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Great Medics Inspire Great Baby Names

April 7, 2020 Emma Waterhouse
medical baby names

You’ve probably seen the hashtags flying around on social media at the moment: #ClapForOurCarers #SolidarityAt8 #ClapBecauseWeCare.

The current crisis has really shone a light on the everyday heroes of the medical profession, putting their own health at risk to care for others. Pandemic or no pandemic.

So, could we see this newfound appreciation of healthcare workers prompt a new wave of honor names? We certainly hope so!

Below, we’ve gathered 20 great options to consider, celebrating some of the great medical pioneers of history. (And if you’re looking for rabbit holes to fall down to pass the time in quarantine — and you’ve exhausted all the options in our latest newsletter — their stories are definitely worth a read!)

We’ve chosen a mixture of classic names, surname names, and even some fashionable word and nature names. Which are your favorites?

Girl Names

Antonia (Antonia Novello)

Strong and sophisticated Antonia has surprisingly never ranked in the Top 300 in the US, and currently sits outside of the Top 1000. Despite its rarity, it still feels like one of the ultimate cool classic names for girls.

Cicely (Dame Cicely Saunders, Cicely D. Williams)

A soft Victorian variant of Cecilia, which also belongs to a sweet-smelling herb with medicinal properties. Aside from its notable medical namesakes, legendary actor Cicely Tyson is an eminent bearer of this pretty name.

Constance (Constance Stone, Sister Constance Keys)

From contemporary classic Alice to rising vintage star Florence, sweet and serious girl names ending in -ce are quietly on trend right now. Constance, with its cute nickname Connie, is an underrated option which is gaining traction across the pond.

Dorothea (Dorothea Dix, Dorothea Erxleben, Dorotea Bucca)

Adorable nickname options abound for Dorothea — try Dora or Thea or Dot — but it almost seems a shame to shorten this beautiful Victorian favorite, borne by no fewer than three medical trailblazers.

Elizabeth (Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross)

The quintessential classic girl name still doesn’t feel dull in 2020, partly due to the plethora of fresh nickname possibilities (we’ve got a whole list devoted to them).

Margaret (Margaret Ann Bulkley, aka James Barry)

If you only read up on one of these great medical pioneers, the story of Dr James Barry has to be it! (Although we’d also nominate Mary Seacole and Cicely D. Williams for the “truth is stranger than fiction” award.) Tailored traditional Margaret can be freshened up with cool nicknames like Margot, Maggie, Daisy and Pearl.

Mary (Mary Eliza Mahoney, Mary Seacole, Mary Edwards Walker, Lady Mary Montagu)

It’s official: Mary is cool again. Celebrity parents including Zac Hanson, Eddie Redmayne and Anna Kournikova have chosen this sweet and sturdy vintage name in the last few years.

Nightingale (Florence Nightingale)

Believe it or not, we’ve stumbled across two baby girls with this evocative nature name in the past week: actor Matthew Davis’ new daughter Ripley Nightingale, and Betty Nightingale, big sister to one of our newest Babyberries.

Rebecca (Rebecca Lee Crumpler)

The name of the first African-American woman to become a medical doctor in the US is also a traditional literary and Biblical choice, widely familiar but currently outside of the Top 200 girl names in the US.

Virginia (Virginia Apgar)

This vibrant vintage gem reached its highest ranking of #6 almost exactly a century ago, making it ripe for revival today. Despite the growing popularity of other old-fashioned names sporting the fashionable V sound, like Violet, Vivian and Evelyn, Virginia remains below the US Top 500.

Boy Names

Alexander (Alexander of Tralles, Alexander Fleming, F. Matthias Alexander)

This contemporary classic has international appeal: ranking in the Top 100 in over 20 countries, including Australia, Belgium, Iceland, Mexico and the Czech Republic.

Conrad (Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen)

One of the cool classic boy names below the Top 500 in the US today, Conrad has a pleasingly solid, energetic sound and comes with the possibility of Rad for short, which is just so… well, rad.

Forrest (Forrest Bird)

Both Forrest and its more literal brother Forest are on the rise at the moment; the latter reentered the Top 1000 last year for the first time since the mid-nineties. Blending two fashionable styles — nature names and surname names for boys — we can see them rising further in the years to come.

Franklin (Rosalind Franklin, Benjamin Franklin)

Fresher than Francis, but with the same funky Frankie nickname, this double presidential name also has two notable scientific namesakes: Rosalind and Benjamin Franklin, who both made discoveries which significantly advanced the field of medicine.

Galen (Galen of Pergamon)

An underused member of the fashionable two-syllable, n-ending group of boy names, Galen sits outside the current US Top 1000. Aside from the original bearer, one of the greatest physicians of antiquity, Galen is also a Star Wars character name.

Jonas (Jonas Salk)

Top 50 in several European countries, including Austria, Germany, Lithuania, Norway and Switzerland, Jonas lags far behind brother Jonah in the US, at #437. It shares Lucas’ strong, international appeal, but not its astronomical popularity.

Louis (Pierre Louis, Louis Pasteur)

Princely Louis is starting to follow in the footsteps of popular “Lou” names like Luke and Lucas, Lucy and Luna, but it’s still below the Top 250 in the US. Pronounced “LOU-ee” or “LOU-iss” — your choice.

Osler (Sir William Osler)

Osler has appeared on the SSA baby names list a grand total of… once, in 1924. But with the combined cool factor of the initial O and the energetic -er ending, we think it could make for a great underused surname name for modern times.

Percival (Thomas Percival, Percivall Pott)

If Percy feels like an edgy vintage pick, then Percival goes a step further — perfect for adventurous namers who still want a baby name with history. This distinguished literary choice has never been given to more than 25 babies in any given year in the US.

Wilder (Wilder Penfield)

This cool outdoorsy option has shot up the popularity charts in recent years — from outside the Top 1000 in 2014 to just below the Top 500 in 2018. But it’s easy to see the appeal: Wilder is full of energy and mischief, and could honor author Laura Ingalls Wilder as well as the eminent neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield.

    About the author

    Emma Waterhouse

    Emma Waterhouse — better known as @katinka around these parts — joined the team in 2017, writing about everything from where to find a cool vintage boy name to why some names become popular memes. As Nameberry's head moderator, she also helps to keep our active Forums community ticking. A linguist by background, Emma speaks six languages and lives in England's smallest county with her husband and three young children. You can reach her at emma@nameberry.com.

    View all of Emma Waterhouse's articles

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