Merry Christmas Baby Names: Asher, Edith and Gioia

December 17, 2017 John Kelly

By John Kelly

Happy Hanukkah! Merry Christmas! Joy to the world! During this most wonderful time of the year, we’re surrounded by Christmas cheer—even in the very language of our most familiar season’s greetings. In that holly jolly spirit, let’s look to some nifty names that mean “happy” and “joyful.” Don’t feel left out, though, Felix and Felicity…You’re covered this time in Feliz Navidad!


Asher sends out some positive occupational vibes, à la Archer, Hunter, and Walker, but it actually hails from the Old Testament. Son of Jacob in the Book of Genesis, Asher means “happy” in Hebrew. It’s a cool choice: The name started climbing up the charts in the 1990s, reaching #71 in the US for 2016. And we picked it as Nameberry’s #2 boy’s name for 2017.


Beatrice was a Top 50 name in the 1910–30s before dropping off for much of the century. But more and more parents are drawn to vintage names, helping to boost Beatrice up to #559 in 2016. It was even higher in the UK at #80. Both Paul McCartney and Bryce Dallas Howard are parents of daughters named Beatrice, and it also has royal ties. Literally meaning “happiness-maker,” Beatrice comes from the Latin Beatrix, a spunky variant.


Consider Chara as a unique alternative if you love the lovely Cora—the NB #2 girl’s name for 2017—but want to duck the trends. Chara means “joy” in Greek and is related to the word charisma, which should give you a pronunciation guide.


Like Beatrice, Edith is another blast from the past. It joins two Old English word elements meaning “happy” and “battle.” In the Top 30 for the first several decades of the 20th century, Edith brandished its classic credentials once again in 2016, when it made #488 in the US, #101 in England, and #48 in Sweden. Borne by medieval English saints and great artists (Edith Wharton, Sitwell, Piaf), Edith was Cate Blanchett’s choice for fourth child and a main character on Downton Abbey. Plus, you really can’t beat its nickname: Edie.


Farah has a dreamy, faraway feel to it, doesn’t it? This female given name means “joy” or “happiness” in Arabic. A variant spelling became popular in the 1970s—#177 in 1977, to be exact—thanks to all-American poster girl Farrah Fawcett. Farrah remains in the US Top 1000. One-R Farah doesn’t chart here, but it is popular in European countries with larger Muslim populations: #230 in France in 2015, #333 in the Netherlands in 2016, and #50 in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016.


We definitely understand how names like Bliss, Happy, Joy, Merry, and Sunshine express the way parents feel about their newborns or what they hope for them in their future. We also understand how other baby-namers might not be inclined to be so direct. Try Gioia instead, the word for “joy” in Italian. Pronounced roughly like “joe-ya,” Gioia is much loved in its home country, ranking at #33 in 2015. We think it bounces with brio as a name for a daughter in the US, too.


You can’t top Noah, the leading US boy’s name in 2016. Then why not look to the under-the-radar Noam? It has a similarly noble sound and also has Hebraic roots, here meaning “joy” or “pleasantness.” (The female version is the lovely Naomi.) In Israel, where the name is pronounced sort of like Noah with an M at the end, Noam is a Top 10 boys’ name. Here, many will associate the name with renowned linguist (Avram) Noam Chomsky. Noam is also one of the names of comedian Sacha (Noam Baron) Cohen—who gives many plenty to smile about.


Queenly yet sylvan, Rowena may appeal to parents who like the enchanting Gwyneth but are on the search for something a little more unusual—at least these days, as Rowena was a Top 500 name in the late 1800s, early 1900s. While it might boast a Welsh pedigree, other experts deem it an old Saxon name meaning “happy in fame.” A few famed women in literature were named Rowena, including a leading lady in Ivanhoe and the founder of the Ravenclaw house in Harry Potter. Rowena is due for a radiant revival.


Tate makes for a terse but titanic title. It’s a confident choice for boys, and a “cheerful” one, too, as Tate probably meant that in its original Old Norse before becoming an English surname. Tate has definitely come a long way. It barely registered in the Top 1000 over the last century or so before taking off in the 1990s. Now, it sits at #447 in the US, #374 in the UK, likely edged up by Emma Bunton (Baby Spice), who named her son Tate in 2011.


Lets bring our happy honorifics to a happy end with Zelig.  A variant of Selig, it’s a Yiddish name meaning “blessed” or “happy.” But hey, if Zen and Zephyr can work, we should give Zelig a chance. In fact, it does triple duty: It looks forward as a unique and different name and looks back to Jewish heritage all while landing a coveted Z name that’s not Zach or Zane. Plus, by the time your little Zelig is of age, none of his peers will remember the Woody Allen film of the same name.