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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.



Rare ‘B’ Names For Girls

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In the U.S., there were close to 3,000 rare ‘A’ names for girls in 2016.  ‘B’ boasts only around 600.  This time, it means I can fit all the interesting ones into just one post of reasonable length!  Still, I couldn’t get the list as short as I’d have liked.  With fewer unusual names to comb through, everything is that much more interesting!  Or, maybe ‘B’ is better because every other name doesn’t feel like a variation of Adelyn…I digress.

Here is my selection of rare ‘B’ names for girls!  They are listed from most common to least common (in 2016) according to data from the Social Security Administration.  

  • 150-250 usage range: Bellamy, Baylor, Beatrix, Blessing, Belinda, Betty, Blythe, Beverly
  • 50-149: Bernadette, Blanca, Berkeley, Betsy, Brighton, Billie, Brigitte, Berenice, Brissa, Birdie, Brandy, Bethel, Batsheva, Berlin, Bowie, Brie, Bracha, Briseida, Becca, Briseis, Beautiful, Blima, Bernice, Bronwyn
  • 25-49: Bea, Bexlee, Becky, Bayan, Britta, Bliss, Blossom, Beth, Brayla, Bradleigh, Bushra, Basya, Brenna, Bertha, Bay, Bobbie, Betsabe, Betsaida, Blimy, Brienne, Blessyn, Barbie, Basma, Bintou, Bo, Briasia, Bahar, Brianda, Bindi, Brexley, Britain
  • 15-24: Bellatrix,* Breeze, Brecklynn, Basil, Belladonna, Brazil, Beretta, Blen, Brocha, Baker, Baya, Betania, Bonita, Bruchy, Bralyn, Breindy, Briarrose, Bhavya, Bibi, Bluma, Berit, Bethania, Bless, Blue, Brinsley, Beulah, Bina, Bora, Bowen, British
  • 10-14: Bana, Bassy, Benita, Bette, Breezy, Beauty, Bettina, Blaze, Blessed, Bruna, Bemnet, Benelli, Bennie, Bergen, Betselot, Blessings, Baani, Bethlehem, Bijou, Briona, Bellina, Betul, Bronte
  • 9: Baby,** Baxley, Beata, Beautifull, Belia, Believe, Beryl, Bhavika, Bianey, Blanche, Bray, Breslin, Brita, Bronwen
  • 8: Beckley, Belem, Benedicta, Bessie, Bethsaida, Briseidy, Brissia
  • 7: Babygirl,** Bali, BehatiBelize, Bellaluna, Bettie, Beverley, Bexli, Biak, Breck, Breindel, Brice, Brindley, Bronx
  • 6: Bareera, Bawi, Bess, Bethsy, Betzabeth, Beyonce, Bijoux, Biviana, Blessy, Bravery, Breeland, Brilliance, Brindle, Briony, Brynja, Bryony, Byrdie
  • 5: Bahja, Baisley, Bakhita, Bambi, Banner, Basha, Bathsheba, Bayoleth, Bernadine, Berta, Bhakti, Bilan, Bisharo, Bithiah, Blessence, Bleu, Bralee, Braniya, Brees, Bridie, Brightly, Briyith, Burkleigh

*Bellatrix rose from 5 uses in 2015 to 24 uses in 2016.  I assume Cursed Child takes part of the credit, but even within the play, Bellatrix Lestrange had long since died, serving as a mention or genealogical footnote.  If any of you have other ideas why the name Bellatrix jumped last year, please let me know. 

**Baby and Babygirl might not be their actual names so much as birth certificate placeholders for otherwise nameless infants.  That said – if they’re listed with the other names, and SSA doesn’t go out of its way to explain their purpose, I’ll continue noting them as ‘official’ names.  (To be fair, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone actually is named Baby

What do you think of these names?  Any you love, hate, or feel like roasting?  Let me know in the comments!  And stay tuned for the boys’ names!   


With the increasing popularity of Otto in the U.S. (currently ranked #527), will some parents start choosing Odo for their baby’s name?  The two names are related (deriving from a Germanic word meaning “wealth” or “fortune,” though Odo is pronounced more like Oh-doe than Ought-o or Odd-o.  A relative’s Star Trek binge-watching planted this obscure name in my mind.  To me, Odo evokes images of handsome medieval knights and polite, stern space aliens.

