Rare Name Round-Up!

Between May and July,* I spotted tons of awesome, rare names on real people.  I’ve checked the names against publicly-available popularity data from the SSA, but some are too rare to appear which makes them even more amazing!

Seen on Facebook:

  • Zacchaeus – A rare New Testament Biblical name only appearing in the U.S. birth data since the 1970s.  Last year, only 41 boys were registered under Zacchaeus, though there are other spellings.  I don’t know how old FB Zacchaeus was; I spotted his name in passing.
  • Schakeline – presumably, a phonetic German spelling of Jacqueline.  To my knowledge, this is the only name from this entire that doesn’t belong to somebody in the United States.

I met:

  • MillardMike – older gentleman.  Kudos for the unexpected formal name!  Only 10 boys were named Millard in 2016, which was a top 1000 baby name until 1970.  One namesake is America’s 13th President, Millard Fillmore.
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Millard Fillmore

  • Eihmear – teenager or young woman.  Pronounced “Ee-mer,” this is an extremely rare Irish or Scottish Gaelic name that’s usually spelled Éimhear, Eimhir, or Emer.  Now, when I asked Eihmear about her unique rendition, she told me her parents didn’t check the spelling first!  Bonus points: Emer was the name of Cúchulainn’s wife in Irish Mythology.
  • Sabina, a twenty-something.  This is certainly an unusual name, but if you know how to say Sabrina, you know how to say Sabina.  2016 usage: 106 girls.
  • Lourdes, a teenage male!  For the unfamiliar, Lourdes is typically associated as a Catholic feminine name honoring the Virgin Mary.  As a men’s name, this hasn’t appeared in the SSA data since 1990.  That doesn’t mean there haven’t been any American men named Lourdes since then (he’s the obvious evidence to the contrary); it just means there hasn’t been a year after 1990 when there were more than 5 of them born.  He may be the only guy Lourdes his age, though.  In 2016, 99 girls were named Lourdes.

Read in local newspapers and lists:

  • Concerto (teenager).  I don’t think Concerto has ever entered the SSA data for either gender!
  • Beaux – (late teens or early 20s).  Beaux caught my eye for several reasons.  First, over 2000 boys were named Beau 2016, compared to only around 120 boys who were named Beaux.  Second, ‘x’ is a distinctive letter for any name that isn’t some form of Max or Alexander.  Third, Beaux is a plural adjective in French; Beau is a masculine singular form, and Belle is the feminine singular (they mean “beautiful”). Finally, this Beaux‘s last name ended in -Beau; unless they call him “Box,” his first name rhymed with his last name!  Perhaps unsurprisingly, he was from Louisiana.  Now I’m curious as to what constitutes a Cajun baby name.
  • Langston – I encountered two Langstons!  This name entered the U.S. top 1000 in 2013, but both were older than that by probably a decade at least.  So although this isn’t exactly a rare baby name, it’s rare for people of older generations.
  • Lois – (middle or high school age).  Lois is fairly popular in the U.K., but she hasn’t been in the U.S. top 1000 since 1983.  It’s rather distinctive for a young woman here!  Just 118 girls were named Lois in 2016.
  • Onassis (college age).  This actually has shown up in SSA birth data a few times.  You might be familiar with Onassis as Jacqueline Kennedy’s other married name!
  • Trevin (college age).  Trevin‘s been in the top 1000 a few times (the last year was 2009).  Only 38 boys were named Trevin in 2016, and based on the name’s fast downward trajectory I wouldn’t be surprised if parents stop using it altogether within a few years.
  • Cavan (middle or high school age).  Cavan is rare but fairly steady.  Last year, 44 boys were given this name.
  • Taimiar (unknown)

Miscellaneous/Elsewhere:

  • Tiernan (2 years old).  Only 35 American boys were named Tiernan in 2016, down from 46 in 2015 when this one was born.  5 girls were also given this Irish name in both of those years.
  • Beckwith (unknown age and gender).  Beckwith is usually a surname, and associates with some fantastic first names like Abijah, Asahel, Athelstan, and Corydon.

What do you think of these names?  Have you spotted any rare names lately that you’re dying to discuss?  Let me know in the comments! 

*I also collected my March/April name sightings in an earlier post.  Already started paying attention for August and or September! 

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One Year of Blogging

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Hi everyone, and happy St. Patrick’s Day!  Today is my first blogiversary.

Last winter, I had to create my first blog for a university course.  I soon realized I could make a website to talk about my own favorite subject – names!  So on March 17th, 2016, I launched the Well-Informed Namer.  Things were slow at first, but through persistence and probably a good deal of luck, I’ve grown to be one of the top 40 baby name websites on the internet.  Feedspot released that ranking yesterday…and I must say, it’s a great surprise!

