by Linda Rosenkrantz
Easter Baby Names! Yes, Christmas may have its holly and Halloween its ghosts, but probably no holiday has more varied sources of potential baby name inspiration than Easter. There are symbols and meanings that evolved from both Christian and pagan sources, from names that mean resurrection to Jesus as “the Lamb of God to Biblical characters to the Easter lily and other related botanicals, and bunny rabbits symbolizing abundant new life.
Here are a dozen plus of our favorite Easter baby names:
The lamb is associated with Easter via the traditional reference to Jesus as Agnus Dei or the “lamb of God.” Agnes has been rapidly shedding its great-granny image and starting to appear in the celebrisphere: Thom York of Radiohead used it in 2004, and Jennifer Connelly and Paul Bettany named their daughter Agnes Lark in 2011. Notable bearers include choreographer Agnes de Mille, artist Agnes Martin, and French New Wave filmmaker Agnes (pronounced an-YEZ) Varda. Agnes currently ranks at #187 on Nameberry. We also like the rhythmic Italian version, AGNELLA and the Spanish INEZ.
This appealing and elegant Greco-Russian name’s connection to the holiday is via its meaning of “resurrection.” With ties to Russian, Prussian and Greek nobility, this once foreboding name has been rocketing up the popularity lists of the US (#169), England (168) And Nameberry (#75). Anastasia Steele is the main character in the Fifty Shades of Grey series.
In Scandinavia, at Eastertime, there is a tradition of attaching brightly-colored feathers to birch branches arranged in vases as ‘Easter trees’. There’s been a growing interest in arboreal names, and this one evokes pleasant images of the tall, graceful, white-barked tree celebrated in a Robert Frost poem. Senator Birch Bayh was the principal Senate sponsor of the ERA.
One of the sweetest female bunny names, Cecily Parsley is the title character of Beatrix Potter’s collection Cecily Parsley’s Nursery Rhymes. Other Cecilys can be found in Road to Avonlea, the Chemical Garden trilogy, The Importance of Being Earnest and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Notable contemporary bearers include iconic actress Cecily Tyson, British contemporary painter Cecily Brown, and SNL’s Cecily Strong. A Nameberry fave, Cecily is currently #326.
The Spanish word for cross has long been a standard in Latinx cultures, but it became a crossover possibility when Victoria and David Beckham picked it for their third son, who was born in Madrid in 2005, later used as a middle for Hilary Duff’s son Luca. Cruz is now #348 in the US.
What could be more straightforward than the name of the holiday itself? Easter has been used as a name for centuries, even appearing in the US Top 1000 in the early 20th century. Easter was heard as a featured character in the TV mini-series Queen and is mentioned as a girl’s name in a Sheryl Crowe song.
Lily is of course the flower name most closely associated with Easter, and a name that has been so widely used it can be considered a classic. Lily has many lovely variations including LILIANA, LILLA and LILIA. A favorite of both authors and celebs, Lily is now #10 in England, 11 in New Zealand, 12 in Scotland, 33 in the US and 108 on NB.
A leading figure in the Easter story, Mary Magdalene was a witness to the Crucifixion and the first person to see Jesus after his resurrection. The more frequently heard form is MAGDALENA, used in several Hispanic and Slavic cultures, and associated with a number of sports and art world notables.
In the New Testament, Nicodemus was a secret follower of Jesus who, after the Crucifixion, assisted in preparing his body for burial. This rarely used name could make an unusual route to the cool nickname Nico.
Oona is an oomphier Irish variation of Una, which means lamb. Once strongly associated with Oona O’Neill Chaplin, daughter of playwright Eugene and wife of iconic Charlie, it is now worn by her granddaughter, an actress playing Talisa of Volantis on Game of Thrones.
Another Easter bunny inspiration, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit is the lively animated character created by Walt Disney’s childhood chum Ub Iwerks in 1927 and these days a presence in video games. But despite the revival of other O-boy names from Oliver to Otis to Owen, Oswald still suffers from a kind of fusty feel—though nicknames Ozzie and Oz could definitely help revitalize it.
Pascal is French for Easter and a classic Gallic boys’ name, as PASCALE is for girls. We also like the Cornish variation PASCOE, which has been around since medieval times and would make a nice addition to any o-ending boy list. PASQUAL/PASQUALE is the Italian version, and though the Russian PASHA/PASCHA is actually a diminutive of Pavel, it sounds very Easterish—and is actually the name of a fabulously rich Russian Easter dessert.
There is a tradition in which Scandinavian children go from door to door at Easter, dressed as witches, and exchange willow branches for candy. The graceful Willow has been chosen by a number of entertainers, including Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Breckin Meyer and Pink. Willow is in the Top 100 both in the US and on NB, and ranks at #26 in England.
What’s your favorite of the Easter baby names?