Odo has never appeared in the Social Security Administration‘s extended name data.  In order for that to happen, a name has to be given to at least five same-gendered babies in a year.  Thankfully, the SSA’s “Popular Baby Names” isn’t the only database available to search for baby name histories.  You can also glance at the Social Security Death Index* for clues.  The SSDI is especially useful for researching names in the late 19th century and early 20th century, because it doesn’t seem to have minimal popularity restrictions (which are in place for the birth data to protect the privacy of presumably living citizens).  Also, sometimes if you see a “popular” 19th century name in the birth data, you’ll find a higher number of them in the death data.  No idea why *that* is, but it is another reason why the SSDI is such a valuable tool.  Finally, you can sometimes see the names of people born before 1880 in the death index; the birth index starts at 1880.

While I never found Odo in the birth data, I did find over sixty Odo‘s in the death index.  The earliest two were born in 1874 (in Wisconsin and Texas), and the last in 1946 (South Carolina).  The youngest was probably the son of another Odo who was born in 1915 in the same SC town; overall, the last Odo born before the youngest (that has died, anyway) was born in 1938.  According to the death index, no more than three Odo‘s were born each year nationally.  While there might be a handful still living, this paucity suggests the possibility that Odo never reached SSA’s minimal popularity threshold of 5 uses even accounting for incomplete/inaccurate name info before 1937.  The other possibility is that even if five Odo‘s were born in a single year after 1879, at least two weren’t recorded because they died early or worked in the wrong employment sector.

Despite Odo‘s status as an extremely rare name in 21st century America, it isn’t exactly obscure.  Nowadays, Odo mostly appears in pop culture and video games.  The book Fellowship of the Ring mentions a minor character named Odo Proudfoot, who is a cousin to Bilbo Baggins.  An Odo is also referenced in Harry Potter through song.  Star Trek’s Odo is probably better known than the examples above, though.  In Deep Space Nine, Odo is the station’s shape-shifting, Quark-hating security guard.  That Odo is a major character, and I’m honestly surprised the name didn’t breach the extended data at least once during the show’s run in the 1990s.  Odo isn’t exactly a sci-fi creation; it’s a historical name!


From left: Bishop Odo, King William, and their brother Robert

Did I mention history?  Famous early bearers include King Odo of France (also known as Eudes) and Saint Odo of Cluny.  William the Conqueror also had a maternal half-brother named Odo who was Earl of Kent and Bishop of Bayeux.  If you’ve ever played “Crusader Kings II” as I have, you may have interacted with this character (whose surname is “de Conteville”).  In real life, he wasn’t the only Odo in England.  The 1086 Domesday Book records several individuals named Odo and even one Odolina.

What do you think of Odo?  Is it too weird or pretentious for modern usage, or is it like a book just waiting to be dusted off and read?  Would *you* use it?  Let me know in the comments! 

*If you’d like to access the SSDI and don’t have a subscription to, you can do as I did and go on Family Search, which offers it for free. 


The “Ric” Element

“Ric” is a Germanic element which means “rule” or “power.”  Some of my favorite classic and pretentiously archaic (I mean that in a good way!) names belong to this category.  The classics of the list are kingly, but evoke understated elegance and responsibility.  The archaic gems are like dusty tomes and their old-book aroma –  either utterly enchanting or utterly off-putting to people, but the enchanted will treasure and keep them.  I’m excited because some of the more obscure names are starting to spread in usage or conversation!

For this post, I’ve looked for names containing this element, their meanings, and their rankings in both the U.S. and England and Wales.  Behind the Name is my source for definitions and the U.S. rankings (which in turn come from the Social Security Administration – sometimes I prefer the formatting on BtN, but it’s the same info).  The British rankings came from the Office of National Statistics.  I also used the name directory at Nancy’s Baby Names to check the trends of rarer names.

Henry – #29 in U.S., #13 in England and Wales; rising.  Henry is one of those names that’s never even left the top 200 yet somehow feels fresh and renewed.  According to Behind the Name, Henry derives from a name meaning “home ruler.”


Henry VIII – The most famous Henry?

Richard – #155 in U.S., #256 in England / Wales; falling in U.S. but rose in England and Wales between 2014 and 2015.  Another royal name, meaning: “brave power.”  Honestly, I want to see this name make his comeback.  If Arthur and Walter are returning, why can’t Richard?  I grant that a certain unfortunate nickname is a hindrance, but apparently not enough to throw Richard out of the U.S. top 200 just yet.

Derek – #210 in U.S.  Only 15 boys in England and Wales.  According to Behind the Name, Derek ultimately derives from Theodoric (see below).

