Names from Thor: Ragnarok


The Ride of the Valkyrs – John Charles Dollman (1909)

The third and latest Thor movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe covers the apocalypse of Asgard, known as Ragnarok.  Asgard is the world that Thor and the other Norse gods come from.  In the movie (spoiler alert!), Odin – king of Asgard and the gods – dies, releasing Hela from her prison.  She, the goddess of death, subsequently asserts her claim on the throne and exacts her injustice on all that defy her.  Of course, I’m not here to review the movie – I’m here to discuss the names!

The movie has several Asgardian characters who I think are likely to affect baby naming in 2017 and 2018:


The title character and god of thunder has what can probably be described as the most “classic” name from Norse mythology in the U.S., as Social Security Administration birth data indicates usage stretching back over 100 years.  Although Thor dropped from 2015 to 2016, chances are good that it will rise again in 2018 if not 2017!  A decade or two ago, one could expect the birth of about 50 babies with this name every year.  Since the films started, that estimate has doubled.  There were only 87 Thor‘s born in 2016, but I can see two things going on there – 1) Avengers: Age of Ultron was a spring-release in 2015 (meaning less carry-over to 2016; most Thor movies come out in the late fall) and 2) Thor‘s 2016 appearances were restricted to short films and cameos.  With Ragnarok’s hype and the upcoming release of Avengers: Infinity War next year, don’t be surprised if Thor spikes again. 

Meanwhile, the name is being revived in parts of Scandinavia.  Thor entered the Danish top 50 in 2015, and the Swedish top 100 last year.  No word from Norway yet, where it fell out of fashion decades ago.


Loki has only been in use since the 90s, but in 2016 it was a more popular baby name than Thor!  92 boys were named Loki in the U.S., and it’s a top 500 name in England and Wales.  To be fair, Loki looks more playful than Thor.  I’d also say it’s a bit more low-key.

Curiously, a few parents have chosen the mischief god’s name for their daughters.  This isn’t as strange as you might think.  First, it’s increasingly common for semi-rare mythological names to veer unisex.  Jupiter was even more popular for girls last year, despite its provenance as Roman king of the Gods.  Secondly, there’s actually a myth about Loki turning into a female horse!


A new character!  This is a name that has only appeared a few times in SSA data, and I don’t know if those occurrences are related to the comics persona.  Hela is Marvel’s take on the Norse goddess Hel…I can see why they changed it.  In the myths and comics, she is Loki’s daughter; in the movie, she’s Odin’s.

As a baby name, Hela (rhymes with Ayla) is more usable than Hel, which was recently rejected by the Icelandic Naming Committee for potentially harming its bearer.  Despite being hell-bent on destruction, Hela is a fantastic warrior who looks rather like Maleficent-in-tights (and yes, there are a few young girls named Maleficent).  Some parents seem to appreciate “evil but empowering” namesakes for their daughters, so don’t be surprised if the name Hela returns this year or next.


Meaning “chooser of the slain,” Valkyrie is already on the rise.  48 girls were given this in 2016, higher than ever before!  This not-so-name is really a mythological designation for the women who observed battles, chose the dead, and served mead to them until they were needed to fight again in Ragnarök.  In the movie, the Valkyries were a group of epic battle-maidens who were obliterated fighting Hela; the character Valkyrie was the only survivor.  Regarding the name, I think makes for an interesting update on Valerie!

Odin‘s appearances might also have a small effect, but that name is already popular (#383) and rising on its own.  Out of all the movie’s characters I think the Asgardian / Norse names generally will have the most impact on baby names, but there’s one more character name that won’t surprise me if it rises.


44 boys and 5 girls were given this name in 2016.  Banner has risen steadily since the 2012 release of The AvengersBruce temporarily rose between 2011 and 2014, but is declining again.  Banner is a more obvious, fresher reference to the character than Bruce, and probably the trendier of the two names. 

Did you enjoy the movie?  What do you think about these names?  Are there any other character names you think might rise or appear?  Let me know in the comments!

Names Inspired by Animals

Today is World Animal Day – here are some people’s names associated with animals!  

