It all started with Emily, this current passion for names beginning with Em. When Emily became #1 in 1996, ending the 25-year reign of Jessica and Jennifer and Ashley, it officially inaugurated the Era of Emily and Emma and offshoots.
EMILY was a perfect name for the 90s—feminine but strong, vintage but not Victorian valentine. A classic, it has not been off the popularity lists since they began being recorded, and the lowest it ever dipped was to #273 in 1962.
But when Emily became epidemic—with close to three million of them born in the ten year period between 1996 and 2006 (not counting all the Emelys, Emilees, Emillies and Emmalees), parents began visualizing their potential Emily as being one of four in her class, and so starting seeking a substitute.
What could be more perfect than EMMA, especially in the midst of a Jane Austen craze? A very old royal name (not related to Emily), with several literary namesakes, Emma had substance as well as style and a sweet sound, somewhat softer than Emily. It too had been a stalwart on the popularity charts, being in the top ten (as high as #3) in the last years of the 19th century.
Many of the Emilys and Emmas were nicknamed EMME/EMMY, which made it not much of a leap for them to start being used on their own. With award-winning associations, and celebrity links (to the model Emme, the Jennifer-Lopez-Marc Anthony daughter Emme), Emmy-with-a-y moved onto the list in 2007.
EMMELINE, from HP, is a very old name with a history distinct from both Emily and Emma, introduced to Britain by the Normans in the 11th century. It can also be spelled Emeline or Emmaline and has a choice of pronunciations, rhyming with keen, kin or fine. Though it hasn’t reached the list yet, it’s very much a Hot Topic on the nameberry boards, along with cousin Clementine.
Despite the fact that EMBRY is a Twilight werewolf character, it has potential via its upbeat, unisex appeal.
EMERSON was a staunch New England surname—think Ralph Waldo— occasionally used for boys–when Teri Hatcher chose it for her daughter in 1997. But it wasn’t until the actress’s public profile grew with the success of Desperate Housewives that the name took off for girls –-it’s now at #290,;474 for boys.
The one biblical name in this family of names is EMANUEL/EMMANUEL, currently well-used in both spellings. From the Hebrew meaning “God with us,” it was the name given to the promised Messiah by the prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament and was introduced as a first name by the Greeks in the form of Manuel. Its French feminine version, EMMANUELLE, earned a naughty reputation thanks to the erotic heroine of a sensational film several years back.
EMER (EE-mer) is a popular Celtic name in Ireland. In Celtic legend, Emer was a woman loved by the great hero Cuchulain; she is described as having the gifts of beauty, voice, sweet speech, skill with the needle, wisdom and charity.