Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ve written a Puritan name acrostic for you all!  An acrostic is a poem in which a letter from each line (especially the first letter) spells something out.



I doubt we’re having turkey…more likely, we’re having lasagna.  Does anybody else eat unconventional Thanksgiving foods?

Temperance – 232 girls in 2016.  It was a top 1000 name between 2011 and 2014.

Hope – 1324 girls (#240) and 7 boys.

Amity – 42 girls.  Amity means “friendship.”

Noble – 140 boys and 15 girls.

Knowledge – 112 boys and 8 girls.

Sincere – 405 boys (#628) and 39 girls.  The other option was Silence.

Grace – 7531 girls (#19) and 15 boys.

Increase – Famously borne by Increase Mather (1639-1723).  I’m a little surprised this one isn’t anywhere in the SSA data.

Victory – 47 girls and 16 boys.

Independence – 6 girls.

Nazareth – 64 girls and 47 boys.  ‘N’ is one of the less common letters for Puritan names; Noble is the only ‘N’ virtue name I could find.  My other choice for this slot was the very random word-name “Notwithstanding,” which was mentioned in Albion’s Seed.*  Yes, someone really named their kid Notwithstanding.

Godswill – 6 boys.  This might be a modern creation, but it’s up there with Obedience.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

(As usual, the data came from the Social Security Administration.  The book I mention, Albion’s Seed, is by David Hackett Fischer and contains some information on colonial naming practices)

Phelony: A Baby Name Rant

I love perusing lists of names.  My regular readers know that I obsess over Social Security Administration birth data, which I use for the basis for many of my posts.  Occasionally I also read lists of birth announcements.  My favorite source for these is a site called For Real Baby Names, which nowadays specializes in the more interesting and unusual American announcements.  I also mainly work with rare names on my own blog, but one I saw on hers still managed to shock me.  According to this post containing Nevada birth announcements, there’s a little baby named Phelony.  Phelony Rose.  Um…in the inarticulate words of my distracted generation, I “literally can’t even.”


At least her middle name is Rose, right?

Now that I’ve collected my thoughts, my response is actually “bah humbug!”  There are only a few names I will vehemently argue against, and Phelony is one of them.  This daring name is a felony in every way except that which matters: legally.  It’s America.  You have the Constitutional right to name your child almost anything you desire.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m proud of the fact that our naming laws are almost non-existent.  Naming freedom truly lends to diversity and strengthens the 1st Amendment; it is an American value. Indeed, it would be very boring if everyone were named from a tiny pool of accepted appellations.  That Calliope and Saoirse, and Godric and Alastair roam today’s playgrounds is fantastic. 

That said – I have to wonder about the parent whose aspirations for their child involve breaking laws.  Virtues generally connote goodness; in this case, ‘Felony’ isn’t so much a vice as perhaps an anti-virtue.  Sure, maybe Phelony’s parents were trying to distinguish it from the word by changing the spelling.  Unfortunately, creative spellings don’t change pronunciation, and we’re still left with a baby girl who’s been called a criminal by the person(s) responsible for loving and protecting her.  Even if that wasn’t their intention, it’s the practical effect. 😦

Phelony may very well grow up to be an upstanding citizen.  Names don’t define their wearers.  Though weirdly, someone named “Fellony” actually did commit one.  Again, I don’t know how much her name affected her actions.  If anything, it probably had more to do with upbringing or weird luck. 

Exhibit A

I don’t know if this is the same Phelony from the birth announcement, but my Google-fu indicates there are probably a few of them out there.  Not too many, thankfully, but one is enough to catch my attention. :/

Thoughts, anyone? 


  • In case anyone is interested, the screenshot was found via a College Humor post called 25 Parents Whose Baby Naming Privileges Should Be Revoked.”  Their words, not mine.  I usually don’t follow College Humor, but when I told someone about the birth announcement he said he’d seen the name recently and that there was a screenshot somewhere online!  I couldn’t help but look.  
  • Swistle (another name blogger) is my newest hero.  I just found a post from 2008 in which she helped steer a family away from naming their child Felony.
  • On the bright side, between Felony, Fellony, and Phelony, none have ever appeared in the SSA extended data.  The names exist, but it means there have never been 5 or more people given the name in the same birth year. (Don’t get any ideas)
  • Looking at the screenshot, and the way they spell ‘felony’ – I hope that doesn’t mean that ‘Arien’ is actually ‘Aryan.’  I pray they aren’t white supremacists. 


Names of Admiration

Inspired by today’s prompt on the word “admire,” here are a few names from the SSA birth data that connote admiration.  The majority are virtue words and have religious vibes, though there’s certain brand of comics mentioned here too.  All of these are names of children born in the U.S. in 2015. 

Admire – 5 boys.