  • Agnes – This has religious associations with the similar-sounding Latin word for lamb, agnusAgnes is currently rare in the U.S., as only 229 girls received the name last year.  But, that’s fairly close to the top 1000 threshold, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s popular again before 2020.
  • Arachne – If the story is anything to go by, the animal is inspired by the name!  The word “arachnid,” which refers to spiders, comes from Arachne.  There’s no record of this name in Social Security birth or death data; has this name ever been used in modern times?  Probably not, since few people like spiders.  If you love the sound of Arachne but not the association, try Ariadne instead.
  • Avian – 88 boys and 9 girls got this name last year, which is an adjective referring to birds.  My only concern about using this as a name is the potential for flu jokes.  It’s almost like calling your child Rubella.  Pretty…deadly!  Use Ava, Avi, or even Aviana instead.
  • Bear – 186 boys were named Bear in the U.S. last year, and he’ll probably enter the top 1000 in 2017.  There’s a more extensive piece about Bear‘s trajectory over at Nancy’s Baby Names, while Appellation Mountain has a post about bear-related names in general!
  • Bjorn – The English rendering of a Scandinavian and German name meaning “bear.”  Depending on the country/language, you may see it spelled Björn or Bjørn.  The U.S. and other native English-speaking countries don’t usually acknowledge diacritical marks, which mainly alter pronunciation.  People may use them in daily use.  Regardless of the rendering, SSA data shows that 150 boys were named Bjorn in the U.S. in 2016.  Like Bear, this name is also a fast riser.  (P.S.: the ‘j’ is pronounced like a ‘y.’  Bee-yorn.)
  • Caleb – Popular Bible name which is usually thought to mean “dog” in Hebrew.  Current U.S. rank: #44.
  • Drake – A male duck.  Current rank: #445.
  • Ellie – I think this is a cute name for elephant-lovers.  Remember, you can always lengthen it!  I personally love when Ellie is short for Eleanor or Elizabeth, but any longer “El-” name should do.  That includes unisex options like Elliott and EllisonEllie‘s current rank: #43.
  • Epona – Celtic horse goddess.  Although I haven’t found Epona in SSA birth data, the Social Security Death Index tells me at least 3 women had the similar name Eponine, which is from a character in Les Miserables.
  • Fox – Newly popular in America, this animal word-name ranks #746.
  • Giles – 17 boys.  According to Behind the Name, Giles derives from a Greek word meaning “young goat.”
  • Halcyon – Derives from a Greek word meaning “kingfisher,” which is a type of bird.  I personally prefer the form Alcyone, but Hallie‘s a cute nickname!
  • Io – 16 girls in 2016; usually pronounced “eye-oh.”  Io was a lover of Zeus who was transformed into a cow.
  • Jael – Biblical women’s name meaning “ibex/mountain goat.”  145 girls and 140 boys were named Jael in 2016.
  • Kitty – Nickname for Katherine, borne by one of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice.  Only 7 American girls were actually named Kitty last year, but Katherine is still in the top 100.


    When in Rome, take random cat photos.

  • Lark – 40 girls and 7 boys were given this avian name in 2016.
  • Lionel – “Lion” is a strong nickname.  Lionel fell out of fashion in the early 2000s, only to be revived by soccer several years later.  Current rank: #579
  • Melissa – Ancient Greek name meaning “bee.”  Rank: #257.
  • Philippa – The feminine form of Philip, which derives from Greek and means “friend of horses.”  74 girls were named Philippa in the U.S. last year making it rare here; in England, Philippa ranked #333.
  • Remus and Romulus – Mythological Remus and his twin brother Romulus were nursed by a wolf.  Fictional Remus Lupin was a werewolf.  Last year, 19 boys were named Remus and 8 were named Romulus.
  • Swanhild – Girls’ name that means “swan battle.”  Awesome!  As for usage, I counted 59 women with the first name Swanhild in the SSDI, not including all the people named Svanhild and Svanhilde.
  • Taurus – 11 boys.  Taurus means “bull” and is an astrological symbol.
  • Tigerlily – 25 girls.  Lily is beautiful, but Tigerlily is ferocious!  And yes, Tigerlily is a flower too.
  • Vanessa – This name belongs to a genus of butterflies.  Rank: #197
  • Wolfgang – 117 boys.  Wolfgang is an old German name that’s mostly associated with Mozart and translates to “wolf path.”  Wolfie is an adorable nickname! 
  • Wren – a fast-rising bird name.  Rank: #524.
  • Xanthippe – Unknown usage.  Xanthippe originally meant “yellow horse” in Ancient Greek, but nowadays it mostly means “shrew.”  Some of you will know this name because of the perpetually angry character on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, who goes by the surprisingly sweet nickname “Xan.”

