Favorite ‘O’ Names

Screen Shot 2017-10-01 at 10.39.35 PMAlthough I don’t have an Instagram, I’m going to try and participate in the October Name Challenge (created by fellow name enthusiast Alexia Mae) via Twitter!  Some days I’ll write entire blog posts surrounding the challenges, and other days I may simply tweet relevant thoughts!

The October 1st challenge is “Favorite ‘O’ Names!”  I rarely discuss my actual favorite names on this site, so this is a good starting point.  My tastes vary, but my very favorite names can often be described as ancient, old-fashioned, and/or elegant.  Harry Potter and Jane Austen have been massive influences on my naming preferences, along with Greek and Roman Myth.

Boys:

  • Otto – #527
  • Odo – doesn’t chart.  You can read more about this name here.
  • Octavius – 51 boys in 2016
  • Orson – 90 boys.  Can’t help but think of Orson Welles!
  • Orlando – #620

I also appreciate names like Oliver, Octavian, Odysseus, Odoacer, Odalric, and Obadiah.

Girls:

  • Ottoline – doesn’t chart, though she really should!  Very distinguished, and she’d fit in with popular -line names like Adeline and Emmeline!
  • Octavia – 255 girls in 2016.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Octavia reaches the top 1000 in 2017!
  • Oona – 109 girls.  I think of Oona Chaplin. 
  • Ophelia – #580
  • Oenone – doesn’t chart.  Oenone is an Ancient Greek name that derives from the word for “wine.”  The thing is: I don’t actually know how to pronounce this.  It takes 3 syllables, but does one say ee-no-nee or oh-no-nee?

Other feminine ‘O’ names I really like are Ottilie, Olivia, Olive, Opal, and Octaviana.

What are your favorite ‘O’ names?

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Venerable Vinicius

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I’ve just come across Vinicius in the extended data!  7 baby boys were named this in the U.S. in 2015.  That’s down from previous years, but I suspect that number’s going to rise in 2016.  This Ancient Roman moniker belonged to the mascot of this year’s Summer Olympics in Rio. 

Vinicius the mascot was named after a famous Brazilian poet, Marcus “Vinicius” de Moraes.  Coming from a classical studies background, I’d just like to take a moment and swoon at the amazing first-middle combo that is Marcus Vinicius!  OK, moment over.  Vinicius de Moraes co-wrote a song most have heard at some point or another: “The Girl from Ipanema.” Supposedly it’s the second-most rerecorded song ever, after the Beatles’ “Yesterday.”  Anyway, there were actually at least two men named Marcus Vicinius in Ancient Rome, who both held the role of Consul at some point or another.  One even married the granddaughter of Emperor Tiberius.  Perhaps the poet was named after one of them?

There’s also the form Vinicio, which was given to 9 boys in the U.S. last year.  I found a “name duel” on a Portuguese site (called Nomes e mais Nomes; translation: Names and More Names) between Vinicio and Benicio.  According to the information on Vinicio, Vinicius is the popular form in Brazil, but doesn’t comply with Portugal’s naming laws.  Vinicio is the legal Portuguese form, but it’s extremely rare.  Here in the U.S., Vinicio is more common, but that may be because it’s also the Spanish version.

What do you think of ViniciusVinicio?  I find it baffling that a Portuguese-language name would be illegal in Portugal, but I can’t make any assumptions why.

P.S.  If you check out Nomes e mais Nomes and don’t already know Portuguese, please understand that Google Translate is imperfect.  It translated the names Ana to “dwarf,” Amélia to “long-suffering wife,” Iria to “would go,” and Ema to “emu.”  Use the translation tool to understand the paragraphs, but read the name lists in the original Portuguese.

What rare names come to mind first? (Boys)

I suddenly had the idea of a mental exercise in which I’d make a list of the first rare name that comes to mind per letter of the alphabet.  My parameters were that it has to rank below the U.S. top 1000 (currently, anyway) and it can’t strictly be a surname.  It also couldn’t be a combination of names or intentionally misspelled…otherwise, I would have put down Xenophilus when I was thinking of both Xenophon and Xenophilius (and probably Theophilus too), and Eustace would have become Youstace. 

