June 21st marks the 2017 summer solstice. On this longest day of the year, let’s bask in the light of 14 names whose origins literally shine bright.
Abner means “father of light” in Hebrew. Though closely associated with the rustic comic strip Li’l Abner, the name also graced King Saul’s commander in the Old Testament and Abner Doubleday, the once-touted inventor of baseball. Reaching #371 back in 1901, the sun may shine on Abner again.
The -bert in Albert, Bertha, Gilbert, Herbert, and Robert, among others, all come from a Germanic root meaning—and source of—“bright.” Of these, Robert has been the most popular, ranking #1 in the US through all of the 1930s. It still burns bright at #62 in 2016. Albert has made a return in England and Wales, now at #72.
Claire is the French form of Clara, both from the Latin that gives English the word clear: clarus, or “bright.” Claiming the #40 spot in 2016, Claire slightly outshines Clara, which just cleared the 2016 Top 100 at #99. Consider Clarissa or Claribel for some more distinctive variants.
From the Sanskrit for “day lord,” Dinesh is a poetic expression for “sun” in Hindu literature. The sun rises in the east, where Dinesh is a very popular and common given name for boys in India and other Hindu cultures.
A mythological name, Electra means “shining” or “bright” in Ancient Greek. It probably shares a root with the word electricity: elektron, literally “amber.” While it hasn’t sparked any notable popularity in the US, its softer Italian counterpart, Elettra, makes an electrifying choice.
Let there be Lucia, which comes from the Latin lux, “light.” The name has been more brilliant than ever according to Social Security data, beaming as 2016’s 213th most popular girls’ name. Lucy and Lucille are lovely variants; try Lucius and Lucian for boys.
We may associate the British Isles with rain and clouds, but the name Muriel, from Celtic roots for “bright sea,” is gleaming. A Top 200 name in the 1910–20s, Muriel has been used by authors from Lewis Carroll to George Orwell to J. K. Rowlings.
Phoebe, from the Greek phoibos (bright), was an epithet of Artemis, goddess of the moon. She was the twin sister to Apollo, himself called Phoebus in his form as the sun god. Popular back in the early 1900s, Phoebe, familiar from her character in Friends, sparkles again at #316 in the US for 2016. Parents of Phoebes include Bill and Melinda Gates, and John Lithgow.
A popular male name in India and other Southeast Asian cultures, Ravi means “sun” in Sanskrit and is the name of the sun god in Hindu mythology, notably borne by virtuosic sitar player Ravi Shankar. While the name hasn’t seen too much sunlight in the West, it climbed to #117 in the Netherlands for 2016.
The name of a wife of Alexander the Great, Roxanne is ultimately from the Persian Raoxshna, “bright” or “shining.” Familiar to many as the title of The Police’s 1978 hit, Roxanne rocked out as a Top 200 US name in the mid-1950s, resurfacing in the low 200s in 1988.
While the biblical Samson was known for the great strength afforded by his legendary hair, the etymological Samson is known for its origin: the Hebrew shemesh, “sun.” The name’s popularity reached an all-time high at #578 in 2016, a powerful choice for a son.
In Greek mythology, Selene was a goddess of the moon, with a deeper root in a Greek word for “light.” The tragic death of singer/actress Selena Quintanilla-Pérez in 1995 helped make this variant of Selene shine on that year, when it reached #91. Her namesake, Selena Gomez, has kept the name popular in 2016, when it claimed the #285 spot.
Word detectives know the name Sherlock literally means “fair-haired,” with its first half coming from the Old English scir, “bright.” (This root also shines in the name Shirley, or “bright meadow.”) The name Sherlock, though, may always be in the shadow of Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuth Sherlock Holmes.
The king of gods in Greek mythology, Zeus’s name derives from an ancient root meaning “shining,” fitting for the lightning bolts he commanded. It’s a bold choice for a boy—and a unique one, as it hasn’t cracked the Top 1000 as long as the Social Security Administration has been collecting name data.
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