Frederick – #576 in U.S., #76 in England / Wales; rising.  Meaning: “peaceful ruler.”  I haven’t written on Frederick, but I have a profile on his lovely feminine counterpart Frederica.

Emery – #731 for boys (U.S.); only 4 boys in E/W.  Far more popular as a boys’ name, this derives from the older name Emmerich, which BtN suggests derives from multiple ancient “ric” names.  

Roderick – 185 boys in 2015; 3 boys in E/W.  In U.S., rose slightly between 2014 and 2015.  Meaning: “Famous power.”

Alaric – 181 boys in 2015 (U.S.); 4 boys in E/W.  Alaric is rising in U.S.  Meaning: “Ruler of all”

Aubrey – 147 boys; #779 in E/W (41 boys).  In U.S., rose slightly from 2014-2015.  Aubrey the men’s name and Aubrey the women’s name have different origins.  If a masculine name, it comes from Alberich.  If feminine, it comes from Alberada…which is most decidedly not a “ric” name!

Godric – 40 in 2015 (U.S.); rising.  Meaning: “power of God.”  Godric Gryffindor is the namesake most people think of, though there’s also the never-canonized “Saint” Godric of Finchale.

Edric – 39 in 2015 (U.S.); rising but volatile.  Variation of Anglo-Saxon Eadric.  The element “ed” refers to wealth, so this name should mean something akin to “wealthy rule.”

Emeric – 27 in 2015; Down one from 2014, but the general trend is still upwards.  Like Emery, Emeric derives from Emmerich.

Ulrich – 16 in 2015; rising.  Derives from Odalric; BtN defines “odal” as an element meaning “heritage.”

Oberon / Auberon – 11 boys were named Oberon in the U.S; rising.  6 American boys were named Auberon in 2015 (debut!) and 3 in E/W.  These names are closely related to Aubrey.

Aldrich / Aldric – 9 boys named Aldrich, 8 named Aldric; both spellings are all over the place, neither up nor down continuing for many years.  “Ald” means old; Aldric = “old + power/rule.”  Aldrich Killian was the antagonist in Iron Man 3.

Æthelric / Ethelric / Adalric – Means “noble power.”  Who else is up for a revival of the letter “Æ?” 

Alberich – Meaning: “elf power.”  If you played any of the Harry Potter video games in the early 2000s, you might remember the name Alberic Grunnion.  This name also has a mythological history.

Baldric – Can mean “bold rule.”  A baldric is special kind of belt.  

Leofric – This means something like “dear power.” A famous bearer is Lady Godiva’s husband, Leofric of Mercia.

Wulfric – “Wolf + power/rule.” Harry Potter fans will remember this is one of Dumbledore’s middle names (Full name: Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore)

Theodoric – Means “ruler of the people.”  With Derek deriving from this, and Theodore becoming wildly popular…can we give a little love to Theodoric?  Not that Theodoric is even related to Theodore

While I’ve always loved Frederick and Henry, I think my current favorite “ric” names are Wulfric, Leofric, and Godric.

Do you have a favorite “ric” name?  Let me know if it’s not on the list!  And which ones do you think will become more popular?      

Alistair and Co.

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I’ve noticed two primary and near-universal signs that a name is about to be popular: a) meteoric rise in usage and b) a plethora of alternative spellings appearing.  It also matters how far the name is from the very bottom of the popularity pool.  

Alistair is on my radar for entering the American top 1000 in 2016. 194 baby boys were given this particular spelling in 2015, up from 178 in 2014 and 132 in 2013.  Compare those numbers to 42 in 2005 and 19 in 1995.  In 2015, the least popular boys’ name was used 202 times, putting Alistair at a precipice.

Alistair is an alternative spelling of Alasdair, a Scottish Gaelic form of Alexander (#8 in the U.S.).  Alasdair was given to 36 boys last year, up from 29 in 2014.  After Alistair, the most popular ones are Alister (84 boys) and Alastair (47 boys).  The total count of Alistair-spellings within the 2015 SSA data is nine; the others are Allister (46 boys), Aleister (28), Alastor (10), Allistair (8), and Alistar (6).  All of those spellings were more common in 2015 than in 2014, excepting Alistar.  Additionally, Alyster appeared in the extended data between 2012 and 2014, and Alastar in 2011 and 2013.

