Sunday, March 31, 2013

Giordana

Giordana Otero
Giordana Otero

Giordana (jee-or-dah-na) is the Italian feminine form of Jordana, originally from the name of the Jordan River. Jordan is Hebrew meaning "flowing down," a very suitable name for a river, but popular in Italian because it was where Jesus was baptized. Giordana's saint day is September 5th in memory of Saint Jordan of Saxony, who was one of the first leaders of the Dominican Order. Zordana, Yordana, Giardina, Jardena, Jordi, Jorda, Jardina, and Jordain are other international variants. All versions of the name were commonly given to children baptized in holy water from the Jordan River, even since the Middle Ages.

Giordana has never ranked in the U.S. top 1000 and was given to only 9 baby girls in 2011. Even the more American version, Jordana, was only given to 85 baby girls in 2011, still considered quite rare. The unisex name Jordan ranked at #196 in 2011 for girls, on its way down from #50 in 2000, and for boys it ranked at #46 in 2011, still just about as popular as it was a decade ago. The male version of this name is Giordano, which is Italian for Jordan, and this has not ranked. However, in Italy both Giordana and Giordano are more common.

There are two namesakes for Giordana - one is "Gypsy" Giordana Otero, an actress who stared alongside the Jonas Brothers in the Disney Channel's "Jonas L.A." and the other is lighting designer Giordana Arcesilai. As for boys, there have been several namesakes from composer Umberto Giordano to 16th century philosopher Giordano Bruno. Giordano is also a common surname.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rhydian

rhydian vaughan baby name 

Alternatively spelled Rhidian from the 20th century, Rhydian (RID-ee-an) is a Welsh boy's name meaning "red," from the element rhudd (rudd), sharing some similarities with Rowan. An early Welsh saint may have had this name. There is a church established by the saint in the 6th century

Namesakes include British-Taiwanese actor Rhydian Vaughan (pictured above), Welsh singer Rhydian Roberts, novelist Rhidian Brook (who coincidentally wrote The Testimony of Taliesin Jones - I just wrote about Taliesin), and bass player Rhydian Dafydd for the band The Joy Formidable.

As a name in the U.S., Rhydian has not been used more than four times in a year, and is therefore not recorded by the SSA. White Pages tells me that only one exists.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Erisabel

I passed by a beauty salon with this name in the title, and it immediately struck me as a name I had to write about. However, when I looked for information, none was found. So like many -bel names, I assumed it was simply Erisa + bel. Truthfully, people can find a way to add -bel or -belle to just about anything, from Annabel to Corabelle.

Erisa is known as a Japanese name that I cannot find an accurate meaning for (most Japanese name meanings vary by how they're written). Eris, meaning "strife," was a Greek goddess of discord, which charted in 1923 and 1924, and is a recently named dwarf planet. If Eris is the main component, Erisabel would essentially mean "beautiful chaos." Erisa in English could come from Iris by way of Irisa, or even from Eliza. Unfortunately, the letters are also an acronym for the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, so adding -bel makes all the difference. While Eris is commonly pronounced ee-riss, many insist on air-iss, and even though Erisa in Japanese would be ay-ree-sah, in the U.S. people would likely say air-ee-sah.

While Erisa itself is a rare baby name, only given to five girls in 2011, none were given the name Erisabel. Even so, pulling up ancestry records reveals many women named Erisa from all over the world, and a search on White Pages tells me Erisa has been used enough to be considered a "real" name, or an ancestral name.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Taliesin

taliesin 

Taliesin (tahl-YES-in / tahl-ee-ESS-in) is a seldom heard Welsh boy's name meaning "shining forehead, radiant brow." A 6th century Welsh bard with this name was mentioned in Alfred Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King, the classic Arthurian romance. This Taliesin was a beloved and respected poet celebrated into the 12th century, and written about in other works such as Bran the Blessed. However, the name Taliesin is more well known in America as the name of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's homes located in Arizona and Wisconsin. The icing on the cake is that Taliesin was the son (sort of) of the goddess Ceridwen from Celtic mythology - she ate someone and he was reborn as the poet and wizard Taliesin.

Many have found TAHL-ess-in and tahl-EYE-ess-in to be acceptable pronunciations, as well as Tall, Tali, and Lee to be acceptable nicknames. In 2011 this name was given to just six boys, never more than ten since 1993. In 2013 it was only given to 5. In Wales, Taliesin has been ranking around #1480.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Campbell

There's Campbell's Soup, Campbell University, Campbell in California, and then... 273 baby girls and 147 boys named Campbell in 2011. That does not include variant spellings Cambell for boys, which was given to 6 boys in 2011, and female variant spellings Campbelle (6), Cambell (9), Cambelle (9), and Cambel (5). Campbell is the only spelling to rank, at #936, which is actually down from years before. It has only ranked since 2003.

