Meanings of Names: The Nameberry 9–Blythe, Bridger and Bram

Meanings of Names: The Nameberry 9–Blythe, Bridger and Bram

This week, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel looks  at the sometimes hidden meaning of names –the associations that often go beneath and  beyond their literal meanings.

It’s easy to look up the meaning of a name.

Sure, they can be subject to debate.  Do Libby and Betsy really retain Elizabeth’s meaning?  But meanings are right there, a few keystrokes away for anyone with internet access.

It is much tougher to nail down associations.  The name Cecilia means blind, but my first thought is the Simon & Garfunkel song.  Caleb means dog, but all of the Calebs I’ve known have been cute little boys.

If meanings rarely change, associations are always shifting.  We forget a book or a movie, or a song falls out of fashion.  Bridget was once a generic term for a maid, but today it is a perfectly acceptable name for a daughter.

This week’s nine most newsworthy baby names all have strong positive associations, though none of them are in the US Top Ten – yet.

On to this week’s baby name news:

Elijah Joseph Daniel – It’s a second son for Elton and David, and little brother for Zachary Jackson LevonZachary and Elijah are great brother names – mainstream choices that aren’t invented, but feel very current in 2013.  Both boys share the initial J in the second spot, and their extra middle pays homage to one of dad’s smash hit songs.  Plenty of boys have received Daniel as a name, but few have a story like little Elijah’s.

Knox Addison – Actress Amanda Righetti and her husband Jordan Alan have welcomed a son named Knox Addison.  From a preppy character in Dead Poet’s Society to a JoliePitt kid, Knox has taken quite the journey.  He’s a stylish, fast-rising name.  Knox’s edge is softened with the increasingly feminine Addison in the middle spot.  It’s a dashing combination.

Magnus – I met my first baby Magnus about eight years ago, when it seemed like an almost outlandish choice.  But now Magnus is everywhere.  Smart Bites for Baby cookbook author Mika Shino is mom to a Magnus, too.  Magnus means great – and he feels like a bold, grand name, too.

Blythe – A Swistle reader asked about this one.  She’s another short, feminine-but-not-frilly name for a daughter, a sister for Brooke and BlairBlithe is an archaic word meaning happy, seldom heard in regular speech.  She makes me think of Shakespeare, but is her sound too close to the word blight?  I spotted Blythe in the Pottery Barn Kids catalog, suggesting that she might be catching on.

Max Alice – When I saw this Australian birth announcement, my first thought was Maxwell Lue, Maxwell Drew, and now Max Alice … is Max going to the girls?  But on reflection, I think Max Alice feels more feminine.  Waltzing More than Matilda reported on the new arrival, daughter of a wildly successful Russian-Australian entrepreneur and his fashionista wife.  Girls answer to Alex, and the zippy, retro Maxine is a fabulous name.  Why not just Max?  It worked for Jessica Alba.

Carrie – Traditionally a short form of Caroline, does Carrie stand on her own?  Blue Juniper points out her many faces – stylish singleton Carrie Bradshaw, now back on television in a CW prequel; the tragically telekenetic Stephen King character, ready to reappear in a remake of the horror film this Spring; and Claire Danes’ heroine on Homeland.

Alabama – As place names go, Alabama should work.  She fits right between Savannah and all of those Al– names for girls.  There’s Alabama Worley, Patricia Arquette’s character in True Romance.  She and Christian Slater tangle with drug dealers, gangsters and eventually live happily ever after. Alabama feels fresh and unexpected, a big name.  Drea de Matteo and Shooter Jennings used the name for a daughter; so did Shanna Moakler and Blink-182’s Travis Barker.

Bridger – If you live in the Mountain West, you’ve probably met a boy named Bridger.  It’s a fascinating name, likely inspired by the Bridger Mountains, found in Montana and Wyoming.  The same birth announcements that gave us Alabama also included a Bridger Albert Marshall.  It’s a rugged, outdoorsy name for a boy that feels unexpected in much of the country, though he’s made the US Top 100 in states near the mountain range.

Bram – Lists of most popular names continue to come in from all around the world.  Last week saw the release of data from the Netherlands, where Bram has risen to claim the #2 spot.  He’s part-Stoker, part-Abraham Lincoln.  As short as Max, Gus, Cole, or Finn, Bram makes for a perfectly unexpected name in the English-speaking world.

About the Author

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz

Linda Rosenkrantz is the co-founder of Nameberry, and co-author with Pamela Redmond of the ten baby naming books acknowledged to have revolutionized American baby naming. You can follow her personally at InstagramTwitter and Facebook. She is also the author of the highly acclaimed New York Review Books Classics novel Talk and a number of other books.