This blog has taught me so much over the past 365 days.  I’m definitely more tech savvy than I was before, and I have an easier time promoting my interests.  Whether this applies to names or other subjects, there’s something to be said about putting one’s thoughts into writing.  And for a niche hobby like mine, the internet provides an outlet that can’t usually be found in face-to-face interactions in schools and the greater community.  Without the internet, I’m not sure I’d have ever realized that there are other name-lovers, or indeed that I am one myself.

On this blogiversary, what I want to say more than anything is thank youThank you to my readers for reading.  Thank you to the people who comment on my posts and engage with me on my favorite subject!  And thank you to other name-writers and enthusiasts who’ve shared my articles or attached my URL to their blogrolls.  You are all fantastic support and help, and I eagerly await the future.

One year down; hopefully many to go! 

Bonus: My first ever blog post!  You can pinch me for writing about Greek names on St. Patrick’s Day. 

Site Update (Welcome Back)

Greetings from a new laptop!  Technological issues incited and exacerbated a long absence from blogging.  My old and beloved college MacBook stopped typing so well.  As a writer, few things are worse than the inability to complete a word or a sentence because the ‘d’ key doesn’t work.  That’s where it started, anyway.  Then it spread through the rest of the keys in the row – ‘f’ through ‘l’ – excepting ‘a’ and ‘s.’  The issue first appeared in December and quickly disappeared.  It stayed when it returned in January.  Then, I couldn’t even log in without an external keyboard. 

Liquid damage is the silent device-slayer.  Perhaps you weren’t in the room when it happened; perhaps it happened months or years ago.  But one day, that coffee spill will return to haunt you. 

We think somebody else spilled coffee on my old laptop and didn’t tell me.  Eventually this destroyed those keys.  According to the techs, general functionality would only worsen with time.  Repair was an option, but at 5-years-old it teeters on “vintage” status and in 3 years it will be “obsolete” – meaning, if I did repair it, they wouldn’t have the parts if I ever needed to bring it in again.  The battery and power cord additionally needed replacing.  Finally, my warranty had already ceased, either when I graduated or sometime over the summer.  My best option was to start fresh.

So I got a new computer, which I am more than happy with!  But, it hasn’t all been flowers and sunshine.  Right as I was about to return to blogging, a stray, open, and full mug (not mine) was knocked over and shorted the power.  I was delayed another week while it sat in repairs. 

I finally have my new computer back with the necessary software installed!  I pray nothing else happens.  For good luck, and because I feel like alliterating (its color is “space gray”), I think I’ll name it Samuel.  Strangely, I never named my old one. 

So, I’m back!  And the last several weeks haven’t been entirely devoid of name-work.  Thankfully (and amazingly) my files weren’t lost during repairs.  What’s more, Google Docs helped me acquire some lists of rather unusual names from a game.  I can’t wait to write about them!

To my readers, I say – Welcome Back!

Boo! Scary and Sweet Names for Halloween

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Happy Halloween!  I don’t think there are many things scarier this year than the looming election or killer clowns, but that doesn’t stop me from reminiscing about simpler times when the scariest item was the friendly neighborhood Grim Reaper, who’d still give you candy.

Here is an eerie selection of Halloween-themed baby names, mostly from movies or the bounties of trick-or-treating!  Almost all were used in the U.S. in 2015; data comes from the Social Security Administration.

Candy – 52 girls. 

  • Kit – 40 boys, 28 girls. Kit-Kats, anyone?
  • Mars – 27 boys.  Mars is a delicious British chocolate bar not very well known in the U.S., but some groceries carry them in the international aisle. 
  • Reese – #173 for girls, #701 among boys.  Reese is an anglicized spelling of original Rhys, which is Welsh.  Reese also gives its name to the peanut butter cup and Reese Witherspoon. 
  • Ruth – 293rd most popular girls’ name in the U.S.  The Goonies puts it best: “Baby Rooooth?”

Movies:

The Addams Family (1991) inspires a line of scary names.  Can you believe the movie is leaving Netflix on the 1st? 😦

  • Morticia – Under 5 in 2015, but 5 were born in 2014.
  • Tully – 8 boys.  Tully was the family’s lawyer.   
  • Wednesday – 60 girls.

I’d love to meet a Gomez, though I doubt that will happen anytime soon. 

I finally saw Dracula (1931) this weekend.  Bela Lugosi had a serious troll-face going on; someone get him a Guy Fawkes mask!

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Dracula, 1931

  • Bela – 16 girls, 7 boys.  Actor Bela Lugosi was *the* stereotypical Dracula.  Bela is an Eastern European men’s name.  When given to girls, it’s more likely a variant of Bella.
  • Mina – #761 among girls, plus 20 boys.
  • Harker – 5 boys.

And what’s Halloween without a little Hocus Pocus (1993)?

