Tuesday, March 5, 2013
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.