Monday, August 26, 2013


petra city 
Petra City

Petra is the [strong, grounded, forgotten classic] female form of Peter, meaning "rock" from Greek petros and Latin petrus, and unlike the pairs Henry and Henrietta, or Julian and Julia, Peter and Petra are not as obvious as counterparts. Today's baby name has also had a wealth of variants over the years, such as Perrin, Perrine, Peta, Petronilla, Peronelle, Petrina, Petronia (used by Anne Rice), Pierina, Pernilla, Pella, Petroula, Petruna, Pernille, Peterina, Peternella, Pierette, Petria, Petrova and Petronella. Pier has sometimes been used for girls due to the 1950's actress Pier Angeli.

Famous namesakes: Perenelle Flamel, the wife of alchemist Nicholas Flamel; Perina, the character in the fairy tale of the girl sold with the pears by Italo Calvino; the supposed daughter of St. Peter, named Petronilla, who was made the patron saint of dolphins even though nothing was known about her; Petronella de Meath, the first woman executed for witchcraft in Ireland. Literary: The Weight of Silence, The ChrysalidsChasing VermeerEnder's Game, Posuer. Current namesakes: Petra Nemcova, Petra Haden, Petra Kelly, Petra Ecclestone, Petra Markham, Petra Pau, Petra Yared and Petra de Steur. Film: The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant, When Night is FallingSmiles of a Summer Night. Also the old band Petra, which was Christian rock.

There was also an ancient redstone city in Jordan called Petra. It was rediscovered in 1812 and written about by the poet John William Burgon, who said it was "half as old as time." It is currently considered one of the new "Seven Wonders of the World," along with other marvels like the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. The city's discovery may have contributed to the use of Petra as a given name in the 1800's. Because of this city the name can be seen as less of a feminine variation and more of a place name.

In 2012 there were 118 girls named Petra, on a slight decline from the mid-2000's. It was given to more babies per year in the 1920's, and has been used since at least 1881. The spelling Pernella was given to no more than 9 baby girls between 1904 and 1964, not including some years between those dates. Perina was given to no more than 20 girls between 1911 and 1925, not including several years between those dates. Pierina was given between 1907 and 1948 to no more than 17 baby girls. Other than 1968, the Italian variant Pietra has only been used since 2002, not given to more than 11 baby girls. Petria was only used in 1941 on 5 or more girls (as I've said before, the SSA doesn't release the information unless the name was used on 5 or more kids per name). Perrine was only used in 1919 and 1980. Petronella has been used since at least 1884 on no more than 19 girls a year. Petronia was only used between 1919 and 1984 for a total of 7 years, on no more than 10 girls in a year. Petronilla was used between 1907 and 1935 for a total of 10 years, no more than 7 times in a year. Similar international spelling Petronila was used 29 times total. Petrina was used between 1900 and 2011, and 1971 marked the height of its popularity with 99 births that year, making it the 2nd most popular variant.

Despite the low numbers above, Petra did rank in the U.S. every year between 1880 and 1951. It does not rank now. Very few alternate spellings and other variants have been used in the U.S. Petra is the 2nd most popular name in Croatia and very popular in Hungary. It is also common in Germany and the Czech Republic, among other European places, making Petra a very translatable name.

Friday, August 23, 2013


Waterhouse Flora and the Zephyrs
John William Waterhouse - Flora and the Zephyrs

Zephyr (ZEFF-er) is one of those intriguing names that sounds very catchy. It is familiar, yet rare, and very spunky. Most will recognize Zephyr, or Zephyros, as being the gentle wind from the West, a personified Greek deity. The name Zephyr means "west wind." In ancient Greek myth, Zephyrus/Zephyros was accompanied by the other Anemoi, or winds: Boreas, the god of the north wind, Notus, the god of the south wind, and Eurus of the east wind. Zephyr was known as the messenger of spring. He may have been married to Flora (Chloris) or Iris, both his sisters, or possibly Podarge, and he had a thing for Apollo's boy lover Hyacinth. These kinds of marriages were entertaining and fairly common for Greek mythology.

Zephyranthes flower

Zephyra (pronunciations range from ZEFF-rah to zef-FY-rah) and Zephyrine (zeff-er-EEN) are the female variants of the name. Cefirino is a male international variant, and there are many other alternatives, including Zephirin, Zephiros, Zayfeer, Zephirina and Cefirina. The name Zephyr has also been given to a plant, the Zephyranthes, pictured above, also known as the Zephyr Lily. The name has also appeared in literature, such as the Babar books and children's book Silverwing.

Worth noting is the story of President Lyndon B. Johnson's personal chef, Zephyr Wright, who influenced him greatly in civil rights matters. It's an inspirational story worth looking into if you're considering this name.

