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Category: place names

catalina-island-vintage-travel-poster

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.

  1. Aranthe Aran Isles are a group of three islands off the Irish coast, at the mouth of Galway Bay, known for uniquely-patterned sweaters and the iconic 1934 documentary, Man of Aran.  Aran would make a nice Irish-accented name, but would it be confused with Aaron?  ‘Fraid so.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

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undiscovered girl

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–AmabelNot 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.

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cornwall

The distinguished British name expert Julia Cresswell is the author of several books on the subject, the most recent of which is Name Your Baby.

The British Prime Minister recently chose the Cornish name Endellion as the middle name for his new daughter.  The baby was premature, and born while the family was on holiday in Cornwall, and Endellion was chosen because the family regularly holidayed at the little village of St Endellion, so strictly speaking the name belongs with the growing trend to use place names (such as Dakota, Savannah) as first names.  However, it is also a traditional Cornish name.

But first a bit of background.  Cornwall is a popular holiday place because of its unspoilt beauty. Its unspoilt beauty comes from the fact that its position at the extreme south west of England makes it isolated.  This isolation protected it in the past, and led to the preservation of a uniquely Cornish culture.

1500 years ago, when the rest of England was being taken over by the Anglo-Saxons, Cornwall remained independent and retained its own language, descended from the language of the ancient British and closely related to Welsh,  into the 18th century.  This language is the source of many of the specially Cornish names, while the distinctive West-Country way of pronouncing English has been another source. 

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Like Jenny-from-the-block (well maybe not quite), I was a roller-skating, rope-jumping, potsy- (hopscotch to you) playing child of the Bronx streets.  At that time I was completely unaware of how the mostly pretentious –sounding names of those streets might have referred back to past heroic figures (Popham?  Burnside? Bathgate?).  In my mind what they were identified with was the kids I knew who lived on them—Nelson Avenue was associated with the Mazur sisters, Jessup with my classmate Nancy, Loring with my bf Margery’s grandmother, and Shakespeare with my elementary school.

(One name that fascinated me and couldn’t be ignored was Featherbed Lane, a street that I passed on the way to school every day and was home to my Aunt Pearl and family.  It was only later that I discovered the probable origins of the name—that during the Revolutionary War, locals covered the street with feather beds so that the soldiers fighting the British could move quietly through the area—though there were other explanations as well.)

Here are some of the mostly surname names from my neighborhood and beyond:

ANDREWS

ANTHONY

BRANDT

CEDAR

CLIFFORD

CRESTON

DAVIDSON

(Mt) EDEN

FORDHAM

GERARD

HARRISON

HENNESSEY

JEROME

JESSUP

LORING

MONTGOMERY

MORRIS

MORTON

NELSON

OSBORNE

PELHAM

PHELAN

SELWYN

SHAKESPEARE

VALENTINE

WALTON

WEBSTER

During my childhood, if you were from the Bronx, it was practically in your DNA to hate all things Brooklyn.  But now that I’ve matured into a more rational and objective name observer, I do have to admit that that other borough does have  a better selection of street names—less stuffy and a lot more that are actually suited  to a baby.  In fact there are so many Courts and Places with standard first names that you have to wonder if the streets weren’t named after the builders’ own babies.

Here’s a selection—there are lots more:

AINSLIE

ALABAMA

ALBANY

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car names

Guest blogger ERIN FREEMAN finds baby-naming inspiration on the used car lot.

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:

AURELIA
BRANDON
CARLO
CARLSSON
CATALINA

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