Happy Veteran’s Day: Unusual World War Hero Names
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!
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on November 9th, 2018 at 1:55 pm
Esperie, assuming it is related to the French verb espérer “to hope”, would then be similar to Reverie, from French verb rêver “to dream”. I wonder what other similar names are out there?
on November 9th, 2018 at 3:34 pm
Fascinating post, Ashley! I’m loving Espérie (she sounds like a will-o’-the-wisp), Halla, and Sverre, all of which are new to me. I also love Bernabé and Alban. It’s amazing to think of the individuals who bore these names and their stories, struggles and sacrifices.
on November 9th, 2018 at 5:23 pm
I really wish you included some information about the veteran and/or his family member with each name. Who was Lorenz? Where did he serve or for what branch? Luella? Was she married to a Seaman or did she herself serve? This may as well be a list of interesting names found on people born before the turn of the 20th century as you don’t include any information on the bearer in regards to what you’re trying to honor them for- their service to the United States or one of her allies for that matter.
on November 9th, 2018 at 6:44 pm
I’ve mentioned it before on various threads & fora, but Rosalba is a name used in Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael mystery novel The Rose Rent.
While this name isn’t terribly unusual, I wanted to give a shout-out to my great-great uncle Clarence, who served in WWI on the big guns outside of Paris. (He lost most of his hearing due to that.) Near the end of the war he went missing & my great-great aunt Minnie (Maria Salomina) had no idea where he was…the US Army listed him as missing & the Red Cross shrugged & said we can’t find him. The Salvation Army was the organization that finally found him in a hospital. My grandmother always had a fondness for the Salvation Army because of that.
Finally, my Nana, who just passed away this spring at 97, had two cousins, one of each side of her family, named Walter. Both were killed in WWII, one in the Pacific & one in the Caribbean.
on November 9th, 2018 at 10:36 pm
So many of these names are highly attractive, Esperie, Baynard, Orosia, Lorenz, and Halla especially. But I have a problem with a couple of them, I feel like Livina would always be misheard as Lavinia; Drury brings to mind dreary, and also sound very similar in my accent, not sure if thats a problem everyone will have or just in my neck of the woods; and I think there would be chronic spelling and pronunciation issues with Esaias, Sverre, Cyrenaeus, Beata and Aina, more spelling with the first three and pronunciation with the last two. I think a lot of people would be tempted to say BEAT-uh and Ay-na, with the ai sounding as in rain. I feel like you would have to come to terms with that, but to me the harder ones would be if your child couldn’t spell their own name for a few years into their schooling.
on November 10th, 2018 at 8:02 am
I’ve been looking forwards to this blog! My personal favourites are Livinia, Luella, Zora and Alban. Beata is intriguing too. I can see Luella, Alban, Elihu and Esaias becoming more popular as they are similar to more well-known names. Joie could also become a more common middle name or hyphenated name (e.g. Emma Joie, Amelia-Joie).
It’s interesting how many people had unusual names (the word names especially shocked me!) in a time that is considered to be more conservative. My own family tree is full of Johns, Janes, Elizabeths and Williams — I wish they’d taken some inspiration from these!
on November 10th, 2018 at 5:13 pm
Thank you, Nameberry, for the privilege to share this labor of love with the world! What started out as a fun themed signature for Memorial Day somehow morphed into a published blog post, and I’m so honored you all have enjoyed reading it. 😀
@kkilgallon – I certainly sympathize with your frustrations, but due to the word count limitations on this blog, I was unable to delve into specifics quite as much as I would have liked–or even shared all the amazing names I would have liked! I can tell you that I pulled these names from 10 different states–Maine, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Texas, New Mexico, Washington, Louisiana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and Vermont–and that most (if not all) of the women whose names I referenced in this blog were wives, sisters, mothers, grandmothers, or aunts to veterans killed in the line of duty for my country (although there were a few women–who I assume were nurses–who were also listed as casualties on the army lists). All data was pulled from articles from the National Archives’ website. In many cases, these names had multiple bearers, so to list the details of each one’s service would’ve created a novel as opposed to a blog post. Despite this, I hope you’re able to enjoy this post for the joy of name discovery–these 20 names were just the tip of the ice berg, and I wish I could’ve shared dozens more!
@bobcat108 – what amazing stories! Thank you for the service of your family members. (Plus, Maria Palomina is an *amazing* name! Lucky you!)
on November 11th, 2018 at 1:09 am
@ash: Aww, thanks! My love of names & love of genealogy go way back…I definitely have some interesting names or names that I learned revealed naming patterns in my heritage (e.g., I always found it puzzling that my Welsh great-great-grandfather had the exact same name as his father, but was the fourth son…evidently Welsh naming practices had the first-born son being named after the father’s father& the second-born son named after the mother’s father, so “junior” wasn’t a concept).
Incidentally, this great-great-grandfather, while not fighting in WWI, played a large role in Iowa’s WWI support…he was an auctioneer who was raising money for the Red Cross. If anyone’s interested, here’s a link to the story: http://iagenweb.org/boards/guthrie/biographies/index.cgi?read=198326
Other interesting names from my family include Lemuel, Aelelia (Maria Salomina’s sister…”Lil” lived to be 104), Burnice (male), Thayne (female), Manly Robert, & the most unique, Iowa Koser (I haven’t been able to determine if this is a first & last name, a first & middle name, or just a compound first name).
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