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Showing posts from November, 2017


Adopt a snowy owl

Here's another could-be name - one that exists as a word, but not as a name in the U.S. Sova (SO-vah) means "owl" in Czech, Slovenian, Slovakian, Bosnian and Croatian. This feminine noun comes from Proto-Slavic sova.
"Little owl" is cute as a nickname, but short and elegant Sova really brings something special to the table as a given name. In the U.S. this has not been used as a name more than 4 times in any given year, leaving us no SSA data. It does not appear on recent popularity charts in the countries in which it means "owl."

Could-be names ending in -fera

Apis mellifera, aka Western Honey Bee

The suffix -fera for girls and -fer for boys (as in Lucifer) is a New Latin nomitive neuter plural meaning "bearing." Some examples of plant and animal related words with the suffix -fera are as follows:

Caelifera, "heaven-supporting," which is a taxonomic suborder of grasshopper
Ensifera, "sword-bearing," which is a genus of hummingbird
Indigofera, "bearing indigo," a genus of beans
Loricifera, "breastplate bearer," marine animals with a protective casing
Porifera,"pore-bearing," sea sponges
Mangifera, "mango-bearing," the mango tree
Stolonifera, "branch-bearing," types of sea coral
Rotifera, "wheel-bearing," a phylum organism

There are other words ending in -fer, such as bellifer, "making war," and mellifer, "carrying honey," where the word could be used in the feminine sense, so I will put an asterisk next to those. Following the above…

The baby name Celandine may sound a bit like celery, but it is a perennial wildflower herb known as Chelidonium. In that category are greater celandine, belonging to the poppy family, and lesser celandine, belonging to the buttercup family. The name celandine derives from Latin word celidonia, therefore Celandine and Chelidonium have cognate etymologies, both ultimately coming from Greek chelidon, meaning "swallow." This plant is native to Northern Africa, Western Asia, and Europe. In North America it is considered invasive. It is pronounced sel-an-DEEN.

This plant has uses in herbalism, known as far back as Pliny the Elder's time, when it was considered detoxifying, used to relieve toothaches, and clear the eyes. Pliny connected the herb to the swallow bird using it for eye film, and that may be where the name came from, but it was also widely believed that the herb flowered at the same time the swallows came out in spring. Today we still us…


Sixten Jernberg

Sixten is an Old Norse boy's name meaning "victory stone," composed of the elements sigr and steinn. A longer form was Siegstein. This name was #39 for boys in Sweden in 2016. Famous namesakes include Swedish lieutenant Sixten Sparre born in 1854, Swedish conductor Sixten Ehrling, inventor of pointcytology Sixten Franzen, Danish artist Sixten Kai Nielsen, Estonian orienteer Sixten Sild, and many athletes, such as Swedish cross-country skier Sixten Jernberg, who won 15 Olympic medals. Sixten can also be found as a surname, as is the case for composer Fredrik Sixten and priest Sven Sixten. The form Sixtens appears in the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources (DMNES), dating to 1377.

 The unrelated name Sixtus, meaning "sixth born" in Latin, was the name of five popes, two of whom became a saint. For the first (oldest) three, the spelling used was Xystus, dating to the 2nd century. As Xystus it may have meant "scraped, polished&q…


You might be thinking this baby name is made-up, obviously the combination of girls names Raven and Sara, and you wouldn't be too far off. Ravensara (rah-ven-SAHR-uh) is actually not a baby name at all - rather, it is a botanical name. This is the genus of evergreen trees and shrubs native to Madagascar, prized today for the pure essential oils made from it. All of the parts of this tree are aromatic, and the meaning of its native name, Hazomanitra, is "tree that smells." The (new) Latin name Ravensara means "good leaf," from the Malagasy word ravendsara, ravin'tsara.

Ravensara retains all the mysterious, dark-forest charm of Raven, and the elegant familiarity of Sara, while being infinitely less popular than both (zero data), having the option of either as a nickname, and it is a legit nature name. Rassa, Ren, Ravy, Ray, and Venna are other nickname options.