I will think of some girls’ names later and post those.  I usually start with girls’ names on this blog, so why not start with the boys’ names this time?

Alaric – 181 uses in 2015.  One of the more popular names on this list; may soon enter the top 1000.  I’ve written more about Alaric in an earlier post, which you can read here.

Bertram – 13 uses.  Means “bright raven.”

Cadwalader Probably not in any modern usage.  Cadwalader is one of those rare old Welsh names you’re only likely to encounter in a name dictionary or a directory of saints.

Dionysus – Under 5 uses in 2015, if any.  Dionysus is the Ancient Greek god of wine.

Eleazar127 boys.  The first Biblical name I thought of in this set.

Florian17 boys.  If you spell it with an ‘e’ instead of an ‘i,’ then you might just be reminded of Florean Fortescue, who ran an ice cream parlor in the Harry Potter books.  Fortescue was actually the first ‘f’ name I thought of, but it’s mainly a surname.

Gerhard – unknown usage.  This is the German form – French Gerard was given to 179 boys, and Spanish Gerardo is the name of 742 boys born last year.

Hadrian – 29 uses.  Roman emperor time!  Here’s a link to the profile I’ve written on this name.

IsadoreInterestingly, this is currently unisex.  In 2015, 10 boys and 6 girls were named Isadore.  Feminine form Isadora belongs to 169 baby girls born last year. 

Joah – 58 boys.  Another rare Biblical name. 

Kel – 5 boys.  ‘K’ was a hard letter to find a rare name for, and Kel was the result of my mind wandering to Kenan and Kel.  I’ve never seen the show…only heard of it.

Ludovic – 7 boys.  There are a lot of guys running around with the name Louis, but this is an old form (they, along with Ludwig, are all related to the same ancient name – Chlodovech).  Ludovic itself seems like a hipster choice. 

Meriadoc – Unknown usage, probably no modern.  Meriadoc is a fun old Celtic name with ties to Tolkien! 

Norris – 20 boys.  I hope I haven’t just summoned Mr. Filch.  

Osric – 10 boys.  The name itself is Anglo-Saxon, but apparently there’s a Chinese-Canadian actor who goes by Osric!  How cool is that? 😀

Peregrine15 boys, 8 girls.  Peregrine is an adjective that means “foreign” or “wandering.”

Quirinus – Unknown usage.  Most of us know this name through Harry Potter (Professor Quirinus Quirrell), but it also comes from Roman Mythology. 

Rupert – 22 boys.  I do recall seeing Rupert on the top 1000 for England and Wales, but for some reason it hasn’t taken off here.  Why? 

Sampson – 56 boys.  Another version of Samson, which was given to 428 boys last year. 

Torsten – 31 boys.  Ooh, a Scandinavian name!  Related to Norse Myth…the ‘tor’ syllable means “Thor.”

Ursus – Unknown usage.  ‘U’ was an even more difficult letter than ‘K’ to find a name for. 

Valerian – Unknown usage.  Valeria and Valerie are both popular girls’ names…and with the influx of ancient appellations the last few years, I’m somewhat surprised we aren’t seeing any Valerian‘s.  Hmm…maybe it’s too feminine-sounding? 

Wiktor – Unknown usage, though I used to know one.  Polish form of Victor or Viktor

XenophonUnknown usage.  Hardcore Greek ‘X’ name…the next masculine ‘X’ name I thought of was Persian Xerxes (14 boys).  Now there’s a clash if I ever saw one. 