My introduction to this name was the Harry Potter character Alastor Moody, paranoid “auror” (a kind of specialized magical law-enforcement officer) and presumed professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts. Ironically, Alastor isn’t even related to Alistair and co., though Alistair, via Alexander’s definition (approximately “defender of men”) is probably closer to the character’s personality than the meaning of Alastor, which originally meant “avenger” in Ancient Greek and was an epithet for Zeus.  Of course, the question now is this: are baby Alastors named after Moody, mythology, or in conjunction with all the Alistairs? The extended data suggests the third option. Alastor first appeared with 5 or more uses in 2011, long after the character was first introduced and indeed, a year after his last movie appearance in Deathly Hallows: Part 1. In 2015, there were 10 boys given this spelling, up from 7 in 2014. It’s certainly possible that the parents of the boys called Alastor rather than Alistair, Alasdair, etc. are Harry Potter fans, but if we start to see more Alastors it’s because we’re seeing more of the other renditions.  If anything, the rise of Alistair may have granted a little visibility to an otherwise overly eccentric baby name from the Potterverse.

The rise of Alistair in the U.S. has been a slow and steady percolation over decades.  Perhaps strangely, as popularity rose here, it mostly decreased in the U.K.  Alistair is barely still a top 500 name on the England/Wales charts; 20 years ago he was solidly in the top 200, but now straddles the line between top 300 and top 400.  It doesn’t even rank in the Scottish top 100, despite its provenance.  Other spellings, including not-anglicized Alasdair, fare even worse.  I suspect that American popularity of Alistair is aided by the trendiness of other other Scottish names like Lachlan (#768) and Callum (#683), which are both relatively new to the top 1000 and our naming lexicon.  Both those names are rising throughout the U.K. as well as the U.S., which leads me to wonder if Alistair might be due for a revival on their side of the pond…or at least a stabilization.

Thoughts on Alistair?  Do you have a favorite spelling?  I’m partial to Alastair and Alasdair, though I’m even fonder of good old Alexander

General name info links:

“Rank of the Name Bellatrix in Nigeria”

A particularly intriguing search term popped up yesterday in my site’s analytics – “Rank of the Name Bellatrix in Nigeria.”  Since I blog mostly about rare names, I expect most people will probably discover my site in the quest for an unusual moniker.  Still, I was surprised to see this.

I’ve decided to try and respond to the prompt as if were asked this personally.  On a side note, if any of you have similarly unusual name questions, I’d be delighted to answer!  My email is listed on my contact page, along with a link to this site’s Facebook page if you’d prefer to message me that way.  Or, simply leave a comment at the bottom of this post!   

First, some information on the name:


  • Origin: Latin
  • Meaning: Female warrior
  • Popularity in United States: 5 girls in 2015.  Bellatrix was most popular in 2009 and 2012 – both years, given to 12 girls. 
  • Popularity in England/Wales: 4 girls in 2015 (#4736). 
  • Namesake: Bellatrix Lestrange
  • Other uses: Star in constellation Orion (the Hunter). 
  • Themes: Harry Potter, astronomy, war, villains, magic, Bella names
  • Nicknames: Bella, Belle, Trixie

My question – would you be able to overcome the associations with Bellatrix Lestrange and name your child Bellatrix

As to the original question regarding the Nigerian rank of Bellatrix…the answer is “impossible to determine.”  I searched, and found no definitive government list of popular Nigerian names like we have for the U.S. and U.K.  I did find a Nigerian parenting blog with several posts about popular names (including this one about English-language girls’ names), but all it told me was what is perceptibly popular.  Bellatrix wasn’t mentioned anywhere.

I then read a little on Nigerian naming practices, which are complicated and fascinating!  Among some ethnic groups, factors such as birth order and twin-birth (or even both) can determine the child’s name.  In the Igbo ethnicity, as this article claims, first-born daughters almost always have “Ada” somewhere in their name.  Specific circumstances can lead to certain names.  Something else to consider that the first article touches on is the use of aspiring/quality names like those of Goodluck Jonathan (former President) and his wife Patience.

Ultimately, Bellatrix might belong to a few Nigerian girls, but I doubt she’s very popular there or anywhere.


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. 

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.

Many Bellas

This isn’t a Twilight-related post like you probably think it is.  This isn’t even strictly about the name Bella.  Rather, this is a post about names (many of them unusual) that include the element “bella.”  All bolded names were given to actual American babies in 2015.  The majority of this data comes from the Social Security Administration, which publishes the most popular American baby names plus extended data every year.