  • Thackery – 8 boys.  For the longest time I thought Binx’s first name was Zachary, but in fact it’s Thackery!  How fantastic! 
  • Winifred – 156 girls.  Winifred Sanderson is sister to Mary and Sarah and very much the head witch of their group.

Since I’m writing this on the eve of Halloween, I must also mention The Crow (1994).  That movie gave us the name Draven, which still ranks in the top 1000 (currently #861) over twenty years later.

Miscellany:

  • Apple – 14 girls.  Whether you’re bobbing for apples, imbibing cider, or Snow White on her way to bed, your Halloween festivities may include this fruit. 
  • Arachne – Chances are you’ll never meet someone called Arachne, but according to Greek mythology, she was transformed into a spider after a weaving competition against Athena.  Hence, the word “arachnid.” 
  • Jack – #40 for boys.  Have you ever made a Jack O’Lantern?

Like any of these names?  Are there any I’m missing?  Let me know in the comments! 


Below the Top 1000, Part 23 (Girls)

Hi everyone!  I realize I haven’t written one of these posts in a couple of weeks.  Luckily  there are so many names here that I think they cover the gap!

Here are some of the names given to American baby girls in 2015, according to extended data from the Social Security Administration.  The following first names are quite rare, and were only used between 23 and 26 times. 

  • 26: Adilee, Alexiana, Alvina, Amiliana, Atziri, Aubreyanna, Augustine, Baylei, Callahan, Celestina, Christabel, Dianne, Ellasyn, Era, Faustina, Florencia, Freedom, Genesys, Gertrude, Gypsy, Hartlee, Ione, Irlanda, Jenicka, July, Kaori, Kassia, Katara, Kerry, Loreal, Lucienne, Madigan, Mathilde, Medina, Nevada, Nizhoni, Odalis, Quetzaly, Ravenna, Rona, Rue, Sunday, Svetlana, Zuzanna
  • 25: Amerika, Anjolaoluwa, Apollonia, Arbor, Barrett, Bea, Cady, Charm, Chiamaka, Daija, Darcie, Elizaveta, Fanta, Fay, Fia, Galilee, Jerrica, Jerzey, Kahlani, Keniyah, Lisandra, Maelani, Milagro, Nixie, Nona, Oliviana, Quinlan, Seraphine, Sigrid, Siri, Twyla, Xia, Yuritzi, Zephyr
  • 24: Aamina, Adabelle, Adama, Alyric, Angelic, Bethlehem, Breeze, Brixton, Catalia, Cylie, Dulcemaria, Eevee, Evaline, Jezebel, Joanie, Kaavya, Lee, Mairead, Maison, Malania, Margeaux, Mattea, Maybree, Nakiya, Richelle, Sagan, Teal, Verona, Wanda, Winslow, Zaryiah
  • 23: Afia, Aiko, Ameliana, Amorette, Ashby, Avaline, Ayumi, Basma, Blessin, Bruchy, Ceanna, Eleena, Evaluna, Finnleigh, Infinity, Jadzia, Kashmir, Kynedi, Legaci, Lielle, Maimouna, Maryalice, Max, Merari, Mulan, Oceana, Rhythm, Shaindel, Sophiah, Trudy, Xandria, Zaire, Zen, Zowie

What do you think of these names?  I think my personal favorites are Celestina, Florencia, and Gertrude

The previous five posts in this series:

Short and Sweet Baby Names

As much as I personally love long and complicated names like Terpsichore and Agamemnon (or even Isabella and Christopher) they can be too long and complicated for some.  Thankfully, there are plenty of great one- and two-syllable names that are very easy to remember!  Here’s a list of some of them:

  • Classic and Traditional (non-Biblical*): Emma, Edith, Grace, Cora, Maud, Ida, Jane, Leila, Henry, George, Alan, Karl, Hugh, Leo, Milo, Otto
  • Biblical: Hannah, Mary, Sarah, Eve, Adah, Leah, SaraiZillah, Martha, Jael, Ruth, Dinah, Tamar, Abel, James, Noah, John, Ezra, Eli, Paul, Asa, Job, Enoch, Ira, Jair, Joel, Luke, Seth, Jacob
  • Mythology: Nyx, Pax, LunaBast, Dido, Lux, Clio, Maeve, Gauri, Hera, Juno, Io, Kali, Saga, Ajax, Zeus, Ares, Bran, Thor, Atlas, Loki, Finn, Kai, Mars, Rama, Lugh, Ra
  • Nicknames: Lula, Meg, Mae, Bee, Dot, Elle, Kate, Fran, Lou, Kel, Jack, Jem, Fred, Jake, Matt, Alf
  • Modern: Jade, Zuri, Ava, Cher, Jazz, Fort, Ace, Dax
  • Titles: Queen, Duke, King, Earl, Prince, Dean
  • Surnames: Parke, Lee, Reese, Blair, Knox, Lewis, Reid, Clay, Fox, Grant
  • Nature: Jade, Rose, Sky, Olive, Dale, Garnet, Ash, Oak, Park

What do you think of these names?  Are there any others or categories that you’d like to see in a future post?