Yorick – 6 boys.  I had thought this might be rare enough not to appear in the SSA data, but it seems a certain line of Shakespeare may have preserved this name for us. 🙂

Zephaniah – 117 boys and 16 girls.  There are some really awesome ‘Z’ names from the Bible, and this is one of them.  Some others that come to mind are Zebulon, Zadkiel, and Zadok

Any thoughts on these names?  If you conducted this exercise, what would your alphabetical names be?  They can even be popular.  To the writers that read my blog, I especially recommend this kind of creative maneuver. 

Perpetua

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Depiction of St. Perpetua’s Martyrdom

Some names are so beautiful that their rareness escapes all logic.  Perpetua, I perceive, falls in this category.  This name derives from Latin and means “continual” or “everlasting.”  Pronunciation-wise, the last two syllables ‘tua’ can be said like “chew-uh” or “tyoo-uh.”  Possible nicknames for Perpetua include Perri, Pet, Petra, and Petal

In 2015, only 13 baby girls were named Perpetua in the U.S.  That’s still comparatively high when you realize that it’s only appeared in the SSA birth data in the past 10 years.  Peak usage was in 2013 with 17 girls.

Perhaps strangely, Perpetua doesn’t even appear in the latest England/Wales data.  Why do I say ‘strangely?’  Well, I was under the impression that Perpetua was something of a British-ism.  Off the top of my head, I immediately think of the Bridget Jones character Perpetua (who admittedly was snobbish, though she’s somewhat redeemed by her approval of Bridget’s telling off Daniel) and the Harry Potter Chocolate Frog Card figure Perpetua Fancourt…both obviously British, or at least not American.   

That aside, I do believe most modern usage is religious in nature.  Perpetua semi-frequently appears on Sancta Nomina, which is a Catholic baby naming site (do check that out, even if you’re not Catholic.  Lovely naming styles!).  Indeed, Perpetua is the name of a famous early saint who was martyred at Carthage in the early 200s, during the reign of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.  St. Perpetua is also believed to be one of the earliest female Christian writers; she wrote a prison diary, which you can read here.

What do you think of the name Perpetua

 

Daring Daedalus

Sometime this week I noticed the name Daedalus in the SSA data.  Whoa…as a former classics student, may I remark just how hardcore that is?  2015 saw the birth of 7 American baby boys named Daedalus.  Pronunciation: “Dead-uh-lus.”

The seemingly obvious namesake is mythological Daedalus.  He constructed the labyrinth for the Minotaur, but he’s even more famous for what came afterwards.  Stuck on the island of Crete and yearning to return home, he decided to travel by sky.  Daedalus fashioned wax-wings for himself and his son Icarus.  Unfortunately, during their escape, Icarus flew too close to the sun.  The wings melted and he fell to his watery grave.  Note: 10 boys were named Icarus last year, and that name has appeared in the SSA data since about 2010.

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Oops.

Several far more obscure references exist, however, that are also possible namesakes. There is a minor filmmaker from California named Daedalus Howell, and also a musician who goes by Daedelus.  Serious Harry Potter fans like myself are aware of a character named Dedalus Diggle, whom Harry meets in Sorceror’s Stone.  And like many other names from Greek and Roman mythology, Daedalus has astronomical and maritime ties; ever heard of the Daedalus crater, or the HMS Daedalus?  Funnily enough, it also seems that Star Trek uses Daedalus as a class of starships.  

What do you think of Daedalus?  

 

Further reading: Ovid’s Metamorphoses.  The edition I own is one of the “Oxford World’s Classics,” but since the story is thousands of years old and therefore public domain, you can also find it on Project Gutenberg.  The tale of Daedalus is contained in Book VIII.  

 

The Greek Muses and Baby Names

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There are nine well-known Muses in Greek Mythology, but not all of their names actually enjoy any usage today.  Let’s take a look and see which ones have survived to the modern lexicon:

  • ThaliaOf all the Muses, only Thalia is a top 1000 name in the U.S.  Currently ranking #789, Thalia was not only the name of the comedy Muse but also one of the Graces (Charites).  So, there were at least two of them in Greek Mythology.
  • Calliope – This will probably be the next Muse to crack the top 1000.  Last year, there were 218 Calliopes born in the U.S, up from 197 in 2014 and 187 in 2013.  There’s also the spelling Kalliope, which was given to 65 girls last year.  Anyway, this Muse represented epic poetry, and was mother to Orpheus
  • Clio – The history Muse gave her name to 37 American baby girls in 2015. 

