July Baby Names: Julia and Julian and beyond

July baby names

For this first day of July, guest blogger and prized nameberry intern, Sonia Tsuruoka looks into the special name possibilities for a baby born this month.

Considering July-inspired names?

Try Julian and Julia,  the two endlessly popular offshoots of the classic Julius.  Though more soft-spoken than the original, both retain an appealing measure of power and nobility that might explain why Hollywood A-listers like Jerry Seinfeld, Robert De Niro, and Lisa Kudrow chose Julian for their sons.

Yet there’s more to these J-names than meets the eye. Along with their many variants, Julian and Julia draw additional strength from their rich, historical roots, while also offering an assortment of sleeker, modern alternatives.

One of the earliest records of the surname Julius tracks back to Rome’s most famous patrician family, the gens Julia, who laid claim to history’s best-known Roman dictator, Gaius Julius Caesar, and boasted descent from the mythological hero Julus. The family’s shared bloodline with several Olympian gods was even outlined by Virgil in the Aeneid, leading many scholars to argue that Julian, translating to “Jove’s child” in English, references Jupiter, the Roman god of sky and thunder. Others suggest that Julian means everything from “youthful” to “downy-bearded,” leaving much of the name’s etymological origins shrouded in mystery.

Julian, borne by many illustrious saints and emperors, was coolly received in the Middle Ages, when it was first introduced, but quickly gained momentum in Italy and France during the Renaissance, in more regionalized versions like Giuliano and JulienJulia — its female variant –mirrored such popularity trends, only becoming common in the English-speaking world during the 1700’s. Both names, however, were bestowed upon several important literary and religious figures in earlier centuries, including Saint Julian the Hospitaller, patron saint of travelers, Julian the Apostate, Rome’s last pagan Emperor, St. Julia of Corsica, and Proteus’ lover Julia in William Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona.  And Juliet— a softer, more romantic female variant– was, of course, also used by the legendary playwright in his best-known tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.

Presently, the popularities of Julian and Julia in the US have diverged, with Julia falling to #50 after a 12-year run in the Top 40, and Julian peaking this year at #62– the second highest it’s ever been in recorded baby name history. Julius has since plummeted to #315, after dropping out of the Top 100 in the late 19th century.

While Julia remains classically popular in countries like Belgium, Brazil, Norway, and Sweden, it’s being challenged in the US by the lovely Juliet and Juliette, two of its fastest-rising variants this year.  Julie— another French version –reached the American Top 10 in 1971, but has since faltered, falling to #354 in 2009.

Celebrity culture is bursting with Julias, Julians, and the like. There’s musician Julian Lennon, starchild of John & first wife Cynthia, former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, One Tree Hill’s character Julian Baker, and more recently, actor Julian McMahon, of Charmed and Nip/Tuck fame. There are also a number of Hollywood’s leading females, from Julianne Moore and Julianna Margulies to Julia Roberts to snarky Seinfelder Julia Louis-Dreyfus.  Even song and movie titles, like the Beatles song Julia (named after John Lennon’s mother, as was son Julian) — from the band’s White Album, the Fountain of Wayne’s Hey Julie, and the oldie Paul Simon’s Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard all pay tribute to these J names, not to mention Tilda Swinton’s 2008 crime-drama Julia, and 2009’s Julie & Julia, an award-winning dramedy based on the life of master chef Julia Child.

Today, fancier version of both names are cropping up here and across the Atlantic, including Jules, a French form of Julius popularized by François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, author Jules Gabriel Verne, and, more alternatively, English musician Julian “Jools” Holland. Added international flair has also made the masculine Julio and Giuliano perennial favorites among parents of Hispanic and Italian descent, and, among Francophiles, the delicate Julien and Julienne.

Even though Julius itself is in decline, its contemporary relevance rises from its legacy: an endless supply of variations for parents-to-be.  Whether you’re stewing in the thick July heat or watching a Julia butterfly float by, it’s nice to recall the rich history surrounding this timeless J name, and all its colorful offshoots.

Sonia Tsuruoka is an incoming freshman at Johns Hopkins University. Over the course of her high school career, she’s served as the Editor-in-Chief of her school newspaper, literary magazine, and the Opinions Editor of ScoopDaily.com. Her interests include everything from politics to pop culture, and she ultimately plans to pursue a career in journalism after double-majoring in International Studies and Writing Seminars.

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7 Responses to “July Baby Names: Julia and Julian and beyond”

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Joy Says:

July 1st, 2010 at 11:12 am

I think Julia is a beautiful name. My favorite variations are Julianna and Juliet.

Julian I liked better when it was less popular. I’ve know 3 little boys named Julian in 3 months span.

Julia has many possibilites for new names to be invented as well.

Myrna Mau Says:

July 1st, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I have always liked the Julia/Julian names. One small correction though – musician Julian Lennon is the son of John Lennon & first wife Cynthia (not his second wife Yoko Ono). Sean Lennon is the son of John & Yoko.

Emmy Jo Says:

July 1st, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Great blog! Our son’s name is Julius. I love both Julian and Julius, but since Julian is ranked an amazingly high #22 in California (where we live), we decided to go with the less common option.

Julius isn’t as out of style as you might think. It fell to an all-time low in 1994 (ranked #510), but since then it has been rising — now it’s back up to #315. With the resurgence of other ends-in-S names for boys (like Elias, Tobias, Augustus, Miles), it seems like a reasonable choice for today.

One thing I love about all the Julius-derivatives is how they manage to sound both soft and strong. Almost everyone who meets my son says he has a strong, kingly name, but I love that the sounds his name is composed of are so soft and gentle.

Lisa Says:

July 2nd, 2010 at 1:08 pm

What about Ruby…July’s birthstone, and currently surgingly popular.

Boston Girl Says:

July 2nd, 2010 at 5:34 pm

My favorite girls’ names out of this? Julie, Julianna, Julianne. My cousin’s son is named Julian, which I prefer to Julius.

JustADad Says:

July 2nd, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Really like all these names. Julia was a prime choice for us if we’d had a daughter.

3kidsandamom Says:

August 4th, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Yes, Julian, is very appealing and distinguished – gentle and strong at the same time. My 8 year old son makes a great ‘Julian’ his sisters call him Jul (Jule?) for short. Personally, I know of only 3 others in our whole realm of people. One was a former co-worker, he and his son both bear the name and an actual schoolmate of my son’s, that’s it. So I feel it’s still pretty unique. In part, I was inspired by Julian Lennon AND Julian Marley (Bob Marley’s son!!) the other reason for my inclination to the name came from the fact that my girls are named Victoria and Olivia and I wanted his name to have a similar ‘ring’ to theirs. Since we are Spanish-speaking, it also needed to be bilingual, without affecting the spelling or pronunciation. By the way, in Spanish it’s just as demanding of respect, a good masculine name to grow into!!

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