Historic Baby Names: Quirky picks From Amaziah to Zebina

Our star intern Hannah Tenison wanders through some New England graveyards and makes some fascinating discoveries of some great historic baby names.

I recently moved to the Hartford, Connecticut area for the summer, and one of my favorite things about this state is its long history, because it yields so many fantastic antique baby names!  The area is not only beautiful, with green rolling hills and lush forests, but chock-ful of historical, peaceful cemeteries, as well.  As many a name nerd knows, cemeteries are ripe with fresh possibilities, and the older they are, the more likely one is to find truly rare names.

With this in mind, I set out to comb the best cemeteries in my neighborhood for the most unique and undiscovered gems. In my quest, I noticed some strong preferences for virtue, occupational, and Biblical names, as well as names referencing ancient historians or philosophers. For girls, anything long and feminine was game, and the “l” sound was particularly popular. For boys, parents seemed fond of either distinguished sounding appellations ending in the fusty “us,” or jaunty, oh-so-cute names with prominent “o” sounds.

I found so many interesting names in my search that it was hard to narrow them down, but eventually I managed to come up with the following lists, which seemed to represent the best variety of Connecticut’s plentiful history and its stellar names.

The Elaborate Girls:

In the cemeteries I searched, I found that as long as a girl’s name sounded frilly and ended in an “a,” what the parents did with the rest of the syllables was fair game. With the exception of a few legitimate names like Sophronia and Antonina, the following names are unique indeed. Amongst the frills, I noticed a preference for the “Phil,”  and “Rose,” prefixes, along with a fondness for the “l” sound, a trend that is shared by today’s baby namers, who have been using Layla and Lily like nobody’s business.

The Phils:

Philanda

Philinda

Philomela

Philomene

Philura

The Roses:

Rosannah

Rosebella

Roselda

Roselinda

Rosetta

Rosilda

Others:

Althea

Alvilly

Amarilla

Antonina

Apphia

Arthusa Dethalia

Austra

Corintha

Decima

Dellaphine

Edessa

Erminia

Fairvine

Florella

Lamira

Leokaida

Lorintha

Lucretia

Lurannah

Orvilla

Parthiena

Pluma

Roena

Savilla

Sophronia

Theodotia

Tryphena

Zebina

The Cheery-O Boys:

For boys, the round and happy “O” was a fascinating baby name denominator, and made for some truly lively and unusual finds:

Apollos

Arno

Meno (the name of a philosopher—I also found a “Pliny,” an ancient historian/philosopher)

Nello

Odilio

Olin

Orestes

Orvis

Osco

Otho

The Obscure Biblical:

Today’s popular lists are flowing with Biblical standbys like Abigail, Adam, Joseph and Jacob, but in America’s early history, parents dug a lot deeper into the Bible, plumbing it for what sometimes look like a Scrabble grab bag rather than a legitimate name. If you’re a fan of the zippiness of Z names, then one place you may want to look is in the Bible, where a surprising number of names share that zesty consonant:

Amaziah

Azariah

Hepzibah

Hezekiah

Ozias

Zaccheus

Zebulon

Zenas

Zerah

Zillah

Zilpha

Zopher (Zophar)

The Word Names:

If you think the trend for naming your child after nouns and verbs, adverbs and adjectives is a new one, think again. The Puritans were big fans of word names, particularly virtue and occupational names. Some names I found particularly intriguing to see used were “Starling,” a nouveau bird name I’ve seen tossed around on the nameberry boards lately, and “Minor” — which sounds a bit cruel in comparison to Major. Here are the best of the rest:

Bishop

Butler

Charaty (Charity)

Cornish

Delight

Friend

Garland

Grove

Love

Marshall

Mercy

Mindwell

Minor

Newbold (could also be a surname)

Peal

Prudence

Royal

Salmon

Squire

Starling (b. 1806)

Thankful

Tudor

Wait

Wealthy

Word (middle name Day)

“Us” :

Finally, in contrast to the prominent “o” trend, I found several names for boys ending in the gruff and serious “us” suffix, a trend I’ve noticed coming back with contemporary baby namers in the form of Atticus and Magnus, Rufus and even Lazarus:

Augustus

Aurelius

Dositheus

Erasmus

Erastus

Festus

Jairus

Lucius

Sylvanus

Titus

So, what are my favorites from these lists? I’m a big fan of the luscious Rosebella and Dellaphine, the happy, hippy choice Starling, the distinguished Augustus, and the quirky Zebulon, which reminds me of both the Old West and outer space at the same time! What are your favorites, Berries? Any names you find particularly interesting?

