Bewitching Baby Names: Happy Halloween!
by Linda Rosenkrantz
Halloween is now upon us, but that doesn’t mean that these bewitching baby names can’t be used any time of the year. And the nice thing is that these witches are not all hideously ugly with warts and moles and hair on their chinny-chin-chins. And they’re not all totally evil either. In addition to the traditionally witchy witches, pop culture has brought us some who are nice and funny and even beautiful—think Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts, Michelle Pfeiffer, Nicole Kidman.
Here are ten of the most interesting witch name possibilities from movies and TV.
In The Vampire Diaries, Freya Mikaelson is not a vampire but a centuries-old witch, a powerful one who could perform amazing magical feats. Freya, the name of the Norse goddess of love, beauty and fertility, is one of the fasting-rising baby names of the past few years, now ranking at #266. Freya is also #13 in Scotland and 18 in England.
In the original 1998 series of Charmed (recently revived), Piper Halliwell, along with well-named sisters Prue and Phoebe, became known as “The Charmed Ones,” the most powerful good witches of all time. That character helped shoot her peppy, musical name–since heard in Orange is the New Black–onto its path to success. Piper is now a Top 100 name, used for their daughters by Samantha Bee and other celebs.
In American Horror Story, Myrtle is a quirky, honest witch, head of the Witches’ Council. A Top 40 name at the turn of the last century, Myrtle hasn’t been heard since the 1960s. But when seen as a nature name—it’s a plant with aromatic berries—Myrtle becomes a vintage name that cold see new life.
In the classic 1958 movie Bell, Book and Candle, Gillian Holyroyd, played by glamorous Kim Novak, is a Greenwich Village witch who runs a primitive art gallery and uses her supernatural powers for romantic ends. Curiously, Nicole Kidman’s witch character in the later Practical Magic has the same name. The high profile actress Giliian “X-Files” Anderson did a lot to bring her name over from the UK, though it peaked in popularity around the Millennium.
Sukie Ridgemont, aka Michelle Pfeiffer, is one of the three gorgeous but unwitting Witches of Eastwick demonized in the film by the satanic Jack Nicholson. Sukie—not to be confused with True Blood’s Sookie Stackhouse or Sookie St. James (Melissa McCarthy) on Gilmore Girls–is an old nickname for Susan/na that now sounds somehow more modern than Susie.
In the 1993 Hocus Pocus, a trio of Salem sister witches are resurrected on Halloween night after three hundred years, the eldest being melodramatic, hot-tempered Winifred “Winnie” Sanderson, played by Bette Midler. Winifred is just the old kind of prim vintage name in line to be unbuttoned, especially with its choice of friendlier nicknames—the winning Winnie, the boyish Freddie.
There is so much wizardry and witchcraft in the Harry Potter franchise and so many wonderful names that it’s hard to pick just one—but I’ll go for that of Gryffindor student Lavender Brown, a name that’s so sweet, so fragrant, so mutedly colorful it’s bound to catch up with the other sweet violet-hued names. Luna and Poppy are two other Potter monikers that have already taken off.
In both the musical Wicked and the book on which it’s based, Nessarose Thropp is the name of the beautiful, handicapped woman who becomes the Wicked Witch of the East, original owner of the magical silver (not ruby) slippers, and ruler of Munchkinland. A smoosh of the Vanessa nickname and the all-purpose Rose, Nessarose, with all those s’s is not likely to be spreading further.
The wicked stepmother/evil queen in Snow White is no longer nameless at last. In Snow White and the Huntsman she is known as Ravenna. And yes, she is still vain and malevolent, but she also bears a strong resemblance to Charlize Theron. Ravenna is a lovely Italian place name which could be a successor to Sienna.
The 2012 film retelling of the Snow White tale, Mirror, Mirror, retains the evil, vengeful, jealous character of the stepmother/witch—this time giving her the name Clementianna– and casting a zealous Julia Roberts in the part. When choosing a baby name, however, most parents would prefer the more traditional Clementine, nixing those two extra syllables.
Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond Satran of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. In addition to contributing stories on trends and celebrity naming, she guides the editorial content and manages the Nameberry Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can follow her personally at Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.