This diversity is a source of pride for many Americans. Consequently, when naming their offspring some Americans like to recognize the country of their ancestors.
And coincidentally most of these ancestors come from countries with lovely lyrical romance languages–languages such as Greek, Italian, and Spanish. There are also many Americans who claim Irish heritage, another source of trendy names.
I envied those Americans. My heritage doesn’t come from a place with a language that was considered lovely or fashionable when I had my kids.
The observant among you may notice my long, vowel-heavy last name that is–yes, Italian–and wonder why I was squawking.
I’m not Italian. Obscured by my married last name is my (mostly) German ancestry.
German names have been overlooked for decades. They seemed too heavy, too stodgy, too fusty.
But at one time Americans liked German names. German names were moderately popular during the Victorian era, and then the World Wars came and went. Germany, and everything associated with it, suffered public relations problems for decades.
One example of a German name that fell from grace is Bertha, a top 10 name for most of the late 19th century. And then thanks to “Big Bertha” (an artillery piece developed in Germany at the start of World War I) the name quickly fell from the top ranks and hasn’t been in the top 1000 for nearly 30 years.
Another example is Gertrude, a variation on the German Gertud. Gertrude was a top 30 name from the late 19th until the early 20th century. Gertrude’s decline was slow at first and then accelerated after WWII. Gertrude has been absent from the top 1000 for nearly 50 years.
After shunning German names for the later half of the 20th century, Americans might be ready to celebrate these names again.
The German names embraced by 21st century parents are different from the ones sought nearly a century ago.
Greta – re-entered the U.S. top 1000 in 1999. In 2012 there were 439 newborn girls given the name.
Lorelei – re-entered the top 1000 in 2004. In 2012 there were 566 newborn girls given the name.
Otto – re-entered the top 1000 in 2011. In 2012 there were 286 newborn boys given the name.
None of these names have hit the top 200 yet, but all three names have steadily grown in popularity.
Perhaps Greta, Lorelei and Otto are exceptions, and by themselves can’t signify an emerging German name trend. Nevertheless, I did some digging and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. (Some of these names have multiple roots and many are also considered Dutch or Scandinavian.)
Leni (Heidi Klum’s daughter Leni is in the illustration)
Leonie / Leonore
Liesa / Liese / Liesel
Mariele / Marita – both German forms of Maria
Marlen / Marlene
Marlies / Marlis
Suse / Susi
Thilo / Tilo / Tillo
Thorsten / Torsten
Vinzent / Vinzenz
Some of these names are bold yet familiar such as Siegfried and Wolfgang. But there are others on the list with great crossover potential such as, Anika, Anneliese, Carsten, Conrad, Kilian, and Torben. Some of my favorites are, Claus, Fritz, Hannelore, Leni, Ludwig, and Saskia.
Approximately 50 million Americans claim German ancestry, making them the largest ancestry group in the country, ahead of even the oft-proudly claimed Irish. (Irish is the second largest ancestry group.)
Angela Mastrodonato created Upswing Baby Names to celebrate names on the upswing. She is a big-time name watcher, and has a growing list of names she watches by tracking their popularity each year. Sign up here to get your copy of this Watch List.