Category: place names for babies
Place names for people are a category that’s exploded over the past generation.
Some place names owe their popularity to the epically beautiful places they reference: Kenya, for instance, and Venice. And then there are those names that are much more attractive than the places they represent: We’re thinking of Trenton, Camden, Detroit.
Our question this week: Would you use a place name for your child? Have you used one? In the first place, or only as a middle?
The revelation of Tennessee as the name of Reese Witherspoon and Jim Toth’s baby boy came as something of a surprise to the celebrity babies‘ name-watching world—but perhaps it shouldn’t have been, what with other recent starkids named Alabama, Indiana and Arizona. And a simple Google search will tell you that though Reese was born in New Orleans, most of her childhood was spent in Tennessee, her mother’s native state, explaining why it was meaningful to her.
Although the name Tennessee’s two notable most namesakes, playwright Williams (born Thomas) and country singer ‘Tennessee’ Ernie Ford, are male, Tennessee actually had some popularity as a girl’s name in the late nineteenth century, appearing in the Top 1000 five times between 1880 and 1890. It reached as high as Number 580 in 1884—though granted that accounted for only fourteen girls—the same year that Missouri, Nevada and Florida were also on the girls’ list. (The nickname Tennie, on the other hand, reigned for more than forty years.)
A few blogs back, we talked about lake names, and what an evocative word that is. Another, similarly appealing word is island, calling up images of calm, peaceful, isolated places surrounded by the sea. We’re not suggesting you name your baby Island (though Isla comes close), but here are the Nameberry Picks of 15 favorite island names.
- Catalina—Santa Catalina is one of the California Channel Islands and is a popular tourist destination for Angelinos and others. A Spanish version of Catherine that is more delicate and feminine than the English one, Catalina has been rising in popularity since the late eighties.
- Cayman—the Caymans consist of three islands in the western Caribbean south of Cuba. Peaceful and beautiful, they are also a major offshore banking hub. The name Cayman would fit right in with Cayden & Co.
- Corsica, famed as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, is a mountainous Mediterranean island, part of France but closer to Tuscany than the French coast. The name could be thought of as a Cora-elaboration with a feminissima ‘ica’ ending.
Two weeks ago I had my first experience shopping for a car. While in high school, I had been given a 1992 Dodge Dynasty by an uncle, and after I graduated and was pregnant with my oldest son, my grandparents gave me their 1995 Ford Taurus. My Taurus finally gave out on me two weeks ago, so my father, my husband and I set out to find me a car.
While walking around the used car lot, it struck me just how unique some of the names of these cars were. Some were unique in a way that just seemed far-fetched. Some were unique in a way that could be considered daring, but at the same time up-and-coming or trendy. And then there were some that years ago would have been a stretch, but now seem commonplace. Much like baby names.
Naturally, being the name enthusiast I am, this led to me researching car names as soon as I got home with my newly-purchased 2008 Dodge Caliber. What I didn’t expect was how many options there were beyond the standard car brands like Ford, Lincoln, Mercedes, Porsche and Romeo, all names we’ve heard before. Branching out into the models issued by individual car brands, I found so many options, and many trends I did not expect.
Here, for instance, are car names that were used for babies first:
Let’s say you like the basic concept of a place name, but you’re not so thrilled when it’s tied to the image of a specific locale. If, for example, you’re thinking Tulsa sounds like a nice, friendly, easygoing, Western name– but then suddenly the image of Oklahoma oil fields spring to mind, or say you think Trenton might be the perfect boy’s name—if it weren’t for the New Jersey connection.
There is one way around this. You could consider place names that are no longer on the map, either because of a name change, possibly for political reasons, or because the place itself disappeared—or may have never even existed at all.
Here, some romantic, faraway examples, mostly with non-specific images:
ANGLIA—Latin name of England
ANNAM—historic name for part of Vietnam
ATLANTIS—legendary island supposed to have sunk into the Atlantic
BRIXIA—the ancient Latin name of the modern Northern Italian city of Brescia
CANTON—Chinese city now called Guangzhou
CARAL –a Peruvian settlement considered the most ancient city of the Americas
CEYLON—old name of Sri Lanka