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Showing posts from January, 2013

An Alternative to Maiden Name vs His Name

I debated for a long, long (LONG) time whether I should post this or not, because a) it has little to do with baby names, and b) it's personal in a could-be-bad way, and c) who really cares? So today I said screw it. I'll just post it so that someone else taking the boat I took can either laugh at me or find my words helpful.

I was over at the Baby Name Wizard's blog ( ) A LOOOONG time ago, and read an interesting article, "Living Surnames: A Manifesto." I must say I didn't make it more than two paragraphs down before I started reliving my own nightmare of deciding whether I should keep my maiden name, and I didn't make it more than four paragraphs down before deciding to write this post. Now, I won't pretend to have any new and exciting information on keeping your maiden name - that debate has been done repeatedly and others can debate it much better than I. Also, I don't want to debate it. As long as the person…

French word names

A small selection...

Fleur - flower
Blanche - white
Etoile - star
Belle - beautiful
Beau - handsome
Bijou - jewel
Elle - she
Boheme - Bohemia
Miette - small and sweet
Reve - dream
Reverie - daydream
Soleil - sun


One easy way to get Letty as a nickname is Violetta. Violetta (vee-oh-let-ta) is a more elegant, romantic and European version of the trending and popular Violet, and while both of them mean "purple/violet," it is a very distinct shade of purple they refer to - the shade violet, as in the flower. It is of Latin origin but used in several countries.

One of the most well known namesakes of Violetta is from Giuseppe Verdi's opera "La Traviata," which was originally titled "Violetta" after the main character. The story in the play was adapted from Alexandre Dumas junior's novel The Lady of the Camellias. (Side note: I had no idea Alexandre Dumas was part Afro-Carribean Creole until I saw "Django Unchained.") In the opera, Violetta is a respected courtesan who abandons her lifestyle when she falls in love with a man named Alfredo. A few events and misunderstandings unfold, Violetta breaks off their relationship, and... well, I won't ruin…


Why did I decide to highlight Carlo and not Carl or Carlos? Besides a really unpleasant association with a Karl, it's a very dated name, while Carlos, in the US, is very region and culture specific. And Carlo is my cousin's name. Carlo, on the other hand, is less tied to any one thing or person. This Italian, German and Spanish variant of Charles means "free man," and ranked on the top 1000 until 2009, from 1905. Yet, it's still a name you don't hear often. If not for my cousin, I would have never met a Carlo. Although this name has European charm, it would fit right in with American kids today, hundreds of which start with a hard C or end in an O. (Camden, Cleo, Milo, Indigo, Leo, Shiloh, etc.)

Carlo also has a saintly namesake - Saint Carlo Borromeo, also known as Saint Charles, who died in 1584, and whose name day is November 4th. Saint Carlo was cardinal archbishop of the Catholic Church in Milan, Italy, and is now Patron Saint of many things, including ap…

Sylvie, Sylvia, Silvia

Miike Snow - Silvia
I was going to include Silvana and Silveria and the male forms of this name in this post, but I think I'll save them for another time and just mention that all Syl-/Sil- names share the same meaning, "[from the] woods, woodland, forest." They all come from the name Silvanus, and he was the Latin god of the forest. More rare variants include Sylvette, Sylvina/Silvina, Silvania/Sylvania, and Sylva/Silva. Silvia is the major Latin version of the name, while Sylvia and Sylvie/Silvie are the English variants. Sylvie is usually thought to be French, but it can also serve as a nickname. All forms have a silvery, gilded, romantic and sophisticated image, while still being quite childlike and playful.

While Sylvie has never ranked, Sylvia ranked from 1880 (and likely well before that) until now. In 2011 Sylvia ranked at #554, and has been in the 500's for the last decade. It has been slowly falling since it was #50 in 1937, which was its highest rank, and…


(VIGG-oh) Viggo Mortensen, who is actually a junior, may be the first and only person that comes to mind with this name. The actor has been known for his roles in "Hidalgo" and "Lord of the Rings." Many don't know about Prince Viggo of Denmark, Count Viggo of Rosenborg, who gave up the wonders of being a prince for his American wife in the 1920's. 
This Scandinavian name meaning "war; thunderbolt" should be way more popular than it is. It's got the trendy V and O sounds, a short and peppy sound, an actor namesake... so how come in 2011 there were only 31 boys given the name and in 2010 only 41? This Old Norse name dates back to the time of the Vikings and is very popular in Sweden (#32), a bit dated (I'm not so sure - it's #288 there) in Norway. It was even catchy enough for Taylor Hanson and his wife to use for their fourth child (the others are Jordan, Penelope and River), once they found it on The most similar sounding …


Italian actress Lavinia Longhi
Lavinia (lah-VIN-ee-ah) is a Latin name possibly meaning "purity," but the name is so old that no specific meaning can be given. It could simply mean "woman from Lavinium," which was an ancient town in Rome/more ancient than Rome/Etruscan. Lavinia was known as the "Mother of Rome." In Virgil's Aeneid, Lavinia was betrothed to a man named Turnus, King of the Rutuli, but when the hero Aeneas came to town her father, King of the Latins, changed his mind and wanted Lavinia to marry Aeneas. The two men then fought for her hand, but Aeneas won. Aeneas then built the town of Lavinium for her. Shakespeare had Lavinia as a character in Titus Andronicus, but her story is an unfortunate one not worthy of repeating and not true to Virgil's Lavinia. Ursula le Guin later wrote more in depth about their relationship in her 2008 novel Lavinia. And she's been a character in many more stories, including The Hunger Games. In all l…


Available on Etsy
Male or female? Mr. Darcy or vintage belle? While slightly resembling cutesy vintage names like Darla and dated names ending in -ie or -y, this name will never make me think anything but "Mr. Darcy." Supposedly Mr. Darcy's surname was a hint at Norman aristocracy, a place name meaning "from Arcy," (Old French d'Arcy). The name is also Irish Gaelic meaning "dark." The original French form could mean "bear," as other names, like Arthur, and the names of a bear god and goddess, share the art- link.

