Travel-Themed Baby Names

There are thousands upon thousands of baby names currently in use.  Any combination of letters can you think of is probably already a name or will become a name at some point.  Still, it’s not all random.  Word-names are very common, and one can often find themes in the kinds of words that show up as names in a given year.  

Today I’ve written about names of adventure, in response to an inspiring one-word prompt by the Daily Post.  My last-such prompt post was about poetic names, which you can read here.  All the names listed below were given to American babies last year, and can be found within the extended SSA data.  Adventure itself, alas, did not appear as a name; nor has it ever appeared in the data.

Journey – 1145 girls, 66 boys.  This is a name with a *lot* of other spellings, including Jurnee (228 girls), Journi (160 girls), Journie (127 girls), and Journeigh (6 girls).  I imagine at least some of them are named after the band. 

Odyssey – 31 girls.  Interestingly, 23 boys were named Odysseus in 2015.


Odysseus and Sirens

Walker – 1148 boys. 

Rider – 66 boys.  Name-wise, this tends to be a variant of Ryder, which was given to 4,130 boys and 133 girls in 2015. 

Sailor – 234 girls, 42 boys.  Saylor is even more popular right now, with 478 girls and 37 boys.  

Travell – 13 boys.  A bit of a stretch, but Travel doesn’t appear in the 2015 data.  Travelle was given to 7 boys, though. 

Trip – 15 boys.  Probably a variant of Tripp, which registered 364 times last year.

Sojourner – 5 girls.  Almost certainly in honor of Sojourner Truth. 


Sojourner Truth

Quest – 27 boys.

Trek – 9 boys.  I have to wonder if the parents are outdoorsy or trekkies, or some combination of the two. 

Safari – 22 girls. 

Sally – 221 girls.  I was surprised to learn that this is a word of adventure, but the definition I found was “venture off path.”  A clever way of concealing that you’re actually naming your child “Off-roading?” (And only now do I realize how ironic/fitting the astronaut Sally Ride’s name was).  No longer is this just a nickname for Sarah.

What do you think of these adventurous names?  Are there any others you can think of? 


Alaric is an ancient name that, although rare, may soon be popular.  In the U.S., the name has mostly experienced a gradual uptick over decades.  But between 2009 and 2015, there’s been an baby boom of them.  Last year there were 181 American boys named Alaric, and spelling variant Alarick registered 12 uses (note – the name that ranked #1000 was given to 202 boys.  Alaric approaches closely).


Medieval depiction of 410 sacking

Unlike many of the ‘ancient’ names I’ve previously written about on my site, Alaric (which means “ruler of all“) has a Germanic origin rather than Greek or Roman.  Ironically, this is the name of the king who sacked the city of Rome in 410.  Maybe that’s why the name hasn’t been very popular historically.

The probable reason for the recent, dramatic rise in popularity for this name is the television show Vampire Diaries, which debuted in 2009.  Admittedly, I don’t watch much TV (starting to fix that), and haven’t seen this program at all.  However, what I do know is this name has become increasingly popular every year since the show started, and that Alaric is the name of the history teacher.  It wouldn’t be the first time in the 21st century that vampires have affected baby names…Twilight, I’m looking at you.

Vampires aside, I think Alaric has the potential to become a staple name.  It looks similar to equally handsome Alan, and contains the “ric” (“ruler”) element that also exists in classic English names like Richard, Henry, and Frederick.  Curiously, Alaric could also be an honorific smash of Alan Rickman (RIP), which might make the name Alaric more appealing for the Harry Potter generation.

Nicknames for Alaric might include Ari and RickAl and Larry are possibilities, but those might be too outdated for many people.  Eric is a stretch, but totally doable.  But, does Alaric even need a nickname?  Probably not. 

Flipping the Question: Masculine Versions of Women’s Names?

