Category: flower names
Here in Washington DC, I’m convinced that while we’re quite daring with our children’s given names, every single girl is sharing the same middle: Rose. I’d rather see Rose in the first spot, like Charlotte’s younger daughter in the Sex in the City series. But Rose came in at a frosty #337 in the 2010 rankings. You’re more likely to meet a girl called Esmeralda, Fatima, or Leilani.
What explains the rise of a suddenly-everywhere middle name? Yes, many of us have grandmothers named Rose. But we also have grandmothers named Jean, Joan, and Ruth, and those names aren’t nearly as popular. At a recent baby shower, the guest-of-honor had chosen Rose for a daughter’s middle name. So had the other expectant mom in the room, and one of the brand new parents had already named her daughter Amelie Rose.
This undiscovered beauty, which means ‘sparkling,’ was named for the shepherdess heroine of a pastoral epic by Virgil. A bulb-grown bloom also known as the Winter Lily or Jersey Lily, the name Amaryllis was revived in the eighteenth century. One namesake Amaryllis--cellist Amaryllis Fleming-- was both the daughter of painter Augustus John and half-sister of James Bond-creator Ian Fleming.
The other day we offered eight fresh choices for boys, and now it’s the girls’ turn—girls’ names ranging from a rare botanical specimen to a nostalgic nickname to an undercrowded place name.
1–Acacia—This a a pretty and delicate botanical name that has hardly been heard in this country, though it ranked as high as Number 273 among girls’ names in Australia, where the Acacia is a common flowering shrub, in 2008. Acacia has a heritage that dates back to ancient Egyptian mythology, in which it was considered the tree of life due to the belief that the first gods were born under a sacred Acacia tree. There is also an eponymous fantasy novel, Acacia. Caveat: just don’t think about the other name of the Acacia tree—the Golden Wattle.
2–Amabel—Not to be confused with Annabel (though it well might be), the lovely Amabel has been around since medieval times, and has appeared in a number of British novels, including Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death, and heard as well as among the English aristocracy. Amabel gave birth to the shortened form Mabel, which has a much brasher image, and we think a name that means lovable, deserves more love than it’s gotten.
With Rose beginning to wilt from overexposure as a middle name, this might be a good time to look at other roseate options—including the somewhat neglected Rose-as-a-first name itself. Several of these names have Germanic roots that have nothing to do with the flower, but they all now project the floral scent of the rose.
Rose—Rose, the fragrant symbol of England and matriarch of this family, predates the other flower names that emerged at the end of the nineteenth century; it was a Top 30 name from 1880 through 1932, when more elaborate and exotic forms of the name came into the picture. It still ranks quietly at Number 337, just about where it’s been for decades. Appearing in vehicles ranging from Titanic to The Golden Girls to Harry Potter, to a million old songs, its image has been rejuvenated by younger recent bearers like Rose Byrne and Rose McGowan.
Rosa—The soft and lovely Rosa, an upscale British favorite, as well as a Spanish and Italian standard, was a Top 60 name in the US at the turn of the last century. The written form of Rose in old Latin documents, Rosa has been used as a name from the beginning of the nineteenth century. Notable namesakes include French painter Rosa Bonheur and Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks; Rosa Dartle is a character in David Copperfield. The change of the final vowel gives it a lot more substance and flow than Rose.
Rosabella is a smoosh name formed in the nineteenth century to mean beautiful rose, and it could become a new member of the Bella bunch. Others are Rosalba, meaning white rose, and Rosella—which is also the name of a colorful parrot.
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.