Unfortunately, the extended data doesn’t indicate the presence of any other babies named after Muses in 2015.  Ourania (Astronomy) did recently appear, given to 5 babies in 2014.  The other names don’t seem to have any history in the American data.

I can’t see Erato (love poetry) or Euterpe (lyric) getting trendy any time soon, but I’d love it if Polyhymnia (sacred music/poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), or Terpsichore (dance) picked up steam.  Urania (likely the better-recognized spelling of Ourania) potentially presents playground pronunciation problems in American English if everyone still enunciates “Uranus” the way I think they might, but that hasn’t stopped the spelling from occasionally appearing in the data.

Do you have a favorite Muse name? 

 

The Name Hadrian

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Hadrian is a strong, rare, and ancient alternative to Adrian.  The feminine form is HadrianaMost commonly associated with Hadrian’s Wall, Hadrian was the name of an early 2nd-century Roman emperor.  29 boys were given this name in 2015, down from 40 in 2014 and 34 in 2013.  Still, it’s more popular than it was 15 years ago, and it fits within with all the other Greek and Roman names that are currently trending!

Possible nicknames include Harry, Hades, and Ryan.  In some types of Harry Potter fanfiction, writers will often make Harry short for Hadrian, more so than they will for Henry or Harrison.  The ones I’ve read from this particular sub-genre usually depict Hadrian “Harry” Potter as a extremely powerful boy-wizard who breaks free from Dumbledore and Dursley control and realizes his inheritance.  There are yet plots, but that’s at least the motif I remember…I haven’t read fan-fiction for quite a while, unless you count communal Skype readings of the dreaded “My Immortal.”  If you don’t believe me about Hadrian and Harry Potter, google it – the search term “harry potter fanfiction hadrian” yields almost 27,000 results.

Of course, the Roman emperor remains the common association.  That does not mean it’s all marble statues and ruins (even though I myself studied Classics in college and ruins are my personal Disney World).  If hilarity and absurdity are your pursuits, I recommend watching a Japanese movie called Thermae Romae.  It regards a Roman bath architect named Lucius who time-travels to modern Japan and finds inspiration for Roman bath designs in Japanese bath culture.  Meanwhile, Hadrian is the current emperor and he hires Lucius to build him spectacular baths.  If this isn’t weird or awesome enough for you, guess what: there’s a sequel!  But yes, that’s another association with the name.

What do you think of the name Hadrian

Update Aug. 11 2017 – 33 boys named Hadrian in 2016.

Aurora

Aurora was the ancient Roman goddess of the dawn and equivalent of Greek Eos.  Now her name belongs to a phenomenon, a Disney princess, and thousands of little girls.  Aurora has been in the American top 1000 for the vast majority of years since 1880, yet 2015 was the first year she’d ever been in the top 100!  Last year she ranked #79, up from #116 the year previously.  Her highest popularity is currently in states to the north; Aurora is the #3 name in Alaska and #5 in Montana, and she also does well in states like Maine, Idaho, and the Dakotas.  Probably, she does best in states where one can…uh…see the aurora. 

