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Showing posts from April, 2018

Ancient Germanic Female Deities

Loki and Idun by John Bauer

Here is a list of ancient Germanic goddess and personifications. There is some overlap with the goddesses of the Norse pantheon, and I've limited it to those names that I think would wear well today on modern babies. Of the following names, only the following were used in 2016. Sol was given to 91 girls, Ran to 5 girls, Saga to 9 girls, and Beyla to 6 girls.

Beyla - as a possible agricultural personification, her name could mean "cow," "bean," or "bee," but she has been associated with bees and mead, so my guess is "bee." However, there's been a proposed connection to the reconstructed Proto-Norse name Baunila, which means "little bean." This is also a Spanish and Italian girls name.

Fulla - possibly means "bountiful." Her other name is Volla, which I think is equally accessible as a name. She is a virgin goddess in Old Norse mythology.

Gersemi - means "treasure." She is daughter of …


Rainer (RAY-ner) is an Old German boy name and patronymic surname meaning "deciding warrior," or "advising army." You might choose the older spelling option Rayner, older still is Ragnar, which ultimately came from the elements ragina, "counsel from the gods," and harjaz, "army." It has seen several variations of spelling from country to country, such as Raynor, Rainiero, and Rainier. There's loads of namesakes for each international version of the name, from Prince Rainier of Monaco to the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. Rain is the Estonian short form, but would obviously work well as a nickname today.


Zisa (ZEE-sah), sometimes spelled Ziza, was a Germanic goddess, possibly the equivalent of the god named Tyr of the Norse pantheon who was also called Ziu, or more likely she was the Germanic version of Tyr's wife. Since Tyr means "god," Zisa means "goddess." Her name can be found in manuscripts dating from the 12th to 14th century. Most of them recall a battle between the Swabians and the Roman Empire in the 1st century BCE. A connection has also been made between this goddess and the Swabian goddess Isis. She is the patron goddess of Augsburg, which was originally named Zizarim after her. Her worship has been primarily left to that general area, which is one reason she remains mostly unheard of. From the little bit we know about her, she was a protective goddess, and it is rumored that Tuesday was not actually named after Tyr, but after Zisa, as it was "Zistag" according to the Suevi. Zisa is unused as a baby name in the U.S., with no records.

Bex or maybe Bix

Bex can be a nickname for Rebecca and Beckett, but Bex, which happens to be a municipality in Switzerland, could be a name of its own. Some of you might recognize Bex Taylor-Klaus who has starred in the TV shows Arrow, House of Lies, Scream, and The Killing. However, Bex can be short for Bexley, which happens to be a place in east London and in Ohio. That's two-for-one in the place names department. Bexley, which means "boxtree meadow," ranked #970 in 2016 for girls (275 girls total), while it was only given to 13 boys that year. Bex was not used at all. As far as namesakes go, Bexley was the surname of actor Donald Thomas "Bubba" Bexley. Bexley is sometimes said to mean "pasture by the stream," and as this article claims, it was recorded as Bix, later Bixle, in the Domesday Book. But that might not be entirely accurate, and it seems Bex was recorded in the book itself. This source tells us it actually means "box tree meadow," from the eleme…


Caterina Sforza

Caterina/Catarina is a stunning, classy name that is surprisingly rare. It seems like Katherine/Catherine has won the hearts of most parents, leaving this gem to be found by those looking for something beautiful and underused. Caterina was given to 43 girls in 2016, with data since at least 1904 (with 5 births that year). Catarina was given a bit more in 2016 with 60 births. Also, Catherina and Catharina were each given a mere 5 times in 2016. This name definitely falls into the "familiar but rare" category. Caterina is an Italian and Catalan variant of the Greek name Katherine, which is generally accepted to mean "pure," from the word katharos. However, that meaning was largely a Christian take-over of sorts, and it could just as easily be from hekateros, "each of the two," or, slightly less likely, from the goddess Hecate, meaning "far off."

For famous namesakes, there's Italian noblewoman Caterina Sforza, born in 1463. Sh…

Anglo-Saxon Names We Can Still Use

These medieval names still have potential for the right parents. Here they are with U.S. statistics when applicable.

Alden (still in use with 388 boys in 2016)
Alric (13 boys in 2016)
Anselm (12 in 2016)
Ashwin (70 in 2016)
Beric (6 in 2016)
Bertram (6 in 2016)
Caedmon (30 in 2016)
Cenhelm or Kenelm
Cynric - prn. KIN-rik
Edric (42 in 2016)
Elwin (13) & Elwyn (12)
Everard (none, but 87 Everardo)
Godric (36 in 2016)
Harold (285 in 2016)
Herbert (80 in 2016)
Holbert - gives the nickname Holt easy
Mervin (53 in 2016)
Norbert (5 in 2016)
Nordman (0), Norman (180)
Nothelm, possibly Northelm
Osborn (16 in 2016), Osmer, Osmund, Osric, Oswin
Randal (190 Randall compared to 24 Randal)
Roderic, Roderick (7 Roderic & 199 Roderick)
Rodney (338)
Roger (407)
Selwyn (6)
Swithin - a bit of an oddball but I could see Swift being a nickname, or Swin


Brightwen is a unisex baby name that means "bright friend" in Old English from the root words beorht and wine. However, as pointed out by K. M. Sheard, it was also influenced by Beorhtwynn, beorht still meaning "friend," wynn meaning "joy." Brightwyna/Brigthwyna (BRIYT-win-uh seems intuitive but it's likely BRIGT-win-uh) is a strictly female form of the name, a variant of Brichtwyn (BRIKT-win), which may be related to the Dutch name Brecht (BREKT), whose feminine form is Brechtje (BREKT-yeh). Its other close relations Robert and Albert may be more familiar. Brithwen, Beorhtwynn, and Brichtwen could be other forms. We also know of Beorhtwulf, which was used around 840 on medieval Anglo-Saxons, possibly a king. The bert/beorht element was not uncommon.

Brightwen may be more often found as a surname, as in the case of Scottish naturalist Eliza Brightwen. It is important to note that the surname developed after the Norman Conquest, while the given name ex…


Saint Sunniva via

Sunniva (SOON-ee-vah) has a beautiful meaning, "sun gift," from its Anglo-Saxon form Sunngifu. It can be found recorded as the variant forms Suniva, Sunneva, Sunnifa, Sunnefa, Syneva, Synna, Synne (which became very popular), Synnev, Synneva, Synneve, Synnevi, Synniva, Synva, and more. The earliest recorded use was Sweden in 1353 but the name is attested to Saint Sunniva from the 10th century, who was an Irish princess. Unfortunately she died from a cave collapsing in Norway after fleeing an invading king who wanted to marry her. Miracles were reported on the little island she escaped to, Selja, with her followers. Her brother became Saint Alban. Their tales were written about in Latin and Icelandic.

This Scandinavian name has been used in Norway (most usage, rank #66 in 2015, also common there in Middle Ages), Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Finland, hitting the U.S. charts in 2005 with only 5 births. It di…