*I separated the Biblical names from the other classic/traditional names because there are so many of them that they need their own category…plus occasionally a Bible name will only recently have come into popular use (Jair and Sarai are good examples). 

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? 

Sources:

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.

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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.

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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. 

 

Names of Famous Mothers

Happy Mother’s Day!  I thought it would be a great idea to write a post including some names of some fascinating mothers from history and mythology who were famous and not just because they were wives or mothers to other people (though, that certainly tends to influence what they did).

Gaia (Earth) – mother of Titans, Hekatonkheires (Hundred-handed ones), etc.  She, along with her son Kronos, had her husband Uranus (Sky) castrated because he kept sending their children back into her, stressing Gaia from the physical pressure. 

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Empress Matilda

Matilda – The uncrowned queen of England and one-time Holy Roman Empress.  She would have inherited the throne after her brothers and father died but her cousin inherited instead.  After a lengthy civil war she had her son successfully installed as heir.  

Cleopatra – last queen/pharaoh of Egypt.  Bet you didn’t know she had kids!  Her first child was by Julius Caesar and her younger children were by Mark Antony.  Unlike most of her dynasty, she actually spoke Egyptian. 

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Rhea “feeding” Kronos

Rheamother of Zeus and his siblings.  This time she was married to Kronos, who started acting up like his father had.  He would eat his children when they were born because he was afraid that he’d be overthrown by one of his children, as prophecy foretold.  As almost always happens in Greek mythology, the prophecy had a way of fulfilling itself.  Rhea tricked her husband into eating a swaddled stone instead of baby Zeus, who grew up and rescued his siblings from dad’s belly.

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Dolley Madison

Dolley – Most people probably don’t realize that Dolley Madison had children.  Anyway, she was First Lady of the U.S., saved a portrait of George Washington during the War of 1812, and as I recently read, sent the first personal telegraph?

Eleanor – Eleanor of Aquitaine inherited much of what is now southern France.  Her first marriage to the king of France ended in annulment, at which point she immediately married the king of England.  Decades later this second husband, son of the aforementioned Matilda, imprisoned Eleanor when she aided her younger sons in rebellion against him.  After the king’s death she served as regent to their succeeding child while he fought in the Crusades. 

Ariadne – Mythical Ariadne was married to Dionysus (Greek god of wine) and had children with him, but she’s primarily famous for helping Theseus navigate the Labyrinth to slay the Minotaur. 

Dhuoda Dhuoda wrote something called the Liber Manualis after her son William was sent as a hostage to the court of Charles the Bald in the early 800s.  Dhuoda’s work is the only surviving writing by a lay female writer in the Carolingian era. 

May the Fourth Be With You!

This image is from a hilarious video which can be viewed here

Today’s discussion: Star Wars names!

Now, I doubt we’re going to see a particularly large upswing of names from the latest movie.  Force Awakens was only released in December.  That’s enough time for a few more babies to be named Poe, Rey, and Kylo, but the chances that will send any of those names into the 2015 top 1000 are small (Finn is already popular).  Look for them instead next year when the 2016 data comes out!

Still, Star Wars has been influencing baby names ever since 1977, and not only through the propagation of character names.  Harrison likely would have died out if Harrison Ford hadn’t been Han Solo; actually, 1977 saw the lowest ranking for Harrison within the top 1000 ever, at #970.  The rebound was swift and fierce.  Now Harrison will potentially be a top 100 name, either in 2015 or 2016.  It’s only a matter of time.

Leia already existed as a name in the extended SSA data during the 1950s and 60s, but entered the top 1000 in 1978 and 1980, presumably resulting from A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back.  Then she flew under the radar for 25 years until reentry in 2006.  Revenge of the Sith may be partially responsible here, but Leia was already increasing in usage when that film was released in 2005.  Luke, on the other hand, has always been a top 1000 name.  *That* has become incredibly popular in the last few years, though.

Stranger universe names are teeming in the pot.  Anakin finally made his top 1000 debut in 2014 (why???).  Padme registered 14 uses that year.  Han – 20 times.  Amidala charted just once – 7 uses, back in 1999.  And I found this article, which writes that even Darth was a baby name back in the 70s.  Considering all those cartoons where Darth Vader is parenting his young twins, I can’t deny that this makes me chuckle.  Thankfully, there are no Jar-Jars to be found.

Food for thought: in the way that Leia was already a charting name before the movies, Kylo already is within the data (8 of them in 2014).  In other words, not even Game of Thrones writer George R. R. Martin invents all his character names.