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Depiction of the Aurora Borealis, a.k.a “Northern Lights”

For those of us who grew up watching Disney movies, we remember that Aurora was Sleeping Beauty’s birth name before the fairies called her “Briar Rose.”  I’m not sure how much that affects young Auroras, considering that the movie Sleeping Beauty came out in 1959 and that the name was least popular between the late 50s and 80s (though it did rank higher in 1960 than 1959 and 1961, so that suggest there is at least *some* influence).  Don’t quote me since any of my friends can tell you that I have serious issues with Disney and am almost a Wednesday Addams in the flesh, but…I wonder if the name started to rebound in the 90s because of some Disney revival or princess craze.   At least, that’s when The Little Mermaid caused a usage spike for the name Ariel (for both genders, actually), when Jasmine was in her heyday, and when parents really started to use Belle again (though still not often enough for the top 1000…that’ll be next year, I’m sure).  As for the past couple years, the possibility exists that the new Maleficent movie may have boosted Aurora (indeed, Maleficent made her first appearance in the extended data last year).  However, Aurora has been growing more popular for years, and might have made the same popularity jump between 2014 and 2015 without Maleficent.

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A Sleeping Beauty

Being an Ancient Roman name also helps Aurora‘s case.  Other Roman names like Luna and Valentina are very trendy, and so are other mythological names from both the Roman and Greek traditions.

For a short name, Aurora has some nickname potential.  Options include Aura, Rory, Rora, and Dawn.  Still, the popularity may turn some people off.  In that case, consider Aurelia, another Roman name that currently only ranks #802 and means “golden.”  Alternatively, go Greek.  Eos (pr. Ay-ohs) is definitely an option.

Alaric

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).

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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. 

Isis: The Death of a Name

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I’ve known ever since starting this blog that I would have to write this post.  Ultimately what’s kept me from writing this sooner was the desire to assess damage in the 2015 data.  That set was released last Friday, and while I anticipated the exit of Isis from the American top 1000 I do not know that I anticipated the great degree to which she fell from popularity.

Though only bestowed upon people in a modern context, Isis is one of the oldest names in the lexicon.  She was an Ancient Egyptian goddess, but she came to be worshiped throughout the Greco-Roman world.  There were cults of Isis as far north as modern-day London!

As far as I can tell, modern usage as a given name only really started in the 20th century.  The derived names Isidore, Isidora, and Isadora, all meaning “gift of Isis,” are more documented through time.  There were several saints with the first two names, and Isadora Duncan was the name of a famous turn-of-the-century dancer.  Isidora was apparently also a popular name in Chile about 10 years ago.  Isis herself only begins to show up regularly in the SSA data around 1960, and only debuted as a top 1000 in 1994.  Until recently, usage was fairly stable at around 500 babies born with the name per year.

Then events took a turn for the worse.  A terror organization, at one point called “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria,” declared aworldwide caliphatein 2014.  This gang took advantage of a volatile situation after years of conflict and the Syrian Civil War and began to siege and control cities.  The result?  Genocide and destruction.  As of October, close to 20,000 people had been killed in Iraq alone.  Not to mention, thousands of women and children from minority religions enslaved for sex. 

Naturally, the acronym for this group was “ISIS.”  However, when they changed names and acronyms several times (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] and later just Islamic State [IS]), the media clung to the name ISIS.  My only guess for this is that maybe human names are easier for audiences to remember than some other random diminutive.  Unfortunately, that has serious consequences for anyone who actually has the name.

Over the past couple of years, a number of reports have surfaced about children named Isis being bullied (like this one) or businesses being forced to change their name.  It’s become such a problem now that there’s even a petition to force the media to call the organization ISIL instead.  Indeed very recently a Muslim high school student, Bayan Zehlif, discovered that her yearbook photo appeared with the name Isis.  It turned out that the school actually has a student with the name and that the name was switched, but Ms. Zehlif believes the swap was an intentional act of racism.  For what it’s worth, I agree with her. 

Regarding the future of the baby name, this environment almost certainly means death.  After the new SSA data that was released May 6, one name researcher found that Isis experienced a 70.5% drop in popularity between 2014 and 2015 – potentially the biggest decline for a baby name ever.  There are a few other names in the past 125 years that have declined as much, but most of those were only popular for a year or two; so-called “flash-in-the-pans.”  The only other name that is considered to have been injured as badly as Isis was Hilary back in the 1990s – you can read more about that here.  Only time will tell if usage of the name Isis will cease, decline and stabilize, or eventually recover.