At first glance, Urraca (oo-RAH-kuh) may not seem like a good name for a newborn. I'll admit it has a clunky oddness about it, and a weight to it. However, like RoxelanaTomyrisZenobia and Melisende, a couple of the namesakes for Urraca qualify as some of the most powerful female rulers of all time - at least in Spain. Like many historical names, Urraca has no U.S. name data. This name may ultimately be of Basque origin, but is likely from Latin furax, meaning "thieving," in reference to the magpie's behavior. The Spanish meaning is "magpie," the beautiful black and white bird.

There are a handful of historical women named Urraca. In historical records the name has also been spelled Hurraca, Urracha and Orraca. Most of these women were princesses or queens coming from the original Kingdom of Asturias, which was divided into Galicia, Asturias (which became Castile), andLeón. A couple others were from Pamplona (Navarre), and Portugal. 

Little is remembered…


I came across the girls name Sarazine while researching Eschiva in connection to Melusine and Melisende. One source gives alternate spelling options that may have been used: Sarrasine, Sarasine, and Sarrazene. Other records have the spellings Saracen, Saracena and Sarazina. The pronunciation seems to obviously point to SERRA-zeen, and seems French in origin. Another possibility is the meaning "Saracen," which is what another source of the name historically points to. Saracen was a word used in medieval times to describe a Muslim population.

Sarazine of Armenia, born Sarazine Lezay in about 1067, was married to Hugh VII le brun of Lusignan lineage, and they had at least one child. She may have been the widow of Robert I, count of Sanseverino.

Sarrasine is also a novella by Honore de Balzac published in 1930. In this, Sarrasine is the surname of a male character. Also, Sarazin Blake is a male singer-songwriter.

None of the spelling options mentioned have been used in the U.S. …


This boy's name is of Old English origin, pronounced RAM-zee, has a few possible meanings. One is the seemingly obvious "ram island," while another is "raven island." In Old English, hræm was raven, and ramm was ram. In Old Norse, rammr was strong, giving this a third meaning of "strong island."

The name comes from the Clan Ramsay, dating back to the 11th century, beginning with Symon de Ramesie. As a surname there are dozens of namesakes, but the spelling Ramsey is more popular for namesakes as a first name. The Baron de Ramsey is also a title in the Peerage of the UK. It seems that the spelling Ramsey comes as a toponymic surname.

The spelling Ramsay was given to only 7 boys in 2016, hinting that it is still primarily a surname, while Ramsey was chosen for 150 boys, definitely falling in the category of place-name turned baby name.

Perhaps the only well-known literary & TV character is Ramsay Snow (aka Ramsay Bolton) from the Game of Thrones seri…


I came across the name Eschiva while doing research on Melisende, and I find the most intriguing part of this girl's name to be the unusual spelling - it is definitely not a combination of letters you see often. The name has no data in the U.S. In fact, it was rare even in medieval times. Eschiva comes from French esquiver, meaning "evasion." Unfortunately there is very little information on the name itself. However, it is a highly royal name with several namesakes.

One historical namesake is Eschiva de Dampierre, daughter of Eudes III de Dampierre-sur-salon, constable of Jerusalem, and his wife Isabelle of Cyprus. Another was the daughter of Gautier of Beirut (de Baruth), and his wife Agnes. This Eschiva married Jocelin de Gibelet. Another was Eschiva de Montfaucan, widow of Gerard de Montaigu, remarried to Balian of Ibelin. Here is a page that connects Eschiva de Dampierre/Ibelin to Eschiva de Montfaucan. Another historical record of Eschiva of Ibelin, Lady of Beirut, …


Lyle is a very familiar boys name that is not heard often today, providing a nice alternative to Kyle, which is becoming outdated.  It was given to 183 boys in 2015, increasing to 207 and a tank of #981 in 2016.  From Norman French l'isle, meaning "the island," it can be grouped with other "island" names like Isla, Avalon and Isola. There's no shortage of Lyle namesakes, both given and surnames. In other uses, there's a children's book by Bernard Water called Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, a Lyle gun which shoots out a rescue rope, and Lyle guitars. As a title, there is Lord Lyle, an extinct lordship from Scotland, and the Lyle Baronets which existed in England.