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9th century apse mosaic of Saints Valerian and Cecilia
Valerian (vul-AYR-ee-en) is a boy's name you might think is a little bit more popular than it really is, thanks to the recent movie Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (originally the comic Valerian and Laureline). But there were none (or less than five boys given the name per year) since 2010. Before then it was not given to more than 17 boys in any year since 1880, when the SSA records begin. Female counterpart Valeriana (and her French form Valériane), however, had been much more rare - only used 5 times in 1999 and 6 in 2016. Valerian means "strong" in Latin.

Valerian sounded familiar before the movie, however, because of the flowering plant of the same name, used in sleep tea and as a medicinal herb since ancient Roman and Greek times.

Valerian was the name of a 3rd century Roman emperor and his grandson, the Roman Caesar Valerian II. Namesakes also include, but are not limited to, an 8th Duke of Wellin…
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Locryn (LOK-rin) is the masculine Cornish variant of Locrinus, a Welsh name meaning “England.” Locrinus may seem familiar because it was the name of a legendary king of Britain whom Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote about, and in his writing, the place Locrinus was from in southeastern Britain was called Loegria. Locrinus was a descendant of Brutus and Aeneas, and his two brothers were named Albanactus, meaning “Scotland,” and Kamber, meaning “Wales.” The name may also seem familiar because Locrinus married Gwendolen, the daughter of the supposed founder of Cornwall, but Locrinus kept a lover - Estrildis, who gave birth to a daughter named Habren. this is where the story behind the name Sabrina comes from. Gwendolen drowned her in the river Severn, which was Latinized in the 2nd century as Sabrina.

Locryn ranks mid-level in Cornwall as far as anyone can tell, but the data is from a few years ago and it’s not a top 100 name there. It is exceedingly rare in the U.S. with no data so far. There …


Desdemona by Theodore Chasseriau

Desdemona (dez-deh-MOH-nah) is an English literary name meaning "ill-fated." William Shakespeare used the name in Othello, but the play was based on the story Un Capitano Moro which was in Giovanni Battista Giraldi's Gli Hecatommithi, where the name was spelled Disdemona, from the Greek word dysdaimonia. It has never been a terribly popular name because of the character, who is murdered by her husband, and the name's meaning. However, Desdemona has been a character name in several other works of fiction since, including the Midnighters trilogy by Scott Westerfeld, the book Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, and Jimmy Buffet's Where is Joe Merchant? Desdemona also features in two other plays - Toni Morrison's Desdemona, and Paula Vogel's Desdemona: A Play about a Handkerchief. It's also been used for four songs, is a moon of Uranus, and an asteroid demonically named 666 Desdemona. Desdemona Mazza was an Italian silent film…


Ruslan (ROOS-lahn) is a Slavic masculine name, and Ruslana is the feminine form. It is said this is the Russian form of the Turkic word arslan (and the Turkish name Aslan), meaning "lion." That may be true but there is also a possibility it comes from the Kievan Rus, called Rus, the Rusichan or Ruthenians, who came before Russia as we know it. If this is the case, Ruslan likely means "to row/rower," and shares an etymological root with Russia itself. Some of you may recognize Aslan as the name of the lion in the Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. This is used in Russia and the surrounding area, and it's also a Circassian name. Eruslan, Yeruslan and Uruslan have been seen as variants.

One of the oldest uses of the name is of a legendary hero from the Pushkin poem/epic fairytale Ruslan and Ludmila published in 1820. The majority of namesakes are from the 1900's and includes plenty of footballers, other athletes, and politicians. Rusla…


Diletta D'Andrea

Diletta (dee-LAY-tah, dee-LET-tuh) is an Italian girl's name that comes from the Latin word dilecta (diligere, diligo) meaning "preferred, diligent, to be loved by choice." It is used in Italy and Switzerland and the numbers are going up, I first saw this name over at The Well-Informed Namer along with some other Italian beauties. Nicknames for Diletta could range from Dila, to Letta, to Letty, to Dita. There are only a few namesakes, such as opera singer Diletta Rizzo Marin, actress Diletta D'Andrea, Italian swimmer Diletta Carli, and journalist Diletta Petronio. In the Italian language version of Gone With the Wind, Scarlett and Rhett's daughter is Diletta instead of Bonnie. Diletta is also a character name in a novel by Frederico Moccia. Diletto is the masculine form of the name. Diletta has not been used in the U.S.

Wellesley or just Welles

Welles is an Old English surname meaning "spring of water." Wellesley is a variant, commonly found as a surname as well. As a surname Welles dates back to 1086 and is credited to a well (spring) in Lincolnshire. As far as Wellesley goes, there were 5 girls given the name in 2015, none in 2016, 5 in 2017and 6 boys in 1923, that is all. For Welles, there were 46 boys given the name in 2017 and no girls. There's really only one namesake with Welles as a first name - Welles Crowther, an American who died saving others during 9/11. Wellesley is perhaps more well known as the surname of the Dukes of Wellington and there are no well known namesakes with Wellesley as their given name. Welles is a decidedly nickname-free name, while Wellesley can be shortened to Welles.