Hannah will be entering her senior year at the University of Michigan in the fall. This summer, she is living in New England and loving it! Besides finding more names to love, Hannah enjoys reading fantasy, watching movies, exploring new places, playing with her Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Doggus, and running. After graduation, she plans on going to law school. 

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18 Responses to “Historic Baby Names: Quirky picks From Amaziah to Zebina”

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spring13 Says:

June 6th, 2012 at 11:51 pm

The profusion of “z” in biblical names actually has to do with the fact that there’s no English letter that represent the “tz” sound the way there is in Hebrew. So in transliteration, there appear to be a lot more z sounds than there really are. From the names on the list, Amaziah is more like Amatziah, Zillah is more like Tzila, and Zopher is more like Tzophar. At least if you go by the original spelling and pronunciation…

agirlinred Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 2:01 am

Fairvine is intriguing. It’s elegant and quirky, yet still a little playful. I love Erastus, which I’m ever so thankful I found on one of my great-granduncles. It’s a cool name with a long history… and almost completely undiscovered. The perfect middle name choice! I’d probably like Zillah if it weren’t for Godzilla. I like Zebulon too, but far prefer Zebedee as far as Zeb names go.

Flick Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 8:05 am

*Rosannah
*Rosebella – I suggest Rosabel quite often and people seem to either love it or hate it.
*Roselda

I like other Rose- names, though – Rosalba, Rosemarie, Rosalie, Rosalaine.

*Althea
*Antonina
*Arthusa Dethalia – Arethusa has been on my radar for years. I like it’s connection to Greek mythology.
*Austra
*Corintha – pretty, I prefer Corinthia, though.
*Dellaphine – I don’t like how this one flows, Delphine is prettier, IMO.

*Florella – so pretty, I kind of prefer Fiorella, though.

*Leokaida – in teresting spelling. I prefer Leocadia.

*Lucretia -I love this so much, I heard it the first time in a song in high school and loved it ever since.
*Lurannah – Lauranna is the name of an elf Princess in Dragonlance and also a character in World Of Warcraft. (My nerdness is showing lol)

*Parthiena – this is interesting. I slightly prefer Parthenia.

*Roena – this is interesting and pretty,

*Sophronia – this is pretty, I prefer Sophia and Serafina, though.

*Theodotia – so pretty!

*Amaziah – very neat

*Azariah- i’ve seen this several times, I think it’s cute.

*Hepzibah – I think this is pretty, it’s generally met with O_o <- that face, though. I love other biblical H names, though – Hadassah and Hannah being the big ones.

*Hezekiah – I think this is beautiful, too.

*Zaccheus – I think this would be such a nice alternative to Zachary.

Zebulon – I love this, it sounds so neat. I've only seen it used once.

*Zerah- was this male or female? It looks nice enough.

*Zillah – this reminds me of my favorite Poppy Z. Brite novel. He was a male in the book, but I think it's a really lovely name.

*Prudence – LOVE. <3

*Royal – I knew a girl by this name a few years back. Her sister's name was Amber, it was a really weird sibset.

*Augustus – I prefer just August, but this is really handsome.

*Aurelius – LOVE, I prefer Aurelian, but Aurelius is super handsome, too.

*Erasmus – very awesome.

*Lucius – love this.

*Sylvanus – another World Of Warcraft name. (spelled Sylvanas)and she is female. I think it sounds very masculine.

Titus – I was neighbors with a guy by this name last year. It made me love the name. It could be because he was very good looking, but still…I think it's awesome.

Very nice list, all in all, one of my favorite blog posts in a few months, actually. It's good to see lists with something you don't see all the time on the forums. Thank You!

Mischa Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 8:17 am

Some wonderful names on this blog. My faves are:

Girls: Philomène (French for Philomena), Apphia, Decima (for a tenth child!), Fairvine (lovely), Sophronia, Tryphena (a saint name), Hepzibah (literary connection to Silas Marner), Zilpha, Mercy, Prudence, Garland, Starling and Mindwell (a guilty pleasure for many years!).

Boys: Amariah, Hezekiah, Ozias, Zebulon, Augustus, Aurelius and Lucius. Grove and Newbold would make quirky middle names.

