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Category: baby name Thomas



A Thanksgiving Menu of Pilgrim Names


What better time than Thanksgiving to look back at the first names to arrive on our shores?

As you may remember from your third-grade history book, the first English-speaking settlement, called the Raleigh Colony, was established on the Atlantic coast in 1587, and although it didn’t survive for very long, some of its name records did.  Not surprisingly, of the 99 men who settled there, 23 were named John, fifteen were Thomas, and ten were William, with a small sprinkling of Old Testament names in the mix as well.

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Not only is old Tom Turkey again making his annual  holiday sacrifice, but the poor guy has also had to bear the shame of seeing his name slide down the popularity list, now being out of the Top 50 for probably the first time ever in this country.  Multiple Thomases arrived on the Mayflower, it was a favorite of the Colonists, and remained in or near the Top 10 boys’ names in America until 1966.

Now, in order to build back his self-esteem, and show what a proud heritage any baby Thomas would share, here are a few of the historical attributes of Tom.

BIBLICAL: The name Thomas, which in Aramaic means twin, wass first given to one of the Apostles, who was originally named Judas, in order to distinguish him from Jude and Judas Iscariot.  The expression Doubting Thomas arises from the fact that he refused to believe in Christ’s Resurrection until he had touched His wounds.

SAINTS: The expression every Tom, Dick and Harry is said to have been a result of the spread of the name in England due to people’s reverence for St. Thomas of Canterbury and the martyred Archbishop Thomas à Becket.  Also there were Sir Thomas More, Henry VIII’s Chancellor, a scholar and wit, and St. Thomas Aquinas, the 13th century Sicilian friar, considered the greatest thinker of the Middle Ages.

PRESIDENT: Thomas Jefferson, (Thomas) Woodrow Wilson

KIDDIE STUFF: Along with Jack, Tom and Tommy are the most popular boys in the nursery rhyme world, as in Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son, Little Tommy Tucker, Little Tommy Tittlemouse.  Other notable young Toms: Tom Swift, Tom Sawyer, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet; Tom Mix and Thomas the Tank Engine (and Train).

CULTURAL ICONS: Writers Thomas Hardy, Thomas Mann, T.S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot, Thomas Wolfe, Tom Wolfe, Tom Stoppard; painters Thomas Gainsborough,Thomas Hart Benton, Thomas Eakins; inventor Thomas Edison—and lots of politicians, sports figures and entertainers, including two of the top-ranking male stars of recent years—Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise.


And now, it’s Tom Turkey time for us—so…..

Warmest wishes from Linda and Pam to all you nameberryites for a



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Underrated Names

underratedThere are some names that, even now, after writing so much about the subject, I hear and think, “Wow, that’s a great name.  I wonder why people don’t use that one more often?”

Sometimes, the answer is that a name was just too popular too recently for parents to appreciate its intrinsic wonderfulness: the lush Biblical Deborah is one that might fit in this category, though I didn’t include it in my ten examples.

Other times, a name carries an unappealing association for enough people to keep it from becoming popular.  And there are a dozen other reasons why a perfectly wonderful name just might not make it big – which can be good news for the parent in search of a name that’s both topnotch and undiscovered.

Here, ten names we think are underrated right now:

BARNABY – This name scores high by virtue of feeling both energetic and classical, a rarity among boys’ names.  The medieval English form of an ancient Aramaic name that means “son of the prophet” or “son of encouragement,” Barnabas was given as a surname to a biblical missionary named Joseph.

BRIDGET – The original Brighid was the ancient Irish goddess of poetry, fire, and wisdom, and the name in its many versions has been borne by a host of saints, servants, and one extremely curvaceous French actress.  An Irish immigrant maid was commonly called a “Bridget,” an epithet that caused many young women to change their names to something more acceptable, like Bertha.  But today, the original Bridget or Brigitte or Brigid or Birgitta is much more appealing.

DINAH – The Old Testament Dinah – pronounced dye-nah – was the daughter of Jacob and Leah whose story was popularized by the novel “The Red Tent.”  The beauty of this classical name was obscured by so many similar and more popular versions: Dena and Deena and Diane and Diana.  But Dinah, if you can get people to say it properly, remains a relatively undiscovered gem.

GREGORYGregory is one of those names that, like Deborah, was so popular in recent decades that parents tend to bypass it now: It peaked in 1962 and remained in the Top 50 through the late 1980s, though now it’s down to number 223.  Greek for “vigilant” or “a watchman,” Gregory remains a name that’s both strong and friendly.  The highly respectable name of popes and saints, it also carries the earthy short form Greg.

MARGARET Margaret was so widely used for so long – it remained in the Top 25 from 1880 well into the 1950s – that it came to be seen as one of those quintessential old lady names, but not in a good way.  Greek for “pearl,” Margaret has a rich, classic feel and was the name of many queens and saints.  Another plus: a raft of great nicknames, from older choices like Peggy, Meg, and Maggie to new spins such as Maisie or Molly.  The French Marguerite is very fashionable.

OLYMPIA – Why has Olivia achieved megapopularity while Olympia has languished?  The mythological connection might be a negative, or is it something about that “limp” sound?  Whatever: It’s a name of champions and the fewer people that realize that, the better it will be for the selective few discerning enough to choose it.

REUBEN – The sandwich connection may be what’s holding back this Old Testament name from catching up with megapopular brothers like Jacob and Benjamin.  The stylishness of sister Ruby may give this name a boost.  It’s a treasure for adventurous yet classical-minded namers….and it can even work for girls.

ROY – This name that means king has a mid-century cool-guy feel, thanks to Roy Orbison and Roy Rogers.  It’s short, it’s simple, yet it stands out: What more could you want from a boy’s name?  The next Ray.

TABITHAForever Samantha’s daughter on Bewitched, this exotic choice from the New Testament never became as popular as her mother.  Like Keziah or Lydia, Tabitha is that rare Biblical girls’ name that remains distinctive yet feels totally appropriate for modern life.  The nickname Tabby is cute, but the name really blossoms in its full form.

THOMAS Thomas is not exactly an underused name, but it is an underrated one.  So plain as to fade into the background, Thomas and Tom are masculine names that manage to be at once soft and strong, modern and traditional.  Originally used only for priests, Thomas is Aramaic for “twin” and comes attached to many appealing figures, including Thomas Edison and Jefferson, Tom Sawyer and Hanks.

Agree?  Have some other ideas?  Let us know.

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