I recently read another blogger’s expostulation against having a name that is the feminine form of a men’s name.  She (Alexandra) complained about the fact that the male form Alexander means “Defender of men” or “defender of mankind.”  She explained that she understood the historical and social contexts for the meaning, but at the culmination of her post she decided that she should change the meaning of her name to something like “defender of life” so as to negate the strictly male-vibe of the standard meaning.  I have my reservations about meaning changes for linguistic reasons (in this case, I prefer to call it a “connotation change”), but I see the point.  Name history is very gendered, and it’s time for some critical perspectives.

There are plenty of women’s names that originated among women (like Margaret and Rebecca), but how many more women’s names are rooted in men’s names?  Many women’s names in the lexicon are feminine versions of names that were originally male.  Lately, I’ve written posts on Charlotte and Frederica, which are both examples.  Others include Josephine, Louisa, Jane, and Georgia.  Don’t get me wrong – such names are absolutely stunning.  But does anyone ever think about men’s names that came from women’s names?  Probably not.  They do exist, though!

I’ve compiled a list of a few men’s names that derive from women’s names in some way or another.  This was a lot harder than I thought it would be, or there would have been more.

Margarito – Masculine form of Margaret or Margarita.  Mostly in use through the 20th-century, but apparently it’s still in use!  There were 18 Margaritos born last year. 

Emmett – surname related to Emma.  Currently ranked #139 in the U.S.

Artemus – Masculine of Artemis, though nowadays the original feminine version is about twice as popular as the masculinized version.  The extended data shows there were 19 boys and 104 girls named Artemis last year, and 8 who were Artemus.  Compare to Juno, which was given to 86 girls and 16 boys. 

Heracles/Hercules – “Glory of Hera.”  There is a plethora of masculine Greek names that reference female deities.  Speaking of which, our next two names:

Demetrius – From the goddess DemeterDemetrius is actually a top 1000 name! 

Athenodorus: – “Gift of Athena,” masculine counterpart of Athenodora

Madison – Although Madison has mostly been bestowed upon girls born in the last thirty years, this is actually a metronymic men’s name; it means “son of Maud.” 

It’s also worth noting that among Catholics, forms of Mary are sometimes given to boys as a middle name, in honor of the Virgin Mary.  Indeed, Germany’s name laws are such that parents are prohibited from using male or female names on the opposite-gendered baby, with the exception of Maria as a middle name for boys in recognition of the religious practice.  

Food for thought: what are the implications for naming a daughter a traditionally masculine name outright, like James?  Not a ‘feminine’ form like Jamesina or Jacqueline or even a ‘unisex’ nickname like Jamie, but James?  Does it transcend gender or perhaps diminish women’s experiences in favor of men’s? 


Below the Top 1000, Part 3 (Girls)

Each week I have been posting about some of the names below the top 1000; that is, rare names given to actual babies in the U.S. in 2015.  Just because they’re rare doesn’t mean they aren’t trendy; many of these names are rising in usage and some may enter (or reenter) the top 1000 within a few years.  Others have become outdated and suffer a long decline.

This week’s post regards the girls’ names in the range of 150-199 uses.  Not all names from that range are included here; this is simply a selection. 

Girls names in the 150-199 range

  • 190-199: Annabeth, Coral, Soraya, Sanaa, Denver, Egypt, Delia, Anneliese, Nahla, Nellie, Eisley, Estefania, Karis, Brisa, Belinda, Cassie, Lorena, Audra, Britney, Susanna
  • 180-189: Agnes, Christiana, Margo, Nalani, Rita, Viola, Vida, Betty, Milagros, Skylynn, Meera, Aida, Bellamy, Blessing, Shirley, Maite
  • 170-179: Harriet, Samiya, Clover, Kyrie, Reece, Roxanne, Linnea, Brinlee, Guinevere, Luella, Rihanna, Evelina, Persephone, Petra, Flora, Octavia, Zoya, Arantza, Capri, Emiliana, Sofie, Grecia, Marcella, Priya
  • 160-169: Calista, Isadora, Shaylee, Areli, Silvia, Elissa, Janie, Jazzlyn, Shreya, Pamela, Tesla, Yaretzy, Elinor, Keziah, Legacy, Zahara, Haddie, Maribel, Salem, Damaris, Litzy, Gretchen, Mariella
  • 150-159: Annabell, Dariana, Donna, Ida, Judy, Saoirse, Alba, Dior, Lincoln, Tallulah, Dina, Essence, Rowyn, Winifred, Eleanora, Evangelina, Marin, Ashanti, Leticia, Raleigh, Zella, Aniston, Maura, Naima, Bernadette, Ayesha, Beverly, Blythe, Mireya, Adalie, Avalon, Jael, Suri

What do you think of these names?

