Category: different spellings
The idea for this blog arose, as so many good things do, from the nameberry forums, in this case one on name spellings. In particular, the focus was on names that had more than one legitimate spelling, and asked visitors to pick their favorite of the two (or more).
With so much talk these days about yooneek spellings of names – variations invented to make a name more “special” – it’s interesting to explore those names that have more than one bona fide spelling.
Of course, there may be some controversy over what constitutes bona fide name spellings. On the forum, some people took issue with spelling variations springing from different origins of a name: Isabelle as the French version and Isabel the Spanish, for instance, and so not really pure spelling variations in the way that Katherine and Kathryn are. Others argued over spelling variations that might more accurately be differences in a name’s gender or pronunciation.
There are obviously a lot of ways to split this hair. And we’ve made a lot of judgment calls some of you may disagree with. Sure, Debra might be a modern variation of the Biblical Deborah, but it was so widely used in mid-century America it’s now legitimate, or at least that’s the way we see it.
Here are some girls’ names with more than one spelling that we consider legitimate.
- Annabel and Annabelle (and Anabel)
- Anne and Ann
- Ariana and Arianna
- Briony and Bryony
- Brooke and Brook
- Claire and Clare
Once more this year the list of most popular names—particularly for girls—is vowel –heavy, with six of the top ten names starting with A, E, I or O, and five more filling out the top twenty.
As a result, naturally, there are fewer consonant-starters visible, some letters practically non-existent. One of these is F, with only a single representative, Faith, in the top 100, and a grand total of nine girls’ names out of the whole list of top 1000.
If we look back a century—testing the 100-year rule–it was a very different story, with 31 girls’ and 34 boys’ names starting with this initial. Several of them were versions of the same name (variant spellings are nothing new!); for instance, Freda, Frieda, Freida and Freeda all made the list—but not the current Kahlo-influenced Frida. Florence—no longer visible on today’s list–was represented in 1910 by Florance, Flora, Flossie, Flo, Florrie and Florene, and Frances (which hangs on at #802 today, with Francesca at 470) showed up in such variations as Fannie, Fanny, Francis, Francisca and Frankie, and there were three spellings of Fay/Faye/Fae.
On a beautiful Saturday in July, I found myself where most people would love to be on a beautiful Saturday in July: sitting in a painfully boring continuing education seminar, hopelessly trying to remain awake. The air conditioner must have been set at a brisk 52 degrees, and after catching a glimpse of my now cerulean blue toes, I wondered if my lips had suffered a similar fate. My chattering teeth thankfully prevented me from entirely nodding off, but I was in need of a more cerebral distraction. Desperate for entertainment, I decided to count the goosebumps on my lower left arm, first by twos and then by threes.
As the counting fun began, I happened to glance at a piece of paper in front of the 20-something-year-old woman sitting to my left, and I realized that she had written her name in the upper right hand corner. Ever the name nerd, I simply had to take a peek, and after a lingering glance, I discovered that her name was Mykailah. Figuring it was code for Michaela, I naturally wondered about my other neighbor’s name. Pretending to do some right arm goosebump counting, I quickly looked at her paper, and was pleased to meet Tyffani. Mykailah and Tyffani? Tyffani and Mykailah? I was now the official filling inside of a yooneek name sandwich.
This blog is adapted from our most recent book, Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby
When people look for baby names online, they often put in a search for “unique names.” Some of them are trying to find names that are unusual and distinctive, but some really do want to give their child a name that’s truly one-of-a-kind, something that nobody else has.
A recent newspaper story claimed that one of the reasons for this is because modern parents want their child to be “Googleable,” to have a name that’s different enough that it will pop out online. And some parents say they won’t settle on a name until they find out whether its url is available.
Of course, as soon as you give your child a “unique” name, it all but guarantees it won’t be unique anymore since someone will almost inevitably poach it. We were tickled to find, for instance, that someone posted on our website bulletin board that she’d named her son Knox, a name that wasn’t in our or any other baby-naming book – months before Angelina and Brad chose it for their newborn son, launching it on the track to widespread use.
When we asked visitors to our website to tell us what they’d named their babies, we never expected their answers to provide such a trove of highly unusual – yes, even unique – names. Some of these turn gender on its ear, some twist spellings in different ways, some reintroduce ancient or ethnic names or transform place names or surnames, and some are conjured from parents’ fertile brains.
Now here is where you would ordinarily expect to find a long list of distinctive, never-heard-before names. But that would be against the spirit of this style. So you’ll just have to find–or create–one of your own.
For more of our ideas on unusual names, check out Beyond Ava & Aiden: The Enlightened Guide to Naming Your Baby
When we were preparing the article “Bizarre Baby Names: A Growing Trend?” for the July issue of Reader’s Digest magazine that’s just hit the stands, we put together a lonnnnnng timeline of the key markers in American name history–much longer than they could possibly use with the story. So here we offer you some of the dates and events that you won’t find in the magazine.
1845. The Irish famine sends masses of Bridgets and Patricks to America.
1946. Publication of Dr. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care encourages parents to be more relaxed, confident and collaborative: husbands participate more in child care–and baby naming.
1974. The first issue of People magazine accelerates fascination with celebrity culture, parents start to be increasingly influenced by names stars give their babies.
2000. The Internet inspires parents to search genealogy sites for old family names.