Mardi Gras Names: Baby Names from the Bayou

Guest blogger Elisabeth Wilborn of You Can’t Call It “It”, a writer, artist, and mother who lives in Brooklyn, New York, brings us this look at the jambalaya of names native to the Louisiana Bayou.

An inspiration for everything from vampires to voodoo, from zydeco to the Krewe of Zulu, Louisiana has been a colorful melting pot of divergent cultures for centuries.  Cajuns from Canada, Creoles and others of Haitian, African, Italian, Spanish, or Native American descent, all come together to form a mélange of backgrounds, and in point of fact, names.  Most share a history of French language and Catholicism, even if it’s not by blood. While these may not be the choices in use today in the Bayou, they have been culled from historical documents, maps, and folklore from the late 18th to the early 20th centuries.  The majority are either French proper, or my favorite, Frenchified.  Still more trace their roots to Classical GrecoRoman civilization, deep Southern culture, or are somewhere farther afield and include a curious preponderance of the letter Z.

So come on!  Allez-y! Chew on these names (and some maque choux), prepare to bare all for those beads, and laissez les bon temps roulez!

LADIES

Acadia– The word Cajun itself has its origins in Acadian

Adelaide

Alexandrine

Alma

Alzophine

Ambrosine

Ameline, Emeline

Arzilla

Avoyelles– This Cajun Parish might be picked up as a first name, piggybacking on the current Ava and Ellie love

Beatrice

Belle

Berangere

BernadetteA much beloved Catholic saint, and one of the prettiest songs in the native New Orleans Neville Brothers repertoire

Cezelia

Clotille

DelphineWhile Delphine is a lovely and lilting name, Delphine LaLaurie was a famous socialite and sadist who tortured her slaves

DixieUsed to refer to the South at large, this may have originated in New Orleans on the ten dollar bill, upon which a local bank printed “dix”, the French for ten.

Dolucila

Elva

Ernestine

EugenieNapoleon‘s first love

EulaEulalie

Evangeline– An epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow recalling the 1755 deportation of Acadian Canadians to the newly Spanish Louisiana

Ezora

Geraldine

Gertrude

Ghislaine

Heloise

Hiawatha Another tale regaled by Longfellow, Hiawatha may not have been from the Bayou, but she had namesakes here

Ida

JosephineNapoleon‘s (second) love

Leonie

Lougenia

Magnolia– The state flower of Louisiana

MahaliaMahalia Jackson is a gospel and blues singer from the area, with a name worth borrowing

MarieMarie Laveau was a reknowned Voodoo Queen who was visited by slaves and owners alike

Maude

Maxzille

Melba

Mellette

Minerva, Minnie

Oatha

Odilia

Ola, Olla Mae, Olima

Onezie, Onezime

Ophelia

Philomine, Philonese

Rosella

Sabine– The Sabine River runs through Louisiana

Sophronia

Tammany- Parish north of New Orleans

Ysabeau

Zeline

Zenobia (also spotted as Senobia)

Zerilda

GENTS

Alphonse

Amedee

AmosAmos Moses is a song by Jerry Reed about a fictional one armed alligator-hunting Cajun man

Armand

Auguste, Augustin

Bartheleme

Beau, BeauregardPierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard was the most famous Civil War soldier from New Orleans and fought in the Battle of Shiloh;  his ghost is said to roam the streets of New Orleans whispering “Shiloh“, which means “place of peace”

BernardParish east of New Orleans

Bertrand

Buford

CharlesGeographically, Charles is everywhere, from a street in NOLA to the western city of Lake Charles to St. Charles Parish in the east

Cleophas

Clovis

Cornelius

Cyriaque

DagobertPere Dagobert was a well-respected 18th century priest who is still said to be heard singing “Kyrie” while keeping a watchful eye over the city of New Orleans.

Dempsey

Eloi

Gaston

Gilbert

Gustave –2008’s Hurricane Gustav (yes, that’s the way the storm was spelled) may have dampened enthusiasm for this name.

