Wednesday, May 6, 2015


gordon castle
Gordon Castle

Gordon is a Scottish boy name meaning "great hill" or "spacious fort." It may have a different meaning in Old English and Irish. There are two possible origins - one, that it transferred in use from a Scottish or French place name, ultimately from the Gallo-Roman name Gordus (possibly "stream" or "whirlpool"), and two, that it was given in honor of Charles Gordon, an 1800's war hero. Regardless, Gordon is a relatively new baby name, beginning its history as a given name in the 19th century. The surname goes back to at least the 12th century and likely was born from several places instead of just one. Clan Gordon of Scotland is just one example.

Red Wings hockey star Gordie Howe, astronaut Gordon Cooper, composer Gordon Jenkins, prime minister Gordon Brown, chef Gordon Ramsey, physicist Gordon Gould, and writer Gordon Dickson are among many famous namesakes. In fiction, half the characters named Gordon are in children's TV shows (including 80s sitcom "Alf"), but many older folks will recall a Gordon from "Walker, Texas Ranger," while literary buffs might think of the novel Gordon by Edith Templeton. Possibly the most well-known fictional character, however, is comic book hero Flash Gordon - second only to Gordon from the Batman comics.

For a name so young, several places in the U.S., Australia and Scotland are named Gordon, as well as motor manufacturers that are no longer producing vehicles, a nobility title (Duke of Gordon is the title, but there is a Viscount Gordon as well and several people with the surname Gordon were nobility with other titles), a castle, a printing press and a bomber plane.

The proof Gordon is ripe for a comeback: he ranked #935 in 2014, back on at last after it went missing after 2008. The name has been well used since 1880 and was given to more than 2000 boys from 1917 to 1960, explaining Gordon's heavy vintage feel.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Cofa (KOH-fah) is an unusual name - if one can call it a name at all. The Old English word cofa means "cave" or "chamber," from older Proto-Germanic roots, and it's also where we get the word cove. The surname Coventry also claims cofa as the first part of its etymology. Cofa has many acronyms, such as the College of Fine Arts. Still, for adventurous namers, Cofa proves right on trend being a legitimate word-name like Thatcher or Forest, and a boy's name ending in A, like Luca, Santana and Ezra. It even has the popular O sound, like Koa, Cole, Noah and Jericho. Since it's not used as a traditional name it can also be used for girls, similar in sound to Coco, Chloe, Sofia, Cora, and Siofra. Given its obscurity it may also appeal to those on the hunt for a truly one-of-a-kind name that no one else has.

Friday, May 1, 2015



Albion (AL-bee-on), one of the many old names for Britain, is a boy's name from the Latin albus or Proto-Indo-European albho, both meaning "white."

One legend has it that Albion was a giant and the son of the god Neptune. After Neptune put Albion in charge of ancient Britain it was named after him - possibly in the form Alebion. The legend obviously isn't true, but Albion is indeed ancient, and could possibly be older than the Latin albus, and it might have a much longer story. If the popular theory that Albion's etymology of "white" refers to the white cliffs of Dover is not where the story ends, then it would have an older origin. It is most likely the island's old name is from Proto-Celtic albi̯iū, meaning "world," although it could have started as a PIE word meaning "white," which would tie it together nicely. As "world," the specific meaning is "upper world," as opposed to the underworld. Many suggest the two meanings combined are legitimate, making Albion "white upper world." This would add a richer layer to Albion, considering there were ancient Celtic gods with Roman counterparts named Albiorix, which means "king of the world," and Albius. If Albion and Albiorix are actually related, and if albiorix and albus were born from the same word, that could mean Albion/Albiorix could have been the founding father of the Celtic tribe, possibly the same as Dis Pater, making this a baby name with some real weight.

Eventually Albion stopped meaning all Britain and only meant Caledonia. Scotland and sometimes all Britain was also referred to as Albany, but Albion is the oldest known name for the Britain, and Albany originated a bit later, partially as a title and partially as a nickname/variation, with stronger ties to Scotland. Scotland has been known as Alban/Albania and the Kingdom of Alba. Today, Albany is most used as a place name, but remains familiar as a baby name.

Related names include Albin, Alban, Alben, Alpin (Celtic) and Aubin (French). None have been popular recently, but in Roman and medieval times, and up to the 1930's, it was common. The female forms of these names include Albinia, Albina,  Alva, Alvit, Alba, Albia. Elaborations include Fioralba and Rosalba/Rosalva. These names share an etymology with the word albino.

As a baby name, Alban may be the longest used, from about the 13th century. Three saints share this name, but Saint Alban was the first British Christian martyr during Roman times or about 300 AD. Saint Alban of Mainz (Germany) and Saint Alban Roe (England) came later.

Albion is also used in William Blake's mythology and poems, about the son of Neptune/Poseidon, but this myth has been written about by others.

