By Linda Rosenkrantz
When you think of all the wonderful words that start with the syllable am—amiable, amorous, amity, amazing, amusing, ambitious—you can see that giving a child a name with this beginning element might give him or her a terrific head start. And if you’re up on your Latin, you’ll know that a lot of these girls’ baby names have love in their meaning.
AMABEL—The enchanting mother name of Mabel and predecessor of Anabel means ‘lovable’ and goes back several centuries—it was very popular in the Middle Ages– and would make a charming choice for anyone looking for a distinctive ‘bel’ name.
AMALIE, AMELIE —Amalie, a German variant of Amalia, is popular in several European countries, but it is Amelie, the dainty French version, that has taken off in America, as a sophisticated cousin of Emily, and as a result of the much-loved 2001 eponymous French film. Amelie entered the US list in 2003, and is now Number 641 here, 63 in England and Wales, and in the Top 50 in Germany, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland.. Actor Dylan Walsh chose it for his daughter in 2011.
AMANDA—Amanda, which means “she must be loved,” has slipped down from its Top 5 position from 1979 to 1992 (it was #2 in 1980), but though not fresh, feeling it remains a lovely, elegant classic and is still Number 316. Current bearers include actors Amanda Peet and Amanda Seyfried.
AMARYLLIS—Still sequestered in the shadiest spot in the garden, Amaryllis has more of a name history than you might think, found in ancient Greek pastoral poetry, in a Shaw play, in the Broadway musical The Music Man, and in real life as the cellist sister of James Bond creator Ian Fleming. Forward-looking Berries have planted it at Number 390.
AMBER –Like Amanda, Amber has seen higher numbers in the fairly recent past, but with the keen interest in color and gem names like Ruby and Pearl, it might be time for another look at glowing Amber. As high here as #13 in 1986, she’s retained her popularity in other English-speaking countries, still a double-digit name in England and Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Australia and New Zealand.
AMELIA –Now at Number 12–#2 on Nameberry and the top name in England— Amelia is one of the most successful members of the mega-popular Am-Em family, offering a similar-but-different alternative to Emily and Emma. With associations to Shakespeare, the British royals, American feminism and Harry Potter, it could hardly miss.
AMERICA— Actor-activist América Ferrera (who carries on her mother’s name) has done a lot to normalize this name, which entered the popularity list in 1998, several years before the debut of her hit show Ugly Betty. It rose to Number 410 in 2002, but is now down at 461. Its patriotic implications go without saying.
AMITY—One of the most appealing, delicate and least pressuring of the virtue names—who would not want to wish their child the gift of loving friendship? It’s a name I have long hoped would find more takers—there were only 37 girls given the name last year in the US.
AMY—A cheerful modern classic that was the second most popular name in the country for four years, from 1973 to 1976 (there were over 32,000 Amys born in 1975 alone) and yet still manages to retain its youthful energy. Very much on the scene today are Amys Poehler, Adams, Schumer and author Amy Tan.
When it comes to Am-boys, there are some cool choices here too.
AMADEUS and AMEDEO both mean “lover of God; the sophisticated AMORY, a Scott Fitzgerald hero, could be in danger of being namenapped by the girls, a la Emery (now 132 for girls); AMIAS/AMYAS, a rare boy name that also means ‘loved; AMBROSE, an appealing name with a lot of history and the meaning “immortal one”—it’s up at #196 on Nameberry; and AMOS, a strong but long neglected Biblical name that is finally beginning to overcome its past racial stereotyping. Enlightened Berries have Amos at Number 133—six hundred places ahead of the national figure.