The Virtues of a Virtue Name
By Faith M.
I, for one, am very enthusiastic about the recent rise in less common or renewed virtue names for girls, names such as Verity, Mercy, Peace and Amity. And also for the growing trend to give boys virtue names such as Justice, Chance, True and Noble, to name just a few of the many great choices.
The increased popularity and abundance of word names that now classify as unconventional virtue names has made it an appealing option for people looking for something off-beat as an alternative to such traditional names as Faith, Hope, Grace and Constance.
Still, expecting parents might be hesitant to gift their child with a virtue name for several reasons. I think the biggest negative is that a person with a virtue name might be identified by the meaning of their name (e.g. a girl named Patience may be expected to always be patient). Assumptions of this nature might then be feared by parents considering Patience as a possibility, that they might feel awkward hearing their child’s name used as a word in ordinary speech, even if there is some personal significance in their choice. Again using Patience as an example: Perhaps some parents had to wait a long time to conceive a child, so that getting pregnant had become an extended and patience-testing journey for them, ‘patience’ becoming an important virtue for them during that time.
As the bearer of a virtue name, (who happens to adore the meaning and history of it), I must vouch for the genre as a whole. It was my father who picked the classic Faith for me, though the name came to him upon seeing me, and had not been on their list of names. My father chose it, but my mother was concerned that it was too much of an ‘old lady’ name and was a little reluctant to use it out of fear that I might hate it for that reason. But after it was chosen and there was such positive feedback from both sides of the family, she came to view Faith as surprisingly fresh, new and spunky.
Growing up I was continually complimented on my name and was pleased how uncommon it seemed: throughout my childhood, I only encountered three other Faiths. And all the cute little gifts and trinkets bearing my name that were bestowed upon me was another plus in my childish eyes. Family members would give me little bracelets, poems and other such sentimental objects that said Faith on them, as they were not hard to come by. Though there was the occasional reference to the meaning and I was sometimes told to “have faith,” that didn’t diminish the love that I had for my name.
I appreciate the meaning of my name as it constantly reminds me of the importance of the virtue itself, which has greatly impacted my life and steered me onto a course that I might not have followed I not been named Faith.
On the other hand, I never felt that I had to live up to my name by being a very faithful person. I felt more that the meaning was an intrinsic part of me rather than an expectation placed on me. Nor did it bother me or make me feel awkward if someone were to use the word faith in his or her speech. I didn’t even mind the occasional “pun intended” reminder to have faith or keep the faith.
Actually, an uncle of mine so admired the idea of a virtue name that he gave his daughter the name Grace, to honor his mother, whom he thought embodied the grace and beauty of the name’s meaning. I also plan on giving my child a virtue name, having prized the special significance behind my own name.
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on March 1st, 2017 at 6:28 am
Faith, Grace, and Hope are standard choices. They have been for many decades, if not centuries, to the point now where I personally feel that they’re normal names that just so happen to double up as virtues. As such, there’s no expectation on my part for a Faith to be religious, a Grace to be graceful, or a hope to be hopeful – they’re just too common as first names to be taken as words so literally. But it’s different for other virtue names.
My favourite virtue names are Modesty and Patience for girls, and Credence for a boy.
I personally feel like they (at least the girl names) set up a very real expectation of character, because people of the 21st century solidly associate these names as words, and so they will automatically apply the words’ meanings to the children in question. And while that’s not a bad thing in and of itself, Sod’s law could very well step in. If Credence doesn’t compliment his virtue then that’ll probably be fine since, like with Constance, Prudence and Verity, a lot of people don’t know what the word actually means. But if Modesty is a hoe, or if Patience is short-tempered and impatient, their names will end up looking remarkably silly and inappropriate, which is an issue.
In general, I personally think that virtue names are lovely, and I’m excited by the idea that more parents might be gravitating towards virtue names because society as a whole is potentially once again seeing value in old-school virtues. Instead of your average Nevaeh, Paisleigh and Jagger, I’d love nothing more than to see Delight, Innocent and Sincere. Some people might think that such virtues are embarrassing, but I think that they’re powerful and dignified, and I see nothing wrong with parents aspiring for their children to live up to such decent standards.
However, I do advise caution when choosing unusual virtues as, like with any name, you should sit down and properly think things through. Will you be okay with your children possibly not living up to their virtues, or becoming the opposite of their virtues? Furthermore, and most importantly, would your children appreciate names like Deliverance, Wisdom, Remembrance, or Happy? With regards to either question, my Credence passes the test. But I’m not so sure about Modesty and Patience…
on March 1st, 2017 at 10:21 pm
Faith is a lovely name and I also love Mercy, Prudence, Patience, and others.
Somehow male names like Truth, Noble, and Bravery make me a bit sick to my stomach.
I suppose it’s because Mercy and Prudence are thoroughly in the name realm to me; I’ve read many books and watched many movies with characters bearing these names, whereas I have not with Worth, Credence, and Valor.
The only virtue names I like for boys are the really quaint (and even odd!) ones like Comfort and Plenty, that sound quite Mayflower to our modern ears. Wouldn’t name my son these names either, though I can imagine a Faith or Mercy for a daughter.
Mary McCarthy once defined a male defending his virtue as a farcical thing; I always took comfort in the line when dating prudish males. 🙂 Of course I do believe males can be virtuous too — maybe I just don’t want that reflected in their name as boldly. Also, so many of these male “virtue” names seem like a sign of affluenza: Worth is not so different than Chase or Cash and Valor sounds (to me) like a good new car name.
I’ll stick with the soft, strong male names I love.
on March 2nd, 2017 at 10:39 am
I love virtue names. Faith is one of my favorites, along with Verity. I have to say, though, if the writer were named Comfort, she might not have the same opinions on virtue names that she does now! I think some of the more rare virtue names are better suited to the middle spot (Constance), but I do have a soft spot for the genre!
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