Category: Historic Names
By Linda Rosenkrantz
There’s a certain magic, romance and power in ancient mythological names, with their ascribed virtues (and vices), their deep history and fascinating stories, their familiar yet otherworldly resonance– and parents are falling more and more under their spell.
In the past, only a few god and goddess names, like Diana and Phoebe, seemed usable for a mortal child, but now—thanks in part to their starring roles in pop culture epics–the whole pantheon of Greek, Roman and even Norse deities is up for grabs.
Here are ten of the best.
Thanks to mass mega-phenomena like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, we’ve been exposed to lots of previously fusty-sounding ancient Latinate names, and some of them are beginning to sound more and more wearable as baby names—in fact several have landed on the current popularity list. Guest blogger Andy Osterdahl, in his extensive study of the strangest names in American political history, has found many examples of these in the names of past American politicos.
Four years ago I was invited to share my political strange name findings with the readers of Nameberry and with this, my third guest blog, we delve into the musty, cobwebbed world of Latinate names. While many today consider Latin to be a “dead language” used only by college professors, scholars and theologians, this classical language of the ancient Romans produced many intriguing names, many of which are being brought back and used today by the daring parent.
During the 18th, 19th and even early 20th centuries, parents of all walks of life bestowed intriguing names ending in “us”, “ius” or “ious” upon their children, bridging the gap between ancient history and the modern day.
A name like Flavius, for instance—recently that of a stylist character in The Hunger Games– has proven to be curiously frequent among 19th and 20th century political figures, in particular the combination Flavius Josephus. To date, I have cataloged 22 politicians named Flavius (nine of them actually Flavius Josephus, named in honor of the Roman-Jewish scholar.)
Still more unusual Latin names abound in the annals of the U.S. House of Representatives: Brutus Junius Clay, Sempronius Hamilton Boyd, Romulus Zachariah Linney and Americus Vespucius Rice all served terms in Congress during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Americus V. Rice’s unusual first and middle names derived from the Latinized version of Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), the Italian explorer who would lend an alternate version of his first name to two continents. While Rice‘s name is unique, he is one of several men named Americus elected or nominated for public office in the US.
Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar (1825-1893), one of the most preeminent Southern politicians of his day, is another eye-catching Latinate name, receiving it from his identically named father, who was named in honor of the ancient Roman statesman and military figure Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus. Lucius, the name of villain Draco Malfoy’s father in Harry Potter, is currently ranking #182 on Nameberry!
There are also a number of American political figures whose names were Latinized by a parent tacking on an “us” or “ius,” perhaps in a vain attempt to make their names sound important. Lambertus Wolters Ledyard, a onetime mayor of Cazenovia, New York is one example; “Lambert” originally being Germanic. Karelius Nelson, a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives of Scandinavian descent was given the Latinized version of the Germanic name Karel. New York Congressman Jeromus Johnson is another example of this trend and one can only wonder if his parents originally picked the name Jerome for their son only to attempt to make it more fanciful!
In over a decade of research on curiously named political figures, I have observed several of these Latinized names to be more prevalent than others. The name Flavius mentioned above was given to over two dozen individuals as was the name Lycurgus, which has over 25 instances. Aurelius (currently #192 on Nameberry) and Rodolphus were each given to 14, Octavius (#299 on NB) was given to six, Archelaus to seven, Philetus to ten, Theophilus to 31 and Leonidas (497 on the national list and 266 on Nameberry), with a whopping 50 instances!
Theophilus and Leonidas lead to the friendly nicknames of Theo and Leo. With Alan Millar’s graphic novel 300 and 2007 film in which Gerard Butler portrays Spartan warrior king Leonidas, it even has some pop culture cred.
There are other Latinate names that are equally unique. My research has revealed only one instance of the name Narcissus, borne by California jurist Narcissus Augustus Dorn. And then there’s Iowa jurist Apollonius Bohun Huston (1823-1902), who shares a first name with several important figures from ancient Rome.
Other “use-at-your-own-discretion” type names were given to Tennessee State Senator Vitruvius Jackson Kennedy and Scipio Africanus Jones (1862-1940) an Arkansas delegate to several Republican National Conventions who was named in honor of Roman military leader Scipio Africanus.
Finally, there’s Texas State Representative Decimus et Ultimus Barziza (1847-1882). A native of Virginia, he was the tenth child born to his family. His father, an Italian immigrant count, was said to have been at a loss for a name for the child when a friend suggested Decimus et Ultimus which in Latin, means “tenth and last” –a truly a one-of-a-kind statement name!
By Linda Rosenkrantz
We looked at some great options for summertime girls, now it’s the boys’ turn. Here are 20+ relevant baby name options related to the season, the sun and the sea.
APOLLO—The powerful name of the Greek god of the sun is currently heating up in the US, especially since it was chosen by Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale for their son. Fictional Apollos have appeared in the Rocky films, in the Percy Jackson books and in video games. The space program reference is another definite plus. Apollo is currently at its highest ever–#535 nationally and 267 on Nameberry. The Latinized Phoebus is a more unusual possibility.
By Linda Rosenkrantz
It’s become a Nameberry tradition to commemorate Independence Day with a salute to notable historical figures and celebs who were born on the Fourth of July, This year, we’ll single out those with the most interesting prospective baby names. (By the way, George M. Cohan, the ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ who famously claimed he was ‘born on the fourth of July’, was actually born on the third. Similarly, PR people promoted the story that jazzman Louis Armstrong was born on Independence Day when his real birthdate was August 4th.)
June is Pride Month, an occasion to celebrate sexual and gender diversity and champion LGBTQ rights. It’s also an occasion for us to highlight an array—a rainbow, if you will—of LGBTQ heroes whose names make for some inspirational choices for your baby boy or girl.
Memorably describing herself as “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” Audre Lorde challenged us to address the intersections of our different identities in her art and activism. Born Audrey, she dropped the Y from her given name as a child, attracted to the way it balanced out the E of Lorde. This indeed distinguishes Audre from Audrey, a Top 200 name for most of the 20th century (#46 in 2017) and borne by both early saints and Shakespeare characters. Aptly, it means “noble strength” in Old English.