by Linda Rosenkrantz
Place names are an increasingly well traveled category of baby names, including continents (Asia), countries (India), states (Georgia), cities (Adelaide) and even boroughs (Brooklyn)–and the subject of today’s post..
With August half over and the days of summer dwindling down to a precious few, our thoughts drift to place names that connote the calm, peaceful image of an isolated retreat surrounded by the sea. You could use one of the iterations of the word itself—Isla, Isola, Illa—or you could consider one of these lovely island names.
Barra is a Gaelic-speaking island in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, that’s been inhabited since the Neolithic era. A male nickname for Finbarr in Ireland, as well as a stand-alone name, Barra was used by George R.R. Martin as a girl’s name. It means ‘fair-haired’.
Capri—a chic island in Italy’s Bay of Naples that attracts many celebrity yachts and features the famous and dramatic Blue Grotto. It was rarely heard of as a baby name until Kobe Bryant and wife Vanessa chose it for their fourth daughter, born this past June.
Catalina—Santa Catalina is one of the California Channel Islands and is a popular tourist destination for Angelinos and others. A Spanish version of Catherine that is more colorful and rhythmic, Catalina has been rising in popularity since the late eighties and now ranks at #235.
Cayman—the Caymans consist of three islands in the western Caribbean south of Cuba. Peaceful and beautiful, they are also a major offshore banking hub. The name Cayman would fit right in with in-style boy names.
Corsica, famed as the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte, is a mountainous Mediterranean island, part of France but closer to Tuscany than the French coast. The name could be thought of as a Cora-elaboration with a delicate ‘ica’ ending.
Iona—the name of a small island in the Inner Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. The name has a storied place in Celtic lore and the Iona Monastery in Ireland was the birthplace of the Book of Kells. Iona is a Top 100 name in Scotland and #540 on Nameberry.
Jamaica—part of the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, Jamaica is one of the most appealing names in the atlas. Writer Jamaica Kincaid was born not in Jamaica but in another Caribbean island, Antigua, and her birth name was Elaine Cynthia. Its capital city Kingston has become a popular name for boys.
Lucia—St. Lucia (pronounced LOO-sha) is a lovely member of the Caribbean Virgin Islands. An increasingly popular name, this Italian and Spanish version of Lucy has been steadily climbing up the list, reaching Number 265 in 2010.
Malta—actually an archipelago near the center of the Mediterranean, the name derives from the Greek word for honey. Malta has been heard as a girl’s name in the past and was used as a character name by both Dickens and Murakami.
Martinique is a Caribbean island with a decidedly French accent, first encountered by Christopher Columbus in 1502. Could make an exotic namesake for an ancestral Martin, à la the more common Dominique.
Sanibel—An island off the Gulf coast of Florida, a tourist destination noted for its colorful history, and variety of birds and seashells. Another possible addition to the bel family of names; a more distinctive alternative to Annabel and Isabel.
Skye—The Isle of Skye is the largest island in the rocky Inner Hebrides of Scotland and has a strong folk music tradition. Skye is currently the 416th most popular girls’ name in the US, and a Top 40 name in Scotland.
Trinidad—Trinidad, an island off Venezuela in the southern Caribbean, is Spanish for ‘trinity’ and is a common unisex name in Latin America—it was also as high as Number 451 in the U.S. in 1922. Performers Trini Lopez (male) and Trini Alvarado (female) were both born Trinidad.
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.