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In the year between last Father’s Day and this one, some interestingly named starbabies were born to some high-profile Hollywood Dads. But a caveat–if you’re looking for Hazel Krasinski or Bodhi Ransom Green, Apollo Bowie Flynn Rossdale or Otis Alexander Sudeikis–they were already snatched by their equally famous moms onto our Mother’s Day blog.

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By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Reality television has become a real influence in baby naming.

And why not?

Hollywood A-listers like Hugh Grant and Owen Wilson might hesitate to announce details of their new arrivals, but reality stars tend to be eager to share pictures, and, of course, baby names.

There’s no shortage of reality stars, either.

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Classic Girls’ Names: The Ann Clan

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By Linda Rosenkrantz

There are few names that have given birth to as many variations as Ann, the simplest and softest of the classic girls’ names.  But while others like Mary and Margaret and Elizabeth have spawned almost unrecognizable progeny—from Daisy to Bessie to Peggy to Polly—most of the Ann derivatives have stayed pretty close to their mother name.

Yet Ann herself is an offshoot, coming from Hannah, a Hebrew name meaning ‘grace,’  who in the Old Testament is the mother of the prophet Samuel. This version was taken up by the Puritans in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and remained a commonly used name in the Jewish community for several generations.

Anna is the Latin form widely used in countries across the world, while Ann was originally the English spelling and Anne the French. St. Anne was the traditional, non-biblical name of the mother of the Virgin Mary, which explains its popularity among Christians—and is the name of several saints.  In more modern times, the affection felt for the character Anne Shirley in the childhood classic, Anne of Green Gables, also contributed to the spread of this spelling.

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This week, Abby Sandel of  Appellation Mountain serves up some invented baby names that came about through accident or misunderstanding, but which are accepted as the real thing today.

Wednesday, May 25 is a big day for the small screen.  After twenty-five years as the reigning queen of daytime television, Oprah Winfrey will broadcast her last show.  She’s not headed from retirement – far from it.  Ms. Winfrey commands a media empire, from her own television network to magazines to Harpo Productions, responsible for everything from feature films to satellite radio shows.

The story about her given name is well known.  Born in rural Mississippi, her aunt chose the name Orpah from the Book of Ruth, and that’s the name recorded on her birth certificate.  But Orpah never really stuck, and family and friends morphed the Biblical obscurity into a whole new name, destined for greatness.

Oprah isn’t the only name formed by a happy accident.  Sometimes they’re actual errors made by the officials responsible for issuing birth certificates.  Basketball player Antawn Jamison was supposed to be named Antwan – the phonetic spelling of Antoine – but his parents decided they liked the mistake.

Invented baby names get a bad rap, but there are a surprising number of mistakes, flukes, and misinterpretations that have led to some well-established names.

GIRLS

Annabel – She first appears in medieval ScotlandAmabel, Mabel, and other names based on Amabilis – an early saint’s name from the Latin for lovable – were common.  Annabel appears to be either an error in recording, or possibly a sign that creative baby namers have been at work for centuries.

Aveline – Parents are rediscovering her as something of an Ava-Adeline smoosh, but she was used in medieval England, either from the Germanic element avi – desired, or possibly from the Latin avis – bird.  She’s also the forerunner of Evelyn.

CoralineNeil Gaiman’s heroine was originally called Caroline.  The author explained that he mis-typed the name in an early draft and decided it suited his character.

ImogenWilliam Shakespeare’s Cymbeline is loosely based on a real-life king of the Britons.  King Cymbeline has a daughter called Imogen – except that Shakespeare almost certainly called her Innogen, from a Gaelic word for maiden.  Despite references to Innogen in the Bard’s notes, Imogen is used almost exclusively today.

Jade – She’s an ornamental stone and a popular choice for daughters in recent decades.  The Spanish name was originally piedra de ijada – stone of the flank.  It was thought that jade could cure ailments of the kidneys.  In French, piedra de ijada became l’ejade, and the English interpreted it as le jade.  Jade has been the English name for the stone since the 1600s.

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