Honor – 121 girls, 46 boys.  British spelling Honour was the name of 14 girls and 5 boys.

Love – 108 girls, 10 boys.

Adore – 36 girls.

Cherish – 286 girls.  Like Windy from yesterday’s post, Cherish” is also a song by the Association.

Treasure – 241 girls and 5 boys.

Marvel – 17 boys and 14 girls.  These babies are probably all named after Marvel comics, not the verb.

Praise – 31 girls and 27 boys.

Revere – 9 boys.  Paul Revere is an obvious namesake, though it wouldn’t surprise me if this name has more of a religious connotation; there’s definitely a Puritan vibe. 

Favor – 27 girls and 5 boys.  British spelling Favour is even more popular as a name, with 30 girls and 7 boys.  

What do you think of these names?  Can you think of any other admiring names that aren’t here?  Let me know in the comments. 

July 4th – Patriotic Names

Happy Independence Day, everyone!  As we celebrate the original Brexit, let’s take a look at some names that are reminiscent of that Declaration and subsequent Revolution which gave U.S. our freedom and autonomy from that monarchist island across the pond. 😉


This wasn’t actually the signing, but rather a draft presentation of the Declaration

A few of the signers had very interesting or unusual names:

  • Caesar Rodney (Delaware)
  • Button Gwinnett (Georgia)
  • Carter Braxton (Virginia)
  • Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts)
  • Lyman Hall (Georgia)
  • Abraham Clark (New Jersey)
  • Josiah Barlett (New Hampshire)

Then there are the American ‘virtues’:

Independence – Perhaps the most obvious name for the 4th, it’s also perhaps the rarest.  Just 5 baby girls were named Independence in 2015. 

Liberty – One of the most popular American virtue names, this ranked #558 last year.  Liberty has a very interesting, sporadic usage history.  This was briefly popular at the end of World War I and was popular again at the bicentennial in 1976.  Liberty next reentered the top 1000 (this time staying) in 2001, after 9/11. 

Justice – As a name, Justice has only been popular since the 1990s.  It currently ranks #451 and #521 for boys in the U.S.

Felicity – Perhaps a bit of a stretch, but doesn’t the Declaration proclaim everyone’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?”  Felicity is a synonym for happiness.  This name ranked #359 in the U.S. last year. 


Columbia 10 baby girls in 2015.  Columbia is the female personification of America, much in the way that Britannia represented Britain.


Columbia, ca. WWI

America – 280 girls were named America last year.  Whether they’re named after the country, America Ferrara, or some combination of the two, this is the ultimate American name.

Amerigo – The two continents of the ‘New World’ derive the name America from Amerigo Vespucci.  

Philadelphia – This name hasn’t appeared in SSA data in over 20 years, but I occasionally see her on lists of colonial names. 

Sam – as in, Uncle Sam.  Sam ranked #553 last year, but there are probably a lot more of them that have it as a nickname for Samuel (#23).  Samson (#622) is also growing in popularity.

Do you have a favorite patriotic name?  What do you think of these?

Sources for popularity data:

Name Predictions: Honesty

You may expect this to be a post about how honest I am in my predictions.  It isn’t, amusing as the thought may be.  This is about the name Honesty, which I expect to enter the top 1000 in the 2015 set for the very first time. 

Honesty is an older and rarer virtue name, which is a potential boost in her favor.  Other ancient Puritan appellations like Mercy and Temperance have become popular in recent years.  Grace, Hope, and Faith are classics; little to say there. 

Honesty was given to 253 baby girls in 2014.  The name that ranked at the bottom of the top 1000, Kai, was given to 262 girls.  I remember thinking back after the 2013 list that  Emmeline and Clementine had risen so close to the bottom that they’d probably make their entries (or rather, reentries) the next year, which they did! 

Indeed, Honesty has been increasing in usage fairly steadily since her first appearance in the data back in the 1970s.  The fact that there’s around 250 of them means that on average 5 were born in every state in 2014.  Chances are you or your children will run into one on the playground at some point.

There’s another consideration that leads me to believe this will be a top 1000 name.  When a name starts to become really popular, a lot of spelling variations will begin to pop up.  Truthfully, I don’t know how many spellings of this word-name there currently are within the data-set.  My perusal of the extremely rare names for this past week’s posts has led to an encounter with “Ahonesty,” used 11 times that year.  It takes a second to realize how that’s pronounced, I know.  Actually, I’m not even sure I initially knew what name it was.  The juxtaposition of the ‘a’ made me think it was a separate syllable – “A-honesty.”  I’ve seen “Amiracle” (82 uses) but grammatically and pronunciation-wise that is much more intuitive than Ahonesty.  Other spellings of Honesty within the set include Honesti (56 uses), Aunesty (15), Aonesty (9), Onesty (8), Honestee (7), Honestii (7), Aunesti (5), Honestie (5), and Onesti (5).  There may yet be others. 

