Category: baby name backstories

One of the big recent baby name successes has been Ophelia. After nearly 60 years off the Top 1000, it reemerged in 2015 at Number 975, then jumped to 580 last year. Though it hasn’t yet beaten its peak from the turn of the 20th century, when it entered the Top 300, Ophelia ranks a stunning Number 15 among Nameberry users for the first half of 2017, so it’s almost certain to climb even higher in the U.S..

We get the appeal. It sounds unusual but graceful, it starts with the trendy letter O and it has a sterling literary pedigree, coined by Shakespeare himself.

But here’s the thing about that Shakespeare tie: In Hamlet, Ophelia is a central tragic victim, the girl driven to madness and suicide, but she doesn’t have much presence in the play. Shakespeare created dozens of strong, fascinating, brilliant female characters — but Ophelia isn’t one of them.

Yet today’s parents have decided that Ophelia‘s many positive qualities outweigh the grimness of her story. The same goes for Pandora, Abel and Persephone, all of which have started climbing up the charts.

So that’s our question: How much do you care about a name’s backstory? Are there any names you love because they have great stories behind them? Or have you ever rejected a name because of its history?

Let us know your answers in the comments, and continue the conversation on Twitter or Facebook!

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In this week’s Nameberry 9, Appellation Mountain‘s Abby Sandel talks about names with some personal significance that’s not necessarily obvious on the surface.

Sometimes the craziest name becomes instantly charming the second we learn the backstory.  Meaning matters, and I’m always impressed when parents take the time to seek out names rich with personal significance.

Passing down family names is great, but this idea takes it one step further.  It’s a process of thinking about what’s important to your family.  Favorite places, artists, experiences that signify something about the pregnancy.  Think of Shiloh Nouvel JoliePitt’s middle name, inspired by architect Jean Nouvel, or Zuma Rossdale, possibly a nod to a Malibu beach important to his dad.

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