The Golden Age of Word Names: From Saint to Summer

August 24, 2014 Abby Sandel

By Abby Sandel, Appellation Mountain

Every once in a while, two sets of high profile parents use the same name within weeks of each other.  Remember the Camden coincidence from 2011?

Usually it signals a name already on the rise.  That was certainly the case with Camden, a name that cracked the US Top 100 in 2013.

Could Saint be next?

Musicians Pete Wentz and Ashlee Simpson raised a few eyebrows when they named their son Bronx Mowgli in 2008.  Now Pete and new partner Meagan Camper have welcomed son Saint Lazslo.

It’s not the kind of name you can imagine calling out on a playground, is it?  Then again, I thought Maverick, Legend, and Blaze were over the top – and they’re all Top 1000 choices on the rise.

Now switch Saint to the middle spot, as Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl and wife Jordyn Blum did for their new arrival.  It’s also the middle name chosen by Selma Blair for son Arthur in 2011.  It’s a lot more wearable, isn’t it?  A meaning-rich name, but not necessarily a burdensome one.

No matter how you feel about Saint, this week’s baby name news cements a trend: we are living in the Golden Age of Word Names.  Nearly every baby name in the news this week can be found in the dictionary.  The US Top 100 is packed with word choices, from classics like Grace and Lily to more recent innovations like Autumn and Chase.

From the daring Saint to the enduring Rose, word names dominate this week’s baby names in the news:

Saint – I didn’t expect Pete Wentz to name Bronx’s brother James, but Saint was a shocker.  Then again, Santiago, Sinclair, and Sinjin are all Saint-names, so maybe it isn’t such a surprise, especially in the company of virtue names like Valor and spiritual ones like Messiah.  When Saint moves to the middle spot, it almost sounds like part of a surname – Arthur Saint Bleick, Ophelia Saint Grohl, Yves Saint Laurent.  It’s less like Nevaeh and more like Van – a short name with a lot of spark – though it might still take some explaining.

LazsloSaint Wentz’s middle name is one that I’m fully prepared to love: Laszlo!  As in Casablanca’s heroic Victor Laszlo.  It’s the Hungarian form of an enduring Slavic favorite, also known as Vladislav, Ladislaus, and Wladyslaw.  There was a Saint Laszlo, a medieval Hungarian king.  The name is sometimes spelled Lazlo, but Pete and Meagan reversed the ‘s’ and the ‘z’ – but haven’t indicated if they had a reason for the change.  No matter how the name is spelled, Laszlo is a slightly more daring ends-with-o name for boys, and one that could catch on.

Ophelia – In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, parents overlooked Ophelia’s mad scene in Hamlet to embrace her lovely, feminine sound.  Today the literary pick is back in the spotlight, thanks to Dave Grohl and Jordyn Blum.  The Blum-Grohl family now includes three girls: Violet Maye, Harper Willow, and newest addition, Ophelia Saint.  With Olivia so popular, is Ophelia a natural successor?

LondonCarson Daly and Siri Pinter’s newest addition joins siblings Jackson James and Etta Jones.  Along with Brooklyn and Savannah, London is one of the three place names currently in the US girls’ Top 100, and shows no signs of slowing down.

SummerChristina Aguilera isn’t a daring baby namer.  Her son’s name, Max, is downright down-to-earth.  No surprise, then, that her daughter has an actual nature name. In the 1970s, Summer might have screamed “My parents were hippies!”  But Summer has been in the US Top 200 since the 1990s, so an August-born girl by the name seems exactly right.

Rose – Oh, Rose!  It’s a lovely name, and I always thought that Kate Winslet’s Titanic character would usher in a new generation of girls named Rose and Rosie.  Not so.  Instead, the 1997 blockbuster may have inspired parents to use the middle name Rose – and use it and use it and use it some more.  Carson Daly’s daughter is London Rose.  All three Daly kids have family names in the middle spot – Rose honors Carson’s grandmother.

Ava Grace – While we’re talking middles, let’s look at actress Stacy Keibler’s daughter.  Keibler and husband Jared Pobre gave their daughter a Top Ten first name, the unstoppable Ava.  Grace is every bit as much a go-to middle as Rose.  While she’s a virtuous choice rather than a botanical one, Grace is also very much a pick from the dictionary.

RainRose and Grace are familiar names over the decades, in the first or middle spots.  Rain is a more recent addition, but one that fits right in.  It’s a little risky to pair two word names, but that’s what Christina Aguilera did with daughter Summer Rain.  It’s a pleasing reference, but it does feel sort of like a song title, doesn’t it?

River – Let’s end with a great name quote from Nancy’s Baby Names, one that reminds us that everything changes. The late River Phoenix once commented that he was teased for his unusual name. In 2014, it would be more of a surprise to meet a newborn boy called Randall or Dale – names once considered normal.  The unusual Phoenix clan was just a few decades ahead of the curve – River’s siblings are Summer, Rain, Liberty, and Joaquin – formerly known as Leaf.

Do you have any word names on your shortlist?  Do you think Saint goes too far?  How about double word names, like Summer Rain?

About the author


Abby Sandel is nameberry's Senior Editor and resident Name Sage. Look for her baby name news round-ups every Monday, and her Name Sage columns on Wednesdays. Abby is the creator of the baby name blog Appellation Mountain and mom to Alex and Clio. For a chance to have your questions answered, contact Abby at

View all of Abby's articles


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