Ghouls and goblins don’t exactly make for the best namesakes, but we still wanted to get into the Halloween spirit. So, we’ve conjured up just that: Some baby names with “soulful” roots that may keep you up at night not with trepidation, but inspiration.
Enid has a vintage sound, which just might her fresh again. From the Welsh for “soul” or “life,” Enid is the beautiful lover of Geraint, a king and warrior storied in Arthurian legend. She is #637 on 2017’s Top 1000 girl names, down from her all-time high at #420 in 1920, when she graced the name of several starlets of the silent screen. Enid shares the nostalgic appeal of the more voguish Eleanor and Evelyn.
Recent years have seen two-syllable, E-headed and A-tailed names, such as Ella, Emma, and Etta, topping the charts. Edda meets that criteria but escapes the trend, except in Germany, where she reached #173 in 2016. But it’s a different country that prizes Edda: Iceland, where it’s the title of two medieval cornerstone works of the culture’s literature and myth. Its precise origin is unclear, but Edda may mean “spirit” or “passion,” the kindling for its other meaning of “poetry.”
Oscar is an international Top 50 boys’ name. In 2016, it was #1 in Sweden, where it has been borne by kings. But even if increasingly popular we still think Oscar is irresistible. Hugh Jackman, with his finger early on the name trend pulse, named his son Oscar Maximilian in 2000 (followed by the equally charming Ava Eliot in 2005). The following year, Gillian Anderson found Oscar perfect for her own baby boy. As a name, Oscar comes from the Old English Osgar, meaning “God’s spear.” Its os also shows up in Oswald and the gar in Roger, for the etymologically curious. Oscar has mostly sat in the US Top 200 for as long as records have been kept, reaching #192 in 2017.
Hugo is another name that warms our hearts. Indeed, as a Latin form of Hugh, it comes from a German root, hug, “heart” as well “mind” or “spirit” — also the source of hygge, the Danish aesthetic of coziness. Hugo isn’t just a name from lofty lit (Victor Hugo) or high fashion (German designer Hugo Boss). Actor Jeffrey Tambor named his son Hugo in 2009, as did actor couple Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin in 2016. Hugo was #1 in Spain in 2016 but far less trendy in the US, where it came in at #418 in 2017. And with a cute nickname like Huey, what’s not to love about Hugo?
Now for something more adventurous. Psyche, yes, is the name for the concept of the human mind or “soul.” That’s what the word means in Ancient Greek, whose myths told of the sacred marriage between Psyche, beautiful goddess of the soul, and Eros, god of love and desire. Perhaps that story will shake her close associations with psychology and psychiatry, which also take their name from Psyche — and which certainly help explain why Psyche is nowhere on the charts. But still Psyche would make for an utterly original choice for the mythologists or therapists among us.
Antiquity also beckons with Egypt, the northern African country and ancient civilization that, you know, only erected one of the wonders of the world in the Great Pyramids of Giza. The name is said to come from an ancient Egyptian word meaning “temple of the soul of Ptah.” And speaking of pyramids, Ptah is regarded as the god of craftspeople and architects. Singer Alicia Keys found inspiration in Egypt after a personal sojourn there in the 2000s, naming her son Egypt in 2010.
Now let’s move east to ancient India. From a Sanskrit word for “universal soul,” Brahma is the creator god in Hinduism and connected to but distinct from the concept of Brahman, that of the ultimate reality pervading all beings. One of Brahma’s counterpart deities, Shiva, is more actively revered in modern Hinduism as well as more common as a given name, but Brahma could be a big and bold boy’s name for some free-spirited parents.
Lilith is a lyrical alternative to the floral Lily and Lillian. Though she has an ancient aura, Lilith only cracked the Top 1000 girls’ name list in 2010, climbing up to #491 in 2017. The name has a surprising history. Rooted in an Akkadian (a Semitic language in ancient Mesopotamia) word referring to “night,” Lilith was believed by ancient Assyrians to be a female demon of the night and by medieval Jews to be the first wife of Adam before Eve. While Lilith the figure is dark and dangerous in myth, Lilith the name is a light and lilting choice. And an empowered one, too: Singer Sarah MacLachlan drew on the Lilith folklore in naming her influential, female-fronted concert tour Lilith Fair in the late 1990s.
Speaking of demons, the word demon comes from the Ancient Greek daimon, a benevolent “guiding spirit.” Daimon, or daemon in its Latin rendering, got a bad rap when Bible translators used the word for “heathen idols” or “unclean spirits” in scripture, though author Philip Pullman helped reclaim its reputation with his daemons — animals that are outward manifestations of a person’s inner self — in the acclaimed fantasy series, His Dark Materials. Daemon is no doubt daring, but might attract those looking for a twist on the similar-sounding but etymologically unrelated Damian/Dameon.
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