Do you have a favorite animal name, or human name that’s somehow related to animals?  Let me know! 

Mountainous Baby Names

For Earth Day 2017: mountains, volcanoes, and baby names!

Mountains and Volcanoes:

Afton (Virginia) – 96 girls, 7 boys.  Someone told me that they thought all the Afton‘s in their local preschool were named after Afton Mountain.  Looking at the state data for 2015, 10 of the 96 female Afton‘s (about 10.4%) were born in Virginia.  So, the data does seem to suggest a some geographic concentration.

Aspen (Colorado) – 873 girls (#372) and 87 boys.  This name appears in the top 100 of several states, mostly in or near the Rockies (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota, and Oklahoma).

Augusta (Alaska/Canada) – 48 girls.

Denali (Alaska) – 62 girls and 28 boys.  About 13% of the girls named Denali in 2015 were indeed born in Alaska.


Denali / Mt. McKinley, by Denali National Park and Preserve

Elbert (Colorado) – 15 boys.

Erebus – Mt. Erebus is a volcano in Antarctica.  For the adventurous mythology-lover searching for a unique baby name, Erebus is the primordial darkness and an underworld locale.  Although he isn’t in the data, the name of another geographical feature of the Underworld – Acheron – was given to 6 boys in 2015. 

Everest (China / Nepal) – 111 boys and 29 girls were named after the world’s tallest peak in 2015.

Hayes (Alaska) – 524 boys (#539), 26 girls.

Helen (Washington State) – Mt. St. Helens partly exploded in 1980, taking off over 1300 ft of elevation.  Helen ranked #419 in 2015, being given to 757 girls.

Hesperus (Alaska) – Greek personification of the Evening Star (Venus).  In Mythology, Hesperus is the half-brother of PhosphorosPhosphoros means “light-bearer,” and is thus the Greek cognate of Lucifer.

Kea (Hawaii) – Mauna Kea.  Kea last appeared in the SSA birth data in 2012.

Kenya – 307 girls (#892) and 7 boys.  Mt. Kenya: largest in that country, 2nd-largest in Africa after Kilimanjaro.

Logan (Canada) – #14 representing 12862 boys; #394 for 827 girls. Mount Logan is the highest mountain in Canada, 2nd largest on the continent after Denali / McKinley.  The fact that Logan’s in Canada really makes me think of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

Lorenzo (Argentina/Chile) – #216 (1834 boys) in the U.S.  Monte San Lorenzo.

McKinley – #380 / 856 girls, plus 73 boys.  McKinley is the recently deposed name for Denali; Denali is the native name.  Regardless, both appeared in Alaska’s top 100 in 2015 and only in the Alaskan top 100. 

Rainier (Washington State) – Also known as Tacoma or Tahoma, this volcano name was given to 34 boys and 8 girls in 2015.

Rosa (Switzerland/Italy) – Monte Rosa.  Ranks #631, given to 448 girls.

Shasta (California) – Only 15 girls in 2015, though this was a popular name in the 70s and 80s.  Read here for more information on the baby name Shasta.


Mt. Shasta

Sinai (Egypt) – 83 girls.

Stanley (Democratic Republic of the Congo/Uganda) – 363 boys (#688).

Whitney (California) – #640 / 444 girls; also 7 boys.


Alaska – 60 girls.

Amaro (Ethiopia) – 5 boys

Atlas (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) – #490 / 595 boys and 30 girls.  Even as a Greek mythology nerd I think it strange that this name would take off, out of all the classical names out there.  I’ll take it though!