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Part 1: Below the top 1000, Part 1 (Girls)

Part 2: Below the top 1000, Part 2 (Boys)

Fancy Frederica

Here’s a name you don’t see often!  Frederica is an ultra-rare feminine form of Frederick, but she has some history.  Frederica Charlotte was the wife of Prince Frederick, second son of King George III and Queen Charlotte. 


Frederica Charlotte, Duchess of York

Earlier this week I read Lady Susan, a short and obscure Jane Austen novel that was just released in cinemas as a movie called “Love and Friendship.”  Lady Susan herself is intelligent, conniving, adulterous, and recently widowed.  She has one child, a teenager by the name of Frederica.  Mother and child do not have a good relationship by any means; Susan hates her daughter, whom she considers dull, and regarding Frederica her main concern is marrying her off (even and especially against her will).  Frederica, however, is shown to be a sweet, bookish girl who’s terrified of her mother.  I can’t wait to see the film, but I have to wonder if this is a case where reading the book before seeing the movie was a bad idea!  

Frederica Vernon, from my reading, seems like she could be a decent namesake; I am curious as to whether the movie will give her name a boost.  With the many thousands of names that appeared in the SSA data in 2015, Frederica was not one of them.  Her last appearance was in 2013, with only 5 uses.  Frederica hasn’t ever been a very popular name in the U.S., and while there are a few years in the late 19th-century and early 20th century where she made it into the top 1000, such years were sporadic.  But, it’s definitely possible that having a recognizable pop culture influence will cause the name to experience even just a little resurgence. 

Furthermore, I think Frederica has nickname potential:

  • Freddie
  • Edie
  • Rickie/Rikki
  • Derry
  • Freya
  • Free
  • Fritzi

I would love to see this name make a comeback.  What do you think of Frederica? 

Bonus: The actress playing Frederica is named Morfydd (!!!).  Now *that* is a name I’d like to see in use.   

Charming Charlotte

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Charlotte is a classic, sweet, and trendy name descending from ancient Karl, which means “man.”  She is one of a select few girls’ names to have been in the American top 1000 every year since 1880.  Now she’s even a top 10 name (#9).  She’s also highly popular throughout the English-speaking world, ranking #2 in New Zealand back in 2014.  The current rank in England and Wales is #23, and #21 in Scotland, but that was for 2014.  Princess Charlotte of Cambridge was born in May of last year; who knows where her name will the 2015 British data when it’s released?

One thing I’ve always found particularly interesting about this name is how she’s usually considered a feminine nickname for Charles in French, yet English treats her as a formal name.  Indeed, coinciding with Charlotte‘s rise is the return of Charlie as a girl’s name (current rank #207).  Nobody ever thinks of nicknames as having nicknames.  But, other feminine forms of Charles haven’t really caught on for long, besides maybe Carla.


Sophia Charlotte and her daughter, also Charlotte

How did Charlotte come to be so commonly used throughout the English-speaking world?  The answer probably lies in royalty.  The 17th-century saw the reigns of Charles I and Charles II, and then in the 18th-century King George III married a German noblewoman named Sophia “Charlotte.”  George and Charlotte had 15 children together, and at one point their granddaughter Charlotte was next-in-line after her father, who was later King George IV.  Her premature death eventually led to the coronation of her cousin Queen Victoria some twenty years later. 


In the same era of Queen Consort Charlotte and Princess Charlotte, there was a Jane Austen character named Charlotte Lucas (Pride and Prejudice).  Decades later, Charlotte Brontë wrote Jane Eyre.  There’s also, of course, Charlotte’s WebCharlotte has connections to some of the greatest books ever written.  If you’re looking for a literary name, this one definitely hits the mark.

