Color Names for Babies
by Linda Rosenkrantz
When it comes to color names for babies, the royal color purple offers more appealing variations than almost any other in the rainbow. By far the most popular is sweet floral Violet, which, after resting quietly for many decades started to rise again, especially after it was chosen by Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck in 2005. And it’s now in the Top 50, at #43, and 24 on Nameberry.
But there are many other wonderful purple-hued choices beyond Violet, from the soft lavender and lilac to the vivid magenta and fuchsia.
Mauve (rhymes with stove)
The gentle, sentimentally nostalgic Mauve, similar in sound to the growing-in-popularity Maude and Maeve, gave its name to a whole decade: the 1890’s was known as the Mauve Decade. Its Spanish translation is Malva, offering another distinctive purple-family possibility.
The strong purplish-red Magenta appeared in Harry Potter as Magenta Comstock, an experimental artist whose portraits’ eyes could follow a viewer all the way home and who was ‘Wizard of the Month’ in 2007. The color was named for the town of Magenta, Italy, and would fit in well with other Mag-starting names.
With its tricky spelling, Fuchsia has not found many takers as a baby name, though singer Sting did use it for his now grown daughter, inspired by a character in the Gormenghast trilogy. The name Fuchsia is derived from a plant named for early German botanist Leonhart Fuchs, becoming an official color name in 1892.
The fragrant Lilac, found in Greek mythology, is considered a harbinger of Spring, and in the language of flowers symbolizes first love. It’s Number 715 on Nameberry, and could become a rival to Violet.
A lacy vintage color name for babies that has the Berry stamp of approval—it’s now at Number 514 on NB. This is one of the many nostalgic names we can thank J. K. Rowling for reviving, via the Harry Potter witch Lavender Brown. Lavender is also a best friend to Roald Dahl’s Matilda and a character in Anne of Green Gables.
Gem names like Pearl and Ruby are beginning to be joined by more exotic ones like Topaz and Sapphire–and Amethyst. The purple birthstone for February could make a unique choice for a girl born in that month. Never in the Top 1000, it is now Number 894 on Nameberry. Trivia tidbit: It’s the real first name of Australian rapper Iggy Azalea.
The vibrant and evocative Indigo, which is a deep blue-purple dye from plants native to India, is particularly striking for both boys and girls. Lou Diamond Phillips used it for his daughter, Liberty Phoenix for a son. It’s especially popular for girls in England at the moment.
One of the most exotic of blooms, Orchid is a shade of purple, even though the flower itself appears in different colors. With many parents seeking O names, some might consider this unusual choice. In the Language of Flowers, the Orchid symbolizes love, beauty, sophistication and refinement.
Pretty plum is showing up more and more as a middle name choice. It was first noticed on Brit-born novelist Plum Sykes, who was born Victoria and given that nickname via the variety of fruit called the Victoria Plum. A luscious middle name choice—used as such by Moon Unit Zappa for daughter– it wasn’t identified as a color name until 1805.
The romantic Iolanthe is derived from the Greek words for violet flower, as is Ianthe, which was used by the poet Shelley for one of his daughters. Iolanthe is a comic opera by Gilbert & Sullivan—and also a character in the X-Men universe. A favorite of early English poets, it was used by writer Richard Brautigan for his daughter. The Spanish version Yolanda is yet another dramatic twist on Violet.
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.
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on September 30th, 2019 at 5:33 am
I knew a girl named Cyan, which is lovely. I’ve always loved Saffron, and Indigo is quite lovely. On the boys’ side there’s Crimson, Cerulean, and Grey.
on September 30th, 2019 at 11:12 am
Rider Strong also has a son named Indigo.
on September 30th, 2019 at 1:12 pm
I adore Plum right now. I love fruit names, and really wish Plum and Apple would both take off more.
Also, I don’t think I’ve ever heard Mauve pronounced to rhyme with “stove.” I have always heard/pronounced it to sound like Maude but with a “v.”
on September 30th, 2019 at 4:05 pm
In Australia we say Mauve like stove and I’ve heard it pronounced in the UK like this where the dye was invented, he was going for a french vibe 🙂
On another note my husband and I are debating colour name currently, I love vintage Violet but DH says it’s too close to violent, he much prefers bohemian Indigo
on September 30th, 2019 at 5:54 pm
I love Mauve. And Lavender, Orchid, and Plum.
on October 3rd, 2019 at 5:38 pm
I used to feel that Violet was too close to violent, too! But then my DH convinced me it’s actually super cool because: Ultra Violet! So maybe see if your DH can “warm” up to it, like I did. Good luck!
Colour related names I love: Rufus, Emerald, Juniper, Sage, Iris, Clay, Scarlet, Jet and Lazuli.
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