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Sibyl

sibyl
Sibylla Palmifera by Dante Gabriel Rossetti


Sibyl, from Greek sibylla, meaning "prophetess," was originally a word referring to one of the ten female oracles, and they were so mystically respected that even in early Christian theology their gifts were highly regarded, or at least intriguing, and Sibyl began being used as a given name in the Middle Ages.

Sibyl also comes with a delightful list of variants, each quite beautiful. The spelling Cybil/Cybill has been used, as well as English Sybella and sometimes versions starting with a Z, such as Zibylla. Both Sibylle and Sybille have been used in France, Sibylla in Sweden, Sybille and Sibylle in German, Sibylla in Greek, Sibilla in Italian, Sybilla in Late Roman, Sébire in Norman, and my favorite - Sibyllina, as in Blessed Sibyllina Biscossi (although she may have been known as Sibila, Sibilina or Sybil).

This name has not ranked in the U.S. since 1929. In 2016 it was only given to 19 baby girls. Sybella was given to 11 girls, while the other variants were given to none.


Being such an old name, of course she has some famous namesakes. Sybil Ludington is one, a young girl noted as the female Paul Revere, who rode at night to warm American soldiers of incoming British. One of the first namesakes, however, was Sybil of Burgundy, the Queen Consort of Sicily. She was alive around the same time as Sibylla of Normandy, the Queen Consort of Scotland. Another first namesake was a 12th century noblewoman who was either daughter or niece or Hugh de Lacy. Namesakes don't really reappear until the 1800's with a few actresses and singers. A standout is witch Sybil Leek, who led a fascinating life and was famous in Britain. There are even more namesakes for Sibylle and very regal (almost exclusively) namesakes for Sibylla.


In literary works, Sybil Vane was a character in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. There are three books titled Sybil, and two The Sybil. Sybil is a character in the Harry Potter world and the Discworld series.


There are three films titled "Sybil." There is an English operetta Sybil, which is a version of Victor Jacobi's Szibill. "The Song of the Sybil" is a Gregorian chant sung in Majorca.

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Allifair

Alifair Hatfield
The baby name Allifair, alternatively spelled Alifair, Alafair, or Alafare, has a very interesting history. This girl's name suddenly popped into existence in the U.S. around the mid 1800's, with no mention why or how.

Some history buffs may be familiar with the Hatfield-McCoy "New Year's Day" Massacre, in which a long-time hatred between families (including Union vs Confederacy differences) finally escalated into an all-out violent battle. Alifair was the name of Randolph McCoy's daughter, born in 1858, who suffered from Polio as a child but remained productive. During an attack on the McCoy home, Alifair was shot and killed. There was later a legal trial for her murder. Ironically, there was an Alifair Hatfield born in 1873 in Kentucky.

So how did she get her name? There are records of others in 1809, 1815, 1819, 1831, 1870, 1883, 1920 and 1923. 1767 or 1787 seems to be the earliest it was recorded. It could come from Alfher/Alvar/Aelfhere…