The Golden Age of Word Names: From Saint to Summer

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?

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19 Responses to “The Golden Age of Word Names: From Saint to Summer”

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indiefendi Says:

August 24th, 2014 at 11:34 pm

I normally don’t like Ophelia because of THAT Ophelia from Hamlet but Ophelia Saint is a stunner! That’s so gorgeous! I never would’ve considered that combo! Dave and Jordyn are great namers–Harper Willow, Violet Maye, and Ophelia Saint. Gorgeous!!!

WaltzingMoreThanMatilda Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 1:29 am

From reading Nancy’s site, I gather that the reason River was teased was not because of River, but because of how it sounded with his (original) surname: River Bottom.

I’m not sure he ever attended school, so the story of being teased in first grade is either over-imaginative on his part, or a situation of extremely short duration – especially as their surname was changed soon after.

miloowen Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 8:31 am

On the other hand, I did know two kids named Rainbow and Brook Trout. Lol, they’re my age — in their fifties. Wonder what they called their children?

bellerose Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 8:38 am

Ophelia Saint is so stunning . I really love it . I am intrigued by Saint but I don’t know how I feel about it as first . Maybe its too much . Summer Rain is adorable although cheesy for my taste . On the other hand Ava Grace is very common , kind of a boring choice .

jame1881 Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 9:05 am

I used to mind word names more than I do now. Clover is quite a guilty pleasure name for me, as is Grove. I also like Mercy, Ivy, and Violet. However, I would try to avoid double word names. One obvious meaning is quite enough!

JH Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 12:23 pm

I cannot stand Saint as a first name and the idea that anyone would want to name their child that puzzles me. In the case of a middle name, it does sound like it’s part of the last name, but I still would never give my child ‘Saint’ as one of their names. Saint is just way too much to live up to, plus the religious connotations make it heavier than Legend or other similar names. Plus, if your name is Saint John Smith, it sounds like your name is John Smith and you’re a saint.

Chloe14 Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 1:33 pm

The only one up there I like is Summer I think it’s a stunning name! My dad’s friend has a grand-daughter named Summer.

» The Golden Age of Word Names: From Saint to Summer Baby Name Suggestion Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 1:38 pm

[…] Abby Sandel’s focus in this week’s Nameberry 9 is on the latest wave of word names, from Saint to Summer, Rain to River. Nameberry – Baby Name Blog […]

Entangler Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 1:48 pm

I adore Ophelia. I do wonder if the shakespearean connection is too much for real, middle class north American life. She has a similar feel to Sophia for me, without the overwhelming popularity.

LuMary Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I like St. John (Sinjin) and St. James. The root word for saint in Scripture is hagios, meaning one set apart, holy. It does not mean perfection, but one who has received Christ and is set apart or consecrated to live a life that glorifies God. It is used accurately of anyone who has received Christ as Lord and Savior. Hopefully, this little Saint won’t be known as, “Saint, he ain’t.'”

Summer has become very mainstream, hasn’t it? It’s a beautiful name, and goes well with the middle name Dawn, Sky(e), or Star. The two ‘r’s’ collide in Summer Rain, in my opinion.

LuMary Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 2:36 pm

I like St. John (Sinjin) and St. James. The root word for saint in Scripture is hagios, meaning one set apart, holy. It does not mean perfection, but one who has received Christ and is set apart or consecrated to live a life that glorifies God. It is used accurately of anyone who has received Christ as Lord and Savior. Hopefully, this little Saint won’t be known as, “Saint, he ain’t.'”

Summer has become very mainstream, hasn’t it? It’s a beautiful name, and goes well with the middle name Dawn, Sky(e), or Star. The two ‘r’s’ collide in Summer Rain, in my opinion.

mickie86 Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 5:42 pm

I really love Summer and Rose and together they are amazing! I could use Saint for a boy’s name. I’m liking it more and more. I have a niece with mn Rain and a nephew named River. My family is very up to the minute on names. Some other word names that are among my favorites: Solstice, Freedom, and Breeze. All 3 I’d definately use as middles.

mallowd Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 7:06 pm

I love Ophelia and Ophelia Saint is very cute! But I agree with some people, that it’s a lot to live up to, and maybe a bit much since a Saint is a type of person, though so are many others like Gunnar, Maverick, Sawyer, etc. I think maybe it depends more on the last name? I’m not much for two word names, because then it sounds strange to me. I, myself love word names, but wouldn’t name my child Pearl Snow, but maybe Lyra Snow (balances it out imo). I love Laszlo/Lazslo! River is also on my list. The others I don’t care for as much, but to each his own! I’m partial to word names:)

Llumeneres Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Ophelia Saint is beautiful, though Saint would be too much in first, I think. I do like Santo on a boy (Spanish for saint).

Anotherkate Says:

August 25th, 2014 at 9:30 pm

I like summer but prefer the Sommer spelling for some reason…. Feels more name like on paper.
I love so many word last names (mostly trade surnames) but would have to avoid wordy first names as a combo. For example I enjoy Clementine, but if I were to use it with the last name Baker or it would sound too strange.

I really really like nature names but would probably wimp out and only put them in the middle spot.

Abby Says:

August 26th, 2014 at 8:04 am

@indiefendi – Agreed! If there were awards for best baby namers, Dave + Jordyn would be on the list of nominees!

@Anotherkate – I think names like Baker, Hunter, Green, etc. can make noun names tough! And yet, the more mainstream ones probably wouldn’t be a problem – Rose Hunter, maybe, or Chase Baker? Hmmm … maybe not Chase Baker!

@mallowd – Agree on Laszlo!

@miloowen – OMG, the Trout Sisters! I’m sure everyone remembers their names …

@WaltzingMorethanMatilda – Huh. Good point – I don’t know that any of the Phoenix kids attended traditional school … it doesn’t fit with the stories about their unconventional childhoods. Still, River was born a few years before me, and I can only imagine how a kid named River would’ve been received in my ordinary little suburban first grade. A few girls had unusual names – Jeniah, Shawna. But the boys? Nope. David and Jason and John. One Travis, one Clayton, Jr. … it would’ve been tough to have a stand-out name.

Egbertine Says:

August 26th, 2014 at 8:43 am

I love Laszlo 🙂 It’s a name if definitely use for a son. A bit weird when paired with Saint though, especially considering there actually was a Saint Laszlo.

kitchi1 Says:

August 28th, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I can definitely see Laszlo rising up the charts sometime this decade. Makes me think of Erno Laszlo…I love those products!

Binz Says:

September 7th, 2014 at 11:55 pm

LOVE all of the Grohl names.
Summer Rain is, errr, not good.
And Ava Grace is just plain lazy.

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