Bridger – 197 boys.  There are actually a couple of Bridger Ranges in Montana and Wyoming, both named for Jim Bridger (of The Revenant fame).  And guess what – Bridger appeared in the 2015 top 100 for both states, but nowhere else!


Jim Bridger

Carmel (Israel) – 18 girls.

Elias (Alaska/Canada) – #100 / 4062 boys and 10 girls.   Elias ranks higher in Alaska than in every other state except for New Mexico.  (I should note – since Alaska has so few people, their charts have little effect on the national data.  That said, their surroundings really do affect their baby naming.  Aurora (like the phenomenon) is their #3 baby name).

Rocky (North America) – #927 / 229 boys.

Taurus (Turkey) – 16 boys.


Blue* – 31 boys, 20 girls; as in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Cliff – 17 boys. 

Denver – 240 boys (#900) and 197 girls.  It’s impossible to think of the Rockies or the Blue Ridge without mention of the folk singer John Denver. 

Kili – Because Kilimanjaro isn’t a baby name, there’s always the Tolkien dwarf name Kili!  6 boys in 2015.

Ridge – 226 boys (#932).

Sierra – 778 girls (#408).  The Spanish word for “mountain range.” 

What do you think?  Don’t you find the geographic concentration of baby names fascinating?  Even an obscurity like Afton seems to influence its surroundings!  And of course: happy Earth Day!

*I’m aware that Blue is coded purple.  I did that because usage is unisex rather than masculine.

Data source:

Uncommonly Tiny Names

Do you love the brevity of Max and Ada, but think they’re too popular?  Here’s a list of rare, tiny names comprising only two or three letters!    

Aj – 71 boys, 7 girls in the U.S. in 2015.  (Numbers come from Social Security Administration)

Aja – 84 girls.

Ale – 5 girls.  In case you really like your beer…

Aoi – 8 girls.  This is a Japanese name. 

Axe – 8 boys.  Hopefully the kind Gimli offers to Frodo and not the body spray.  Either way, it’s a weapon!

Bay – 58 girls, 11 boys.  Include this with other spice names like Cayenne and Paprika; Old Bay is delicious.

Bea – 25 girls.

Blu – 14 boys, 9 girls.  When Blue isn’t blunt or artsy enough. 

Bly – 5 girls.  Nellie Bly was a famous investigative journalist.

Bob – 14 boys.  Nowadays this is more of a meme than a name because of how generic it is.  That, and Bob the Builder.

Bow – 17 boys. 

Cub – 7 boys. 

Cy – 60 boys.  A nickname for Cyrus that personally sounds more like the Greek letter “psi.” 

Dat – 9 boys.  Dat name tho. 

Dev – 105 boys.  It seems that “Game Dev” gives us the latest professional name, joining Taylor and Sailor.   

Dov – 107 boys.  Hebrew name meaning “bear.”

Dua – 33 girls.

Emi – 166 girls.  Standalone Japanese name, but could also be a nickname for Emily.

Ewa – 9 girls.

Fox – 193 boys, 6 girls.  Makes me think of Joe Fox and his bookstore from You’ve Got Mail

Gal – 6 girls.  If Guy has a twin sister, I think we’ve found her.  Though, I bet you could make Gal short for Galadriel

Gem – 8 girls.  A literal gem name, or maybe a nickname for Gemma

Gus – 163 boys. 

Guy – 153 boys.

Fia – 25 girls.

Han – 22 boys, 19 girls.  Considering how blatantly Star Wars this name is, it’s really surprising that so many girls have the name.

Ida – 159 girls.  Once in the top 10, Ida hasn’t even been in the top 1000 since the 1980s.  Here’s hoping for a revival! 

Ibn 16 boys.  Arabic word meaning “son,” precedes a man’s father’s name.  Equivalent of Latin “filius,”  Hebrew “ben,” or Welsh “ap.”  I wonder whether any parents of Ibn’s actually intended it as a first name.

Ike – 93 boys.  “I like Ike” is a famous presidential campaign slogan. 

Io – 6 boys, 5 girls.  According to mythology, Io was transformed into a cow because Zeus took her as a lover.  Naturally, the quintessential problem in all Greek myth is Zeus’ romantic escapades.

