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Fourteen Shades of Elizabeth

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The royal and biblical Elizabeth accounted for approximately a quarter of all girls’ names in early Britain, and when she emigrated to Colonial America, close to the same percentage of all girl babies were christened with that name— sometimes even more than one in a family. So it’s no wonder that numerous nicknames would pop up to distinguish among all the Elizabeths– several of which would go on to be used as independent names.
Of course Elizabeth itself is a wonderfully elegant classic, but here are some of the most appealing variations on the Elizabethan theme.

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Elizabeth: The Name That Has Everything?

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As a fledgling name nerd, I remember being fascinated by the name Elizabeth.  It was so elaborate, so odd for a name that had been so widely used over so many centuries.  John, sure, that was a name simple and straightforward enough for the masses to get behind.  Anne and Mary, of course they had what it took to transcend the ups and downs of fashion.  But Elizabeth, with its long E beginning and lisping ending, its bizarre z in the middle and its four freaking syllables?  I don’t think so!

And yet the unlikely Elizabeth has endured.  It’s the only girls’ name to have remained in the Top 25 (okay, 26) throughout entire recorded American baby-naming history, since 1880.  Elizabeth hit its nadir in 1945, when it dipped to number 26, but it should be noted that its short form Betty was Number 11 that year, after having been in the Top 10 since 1921.  Even when Elizabeth and her sisters were relatively unpopular, they were everywhere.

Elizabeth, which means “pledged to God,” springs from the ancient Hebrew custom of referencing God — or El — in a name’s prefix or suffix. The ancient Hebrew form of the name is Elisheva.

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