What do you think of Charlotte



Saga, Epic, and Lyric: Poetic Names

I don’t usually base my posts on prompt questions.  Today, however, I encountered a one-word prompt by the Daily Post that intrigued me, on the word saga.  My mind immediately wandered towards the subject of names.  I pondered about the usage of “saga” and other related words as human names.  I then turned to the extended data published by the Social Security Administration, which includes almost every first name bestowed on as few as five babies in a given year. 

As it turns out, there are several names within the American data that suggest storytelling or poetry, including Saga itself.  These were the names I could find that were used at least 5 times in 2015:

  • Saga: 6 girls.  This is an extremely rare name without much of a saga (hehe), with her first appearance in the data in 1996.
  • Poet: 11 girls, 8 boys.  This unisex name has an even shorter history, only managing to accrue at least 5 uses a year since the mid-2000s.  It’s more common among females.
  • Poetry: 9 girls in 2015, but one year she had a variant!  Poetri appeared once in the data back in 2008, with 5 uses.  Possibly the clearest marker of any word being name-ified is the proliferation of alternative spellings. 
  • Lyric: 1103 girls, 224 boys.  Lyric has a much longer history as a name than any of the others, spanning decades,.  Though exponentially more popular than the others, popularity declined between 2014, and 2015, so it might not be too common for long.  Still, it’s given rise to the appearance of Lyrics (6 uses in 2015), Lyrical (15), and French Lyrique (10).  
  • Story:* 67 girls.  This name has given rise to a number of other versions; Stori (28) and Storie (22) both appear in the 2015 data. 
  • Sonnet: 12 girls.  As far as I can tell, Sonnet and Story have been used as names for about the same time (since the early 1970s), but Sonnet has remained much rarer. 
  • Epic:* 8 uses.  I think usage probably has more to do with the adjective than epic poetry, but we can hope.

What do you think?  Do you know of any other poetic or storied names?   

*I color-coded based on the current data, and not sets for earlier years.  Story and Epic have indeed enjoyed some unisex usage in the past, but in 2015 they only appeared as either male or female. 

Below the top 1000, Part 2 (Boys)

Each week I will be writing one post on baby names that were below the top 1000 in 2015.  These posts will be in descending order from most common to least common, alternating by gender. The data I examine is publicly available from the Social Security Administration.  Their names webpage is here, for the interested.

The #1000 boys’ name in 2015 was Antoine, registering 202 uses.  There were a couple other names used as many times, but SSA ranks alphabetically when confronted with equally-used names.

Here are some of the names that are teeming just beneath the surface! 

  • 200-202 range: Harris, Harlem, Simeon, Taj
  • 190-199: Clinton, Semaj, Jericho, Abner, Keanu, Ramiro, Eliezer, Ira, Foster, Alistair, Fox, Randall, Westley, Howard, Cortez, Garrison, Merrick
  • 180-189: Gilberto, Darien, Tadeo, Denzel, Leif, Octavio, Roderick, Wesson, Imran, Lyle, Ralph, Alaric, Demarcus, Clarence, Elvis, Ulysses
  • 170-179: Gerard, Aston, Jaxx, Cormac, Dashiell, Nigel, Edmund, Tyrell, Izayah
  • 160-169: Joan, Menachem, Pierre, Shlomo, Damarion, Gonzalo, Cristobal, Finnian, Gus, Davon, Linus, Lucien, Ronaldo
  • 150-159: Hakeem, Tiago, Broderick, Shimon, Ansel, Dhruv, Ledger, Ross, Thorin, Brogan, German, Jean, Smith, Stone, Adler, Aries, Lyndon, Wallace, Addison, Cornelius, Milton, Benedict, Carmine, Zack 

What do you think of these names?  If you would also like to read Part 1 (girls’ names) and have not yet, you may read it here.

