Within the pages of books from all periods of literary history—from classical, metaphysical and Elizabethan poetry and plays to the Romantics and the Realists, right up to modern novels—can be found gems of names that have been lost to time, either because they’ve been identified with a singular character or simply because they’ve gone out of style. Here are twenty such girls’ names, with the boys group to follow next week.
CORINNA –After appearing as the main female character in Ovid’s Amores, Corinna became a favorite in 17th century poetry, including Robert Herrick’s Corinna’s Going A-Maying. It’s a Latinized form of a Greek name meaning maiden.
While A, E, I and O-starting names abound, increasing in popularity all the time, poor little step-sibling vowel U tends to get neglected. Of course there are many fewer names starting with that letter, and even fewer that would appeal to the modern baby namer, but there are definitely a few that are at least worth a look, most of them with a touch of the exotic.
ULLA, ULA — Seen in several cultures, this stong name (it actually means strong-willed in Norse), is sometimes used as a pet form of Ursula or ULRICA/ULRIKA. Most recently associated with the leggy Swedish secretary character in The Producers.
UMA — Thanks to Ms. Thurman almost a one-person name, this throaty, exotic appellation is a name of the Hindu goddess Parvati–which surely inspired her father, a renowned expert on Eastern religion, to bestow it on her.
UMBER — A highly unusual color name, dark and mysterious, which could be used for either gender.
UMBRIA — Richly evocative, shadowy Italian place name–a neighbor of Tuscany known for its wines, olive oil and truffles. Could be a possible replacement for the rapidly becoming overused Siena/Sienna.
UNA — An ancient Irish name, also Anglicized as Oonagh or Oona, used by Edmund Spenser for the heroine of his classic The Faerie Queene; she’s the daughter of a legendary king and the quintessence of truth and beauty (it was for her that St. George slayed the dragon).
UNIQUE — Not any more.
UNITY — One of the newly appealing, lesser used Puritan virtue names, with an admirable meaning.
URANIA — One of the nine Greek Muses, whose special area was astronomy. This one is not recommended, for obvious reasons.
URBANA — An unusual possibility for a city girl.
URSULA — Kids today will probably associate this martyred saint’s name with the campy, corpulent octopus sea witch in The Little Mermaid, while others might tie it to a character in Shakespeare‘s Much Ado, Ursula Brangwen in D. H. Lawrence‘s The Rainbow, novelist Le Guin, 60’s Bond Girl sex goddess Andress, or the character on Friends. Novelist/style icon Plum Sykes chose it for her daughter, which puts it on trend alert.