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Category: 19th century names

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By Arika Okrent

Arika Okrent is editor-at-large at TheWeek.com and a frequent contributor to Mental Floss. She is the author of In the Land of Invented Languages, a history of the attempt to build a better language. She holds a doctorate in linguistics and a first-level certification in Klingon. Thanks to Arika for permission to reprint this article from The Week.

Like a lot of people, I was entranced recently by this animated map of the most popular baby names for girls by state over the past 52 years. It shows how the country shifted from Mary to Lisa before giving over completely to Jennifer, after which the Jessica/Ashley and Emily/Emma battles eventually resolved into the current dominance of Sophia. The map was created by Reuben Fischer-Baum of Deadspin using baby name data from the Social Security Administration. The SSA website gives the top 1,000 boy and girl names (as reported on social security card applications) for each year from 1880 onward.

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Are you lucky enough to know the names of your great-grandparents?

I know most of them: Garrett and Elizabeth/Lizzie, Patrick and Catherine, William and Margaret, and something and Eugenia.

They were born in Ireland and Austria and Scotland and  right here in the U.S.A., and their names make a combination of classic standards and intriguing vintage names.  Plus at least one great-grandmother had an intriguing maiden name that might work as a middle: Early.  Love it.

What were your great-grandparents’ names?  Do you know anything about their names or the lives of those more distant ancestors?  Where did they come from and what did they do?  Would you name a child after them?

Here, some notable names of famous people’s fathers.

Augustine Washington

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George Washington’s father was a Virginia Colony-born tobacco planter. Augustine, the influential saint’s name, snuck back onto the 2012 Top 1000 list at Number 999, after being in limbo for decades, perhaps slip-sliding in the wake of the growing popularity of August.

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Colonial Names: Great New Old Choices

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I was in Williamsburg, Virginia not too long ago, where there was a wonderful show of folk art portraits at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum. I was transfixed by the art, of course, but even more transfixed by the colonial names.

Colonial names never cease to surprise and fascinate me.  Among the many (many many) people named Mary and Elizabeth, Henry and James, there are always several names that are real doozies.

These are names that are mostly rooted in the bible or mythology, but that you just don’t hear much in the modern world.

But that doesn’t mean that many of these colonial names aren’t ripe for revival. A few of the colonial names on this list — notably Mercy, Augustine, and Susannah — are being rediscovered by today’s parents.

The others, well, are they undiscovered gems or mere curiosities? What do you think?

This collection is simply based on the (real) 18th century people pictured in the portrait show.

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  • Burneretta — This is not a literally unique name — a few others are findable online — but seems to be an invention.
  • Debrah — Interesting to see that Deborah had spelling variations 300 years ago.
  • Delia — An old-fashioned name with a sleek modern feeling (like Celia), Delia can also be short for Adelia or Cordelia.
  • Dorothea — Coming back along with brother Theodore.

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Vintage Baby Names: What’s your era?

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VINTAGE NAMES: What era are you?

Unless you’re a baby namer focused on finding a newly created or cutting-edge name, chances are you’ve considered using one from the past.  But which part of the past?  An ancient name or one from earlier in the 20th century?

So, the question of the week is: Which of these, if any, are you partiularly attracted to?

Needless to say, many if not most names move across time and are rarely connected to only one decade or even era–future berries just  might think of  Atticus as a 2010s name.

How about you?  Is there one period whose names you are drawn to?  Do you have a favorite vintage name—perhaps one that hasn’t been widely rediscovered?

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Gem Names Reappraised

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Since we last looked, jewel names have really begun to shine, some of them approaching the popularity they had when they were all the rage from the 1880s to the 1920s.  We thought it was time to take out our loupes and look at what’s up front in the jewelry-name case.

Currently on display

Ruby is the most popular of the gem names at the moment, standing at #108, though nowhere near its all-time peak of #22 in 1911.  Vibrant, bold and sultry, it has a lot of appeal and we see it as trending even higher in the near future. It’s recently been as high as #1 in Wales, #2 in New Zealand and #3 in both the UK and Australia, and is a celeb fave via such Ruby parents as Tobey Maguire, Jillian Barberie Reynolds and Matthew Modine.

Jade, a green stone said to transmit several desirable qualities andwhich projects a somewhat exotic aura, is not far behind at #129, although it’s a relative newcomer– it didn’t enter the Top 1000 until 1975.  By 1986 it had climbed to #86, and now stands at 129. The Spanish Jada is running neck and neck with Jade, and celebrity chef Giada De Laurentis gave her daughter the English translation of her own Italian name.

Amber was #583 in 1880, then shot into the Top 15 in 1986.  It’s now still in the Top 200, having been given an infusion of glamour by model Amber Valletta, and youthful energy by actress Amber Tamblyn.

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