Recently, I researched veterans’ names from WWII, names of those killed in the line of duty, and the women who loved them—wives, mothers—from ten states across the US, both Army and Navy. (Data is more readily accessible for WWII, though we honor the end of WWI this weekend.)
The results amazed me! Though many of their names were popular then, other interesting subcategories developed through my research—word names (Bright, Fairy, Loyal, Royal!), names popular today (Charlotte, Ella, Noah, Xavier), names never used before (Aheliata, Fiaravanti), and Nameberry favorites (Beatrice, Flora, Edmund, Jasper), not to mention dozens of names just under the radar, but definitely usable—ripe for revival and stunningly diverse!
This blog will focus on that pocket of unexpected names that surfaced during my research, because who doesn’t love new names?
Aina: A name with several possible origins, Aina comes to this list via her Finnish roots (there, pronounced EYE-nah), meaning “always.” In the Finnish epic Kalevala, Aino (Aina’s parent name) drowns herself to escape marrying the old man Väinämöinen. Aina ranks #4 in Finland.
Esperie: Little is known about Esperie, though there is a St. Espérie (also known as Exupérie), so it may be a variant of Exupery (“to greatly excel”)—or it could be related to the French espere (“hope”). St. Espérie wanted to pursue a life of faith, but was murdered when she refused to marry a neighboring lord. Masculine Espero (Portuguese for “I hope”!) also made an appearance in my research.
Flannery: Stemming from the Irish surname Ó Flannghaile (“descendent of Flannghal”), Flannery is one of two unisex names on this list and would make a spunky choice, which leans feminine thanks to author Flannery O’Connor.
Halla: Halla descends from the ancient Scandinavian Hallr (“rock”) and is also the Finnish term for when the temperature is so cold it freezes the earth during growing season.
Joie: This short name feels as joyful as its meaning (French for “joy!”), and has three acceptable pronunciations—ZHWAH, JOY, and JO-ee. Regardless of pronunciation, Joie has the potential to make an unexpected-but-charming middle, if not first.
Orosia: And could this flowery name be the newest member of the Rosie family? It’s the Spanish form of Eurosia, which Catholic berries may recognize as the name of Eurosia Fabris, an Italian beatified in 2005. Other Rosie names appearing in my research: the Shakespearean Rosaline and pretty mash-up Rosalba!
Alban: A rare name that stems from Albanus (“from Alba”), Alban is an ancient Roman name that feels modern. Similar Albin means “white/bright.” Namesakes include Austrian modernist composer Alban Berg
Alva: Alva, an intriguing choice that’s fallen out of use, is legitimately unisex, meaning “his highness” in Hebrew, “elf” in Old Norse, and “white” in Gaelic (an Anglicization of Ailbhe). It’s also a rare girls’ name in Romansh. In my research, it leans completely masculine, but these days, Alva could make an interesting option for either gender. It was themiddle name of Thomas Edison.
Bayard: Bayard, from the Old French, baiart (“bay-colored”), is a dashing medieval choice with modern potential, thanks to nickname Bay. Bayard was a magical horse in medieval poetry—he changed his size to carry multiple riders! Bayard Rustin was a civil and gay rights activists.
Bernabé: The Spanish form of Barnabas, Bernabé means “son of encouragement.” In the New Testament, Barnabas was a leader of the early church and worked closely with Paul at the beginning of his ministry.
Elihu: Elihu, a rare Biblical name, means “my God is He.” With nicknames Eli and Hugh, it has a shot of joining other beloved Eli names, and could be an alternative to the popular Elijah. Elihu was a friend to Job—he tried to encourage him during his trials. Elihu Root was Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt
Sverre: An intriguing modernization of the ancient Scandinavian Sverrir, Sverre (SVAIR-eh) is a common name in Norway and Iceland. It means “wild, swinging, spinning,” certainly an intriguing meaning.
To all the veterans out there—and to their families—thank you for your service!