Darcy is currently trendy as parents look to many familiar literary names such as Atticus, Emerson and Gatsby. Ultimately, I believe the name has been more popular for girls in America. It ranked from 1949 to 1994 for girls, and sporadically for boys between 1954 and 1970. Darci and Darcie have also ranked for girls. In 2011 the use of Darcy and variant spellings has decreased a lot since that time, and 140 girls were named Darcy …


The 1968 film "Isadora" about Isadora Duncan, the dancer
*Updated 2016
Isadora, which can also be spelled Isidora, is a Greek and Latin name meaning "gift of Isis" and the feminine form of the boys name Isidore, from Isidoros. Isis was the main goddess recognized in Egyptian myth, and although Isadora would be considered a pagan name by Christians at the time, it survived their repression, even becoming a saint name. Isis has currently fallen out of the top 1000 due to the terrorist attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, inappropriately shortened to ISIS when "Levant" is substituted for "Syria." Within going on a rant about how it should have stayed ISIL to save the children who already have this first name from being accosted or bullied, I will simply say that because no one wants their newborn associated with this group, usage has come to a halt. It is unfortunate because Isis was a great and peaceful female deity and the childr…


Old Hollywood actress Ann Sheridan
Sheridan is an Irish Gaelic surname meaning "seeker; peaceful" of which a playwright and Civil War general share as a namesake. In 1996 the masculine surname made it to the top 1000 list for girls (I wonder if the potential nicknames Sherry and/or Dani made that possible?), dropped off between 1998 and 1999, then came back between 2000 and 2002. It had been in the boys top 1000 in the 1890's and 1930's/40's for just a few short years, when Dan was probably the go-to nickname. As this was a masculine surname, much like Grayson, I have a hard time labeling it as "unisex." So, even though it is primarily used for girls now (9 boys in 2011 vs 48 girls), and isn't used nearly enough to firmly determine male/female (these are the lowest rankings since the peak in 1997), I am putting this one on the boys side.


Another name with next to no info readily available, there are a few possibilities for meaning here. Rhondine could be a rare French variant of Rhonda or a created English variant of Rhonda, meaning "rose" in Greek, "good lance" in Welsh. However, drop the letter h and we have Rondine, meaning "swallow." Rondina can also be found as a first name and mainly a surname. There is an Italian opera titled La Rondine, "The Swallow" in English. Interestingly, rondinella is the name of an Italian wine grape variety.

At least 11 people in the U.S. have Rhondine as a first name, possibly about 20 total, and maybe only 1 has Rhondina as a first name. There are some early records, one in 1888. My guess is that this name came about in several different ways - possibly a vintage trend where familiar names were elaborated upon, a misspelling of an original name, given in reference to the opera, or the transfer of a surname to first name. There are about 50 peop…


Halsten is an English and Scandinavian name meaning "hollow enclosure; settlement in a nook; rock/stone." This name has been used by Swedish royalty, the earliest namesake being Halsten Stenkilsson, King of Sweden, who lived between 1050 and 1084. His first son took his name as Philip Halstensson, and the name Halsten stopped there. Not too much is known about these early monarchs. The name Halsten is not entirely the same as Halston ("hollowed stone"), which is the name of a designer. There are no records of this name being used until 2006, when 6 boys were given the name, and none after 2006. It can sometimes be seen as a surname. White Pages says 77 people have this as a surname, and 2 as a first name.

If Ivy and Ava are so popular, why not Iva?

Iva is a lost vintage name that was once mildly popular in America. Originally from Ivana, meaning "God is gracious," from the male form Ivan, which is an international variant of John (which means Iva is a version of Jane). In 2011 there were 58 girls named Iva. (Ida was not too ahead, with 92 births in 2011, and similar three and four letter vintage names were around the same ranking - Ama with 10 births, Alva with 13).

Old West Nicknames for Girls

I've been thinking of ways to get gender neutral Old Western nicknames for girls that you'd usually see on boys, and two of my best ideas so far are a) Orchid nn Kid (like Billy the Kid), which would take a brave parent to use, and b) Jessamine nn Jesse (like Jesse James).

Names in the Old Western category for boys include:
Wyatt Earp
Kit Carson
Wild Bill
Doc Holiday
Ike Clanton
Buffalo Bill Cody
Jesse James
Billy the Kid

For girls, we have Calamity Jane and Belle Starr. From the boy's options just listed, ideas for Western girl's nicknames (with feminine full names) include Holiday nn Holly, Ekaterina or Katrina nn Kit, or Belicia nn Billy.