Hippolyte

Homer

Jacques

JeanBaptiste– JeanBaptiste Le Moyne de Bienville founded Nouvelle-Orleans in 1718

Jules, Julius

LandrySt. Landry Parish is home to many a Cajun

Leon, Leontel

LeRoyLeroy is originally from “le roi” or, “the king”

LouisLouis Armstrong and Louis Prima are both Louisiana natives

Octave

Otis

Napoleon

PhilippeThe city was named for Philippe II, Duc d’Orleans

Pierre– Pierre Augustin Charles Bourguignon Derbigny was among Louisiana‘s Creole governors

Remy

Rene

Rex

Theodore, Theodule, Theophile, Theophilus

Virgil


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8 Responses to “Mardi Gras Names: Baby Names from the Bayou”

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Christina Fonseca Says:

February 24th, 2009 at 1:27 am

Oooh, la la! What a wonderful way to celebrate Mardi Gras! I love the sound of Emeline when it is pronounced à la française, eh-me-LEEN. Minerva is so underused, and it gladdens me to see Evangeline is ranking again after being off the Top 1000 for 40 years!

Would love to meet little girls named Leonie or Magnolia.

What a wonderful and timely post. Merci, Elisabeth for sharing and thank you Pam and Linda for inviting guest bloggers.

Lola Says:

February 24th, 2009 at 12:50 pm

Hourra! 🙂 Awesome post, thanks Pam & Linda, for letting Elisabeth guest post!

I’m having fits of glee over here reading this. At least 1/8 of my ancestry is Cajun and I feel small kinship here. Rex, Remy, Louis, Julius, Josephine, Eulalie & Ghislaine all figure on my lists. Maybe I should think Eugenie as well? How awful would Josephine & Eugenie be? Too Napoleon?

Again, fantastic post, Happy Mardi Gras all!

Lauren Says:

February 24th, 2009 at 1:10 pm

I was hoping to see a Louisiana-inspired post today! I haven’t been disappointed!

I hope Avoyelles doesn’t catch on, because when it’s pronounced correctly it doesn’t sound pretty at all! It might look like av-oy-elles or ay-voy-elles, but it’s actually said uh-VOILS (like boils, but with a v).

And no note on Rex? Rex is the krewe that rides before Zulu, on Mardi Gras day! His Majesty Rex is the King of Carnival!

Oh, and Clotille … the New Orleans Zephyrs (baseball team) have 2 nutrias as mascots. Their names are Boudreaux and Clotille.

Too bad I’m not parading today, what with a baby in my lap and all. 🙂

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

February 24th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Hello Ladies! Glad you liked the post. It was so much fun to research.

Christina, I agree that in today’s naming climate, Minerva seems to be sort of shockingly underused. Magnolia is adorable too, and one of my favorite “ways to get to Maggie.”

Lola, I’ve had the same thought about using both Josephine and Eugenie. I do think one precludes the other, but what about as a middle name? Of course so few people in the States would “get” the connection right away, maybe it doesn’t matter. Ghislaine is kind of gorgeous, but how would you say it here? The funky spelling trips me up a little too, but I wouldn’t change it. I would love to see Remy and Julius get more attention.

Mercy Buckets to Pam and Linda for having me.

Lola Says:

February 24th, 2009 at 4:38 pm

G. Grandma Rosamel had Ghislaine as her second middle, and said it more or less as “Jees-lane” which is, of course, how I say it. I’m probably mangling it, but I still like it enough to try to fit it in the middle somewhere. It’s supposedly really ancient in France and very out of fashion there. Anyone hear of reports otherwise?

Elisabeth@YCCII Says:

February 24th, 2009 at 7:11 pm

Lauren, thanks for your insights! I will definitely update Rex and Clotille’s entries on my site. I really never would have known about the mascots. That’s fantastic.

Sad about “Uh-voils”!

MARDI GRAS NAMES: Baby Names from the Bayou – Baby Name Blog … « Cajun Bayou Says:

February 24th, 2009 at 8:00 pm

[…] See more here: MARDI GRAS NAMES: Baby Names from the Bayou – Baby Name Blog … […]

Abby Says:

February 25th, 2009 at 11:29 am

Nutrias as mascots!? I have only ever known them as coats! (I used to manage a vintage resale shop.) Great names, though.

Onezie is fascinating. And I think Ghislaine is fabulous in the middle spot.

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