All-American Names: From Dixie to Franklin to Tallulah
Often an inspiration for artwork and music, classic Americana is an untapped resource for baby names rich in history and culture.
America – Admittedly this is not a surprising pick. What is surprising is how long America has been around as a given name. America first came into use as a given name in America in the 19th century. The name first made the Social Security top 1000 list back in 1880, the earliest year for name rankings.
Dixie – is a term referring to the southern U.S. and used in a folk song from the 1800s, called Dixie. The name could have also originated from the French term “Dix”, which means “ten”, and was used on 10 dollar bills issued by a New Orleans bank.
Georgia – The feminine form of George and the U.S. State which was named after King George II of England. A former top 100 name from the Victorian era, Georgia has been slowly gaining in popularity after hitting bottom over 20 years ago.
Nita – Means “bear” in the Native American language Choctaw. The name had been at the bottom of the top 1000 until 1969.
Savannah – One of the most popular names on this list, from the English word for “large grassy plain,” which was derived from the Native American word “zabana”. Also a place-name–a city in Georgia. Typical of a revival name, Savannah first came into use in 19th century America, disappeared mid-20th century, and was rediscovered 30 years ago.
Shenandoah – From unknown Native American origins, this is the name of a river, the surrounding valley, and county in Virginia.
Temperance – This name meaning, “restraint” was first adopted by the Puritans in the 17th century and entered the top 1000 for the first time in 2011.
Twila / Twyla – came into use as a given name in America. May be derived from the English word for “twilight” and/or the Cajun pronunciation of the French word, “étoile”, meaning “star”. Most known from dancer Twyla Tharp.
Virginia – This name’s roots are Roman, being the feminine form of the Roman Verginius or Virginius. Nevertheless, Virginia was popularized in America after becoming the name of a U.S. colony and the first English baby born in the new world, Virginia Dare. She was born in 1587 and named after the colony.
Winona – From the Native American language Dakota, and means “firstborn daughter”. This was the name of the daughter of the Sioux Dakota chief Wapasha III. Today the name is most known by actress Winona Ryder. The actress was named after a town in Minnesota near where she was born.
Cheyenne – Not coming into use as a given name until the 1950s, and not hitting the top 1000 (for girls) until the 1980s, this name is relatively modern but has deep American roots. This is the name of a Native American tribe which lived on the Great Plains.
Dallas – is most familiar as a city in Texas but originated as a surname. The city was most likely named in honor of U.S. Vice President George Mifflin Dallas. The name may seem modern, but has been around awhile. Dallas has never left the boy’s top 1000 since 1880 and started showing up in the girl’s top 1000 in the 1990s.
Tennessee – When Reese Witherspoon named her daughter Ava back in 1999 she helped propel a name that was already steadily trending upwards. Whether she will do the same for Tennessee, the name of her son born in 2012, remains to be seen. As a given name Tennessee is obscure but does have a brief history in the girl’s top 1000 back in the late 1800’s.
This list is as diverse as the American landscape and ranges from homey casual (Betsy, Dixie and Tex) to distinguished surnames (Chauncey and Franklin) to elegantly rustic feminine names (Shenandoah and Winona).
Revised for Nameberry from an article that originally ran on Upswing Baby Names: Uniquely American Names.
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on October 11th, 2013 at 12:49 am
Savannah, Shenandoah, Winona, Tex, Wilson, and Tennessee are my favorites. I prefer Carolina pr Ca-ro-lee-na, as in Herrera.
on October 11th, 2013 at 7:40 am
I ADORE this list! So many of my favorites, including my own “unusual” middle name, Carolina!
On my list are, Carolina, Dixie, Twyla, Virginia & Dallas!
on October 11th, 2013 at 9:46 am
Oh I do like twyla! Sucker for T names!
on October 11th, 2013 at 11:50 am
I love several of these! I love:
Shenandoah — I wouldn’t use it as a name, but it’s lovely and the song is gorgeous.
Temperance — Bones made me like this one. Tempy is adorable for a nickname
Twila — It’s not one I’d use, but I love the sound of it
Chauncey — Love this so much!
on October 11th, 2013 at 12:26 pm
On the boy list the only one I really like is Lincoln. Chauncey is okay. For the girls I love – Twila/Twyla, Temperance, Betsy, and Virginia.
on October 11th, 2013 at 12:55 pm
I’m really shocked that Liberty isn’t on the girls’ list. Shenandoah is a pleasant surprise though…and apparently, I’m not the only person considering it!
on October 11th, 2013 at 1:22 pm
Some of these names are not PC something the blogger might have mentioned. Cheyenne has dubious origin problems since was actually a word in the tribe that the settles picked for the tribe. There is a lot of controversy over whether it is disrespectful towards the tribes.
Dixie is name often associated with the confederacy, slavery, and racism post Civil War era. It’s old south in the worst ways.
You mentioned four states, but actually a total of fourteen states have been in the top 1000. The other ten state names are Arizona, Dakota, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Texas, and Washington. I also think of Sierra as American place name since it makes me think of Sierra Nevada.
My favorites on the list are Carolina, Temperance, Virginia, Franklin, and Lincoln.
on October 12th, 2013 at 9:58 am
Dakota can have similar problems to Cheyenne. It’s very popular, though.
I actually think that Dixie is the most problematic on this list. A lot of people would assume that the parents were making a statement with the name.
on October 13th, 2013 at 7:24 pm
Oh how I love Twyla Tharp! In the future, I think I will consoder it as a middle name.
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