For a time, Canada was referred to as New Albion and Albionoria, though they were short lived.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nimue, Niniane or Nineve

The Lady of the Lake from The Legends of King Arthur and His Knights

Nimue (NEE-mu-ay, NEEM-way, NIHM-oo-ay) is an Arthurian baby name and just one name given to the Lady of the Lake, also known as Niniane, Vivian (multiple spellings), Evienne, or Nivien. Some have claimed she is, or represents, a triple goddess, due to the fact that her names could come from the goddesses Coventina, Nemain, and Mnemosyne (and the Celtic love of triple personifications is well known).

Nimue may be a corrupted form of Nineve, which may have been taken from Nineveh, a city in Syria, which is an Assyrian name that ultimately means "a habitation of rebels." If not, it may be taken from Mnemosyne (meaning "memory") a water nymph from Greek mythology whose story was a bit similar. As Nimue could be a spelling error, along with Nynyve, Nynyue and Ninive, there is no set-in-stone pronunciation. In Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur there are three different spellings used: Nimue, Ninive and Nineve/Nyneve (perhaps on purpose because all good things come in threes). In Tennyson's Idylls of the King she is Vivien. Vivien(ne)/Vivian(e), although its own name, may have been inspired for this character by the Celtic water goddess Coventina and have no relation to Vivian of Latin origin, which was originally a unisex and/or masculine name meaning "alive." Her name as Niniane most likely comes from the Celtic word nino, meaning "ash" but it is so close in sound to Viviane that one must wonder which came first.

The Lady of the Lake is world famous for giving King Arthur the sword Excalibur, but her story is deeper than that. She was foster mother to Sir Lancelot, raising him underwater. Before that, Merlin met her and fell so in love that he agreed to teach her all of his magic. She was, for a time, his scribe, student and lover, but when she grew more powerful than Merlin she imprisoned him and may have taken over his duties to King Arthur, which may have led to Arthur's downfall. Yet, she was one of the three queens that escorted Arthur to Avalon. Every author shares his unique version of the story.

Nimue has always been a rare baby name, only given about 30 times in the U.S. Ninive has only recently had some use in the U.S. starting approximately 2004 just a handful of times a year. Niniane, Nyneve and Nineve seem to be the most elusive spelling choices. Vivian has always been popular, given to 2629 girls in 2013 which gives it a rank of #119 (Viviana is #445, and the French spelling Vivienne is #280). With the e at the end, however, Viviane and Viviene are much less popular options, with only 12 girls given the name Viviane and 7 given Viviene in 2013. Vivianne is somewhere between the two, not ranking but given to 75 girls in 2013

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Dario, Darius, Daria

Dario, pronounced DAHR-ee-oh, is the masculine Italian form of the Latin Darius and Greek Dareios. Ultimately it comes from Persian name Dārayavahush, simplified to Dariush, meaning "he who holds firm the good," or "to possess good, to possess well" but is sometimes taken to mean "preserving good,"  "upholding good," or "protector." The English name Darien (#1000 in 2013) can be either from the Latin or Greek form, or from the questionable Irish Gaelic name Darren, meaning "great."

Three ancient Persian kings had this name - Darius I, Darius II, and Darius III, the first of which was Darius the Great. Rulers Darius I and Darius II of Media Atropatene also shared the name. Prince Darius the son of King Mithridates VI of Pontus is another, and his father claimed he was a descendant of Darius the Great and/or Cyrus the Great, and Mithridates also had a grandson named Darius of Pontus, though he was a child of Mithridates's son Pharnaces. Dara Shikoh (sometimes Dara  Shukoh) was an almost-Emperor of the Mughal Empire. Darius the Mede comes from the Book of Daniel and was said to have been king over the Chaldeans. Lastly, there was a Darius who was a politician in the Eastern Roman Empire.

Saint Darius (Saint Dario) was martyred in Nicaea, Turkey in the 4th century with Zosimus, Paul and Secundus.

For the spelling Dario, namesakes include Nobel Prize winner for literature Dario Fo, film makers Dario Marianelli and Dario Argento (father of actress Asia Argento), Italian poet Dario Belleza, soccer athletes Dario Šimić and Dario Vidošić, and Olympic gold medalist Dario Cologna all share the given name, but there are many more.

For the spelling Darius, namesakes include several athletes, musician Darius Rucker, cinematographer Darius Khondji, French composer Darius Milhaud and others less known. It has been used very little in fiction, and mostly recent.

Darien has the fewest namesakes and fictional characters - there are two actors, a journalist and obscure TV, game and books appearances.

In the mid-20th century this name was used more commonly. Today it ranks at #986 in the U.S. while Darius ranks at #412. Dario currently ranks in Croatia and Spain, and has been used well in Galicia and the Netherlands.

The international female version is Daria. "Daria" was a hit animated TV show from the 90's with a lead character of the same name. Saint Daria was martyred with her husband Chrysanthus in the 3rd century. Alternate spellings for Daria include Dariya, Darija, Dareia, Darya, and the lesser known international options Tarja, Darina, Darinka, Darushka, Derya, Daryna and Odarka. Daria currently ranks in Poland, England and Wales, and was last ranked in the U.S. in the late 90's. Dasha/Dasia are Russian, Ukranian and Polish nicknames. Daryā also means "sea" in modern Persian. Daria has more namesakes than all of the masculine versions of this name, most of which are atheletes.