Ion – 11 boys.  Ion is a good choice if you like particles or Plato. 

Ira – 196 boys, 97 girls.  Biblical name!

Ivo – 15 boys.  I play enough Crusader Kings II to be reminded of an obscure 11th-century Norman named Ivo de Taillebois.  Needless to say, Ivo is an old name.  Depending on the origin, it’s related to either Yves or Ivan.

Jad – 168 boys. 

Jo – 27 girls.  Jo March is a character in Alcott’s Little Women.

Job – 87 boys.  Something we all need.  As a name, this probably references the Bible character, and is pronounced more like the name Joe with a ‘b’ at the end. 

Jr – 29 boys.  Jr, Jr.  Uh oh…unexpected Jar Jar Binks! 

Kal – 55 boys.  Not like Cal or Calvin…more like actor Kal Penn.

Kc – 27 boys, 15 girls.  Usually this stands for something.  I don’t know what KC is these days, but when I was in high school and college the ‘c’ almost always stood for Casey, regardless of gender.

Kia – 15.  Car names! 

Kim – 71 girls, 11 boys. 

Kip – 46 boys. 

Koi – 22 boys, 18 girls.  I never thought of fish as a namesake, unless you count Marlin and Nemo.

Lex – 67 boys.  Although Lex is traditionally short for Alexander, most people probably think of Lex Luthor.

Lux – 99 girls, 32 boys.  Latin word for “light.”

Md – 27 boys.  I initially thought about doctors when I saw this, but now I wonder if this is shorthand for Mohammad.  Traditionally, common men’s names had truncated written versions; i.e., William was sometimes Wm, Jonathan was Jno, etc. 

Neo – 80 boys. 

Nil – 10 girls, 5 boys.  A tad nihilistic, don’t you think?

Nox – 15 boys.  Latin word meaning “night” – therefore equivalent of NyxNox is also a spell in Harry Potter, which is used to end a Lumos charm…that is, to put out the light. 

Nyx – 16 girls.  Nyx is the Ancient Greek personification (goddess) of Night.  Perfect for Halloween? 

Om – 86 boys. 

Oz – 24 boys. 

Paw – 17 girls.  Genuinely interesting…wonder where this comes from?

Pax – 63 boys, 6 girls.  Latin for “peace.” 

Pia – 73 girls.

Poe – 9 boys.  Not too long ago I would have assumed Edgar Allan Poe was the namesake, but now Poe Dameron is a possibility! 

Ra – 9 boys.  Egyptian sun god. 

Rae – 94 girls. 

Ram – 30 boys.  As in the animal or RAM space? 

Ren – 71 boys, 12 girls. 

Rye – 39 boys, 8 girls.  Could be a nickname for Ryan that’s influenced by Kai, but it undeniably reminds me of delicious rye bread.  Hmm…scratch off “Reuben Rye” and “Rye Reuben” from the list of usable name combos. 

Sir – 54 boys.  “Yes, sir.” 

Su – 15 girls.

Tam – 10 boys, 9 girls.

Tom – 67 boys.  “It was…Tom Bombadil!”

Uri – 29 boys. 

Vir – 22 boys.  Vir is the Latin word for “man.”

Von – 45 boys.  I’m just imagining a trip to a German-speaking country and having to explain that Von isn’t the first part of a surname. 

Vy – 27 girls.  Short for Viola or Violet?

Win – 5 boys.  Could be used as a nickname for Winston or Winslow.

Xoe – 26 girls.

Zia128 girls.  Italian word for “aunt,” but as a name might be a variation of Sia or Xia.

Zo – 14 girls.  Basically, Zoe without the invisible umlaut.     

What do you think of these names?  Let me know in the comments!


An acquaintance recently named their son ThanosThanos is traditionally short for Greek Athanasios, which means ‘immortal’ or ‘without death.’  On the other hand, you can probably make it a nickname for Thanatos, which does mean ‘death’ and was the Ancient Greek personification/minor god thereofUltimately, all of these names are rare.  Recent appearances of Thanos in the extended data don’t necessarily correspond to religion or heritage. 


Waterhouse’s depiction of Thanatos and Hypnos, called “Sleep and his Half-brother Death.”