  • Bella – How can we start with any name *but* BellaBella was given to 3760 girls last year, ranking #74 (down from #48 in 2010).  By itself, Bella is considered an Italian name that means “beautiful.”  As an element in other names, this is not always the case.
  • Isabel_de_castilla

    Queen Isabella of Castile

    Isabella – the standard that has probably propagated most of the ‘Bella’ names that have popped up in the past few years.  Currently ranked the #5 most popular name in the U.S., #7 in England and Wales, #10 in New Zealand, #9 in Denmark, and in the top 100 in a lot of other countries.  Isabella is a variation on Isabel, which is in turn a medieval form of Elizabeth.  Other spellings include Izabella (#234 with 1403 uses), Izzabella (164 uses), and Ysabella (64 uses).

  • Arabella – Currently ranked #194 in the U.S., this has a namesake in the Harry Potter series via Arabella Figg.  Interesting alternative spellings include Aerabella and Ayrabella (each used 24 times).
  • Annabella – A gorgeous name that suffered a serious drop in popularity for 2015.  Nancy over at Nancy’s Baby Names attributes this to the horror movie Annabelle, which induced drops for just about every name based off of Annabelle too.  Still, Annabella ranked #396 last year, with 816 uses. 
  • Bellamy – From the French phrase “bel ami,” which means “beautiful friend.”  Last year 183 girls and 23 boys were given this name!  That said, I think this might be the only ‘bella’ name that has much crossover with the boys; the data lists a few male Isabellas, but not enough (comparatively) to constitute a unisex designation.  Bellamy has a few spelling variants which are strictly used for girls, though; namely Bellamie and Bellami.
  • Miabella – Is Mia too short for your tastes?  Try Miabella, which was given to 125 baby girls last year! 
  • Marbella – Admittedly I don’t know much about this name, but it was given to 85 baby girls last year.  According to a user-submitted definition on BtN, it’s a contraction of Mariabella.  However, Marbella is also a city in Spain.  Add this to the list of usable place names?  
  • Abella – Writing this post is the first time I’ve ever encountered this name, but it looks like it’s probably a feminine form of Abel, which currently ranks #125 and is rising fast.  According to the SSA data, there were 72 baby Abellas last year. 
  • Rosabella – Bestowed upon 69 girls last year.  There were also 22 girls named Rosabelle and 8 named Rosabel.  Meaning: “beautiful rose.” 
  • Elizabella – Tired of ElizabethElizabella is a fairly rare but trendy variation capitalizing not only the popularity of Bella (#74) but also that of Eliza (#175).  According to the extended data, 2015 saw the birth of 62 girls named Elizabella, 16 called Elizabelle, and 10 Elisabella.
  • Mirabella – A lovely, mature name given to 61 girls last year.  Abby over at Appellation Mountain has written a lovely piece on similar MirabelleMirabella can be taken either as Mira+Bella or as an elaboration of Mirabel, which my reading seems to indicate was once unisex (!) and a Crusader castle in Israel.  Now Mirabel (44 uses) and variants are strictly feminine.  As for Mirabella…I distinctly remember that there was a Mirabella Plunkett on a Chocolate Frog Card.  So there’s that indelible link to Harry Potter, too.
  • Giabella – Presumably this is simply Gia+Bella.  There were 26 of these last year.
  • Kimbella – I’m guessing this was Kardashian-influenced.  Kim isn’t a popular name anymore…79 girls last year were named Kim, and 21 were Kimbella.  
  • Belladonna – Beautiful name, deadly poison (also known as deadly nightshade), and apparently the name of an actress who formerly worked in the adult movie industry.  I’m not sure which connection is more unfortunate, but clearly parents aren’t too deterred because 17 baby girls were named Belladonna in 2015.


