Category: Celtic baby names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
I must admit that I’m addicted to birth announcements. Not just to our own babyberries’—which are, of course, the best–but to any others I can lay my eyes on. I love the British choices that Elea posts regularly on BritishBabyNames.com, and also try to follow, among others, those in the Irish and Scottish newspapers.
Here are some entries that I’ve come across there recently, along with some particularly tasty sibling names that have been included–making a nice mix of authentic Gaelic names and cool modern choices.
Manx is one of the six Celtic languages that hail from the British isles. It is the native language of the Isle of Man, an island uniquely situated between the coasts of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. From its highest point, Snaefell, you can even see all four countries on a clear day.
Over the centuries it has passed from and between Welsh, Viking, English and Scottish rule, though now has its own democratic parliament. The Manx language — a close relative of Irish and Scot Gaelic — was spoken up until the 1970s, when its last native speaker died. However, it is now beginning to see some signs of revival.
When it comes to Celtic baby names, it’s easy enough to research the history of Irish and Scottish names, and also to check out the most popular names of the year. But what names are parents in those countries using for their kids right now? How many of the names have brogues and burrs and how many would as easily be found on announcements in the US and UK.? Are there any fabulous first/middle combos that we’d be surprised to see on our local birth cerificates?
I’ve been scouring some Irish and Scottish newspaper birth announcements and picked out some of the most striking discoveries—including some of the most noteworthy sibsets. All these babies were born during the last couple of months.
For most people outside of the UK, “British Names” are typified by the old Victorian legacy of Empire and afternoon tea, or the ethereal mystery of ancient Celtic folklore. The stereotype often favours rarefied aristocratic favourites such as Percival and Araminta, or tongue-twisting indigenous Gaelic choices like Aonghus or Caoimhe.
If you look at the most popular names that are actually used in Britain today you will see a much more varied picture. Like other Western countries there is a large influence from film and television, a popular cult of celebrity, and a growing awareness of global fashions (yes, we have many Neveahs and Jaydens, too). And yet, even in our modernised naming practices, British trends still manage to make a subtle nod to history in a style that feels quite unique.
What marks the Edwardian era of British baby names as distinct from those used in the Victorian period is the sheer number of different names used. In previous centuries the standard practice was to select a child’s name from the immediate family. When an infant died the next child to be born would be given that name, limiting the name pool to five to eight names in a family. Fanciful names were reserved for the aristocracy, and even they kept them permeating along the family line.
The Victorians made a change to this idea. Names borne by a deceased family member were now considered ‘unlucky’. Parents suddenly had to look elsewhere for names and artistic, literary and religious movements provided much needed inspiration. The Victorian love of anything ‘gothic’, and the influence of Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelites brought back medieval and mythical names like Lancelot, Ralph, Edgar, Alice, Elaine, Edith and Mabel; the Romantic movement re-introduced names such as Wilfred, Quentin, Cedric, Amy and Rowena; and the religious Tractarian movement revived long lost Saint’s names like Augustine, Benedict, Ignatius, Euphemia and Genevieve.
By the Edwardian era many of these previously obsolete names had become de rigueur and permeated all the social classes. More than at any time before, the gap between the names of the upper classes and those of the lower was considerably contracted. The 1911 census shows that many wealthy household members shared the same names as their domestic servants. For example, Constantia Beatrice Sophia, born 1905, was the daughter of a furniture mover and Lancelot Frederick Charles, born 1907, was a nurseryman’s son, showing that these previously ‘upper class’ names were now being enjoyed throughout the social classes.
One of the biggest trends of the Edwardian era of British baby names was the use of nature names. Some of the most popular names such as, Daisy, Iris, Ivy, Primrose, Beryl, Pearl and Ruby were used sparingly in the first half of the nineteenth century – and, interestingly, equally spread amongst boys and girls. By the 1880s, these names started to became very fashionable (now solely for girls) which led to them becoming the darlings of the Edwardian age.