This name benefits from the Marvel treatment.  Thanos is basically an evil space alien who looks a bit like Azog from The Hobbit – if Azog were built like a football player, that is.  Thanos has a cameo in the Avengers (2012) and then shines in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.  With the Marvel Cinematic Universe as popular as it is right now, that’s a lot of exposure for a rare name. 

According to data from the Social Security Administration, Thanos was the first name of 12 baby boys last year, up from 5 in 2014.  I find it interesting that Athanasius also peaked in 2015 at 16 uses, up from 5 the previous year too.  Original Greek Athanasios was down from a few years earlier at 18 uses.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the concurrent rises of Thanos and Athanasius are merely coincidental; one now strongly associates with a fandom and the other has deeply religious connotations.  Catholics designate St. Athanasius of Alexandria as a “Doctor of the Church.”  This begs the question: did anything significant happen last year with him?  It isn’t impossible that Athanasius became more popular to conceal the Marvel connection, and it isn’t impossible that Thanos became more popular just because Athanasius was trending; but I don’t buy either theory by its lonesome.  Neither explains why Athanasios is trending downwards. 

What do you think of ThanosAthanasius?  Do you think either will pick up more steam?

Personal musings: I don’t think my acquaintance is Greek or particularly religious, but the baby seemed to have a middle name from another fandom.  Sure, the Marvel character’s a villain, but my inner nerd loves this.  Congrats on becoming a parent, and kudos for the epic appellation!  

Links for name data:


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. 

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.



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


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? 


Below the Top 1000, Part 11 (Girls)

Happy Friday all!  Here are some of the many names given to between 50 and 69 American baby girls last year, according to data from the Social Security Administration.  For the especially curious, that data can be found here, in the zip file that says “national data.”

  • 65-69: Amaryllis, Eowyn, Haya, Prudence, Rosabella, Rosario, Sade, Abilene, Briseis, Emmylou, Ginger, Kezia, Lovely, Minnie, Vanellope, Bobbi, Camellia, Elowyn, Irma, Jean, Lenore, Sakura, Story, Xyla, Yasmina, Emmanuella, Empress, Eris, Justina, Lani, Marigold, Uma, Aries, Brandy, Emaline, Joseline, Kalliope, Ocean, Solana
  • 60-64: Adamaris, Angelia, Caia, Iona, Katana, Neve, Andromeda, Brie, Cathryn, Francis, Josette, Lavinia, Therese, Tirzah, Auden, Chevy, Crimson, Denali, Elizabella, Marlen, Shaindy, Ahuva, Austen, Cassia, Elanor, Harbor, Inez, Maja, Mirabella, Nell, Philippa, Zofia, Alaska, Arrow, Dinah, Lavender, Roberta, Verity, Wednesday, Xenia
  • 55-59: Aleida, Azeneth, Cedar, Henrietta, Israel, Kylar, Lulu, Olga, Snow, Bay, Berenice, Cate, Delphine, Divya, Esmee, Fabiana, Keisha, Rochelle, Sephora, Silvana, Eloisa, Hermione, Hosanna, Joella, Sicily, Sunshine, Bernice, Callista, Ebony, Siobhan, Cheryl, Francine, Pandora, Roxie, Sahar, Shakira, Talitha
  • 50-54: Emmanuelle, Izzy, Lenox, Sparrow, Anushka, Effie, Hilary, Jorja, Makaylee, Meira, Monserrath, Rosy, Sayuri, Zamora, Amen, Auburn, Candy, Demetria, Janney, Misty, Nada, Zada, Embry, Gisela, Havana, Jadore, Magali, Minerva, Sanjana, Yahaira, Aashi, Beautiful, Cailin, Clarity, Elvira, Fanny, Honesti, Leandra, Liesl, Mathilda, Meryl, Miamor, Primrose, Wynn, Zelie

What do you think of these names?  A few of my all-time favorite names are actually in this range, including Hermione, Philippa, and Primrose.  Lots of great mythological names in here too, like Andromeda and Briseis.  And do you notice the Tolkien names, Eowyn and Elanor

Previous posts in this series:


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. 


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.


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.