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Overlooking the Pyramids and the city of Cairo

Of all the buzzing baby names this year, one of the biggest is probably Cairo Cairo entered the top 1000 in 2015 for the first time ever.  City names are nothing new, and they often enjoy unisex popularity.  London currently ranks #105 for girls and #605 among the boys, while Milan ranks #424 for boys and #695 for girls.  Milan, however, is also recognized as a masculine Slavic-language name, which might explain why it’s more popular for boys in the U.S.  Paris was such a name of an older generation, as for males it likely referred to the abductor of Helen, and for girls to the city or Paris Hilton.  Nowadays it’s only popular as a feminine name (#263), and I suspect Ms. Hilton may be the reason.

I think these kinds of city names become so popular because, in some way or another, they represent pinnacles of culture to people.  London, Paris, and Milan are fashion-capitals, or at least they were when I last heard that trivia question.  Cairo is the capital of Egypt *and* has the Pyramids, but if it wasn’t popular before, why specifically is Cairo a popular name now?  

The answer is in the numbers.  If you look at the extended data (i.e. beyond the top 1000), the name Cairo first began to be used in the late 1970s and was a regular from then on.  Then, in 2011, usage more than doubled.  There were 45 boys named Cairo in 2010, and in 2011 there were 92.  Usage has risen every year since.  Last year there were 220 male Cairos, ranking the name at #940 out of 1000.  The point: Cairo is a popular name because of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.

I’ve never heard of names becoming popular because of protests that happened in another country, or because of instability in some location.  The name Isis is dying because of the terror organization.  Maybe the media brought Cairo to the attention of parents who use names as an outlet for cosmopolitan aspirations, or maybe people thought civil disobedience admirable.  It’s certainly a more interesting tale of popularity than if it were fashion- or celebrity-based.



Months as Names

Have you ever noticed how some people are named according to the the calendar?

Many people are named after months.  A certain preceding generation adored the name April; it’s still a popular name, but peak usage was in the 1980s.

Then there’s meteorically-rising August (ranks #195 for boys), which usage suggests may either be a month or a diminutive of Augustus, depending on gender.  Either way, they still refer back to the first emperor/princeps of Rome.  July is named after his uncle, Julius Caesar.


The Augustus of Prima Porta, as seen at the Vatican Museums

Indeed, what you’ll find is that most of the month names have something to do with the Romans.  January derives from the god Janus (two faces pointing in either direction; fitting!), and was a popular name for girls back in the 1970s.  Interestingly enough, there appears to be a Latin form, Januarius, which is strictly masculine and a saint’s name.  March has to do with the war god Mars, May with the goddess Maia, and June with the goddess Juno.  February’s name does not relate to a god in any way, and what I could find is that it has something to do with purification rituals.  This might explain why out of all the months it’s never been used as a name.


Planetary – another category of naming

The last four months of the year have to do with their numbers within the calendar before Julius Caesar put January and February the beginning of the year.  September was the seventh month of the year, October was the eighth, and so on.  That they don’t have to do with gods’ names makes it really interesting when these numbered months are bestowed on people.


From what I can tell, the most popular month names by raw usage in 2015 were as follows:

  • August: 2059 boys, 242 girls.  As a girls’ name, August is almost popular enough to be in the top 1000. 
  • June: 1127 girls, 16 boys.  June only reentered the top 1000 in 2008, and the return has been swift. 
  • April: 797 girls
  • May: 128 girls.  Variant Mae is quite a bit more popular these days (508 uses), and in that case is likely a nickname for some other appellation. 
  • October: 41 girls.  I actually encountered an adult October recently, which is what inspired me to write this post. 
  • December: 40 girls
  • September: 28 girls
  • July: 27 girls, 11 boys.  9 girls were also registered as Juli, which is the German word for the month.  In any case, historical usage of the names July and Juli seems to tie to Julie‘s popularity.
  • November: Also 27 girls
  • January: 22 girls.  January was briefly a top-1000 name between 1976 and 1979.  Actress January Jones was born during this period.  Apparently the namesake was a character in a 1975 movie called Once Is Not Enough.

March no longer appears in the data, and actually when I looked it seems it was a boys’ name before a girls’ name.  February has never registered more than 5 uses in a given year for either gender.