Sunday, March 26, 2017
Juniper (JOO-nih-pur) comes from Latin juniperus and iuniperus, meaning "juniper tree." Its older form, gynypre, was tweaked to conform better to the Latin language, but from this spelling you can better see the connection to French genevre, later genievre. Ginevra and Geneva also share this root. It is possible Juniper ultimately comes from combining the words junio, meaning "young," and parpare, meaning "to produce," although it could come from PIE yoini-paros, meaning "bearing juniper berries." Likely this is a case of 'which came first?'
Back in the day, Juniper was unisex - still is, but Juniper entered the U.S. top 1000 in 2011 for girls and has always been a more popular gender for the name. It would be unusual to see a female Juniper in, say, Renaissance times, but Ginevra would be well received. A celebrity example as a boy name includes Tess Holiday's son Bowie Juniper. In 2011 when the name entered the charts it was unused for boys. It started being used the next year, but by 2015 it was only given to 13 boys. iN 2015 Juniper ranked at #429 for girls.
Juniper is used to flavor alcoholic gin, although the industry term is jeniver/jenever. The name "gin" came about as the French name genièvre got shortened bit by bit. It was not unheard of for gin to be called Geneva (as in the place name) in Europe or Genevieve in certain French dialects. But while Geneva is related to Juniper, Genevieve derives from Genoveva. It is also important to note that while Juniper and Jennifer sound familiar, Jennifer's original form Guinevere has a different meaning: "white phantom/magical being."
There's a handful of things you might know the name Juniper from. Perhaps the song "Jennifer Juniper" by Donovan, Pamela Dean's novel Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary, the cartoon series The Life and Times of Juniper Lee, or the movie Benny & Joon. A classic tale by the Grimm Brothers is called The Juniper Tree. There are many other fictional namesakes.
There is also a Saint Juniper, or Junipero Serra, called one of the "founding fathers of the United States" by Pope Francis, who canonized him. Junipera Serra took his name in honor of Brother Juniper, a friar known as the "jester of the Lord" who died in 1258. Juniper trees have also been believed to be sacred - in ancient Wales they thought a woodcutter who chopped down a juniper tree would die the next year, while in Renaissance times the juniper tree represented chastity in art, which can be seen in the Ginevra de'Benci painting by Leonardo da Vinci. Juniper berries are still used in cooking today.
Nicknames range from Jenny to Jinny, Jip or Jipsy, to June and Juno.