Grecia (GRAY-see-uh is the most common pronunciation although some do say GRAY-shuh) is a Latin girl's name, variant of Grace, meaning "mercy; favour." Grecia is also the Italian and Spanish word for the country Greece. As far as anyone can tell, Grecia is bestowed as both a variant of Grace and as a place name. Grecia was given to 139 girls in 2017, so it is rare but not unheard of. There aren't many namesakes, but one is Venezuelan-Argentine actress Grecia Colmenares. One of the oldest known persons was Grecia de Briwere (Groecia de Bruere), daughter of Lord Horsley, born about 1176.


Caprice is derived from the Italian musical word capriccio (kah-PREE-chee-oh), "on a whim," which can also be translated as "a sudden motion," and "a fantastical thing." However, the etymology of the word is capo riccio, "curly head," and it was influenced by capra, "goat." When it applies to the given name, meanings such as "fanciful," "whimsical," and "curly hair" are acceptable. Caprice is the French take on the Italian word. It is where the English word capricious comes from, which means "impulsive, unpredictable." Capricia (kah-PREE-shuh) has been found as a variant.

Caprice is one of only a few ways to get Capri as a nickname. While the Italian island Capri is pronounced KAH-pree, as a nickname for Caprice it can be pronounced kuh-PREE.

Caprice was a 1913 film, Caprices a 1942 French film, the 1967 film Caprice, 2013 independent film Blue Caprice, 2015 French film Caprice, as well as the na…

Ancient Germanic Female Deities

Loki and Idun by John Bauer

Here is a list of ancient Germanic goddess and personifications. There is some overlap with the goddesses of the Norse pantheon, and I've limited it to those names that I think would wear well today on modern babies. Of the following names, only the following were used in 2016. Sol was given to 91 girls, Ran to 5 girls, Saga to 9 girls, and Beyla to 6 girls.

Beyla - as a possible agricultural personification, her name could mean "cow," "bean," or "bee," but she has been associated with bees and mead, so my guess is "bee." However, there's been a proposed connection to the reconstructed Proto-Norse name Baunila, which means "little bean." This is also a Spanish and Italian girls name.

Fulla - possibly means "bountiful." Her other name is Volla, which I think is equally accessible as a name. She is a virgin goddess in Old Norse mythology.

Gersemi - means "treasure." She is daughter of …


Rainer (RAY-ner) is an Old German boy name and patronymic surname meaning "deciding warrior," or "advising army." You might choose the older spelling option Rayner, older still is Ragnar, which ultimately came from the elements ragina, "counsel from the gods," and harjaz, "army." It has seen several variations of spelling from country to country, such as Raynor, Rainiero, and Rainier. There's loads of namesakes for each international version of the name, from Prince Rainier of Monaco to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Rain is the Estonian short form, but would obviously work well as a nickname today.


Zisa (ZEE-sah), sometimes spelled Ziza, was a Germanic goddess, possibly the equivalent of the god named Tyr of the Norse pantheon who was also called Ziu, or more likely she was the Germanic version of Tyr's wife. Since Tyr means "god," Zisa means "goddess." Her name can be found in manuscripts dating from the 12th to 14th century. Most of them recall a battle between the Swabians and the Roman Empire in the 1st century BCE. A connection has also been made between this goddess and the Swabian goddess Isis. She is the patron goddess of Augsburg, which was originally named Zizarim after her. Her worship has been primarily left to that general area, which is one reason she remains mostly unheard of. From the little bit we know about her, she was a protective goddess, and it is rumored that Tuesday was not actually named after Tyr, but after Zisa, as it was "Zistag" according to the Suevi. Zisa is unused as a baby name in the U.S., with no records.

Bex or maybe Bix

Bex can be a nickname for Rebecca and Beckett, but Bex, which happens to be a municipality in Switzerland, could be a name of its own. Some of you might recognize Bex Taylor-Klaus who has starred in the TV shows Arrow, House of Lies, Scream, and The Killing. However, Bex can be short for Bexley, which happens to be a place in east London and in Ohio. That's two-for-one in the place names department. Bexley, which means "boxtree meadow," ranked #970 in 2016 for girls (275 girls total), while it was only given to 13 boys that year. Bex was not used at all. As far as namesakes go, Bexley was the surname of actor Donald Thomas "Bubba" Bexley. Bexley is sometimes said to mean "pasture by the stream," and as this article claims, it was recorded as Bix, later Bixle, in the Domesday Book. But that might not be entirely accurate, and it seems Bex was recorded in the book itself. This source tells us it actually means "box tree meadow," from the eleme…


Caterina Sforza

Caterina/Catarina is a stunning, classy name that is surprisingly rare. It seems like Katherine/Catherine has won the hearts of most parents, leaving this gem to be found by those looking for something beautiful and underused. Caterina was given to 43 girls in 2016, with data since at least 1904 (with 5 births that year). Catarina was given a bit more in 2016 with 60 births. Also, Catherina and Catharina were each given a mere 5 times in 2016. This name definitely falls into the "familiar but rare" category. Caterina is an Italian and Catalan variant of the Greek name Katherine, which is generally accepted to mean "pure," from the word katharos. However, that meaning was largely a Christian take-over of sorts, and it could just as easily be from hekateros, "each of the two," or, slightly less likely, from the goddess Hecate, meaning "far off."

For famous namesakes, there's Italian noblewoman Caterina Sforza, born in 1463. Sh…