Zephyr and its variants remain quite rare as baby names. In 2012, Zephyr was given to 20 girls and 60 boys, 126 in 2015. From 1905 to 1984 Zephyr was mainly only used on girls. Since 1919 the variant Zeferino has only been used for boys, and was given to 5 boys in 2010. The variant Zephyrus was only used since 2011 when it was recorded on 5 boys, which was still the same amount in 2016.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


Ksenia Solo of Lost Girl, pronouncing her name

Ksenia, which can also be spelled Kseniya and Ksenija, is a Russian and Ukrainian variant of the Greek name Xenia (ZEEN-ya) meaning "hospitality." Other variants of Xenia include Oksana/Oxsana, Aksana, Xena, Xeniya, and Senja.

Above is a video of one of today's most well known namesakes, Ksenia Solo, the Latvian-born Canadian actress from the TV series "Lost Girl." Russian actress Kseniya Rappoport is another well known actress. Ksenia Afanasyeva is a Russian gymnast who competed in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics. Ksenia Sukhinova is Miss Russia 2007 and Miss World 2008. There are many more namesakes.

Of note is Tsarevna Xenia Borisovna of Russia, who was a beautiful and educated daughter of Tsar Boris Godunov. Tragedy befell her, but she ended up making her way as a nun, and her fictionalized character appeared in a film called "1612." There are two other princesses named Xenia.

In 2012 there were only 19 baby girls born in the U.S. named Ksenia, and none with the spelling Kseniya, although in 2011 there were 25 spelled Ksenia and 8 spelled Kseniya. The name in America can be traced to at least 1955.

Saturday, August 17, 2013



Reagan, the Anglicized form of the Irish surname meaning "descendant of Ríagán," can be used for both boys and girls. The related name may mean "impulsive," or "like a king." Most people may still associate this name with Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. president, and therefore consider it boys-only. Regan is another common Western spelling. Although the more traditional pronunciation is REE-gan, most modern Americans say RAY-gen.

This Gaelic name was first used for girls thanks to William Shakespeare, for his character in "King Lear," who was an untrustworthy princess. However, the name didn't become widely used for girls until the late 20th century. The name could have been propelled by a few different things, one of which was Linda Blair's character Regan McNeil in the 1971 film Exorcist. Reagan Gomez-Preston is an American actress.

In 2012 Reagan ranked at #97 on the U.S. top 1000, taking only a decade to jump up more than 800 spots on the charts. It was #893 for boys. The most obvious nickname is Ray (Rae).

Thursday, August 15, 2013


ferelith young
Ferelith Young

Ferelith is an intriguing name that seemingly did not survive the medieval period, although a quick search online will reveal it is still used today, albeit rarely, thanks to a revival in the 19th century. Ferelith Ramsay is a prime example of that revival, as is the novel Ferelith written by Victor Hay, who named his own daughter Ferelith (Rosemary Constance Ferelith) a year later. Ferelith Young, the actress pictured above, seems to be the most well known contemporary namesake, while Anne Ferelith Fenella Bowes-Lyon aka Princess Anne of Denmark is another widely known namesake, yet Ferelith is her first middle name. Ferelith can also be spelled Forbhlaith, the Gaelic way, and in which case Ferelith the Countess of Atholl is another namesake. Not much is written about this Ferelith, nor her sister Isabella, nor Ferelith's daughter Ada. While Ferelith married a knight, her sister married an important man of Scotland for the times, which was sometime around 1211 AD. There was also an abbess named Ferelith from the Middle Ages. The name dates back to at least 8th century Ireland, and this abbess may be the source.

Ferelith (FEHR-el-ith, fEH-reh-leeth) means "true sovereignty" in Gaelic, a truly spectacular name for a baby girl when the name was at its most popular. For example, when the Countess of Atholl was living, the author Marie de France was presumably writing her lais, which focused on the female character's point of view (thus making her work stand out) and the main subject of one of Marie's lais was that women desired sovereignty over their own lives, rather than let the husband control their affairs. At a time when Arthurian romances prevailed, this was not a far-fetched idea, but still defied traditional patriarchy standards.

Forflissa and Forveleth are other variants. Ferelith is a character in White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick. Ferelith Hamilton is behind the World Encyclopedia of Dogs. Ferelith Eccles Williams is a book illustrator. Sculptor Ferelyth Wills. Ferelith Lean, performing arts. Supposedly in the Hamilton and Ramsay families, both mentioned above, the second element of Ferelith is taken to mean "princess," from the Gaelic word flaith, therefore the name means "true princess." Worth noting is that the name may not have originally been pronounced the way it is today, and that it probably sounded more like Furla or Forvla. The name in fact may have been a scholarly revival.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Magical Names

A random list of magic related baby names...

Mago, Maga
Rune, Runa