Campbell started as a nickname-turned-surname (cam beul) of a Scottish clan. The leaders of the Campbell clan were respected Dukes of Argyll. In Scotland, it remains a masculine name and common surname. For being so popular as a given name now, it has a funny meaning - "crooked mouth," originally referring to a facial characteristic (not a smile). One very feminine plus to this name is the nickname Cammy.

Cambell was a heroic Knight of Friendship in Edmund Spencer's The Faerie Queene. His wife in this tale was Cambina, which may have been the feminization of the name.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Macsen

macsen maximus 

With the potential for nicknames Mac or Max, and alternatively spelled Maxen, this Welsh boy's name means "greatest." Macsen (MAK-sen) is from the Latin boy's name Maximus and/or Maxentius, where we get the variants Maksim, Maxim, Massimo, Maximo and Maximilian.

How did the Welsh get Macsen out of Maximus? Magnus Maximus (ca. 335 to 388) was a Roman soldier, a Christian, and made Emperor of Britannia and Gaul (thanks to his soldier buddys and a lucky agreement), controlling Britain, Africa, Spain and Gaul. He lived in Trier, the oldest city in Germany, founded around 16 B.C. His official title was Western Roman Emperor. Although Magnus Maximus was a good soldier turned pretty bad ruler whose ambition got him killed, parts of Wales can trace their heritage to him. In Wales, he was known as Macsen Wledig. An early medieval stone called the Pillar of Eliseg, on which is inscribed the name Sevira and which notes her marriage to King Vortigern, King of the Britons, could be the legacy of Magnus Maximus. There is a possibility Sevira was his daughter, as the inscription said "daughter of Maximus the king of Briton, who killed the king of the Romans," although so little has been recorded. Welsh legend claims that after Maximus married a British woman, Princess Elen, he gave her father sovereignty of the kingdom. He is often cited as founding father of the dynasties of the medieval Welsh  kingdoms. In the tale The Dream of Macsen Wledig, Maximus rewards the British with the portion of Gaul to be known as Brittany.

Let's put it this way: Macsen was such an important guy that people tried their hardest not to forget about him. Unfortunately, his name remains rare in the U.S., where it has never ranked, and was given to only twelve boys in 2011, and has only been used here since 2002. The spelling Maxen was given to just fourteen boys in 2011. The spelling Maxsen was given to 5 boys in 2013.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Betony

betony baby name 

Betony is a botanical baby girl name, and a very rare baby name, that deserves more attention. It is similar to Bethany, Betty and Brittany, and can have the nickname Betty or Tony (maybe even Bee or Bey).

The herb betony was called betonica (vetonnica) by Pliny, who either named it after the people who discovered it, the Celtiberian Vettones tribe, or Pliny knew the Gauls had named it this. Highly regarded from ancient times, it was used by almost everyone until the 20th century. It has been used for a wide variety of ailments, and lately has been used for headaches, indigestion and anxiety. However, betony was also believed to protect against evil, therefore many people planted betony near churches and homes. It is a member of the mint family.

When researching betony, one may find the meaning listed as "good for the head," despite having come from the name of the Celtiberian tribe. The alternate etymology supposedly came from a lost word in ancient Brithonic, or from the Celtic elements of bew, meaning "head," and ton, meaning "good." Though the alternate meaning is logical, it is likely an imposed meaning. Betony is also known as "bishop's wort" and "wound-wort."

There is at least one well known namesake, and that is Betony Vernon, a jewelry designer and metalsmith of Milan and Paris. Also, the surname Bettany comes from the plant name betony.

The baby name Betony was not given more than four times in a year to any boys or girls since 1978, when it was used eight times. Since the Social Security Administration only releases the data if a name was used on five or more children in a year (of the same sex), 1978 was the only recorded year after 1880. That is not to say it hasn't been used at all - White Pages tells us there are 41 people with the first name Betony in the U.S. It was also used by the Victorians during the flower name obsession, but it had a hard time catching on and staying in use the way Rose did.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Lorcan

st laurence lorcan o toole baby name 

Lorcan is an Irish Gaelic name meaning "little fierce one" or just "fierce," that comes with an equally rare, and very magical, nickname - Lore. Depending on your accent or what region or country you're from, Lorcan may be pronounced LOR-kan, the second syllable as in "can do," or LOR-kuhn, the second syllable as in "country." There is a possibility the name originated as a nickname for people who were brave warriors.

Lorcan mac Lachtna was the grandfather of Brian Boru, the last high king of Ireland. Brian was a national hero, while Lorcan was the first of his tribe to become king of Dál Cais. Lorcan's son Cineadh of Munster was known for improving the geneology of the kings of Munster. 

