrington - Brainard means "courageous raven"... not highly recommended, though

Edward Payson Crowell

John Long Graves

Elbridge Gridley Bowdoin

George Frisbie Whicher

Hiram Adolphus Hawkins

Phydelia Kellogg - Possibly means "faithful," though it's rarely been recorded

Fanny Boltwood

Abby Sweetser

Ebenezer Snell

Eliel Gilbert

Sophia Van Vranken

Phinehas Cooke

Rufus Choate

Ithamar Conkey - Incredibly rare Biblical name, one of the sons of Aaron

Eudocia Flynt

Fidelia Hayward Cooke

Frazar Stearns

Régis Gignoux

Cerinthia Inghram - Very little data available

Orvis F Bigelow

Ellery Strickland

Mariette Jameson

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Name Consultations

Looking for a name for your new baby or book character? Overwhelmed by books and websites? Want something personalized just for you?

A name consultation might be just the solution!

How it works: 

Email me at with your name criteria. Tell me about family names you might like to include, activities and places important to you, and values you hold dear. Let me know of any names that you can't use (cousins, siblings, etc) or any styles that you especially like or dislike. In short - tell me what you're looking for, and I'll help you find it. 

I'll write out a personalized list of ten names based on your criteria, with explanations on how I chose them and how they might work for you. If you have any questions, we can follow up via email, too. 

Because I'm new to name consultations, I'm offering the following special: the first twenty-five name consultations will be $25 each (I'm on Venmo and PayPal). You'll be getting well-thought-out lists for a low price, and I'll be gaining experience in this exciting field. 

Remember to specify in your email which gender of names you're looking for - 10 male, 10 female, 10 unisex, or 5 male/5 female. 

Thank you!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Names of Disney Villains

Hello, readers!

Halloween is coming up, and that means costumes! If you're thinking about being one of these scary Disney villains for the holiday, check out their names! And tell me your costume plans in the comments :)

Our first villain has arguably the best name-oriented song in Disney history: he uses antlers in all of his decorating! He eats five dozen eggs a morning! Ev'ryone's favorite guy! From the French for "foreigner", Gaston has been recorded in US name logs since 1881. While the film didn't show Gaston in such a positive light, the name stats weren't changed much by the release of Beauty and the Beast in 1991. Twenty-seven boys were named Gaston last year - my, what a guy!

This all-powerful sea witch was in part inspired by the singer and drag queen, Divine. And the name Ursula is truly religious - one of the first recorded wearers was Saint Ursula, a fourth-century patron saint of female students and archers, among other things. While Ursula also has a cute meaning - "little bear" - the name had been declining for a few years already when Disney used it. While many still associate Ursula with the villainess, it could make a comeback with it's many positive traits!

The conniving butler who competed with the Aristocats for Madame's wealth, his character also created a sleeping potion named after himself: "crème de la crème à la Edgar." The name Edgar is fairly popular - #317 in the top 1000 - but it's at its lowest rank in history. Will the name continue to decline, or will literary fans bring it back up the list? Creative Edgar's Degas, Burroughs, and Poe would have something to say about it.

This nefarious name was recorded in the US for the first time last year - five baby girls were named after the villainess in Sleeping Beauty. Of course, this could have something to do with the recent Angelina Jolie film - the actress has also said that the character was her favorite as a child. I know of one person whose parents considered Maleficent for her name, looking for a namesake that was a strong, intelligent woman. While the name seems to have quite a lot against it, we may see it rise in future generations of women.

A scheming hunter in Tarzan, Clayton's first name is never revealed - he's only called by his last name in the film. Though its origins are more traditional, Clayton fits into the modern trends - two syllables, ends in "ton" - and isn't completely attached to any one individual. The film had little to no effect on the name's statistics, either. Perhaps Clayton is the most usable name on the list!

When a main character is introduced as Madame Medusa, you know she's going to be up to no good. In The Rescuers, she's a greedy, diamond-obsessed pawn shop owner; the Greek goddess Medusa was known for having snakes for hair and turning mortals to stone with a look. Though the name has never been recorded in US name logs, it's certainly not impossible - as namers look for more and more unique options, names like Medusa are bound to appear! 

As the smooth-talking god of the Underworld, Hades' role in Hercules is hardly admirable. Still, the name was used for more than five boys a year in both 2014 and 2015. With a sound like Hayden and a cool s-ending - Silas, Nicholas, Jonas - it's no wonder that the name was picked. But I can't help but think a quick look at the history of Hades might turn off potential fans...

The creepy, obsessive control-freak-in-the-guise-of-a-religious-zealot had a rather common first name - Claude ranked on the top 1000 for over a century. It's the quintessential French male name, often with Jean in hyphenate. Though the film didn't have much of an effect on name stats - 108 boys in 1996 and 89 boys in 1997 - the character was often referred to by his last name, Frollo. The name Claude means "crippled," and is Roman in origin.

The scheming Royal Vizier of Agrabah certainly has a bad reputation, but his name is actually a lovely Arabic choice. Jafar means "stream", and one famous Jafar was a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. It's been used since 1975 in the United States, and actually started rising in popularity when the film Aladdin debuted - up from 7 boys to 13 to 33 in a two-year span. Perhaps the character isn't a great namesake, but the spreading the awareness of this classic name has pushed some fans to pick Jafar.

Well, if Gaston doesn't win for the best name song, Cruella De Vil certainly takes the cake! All of the 101 Dalmatians (and some human and animal friends) had to band together to get this baddie defeated. Though Cruella is a bit too cruel and devilish to catch on, it must be said that trendy Ella features in her first name. And check out this past post on Devilish Names (also featured on Nameberry) for more sizzling suggestions!

Which names did I leave out? Tell me in the comments!