Category: virtue names
One of the reasons I became so interested in names is because I discovered the two-volume edition of the Brewster Genealogy in my grandparents’ house in Maine. I pored over the pages, discovering unusual family names –Ohel, for example – and names I found beautiful, such as Solace and Wrestling. I discovered ancestors who were famous and who led incredible lives. I discovered information that surprised my family. The books, however, disappeared, much to my great disappointment. But recently, I was able to download a copy of Volume One from the Boston Public Library, and I am back to using it to make lists and rediscoveries.
William and Mary Brewster had five living children, all of whom eventually came to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Elder William Brewster was the religious leader of the colony, the only one who had to leave England (there was an arrest warrant for him, for treason), and it was his tireless work that kept the survivors alive during that first hard winter, according to Governor William Bradford’s account in Of Plimouth Plantation. The first names of the Brewsters, who married into the most prestigious New England families, fall into several categories: Puritan virtue names, Biblical names, classic English names, and what I call Stuart/Georgian names.
Here are twelve girls’ and twelve boys’ names that I’ve found repeatedly throughout the genealogy and that could hold some interesting possibilities for an adventurous nameberry:
In the seventeenth century, for some of the most puritanical of the Puritans, even biblical and saints’ names were not pure enough to bestow on their children, and so they turned instead to words that embodied the Christian virtues. These ranged from extreme phrases like Sorry-for-sin and Search-the-Scriptures (which, understandably, never came into general use) to simpler virtue names like Silence and Salvation.
The virtue names that have survived in this country were for the most part the unfussy, one-syllable girls’ names with positive meanings, such as Joy, Hope, Grace and Faith. But then, in the late 1990s, a door was opened to more elaborate examples by the popularity of the TV show Felicity, and its appealing heroine. Felicity (also the name of an American Girl Colonial doll) reached a high point on the girls’ list in 1999, a year after the show debuted, leading parents to consider others long forgotten relics.
Here are the Nameberry picks of the twelve best virtue names:
- Amity—like all the virtue names ending in ity, Amity has an attractive daintiness combined with an admirable meaning—in this case, friendship. It could be a modernized (or antiquated, depending how you look at it) namesake for an Aunt Amy.
- Clarity—we like it much better than Charity or—oh no—Chastity. And Clare makes a nice short form.
- Clemency—Clemency, the name of a character in one of Charles Dicken’s lesser known Christmas novellas, The Battle of Life, can be seen as an offbeat alternative to Clementine.
- Constance was originally used in a religious context which has been lost over the years. There are many Constances found in history and literature: there was Constance of Brittany, mother of young Prince Arthur who appears in Shakespeare’s King John, a daughter of William the Conqueror, and characters in Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer and Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. Constance hasn’t been much heard in the 21st century—probably because of the dated nickname Connie. The Puritans also used Constant.
When it came to looks and style, Marvin had it all. Decked out in saddle shoes, mustard yellow corduroy pants, and a maroon V-neck sweater, he had a commanding presence, and owned any room he entered. A creature of few words, Marvin was a cartoon connoisseur who also enjoyed more serious fare like Punky Brewster and Silver Spoons. An avid athlete, Marvin delighted in playing Frisbee, and never flinched, even when the plastic disc was speeding directly toward his forehead. Granted, to most, Marvin was only a three-foot-tall stuffed monkey with Velcro hands, but to me, he was my silent partner in crime and constant companion throughout my childhood. He was the Sonny to my Cher.
While Marv and I shared many adventures, from the time we earned a whole dollar selling warm lemonade to parched pedestrians, to the summer during which he accompanied me to overnight camp (because taking a giant saddle shoe-wearing stuffed monkey to camp is totally cool), our best times were definitely had together on family vacations.
When Marvin and I were in first grade, my parents took us, along with my older brother, on a trip to Boston, Massachusetts, where I quickly developed a love of American History. I adored the architecture and historical sites (never mind that I thought Nathaniel Hawthorne’s House of Seven Gables was actually “The House of Seven Gay Bulls”), and Marv and I enjoyed wearing Minutemen hats while walking on the Freedom Trail and visiting Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market.
For several years now, word names have been singled out as being at the extreme edge of cool—we may have been guilty of pushing that edge ourselves at times. But I’m starting to wonder if it’s time to pull back a little, and put the brakes on. Celebrities have tried to outdo each other to sometimes eye-rolling effect in the effort to find a ‘unique’, attention-grabbing word name : I’m not naming names but I might mention a few words like zeppelin and pirate and peanut.
Of course there are word names and there are word names and probably the most acceptable and appealing are the centuries-old Virtue names created by the early and most zealous Pilgrims to display their righteous religiosity. Though such excessive male phrase-names as Fight-the-good-fight-of-faith and Fly-fornication are long gone, the simpler girl virtue names have not only survived but some are now downright trendy: Grace, Hope, Faith, and, more recently, Felicity, True and Honor.
Other worthy examples include:
Maybe there are certain kinds of names that you really like–flower or color names, say, or virtue names– but you’re reluctant to use one of the more obvious examples, the epidemically popular ones, attractive though they may be. Well, there’s no reason you have to limit yourself to those few; more and more parents are digging deeper into those appealing categories and coming up with newer sounding choices.
IRIS (not exotic, but long neglected)