Thank you for the wonderful post, Hannah!

erem Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 9:00 am

I’ve adored Althea ever since hearing it on the TV series ‘In the Heat of the Night’. Dellaphine is kind of cute and could grow on me. I like Leocadia, but not Leokaida. Erminia is interesting. I go to school with a boy name Erminio. Festus reminds me of Festivus for the rest of us (Seinfeld fans probably know what I’m talking about).

saraallison Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 9:22 am

This is so fun! I love running thru the cemetery by my house to read the names on the tombstones!

ksheja Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 9:53 am

Great list. I like Aurelius and Roselinda. I have been researching my ancestors and in family tree I found a Malech, an Obadiah and a Content.

miloowen Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 11:08 am

So many names from my own family tree. There was a cemetary next to my elementary school in the Connecticut town where I grew up, and it influenced me greatly in terms of name fascination. It was full of Wealthy Anns, and had one Revolutionary War soldier, Josiah Clarke, in residence.

Parthenia was the name of my great-great-grandmother.

I’m glad Hannah is enjoying Connecticut. Wish I could go home this summer to enjoy it too!

Poppy528 Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Wait. Nameberry has interns?! I want to quit my day job!

Back to reality. I really like Roselda. If I can’t have Zelda maybe this can do. I’m currently crushing on Romilda which is similar. I love Starling and Pearl, both are darling. August(us) is a long time fave. 

I think Sopher instead of Zopher is really cute! It’s a profession name (Torah writer) and sounds a lot like Sophie. Cool!

heyjudecharlotte Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Oh! I’ve found some of my favorite guilty pleasures by wandering around through the cemeteries back home down South. Lovely (and sometimes downright terrifying) choices all around.

I particularly love:
Althea
Alvilly (I love this one so much)
Austra
Dellaphine
Fairvine (Unique, but still so lovely)

Arno
Amaziah
Azariah
Ozias
Zebulon
Zopher
Bishop
Marshall
Starling
Augustus
Aurelius
Erasmus
Lucius
Sylvanus
Titus

CaraMichelle Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 4:59 pm

I must say I love Rosannah from the girls list.
I also love Roena, I know a Rowena.

From the boys, I love Augustus, nn August.

jame1881 Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 5:26 pm

Mercy on a boy? I really like Mercy, but only on a girl.

Lieseysmom Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 8:07 pm

The Phil’s are awful, and the Roses aren’t my style.

Althea — I knew an old lady named this when I was little. It’s lovely.

Apphia — I know a little girl named this!

Corintha — My sister had a friend in elementary school named Corinthia, but she went by Cori

Dellaphine — My cousin is Delphine.

Sophronia — I loved the Five Little Peppers book! The youngest was Sophronia called Phronsie.

Olin — Know an Olin (or it might be Olen). He’s in his late 30s.

Zaccheus — I’ve always been surprised this didn’t catch on somewhere. He has a good story, and it has the popular nickname Zach. Maybe people don’t like the song?

Zillah — Another one I’m surprised hasn’t caught on more.

Bishop — My oldest dated a Bishop.

Garland — Old man at my church named this.

Mercy — Love this!!

Royal — I liked this when I was a teen.

Titus — I have a friend who named her son this. I just hate it.

encore Says:

June 7th, 2012 at 8:42 pm

I really liked this post!

AnaJo Says:

June 8th, 2012 at 12:07 am

Thanks for sharing Spring13. I didn’t know about the tz sound. That’s very interesting.

This post makes me feel so much better. I used to think I was the only one who went to graveyards for fun (equipped with paper and pen of course). It’s something I’ve been doing since childhood. My family calls them God’s gardens, so they were never a scary place. There’s just such wonderful history in them!

Moving on, I’m loving Roselda! I’ve been trying to come up with a variety of names that could have Rose for a nickname. Now all I have to do is run it by DH (fingers crossed).

Also some of my other favorites are Olin (Olen), Ozias, and Hezekiah.
Althea is pretty and I knew a guy in his mid-twenties named Titus. His brothers were Julius and Amos.

blueberry1215 Says:

August 23rd, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I really love this post! I’ve fallen in love with Fairvine, though I don’t know how easy it would be to use on a baby. Still, it’s beautiful. I’ll be honest, Titus kind of scares me. D:

historic baby namesBaby Name Blog – Nameberry Says:

April 10th, 2013 at 11:11 pm

[…] here are our top Nameberry picks of historic baby names based on those of important […]

rkrd Says:

June 19th, 2013 at 1:42 am

I have a few interesting ones in the family tree: Catiche (French nickname for Catherine), Sebastienne, Phylatha/Phylancy, Erastus, Bathsheba, Phylo, Silence, Sophronia, Mathurin, Elezer, and Zebulon for instance. My fave is Sebastienne for a girl’s middle name.

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