Saint Lorcan (Anglicized as Saint Laurence) O'Toole, Archbishop of Dublin during the time of the Norman Invasion. He is patron saint of Dublin. Coincidentally (or maybe not), Irish born actor Peter O'Toole named his son Lorcan.

A few Irish kings also had this name. Two were kings of Leinster, one of Uí Fhiachrach Aidhne (Hy Fiachrach), a kingdom in what is now south Galway.

In 2011, six boys were given this name, which is about average. It has only appeared in government records in the U.S. since 1997, and the most it was given was twelve times in a year.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Clarabel

I would love to know, why isn't this beautiful baby name more popular? It's gorgeous, and Claire (#50), Clare (#679) and Clara (#151) are in the top 1000, as well as most Bella variations. Belle itself is just outside the top 1000.

Clarabel has two negative associations weighing it down: Clarabell the Clown, and Disney's Clarabelle Cow. However, it has been a long time since these two characters appeared in modern media, and the majority of the population has no idea they ever existed. In twenty years when your baby Clarabel is full grown, the following two associations will be a distant memory in the mind of grandma and grandpa.

Clarabell the Clown was actually a man, played by three different actors during the lifespan of "The Howdy Doody Show," which aired  between 1947 and 1960. The clown was loved by the audience, and didn't speak until the end of the last episode. I could not find the reason behind naming a male clown a female name.

Clarabelle Cow was mainly seen in the 1930's in black and white animated features, but appeared in later works such as "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "The Prince and the Pauper," which the current generation will hardly be exposed to.

On to the good stuff! The following associations will boost the name of Clarabel or Claribel. Silent film actress Clara Bow was made famous in the 1920's and well-loved, known as the "it girl." Saint Claire was born Chiara, the Italian form of the name. The spelling Claribel was used by Edmund Spenser in "The Faerie Queene," where Lady Claribel is "The fairest Lady then of all that living were." Shakespeare had a character named Claribel, Princess of Naples, in "The Tempest." To top things off, "Claribel" was a poem written by the great Alfred Lord Tennyson.

In 2011, only the spellings Clarabelle and Claribel were used. Clarabelle was given to nineteen baby girls (21 in 2010) and Claribel was given to nineteen as well (11 in 2010). Clarabel and its alternate spellings mean "clear, bright, famous" in Latin and English.

Clariandra is another gorgeous elaboration of Claire, this time with the -andra root, which is Greek for "man." The shifted meaning would then be "clear, bright woman," or "famous woman." Clariandra was a variant used in the Middle Ages alongside other fanciful, frilly names such as Diamanda and Splendora - perhaps the "cutesy" names of their time. Possibly the only mention of her was in the year 1248.

Claren is a rare male variant of Clarus.

Beircheart

Beircheart (bar-hart, bear-hart, and bear-kart) is an Old English and Irish baby name most people have forgotten about. It looks a bit like bear + heart or birch + heart, especially when you say it out loud phonetically (BEAR-chart). It means "[of the] intelligent army; bright army" and has roots in Anglo-Saxon, also commonly used in Irish. In a few sources, a Latin name is given: Berichertus.

Benjamin has been used as an Anglicized form of Beircheart. However, Benjamin is Hebrew, meaning "son of the right hand." The two names are unrelated, from different origins. It is most likely the two sounded similar, therefore Benjamin was the easiest available Anglicization. There was a Saint Beircheart of Tullylease in Ireland, who was a disciple of Saint Patrick, and in some works Saint Patrick's right hand man is known as Benen. Benen is thought to be Irish for Benjamin. I can't say for sure that Beircheart and Benen from the stories are the same person.

Saint Beircheart's name is often found as Berchert, Berechtir, Beirichtir, Berehert and Beirchert. He was an Englishman, possibly a Saxon prince, who went to Ireland for religious reasons and eventually founded a monastery. The Tullylease Church and Cross, dating to the 6th century, is now a popular tourist destination. The cross, with his name spelled Berachtuine and a note asking people to remember him, is said to be his grave site. (As a side note, there was an Arthurian character named Berchtune, found in "Popular Romances of the Middle Ages" by George W. Cox.)

Bernard is another Anglicization of Beircheart. Bernard is Old German, meaning "bear strong, brave as a bear," and comes from the Anglo-Saxon name Beornheard (a much closer spelling to Beircheart). In Ireland, most often Beircheart = Bernard.

Obviously not much has been published on Beircheart, and there are no records of well known namesakes, but I have found information on two Bernie's who both shared Beircheart as their given Irish name, both called Bernard in all American records. Beircheart has not been used in the U.S.