Category: Classic Baby Names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
As we sit down to our Thanksgiving feasts in this divisive year, it might be a good idea to take another look at the traditional virtues embedded in these names.
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:
Halloween is behind us, but now that the days are getting darker and the nights longer, you might still feel in the mood for some ghostly, gothic names. There are plenty to be found in the poems and stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
Poe is best known for his macabre writing, although he also wrote science fiction, detective stories, and many literary essays. A favorite topic of his is some unfortunate man mourning the loss of a beautiful woman – who often returns to haunt him.
You might know The Raven, where the narrator is visited by a sinister bird who is apparently the departed spirit of his fiancé Lenore. (If you can think of that poem without thinking of The Simpsons’ version, you’re doing better than me.)
By Sarahbeth Caplin
First day of fourth grade: the teacher takes attendance with strict efficiency. Since my last name begins with C, I am the fifth student called. “Sarah Caplin?” I raise my hand. By the time she gets to the end of the list, it is apparent that Sarah is the female name of choice: there are four Sarahs in our class of a dozen students, which Mrs. F thinks is hilarious. She places us all at the same table: Sarah K, Sarah M, Sarah W, and myself. It was not the first time I had to be differentiated by my last initial, and it wouldn’t be the last.
And dammit, I was already tired of it.
My parents told me, “We just liked the name; we had no idea it was so popular.” It never occurred to them that giving me a name from the Bible with timeless appeal (why else do so many women have it?) and no pronunciation problems in the English-speaking world would be such a burden to me. As an adult introvert, I’m okay blending in, but Childhood Me was the opposite. How could I stand out with a classic baby name shared by so many?
Mary long reigned as the Number One girls’ name throughout the English-speaking world. Some were Mary Ann or Mary Ellen, but others got far more creative in their quest to stand out from the crowd. So they traded in the ubiquitous Mary for names more glamorous, creative, cooler, or at least more distinctive. You may not even realize that many of these women started out life answering to the regal, saintly classic girl name. By Abby Sandel
There’s no record of a single newborn named Dick in the United States last year.
In fact, there hasn’t been a baby Dick recorded in the U.S. during the past decade. (It last popped up in the Social Security Administration databanks in 2005.)
This is no shock. The name Dick was a casualty of modern slang and its association with a disgraced president. But Dick‘s disappearance is part of a broader trend: Americans have shifted away from many once-common nicknames.