    Atropa Belladonna, a.k.a Deadly Nightshade

  • Christabella – 14 uses.  This has mostly risen in response to the rise of Christabel, which was used 26 times last year.  Usage for both is down from 2014, but they’re more common than they were 10 years ago.
  • Adabella – 13 baby Adabellas in 2015.  This is an attractive option for parents who think Adalyn is too trendy.
  • Sybella – 13 uses.  At first glance this looks a lot like Sybilla, but Sybilla is so rare now that this is more likely a variation of Sabella (71 uses), which in turn is Isabella truncated.
  • Sarabella – Sara+Bella.  12 uses.
  • Bellamia – Given to 10 girls in 2015, this is the opposite of Miabella and an *apparent* elaboration or feminization of Bellamy.   More likely it is meant to be the former option, i.e. Bella+Mia.  
  • Clarabella – 8 baby girls in 2016.  Clara+Bella, but older than you’d probably expect.  “Clarabella” is an early and extremely obscure Beatles song…I couldn’t even find a YouTube clip of them singing it because it’s not available in my country, though I’ve heard it before.  For my readers in the U.K., you should have better luck.  
  • Adorabella – Adora+Bella.  This is one of the most modern names in this set, and was given to 6 girls in 2015.  Interestingly, Behind the Name defines Adora as a diminutive of the Spanish name Adoración “Adoration.”  Cool, huh?
  • Amabella – a more elaborate version of medieval Amabel, which is already very rare (8 in 2015…there were also 6 called Amabelle).  There were only 5 baby Amabellas in 2015.  On a side note, these are all very closely related to Mabel (ranked #576).
  • Jessabella – 6 in 2015.  This looks like a softer form of Jezebel, though I wonder if this might also be used by fans of Jessa Duggar.  
  • Avabella – 5 uses, Ava+Bella. 
  • Bellatrix – For all you astronomy-lovers out there, here’s a star name for you!  Still, this name is probably only given to children because of Bellatrix Lestrange (Harry Potter again).  Last year 5 girls were given this name, which means “female warrior” in Latin.
  • Karabella – 5 uses, Kara+Bella. 
  • Zabella – 5 uses; a variation of Sabella or truncation of Izabella
  • Bellamarie (22), Bellagrace (10), Isabellarose (9), Bellaann (5), etc. – Whenever a name becomes truly popular or trendy one can expect to see other names – that would normally otherwise land in the middle spot –  instead become part of the first name.  It is likely (even probable) that these are actually double-barrel names (i.e. Bella-Ann), but because the Social Security Administration doesn’t show hyphens or other punctuation marks in its data, we’ll never know for sure.

I don’t know how much longer ‘bella’ names will be common or trendy.  The peak for their popularity was around 2009 or 2010, and many of the above have decreased in usage over the past few years.  A few may continue to rise in popularity, namely Bellamy and ElizabellaAnnabella has the potential to rebound, but I don’t know how badly horror movies stain names in the long-term.  Arabella, despite being an old name, isn’t exactly old-fashioned in people’s minds.

Old-fashioned names are “in” right now, but I wonder if ‘Bella’ names are now becoming too frilly and too reminiscent of Twilight.  The girls’ names that are trending heavily right now are those like Eleanor, Hazel, and Luna; toned-down.

What do you think of these many ‘Bella’ names?  Do you have any favorites? 

Hellenic Hermione

Hermione is one of my very favorite names.  Almost everyone in my generation was introduced to the name through Hermione Granger; and believe me, that’s not a bad thing for the name.  H.G. is an incredibly strong and intelligent character, and for that I think she’s a fantastic namesake.  Unfortunately, I’ve seen many comments over time that suggest the name shouldn’t be used or that parents who love the name won’t use it because it’s *too* reminiscent of the Harry Potter series.  Again, Hermione is an incredible namesake and you should be naming your daughters after her.  But, if you think the single association is still too strong, there’s good news.  There are plenty other Hermione’s throughout literature and history!

The name itself has its provenance in Greek mythology.  Hermione was the daughter of King Menelaus of Sparta and his wife Helen.  Yes, that Helen, who famously eloped with Paris and incited the Trojan War.  Hermione married Neoptolemus and later Orestes.

Thousands of years later, there are yet more Hermione’s.  Shakespeare’s Hermione in The Winter’s Tale is one of the most famous.  There’s also a French tragedy called Cadmus and Hermione, but in this case Hermione is actually an alternative rendering of Harmonia.  There have been others (I know I’m missing a few – there are a lot), but I think the next important appearance is in the 1960s David Bowie song “Letter to Hermione.”  Lastly, in the 1990s, J.K. Rowling gave us Hermione Granger. 🙂

Historically, Hermione has also been a ship’s name.  The British have had four ships called HMS Hermione since the 18th century (the last one was scrapped only in the 1990s).  The French have had 12, including one dating to 2014 that is a replica of the famous 1779 Hermione frigate.   The Spanish also had at least one of these in the 18th-century. 

This name is pretty rare in the U.S., but tends to be popular enough in the U.K. to at least make the top 500…actually, I think it was ranked exactly #500 in 2014 on the English and Welsh charts.  This isn’t to say that Americans don’t use the name; since the HP books were first published, Hermione has been hitting around 50 uses a year fairly consistently.  Even before the books came out, the name was sporadically used.  I will say this – Hermione is one of those names that is far more classically British than American. 

Nickname potential is high for this name.  In a previous post about Ancient Greek girls’ names, I wrote that diminutives like Mia, Maia, and Hera could make the name more usable for some parents.