TV Names: Blanche, Rose, Dorothy and Sophia

July 9, 2013 Linda Rosenkrantz

By Brooke Cussans of Baby Name Pondering

You probably remember a show from the eighties called The Golden Girls, which was about four “previously married” women living together in Miami. While they often seemed mismatched, the success of the show lay in the strong bonds of friendship these women shared, and is said to have been the inspiration behind many other shows and movies, including ‘Sex and the City‘ and ‘Girls‘.

Although the ladies had some great names (on and off screen), at the period when ‘The Golden Girls‘ was airing, from 1985 to 1992, people were rather unlikely to want to name their sweet babies after characters in a show about mature women, or the actors who played them. They would have seemed a little fusty in a world of Jennifers and Ashleys; Jessicas and Amandas.

These days their names have much more of an appealing retro/vintage feel, and are again finding favour with today’s parents.


Dorothy‘s mother,  Sophia was the comical voice of reason that could be relied upon to offer advice. Sophia is a Greek name meaning (quite aptly) ‘wisdom’. It’s an exotic but  friendly feeling name that has just that bit more exotic sophistication than its counterpart Sophie. Sophia is currently the top girls name in America, and is a favourite in many other countries too.


Estelle Getty played Sophia. Estelle comes from the Latin stella, meaning ‘star’. Stella itself has been an extremely fast rising name in recent years. In 2012 Estelle re-entered the American top 1000 for the first time since the sixties, as did variant Estella. Both have great charm and will likely rise much further.


Rose was the bubbly, sweet, naive optimist with an ability to help the others see the good in the world. The name has long been a go-to middle name, but it’s actually had more use as a first name than this reputation might suggest. A simple, elegantly beautiful name, Rose has been rising again in recent years.


Betty White’s portrayal of Rose earned her a soft spot in many people’s hearts. The name Betty started as a diminutive of Elizabeth, meaning ‘God is my oath’. She was hugely popular about a century ago, but it will likely take a lot to for Betty to reach the same levels of popularity again, despite her prominence on the popular show Mad Men.


Dorothy was the dry-witted daughter of Sophia, and voice of reason in the house. Dorothy was the Number 2 name in America for several years – she actually lost her position to Betty in 1928. Unlike Betty, though, Dorothy has been on the rise again in recent years. Dorothy is a Greek name meaning ‘gift of God’ and comes with a slew of possible nicknames such as Dotty, Dot, Dodie, Thea, and Dory/Dor,  which help to give this name a fresher image for modern times.


Bea (born Bernice, not Beatrice) Arthur was the perfect embodiment of her character. Bea is often overlooked as a stand-alone given name. Despite being a fairly consistent presence in the American charts it hasn’t been in the top 1000 since 1910. It derives from Beatrice and Beatrix (both currently rising), meaning ‘she who brings happiness’. It’s a short spunky name for people who love one-syllable names that you don’t hear everyday.


Blanche is another great one- syllable name that has long been overlooked. It’s an old French name meaning ‘white,’ but because it was often used as a nickname for a person with blond hair it is sometimes thought to mean ‘blonde’.  Nowadays Blanche, like the Golden Girls character has a somewhat Southern belle image and is perfectly poised to rise with the current love for vintage beauties.


Rue McClanahan (born EddiRue, named for her parents middle names Edwin and Rheua-Nell) played Blanche. The name Rue was all but forgotten until The Hunger Games reminded us of its soft and subtle charm. In English it is a word meaning ‘regret,, in French it means ‘street’ and it’s also an herb, which makes it equal parts word name, French accented and calming nature reference. It’d be great to see this sweet name get more use.

All of these are wonderful, charming names poised to increase in popularity in. Well, except for Sophia – it’s hard to get much higher than Number 1!  Which one is your favourite?

Brooke Cussans – better known on the Namberry forums as bluejuniper – is based in Melbourne, Australia and is the author of name blog Baby Name Pondering. She especially loves rare and unusual names.


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