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Let’s talk about the name Severus.  It’s an Ancient Roman name that’s belonged to several emperors and early saints, and yet was exceedingly rare until very recently.  The Harry Potter series brought Severus into everyday usage in the 21st century, and even then, it took 10 years since the first movie (and 14 since the first book) for it to appear in American (SSA) baby name data.  Severus debuted with 5 boys in 2011, the same year that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 came to theaters.  Since many viewers don’t read the books, that would have been the year that many fans learned (spoiler alert!) of Professor Snape’s vindication and redemption.

Once people started naming their sons Severus, it seemed like it was going to be a rarity only a few hardcore fans would be brave enough to use.  Despite Roman names having been trendy in recent years, prospective parents are probably deterred by the “sever” part (or even by Snape’s less savory aspects).  So, from 2011 to 2015, only 5-7 babies received the name every year.  2016 is when it gets strange.

Just 7 boys were named Severus in 2015, but 32 got the name in 2016!  5 alone (15.625%) were born in Texas, though without other state data it’s impossible to make a geographically-based assessment.  Regardless, going from 7 to 32 boys?  That’s a ginormous jump for an extremely rare name.  What’s the influence?

A couple of things happened in 2016 that might have influenced the spike:

  • The actor who played Severus Snape – Alan Rickman – died on January 14.
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child hit the stage on July 30.  Snape appears in the play, and one of the main characters is named Albus Severus Potter.  Although the production didn’t come to the U.S. that year, many American fans would have read the script.

Curiously, another name associated with Death Eaters – Bellatrix – jumped from 5 girls to 24 girls in 2016.  Bellatrix didn’t physically appear in Cursed Child, but she was discussed in it.  Additionally (and proving this isn’t just an infatuation with the magical dark side), Albus debuted in SSA data in 2016 with 8 boys.  Dumbledore himself couldn’t make the name appear!  Harry, Ronald, and Hermione all rose in 2016 too.  Weirdly enough, the nuclear Malfoy family (Draco, Scorpius, and Astoria) didn’t experience spikes in their names.  Lucius rose, but that used to be a popular name and so something else could be happening there.

If Alan Rickman hadn’t died, then we could to point to Cursed Child as the singular reason why usage of the name Severus more than quadrupled between 2015 and 2016.  But he did die, so we can’t.  After all, why name the baby Alan (which could refer to *any* Alan) when you can name him after the character you fell in love with?  I think it will be very interesting to see whether the name Severus maintains its surge in 2017.

What do you think of the name Severus?  Do you think there could be another reason why it spiked in 2016?  Let me know what you think.



Venerable Vinicius


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.

The Hunger Names


Sorry it’s a little lopsided…

I finally read the Hunger Games!  Never seen the movie, so besides what I’ve gleaned from the media and friends, I had a chance to look at the series with fresh eyes.  I wasn’t really interested in it before (though Hunger Games Minecraft servers were always fun!), but happened upon a free copy and decided to read it for the names.  All in all, the book was enjoyable, though I would have liked more background info about Panem…maybe that will happen in later books.  I’m glad I didn’t read it when it was first popular because frankly, I absolutely hated The Giver as a teenager.  Appreciation of the dystopian genre didn’t manifest until a couple years ago, when I finally read Orwell.  Now I love the stuff!  Hmm…maybe I should afford The Giver another chance.

Anyway, it’s not my intention to write a book review.  Instead, how about a commentary on the names? 

Plant Names:

Katniss “Catnip” – According to the character Katniss, the katniss is a type of flower with an edible root.  Indeed, it’s a real plant, also called Sagittaria or (fittingly) Arrowhead.   Last year, 30 girls were named Katniss in the U.S.




Primrose “Prim”- A sweet floral name for a sweet disposition.  50 American girls were named Primrose last year, but it’s more distinctly British.  According the newly-released English and Welsh data, she ranks #259 there.

Buttercup – OK, I know this was the cat’s name, but…”as you wish?”

Rue: “Small yellow flower” (p. 99). 

Clove – You probably won’t find this as anyone’s name, though I wonder if anyone’s tried it as a nickname for Clover


Effie – Another adorable, mostly British name.  53 girls were named Effie in the U.S. last year, and she ranks #343 in the U.K.  In case you’re wondering, this is traditionally short for Euphemia.

Madge – Traditionally a nickname for Margaret, but could also work as a nickname for Talmadge.  Adorable, but I’m unsure if this will ever catch on again.  The last time this was in the top 1000 was in the 1950s.

Ancient Roman/Latin Names: (Wow, there are a lot of these!)

Venia – Possible nickname for Venetia

Flavius – Would love to see Flavius gain traction! 

Octavia – 173 girls.  Rare and beautiful. 

Cinna – I thought maybe this was a nickname for Cinnamon, but it looks like it may date to Rome (and Shakespeare). 

Portia – 42 girls.  Add stylist to the list of associations besides Porsche and Portia di Rossi!

Caesar – 91 boys.  I bet we could turn Peeta into croutons for the salad. 

Titus – The only men’s name on this list that’s popular in the U.S.  Rank: #281. 

Claudius – Surprisingly none of these in the data. 

Cato – 23 boys.  I wonder how many of these are named after the Cato Institute? 


Gale (m) – Huh.  I was seriously expecting to find this as a women’s name in the 2015 data, but the only known Gales are indeed male.  Must be the series’ influence…anyway, 8 boys were named Gale last year. 

Haymitch – Sounds like a lot like Hamish. 

Peeta – Can I get some hummus with that? 

Johanna – Current rank: #541

Delly Sandwich shop!  Or nickname for Cordelia

Atala – Atari?

Thresh – Funny, he’s from the agriculture district and threshing is an agricultural practice. 

Glimmer – “Ugh, the names people in District 1 give their children are so ridiculous.”  (-Katniss, page 182).  I’m not one to call names ridiculous, but you have to admit the quote is hilarious!

Rooba – Reminds me of Roombas

Greasy Sae – I wouldn’t ever want to be called Greasy, though Sae can make a cute nickname for Sarah or Sadie 8 girls were named Sae in the U.S. last year.

And, that’s a wrap of my Hunger Names commentary (at least, until I read the next two books!).  Encountering all those Roman names is absolutely fantastic, and I always love flower names. 

Thoughts, anyone? 

The Name Hadrian


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.

Cute Nicknames for Roman Names (Girls)

Just as there are some gorgeous Greek names out there, there are also some great Roman names too.  Several of the following are already very popular – especially Aurora and Julia – while others are very rare, like Hadriana and Saturnina.  I’ve brainstormed to find some nicknames that could make some of these names more usable for parents, but also because this is simply a fun exercise!

Aurelia: Aura, Goldie, Lia, Ellie, Relia, Elia

Camilla: Millie, Cam, Amy, Mila, Cami

Cornelia: Nellie, Ellie, Cora, Lia, Cori

Lucretia: Lucy, Lucky, Rettie, Tia, Lux

Severina: Vera, Erin, Erina, Ever, Verina

Valentina: Vale, Tina, Ina, Valley

Hadriana: Hattie, Ana, Ria, Addie

Petronia: Ronnie, Pet, Petra, Nia

Antonia: Toni, Annie, Nia

Aurora: Aura, Rory

Virginia: Ginny, Nia

Lucia: Lucy, Lux

Julia: Jools, Lea

Livia: Liv, Via

Saturnina: Nina, Ina

Juno: June, Junie

Salacia: Sally, Lacy (okay, maybe this one sounds too much like “salacious.”  Great nickname potential though!)

Mildly edited May 5, 2017