Unique Baby Names with 10 Uses or Fewer (Girls)

“Unique” names are less unique than ever.  The top American names now constitute a much smaller percentage of babies born in a year than they did a century ago.  In the last 10 years alone, the percentage of children whose names are in the American top 1000 has dropped from about 75% to 73%, meaning that children are increasingly likely to have an uncommon name.  Considering that the Social Security Administration produces an extended list beyond the top 1000, I wonder what the percentage is of children whose names are common enough to make that compilation.

In order to be shown on the extended list, a name has to be used at least 5 times in a year for that given gender.  Being used 5 times does not make a name popular or even common, since the bottom names of the top 1000 tend to register a couple hundred uses in a year.  Below the top 1000, one finds all the rare or semi-rare names that are in use.  Some of these names are even trendy, and might hit the top 1000 in short order.

Today I’ve mined the American data for some of my favorite girls’ names with 10 or fewer uses in 2014.  Some of you will think: “Wait, people actually use these?”  Some of you will hardly be able to contain your excitement, some will be dumbfounded.  For many, it will be all of the above.

10: Amadea, Artemisia, Djuna, Hedy, Hephzibah, Lilac, Linnaea, Lior, Lucilla, Macaria, Markia, Pooja, Raphaela, Socorro, Tansy, Tilda, Venezia

9: Agape, Ambrosia, Anthea, Apphia, Astraea, Avis, Bellatrix, Cressida, Donatella, Rosamund, Sibylla, Tulip, Tulsi, Zoraida

8: Adamina, Amabella, Asmara, Binah, Blessed, Circe, Constantina, Coretta, Edeline, Eugenie, Ginevra, Giuseppina, Nefertari, Prosperity, Radiance, Sincerity, Tryphena, Veronique

7: Arista, Bathsheba, Christiane, Clarabella, Dulcinea, Elisheba, Fionnuala, Hyacinth, Oceane, Parthenia, Peregrine, Rejoice, Sophronia, Trillium, Yehudit

6: Agnieszka, Alejandrina, Anwen, Benedicta, Blanche, Bronwen, Calixta, Caoilinn, Damiana, Eleftheria, Euphemia, Gardenia, Gwendoline, Heloise, Hildegard, Hypatia, Joyful, Niobe, Perpetua, Tullia, Vesta

5: Alfreda, Amabel, Amandine, Corabella, Hagar, Helia, Ignacia, Morticia, Naamah, Nefertiti, Nerys, Petunia, Prisca, Rahab, Sebastiana, Theophilia, Xanthe, Zoja

As you can tell, there’s quite a mix with this set.  Mythological, Biblical, Flowers, Virtues…there are so many kinds of names here.  Now, since these names are ultra-rare, don’t expect them to suddenly enter the top 1000 in the next year or even decade.  But maybe they’ll become characters in the stories you write.  Maybe, seeing them in use will give you the courage to use one of these lovelies or an equally unique appellation on your child! 

What do you think of these names? 

Source:  https://www.ssa.gov/OACT/babynames/limits.html

Virtue Names

What is a virtue name?  Virtue names are a subcategory of word-names that suggest parents’ aspirations for their children in the form of having a desired quality.  In common usage, these are names like Faith, Temperance, and HopeThey are especially beloved in the American naming tradition – the Puritans were famous for them.  Long before the Reformation, these names were personified as minor deities in the ancient Mediterranean.  Even today you’ll sometimes find their statues in European churches and cathedrals because they became personified virtues in later centuries.  Essentially, then, virtue names tend to be religious in connotation; however, in a modern context they can be and often are secular in usage. 

There aren’t too many virtue names currently in the top 1000, but a few are very popular.  Most of the popular names that would be considered ‘traditional’ virtue names are feminine.  I had to really think about ‘male’ virtue names.  The boys’ names tend to be what I consider ‘modern’ virtues; i.e., Ace and Maverick.  For the girls, this includes Serenity and Cherish.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 2.35.14 PM

There have been others, over the decades.  Chastity became a pretty popular name in the 1970s due to Chaz Bono, but that name is no longer in the top 1000.  Supposedly the Puritans wouldn’t touch that name with a 10-foot pole, which says something.  I also suspect that Honesty may soon be popular.  

I could have included names like Gloria (Glory) and Irene (Peace) in my visualization, but the thing about virtue names is that they tend only to be virtue names in their language of use.  As they are respectively Latin and Greek, they aren’t English virtue names.  Glory and Peace would be, though.  Of course, Irene additionally is character in Greek mythology, so she’s not strictly a virtue. 

If you ask me what my favorite virtue names are, I’ll say that my favorites are currently Temperance, Charity, and ProvidenceGenerally, I like any virtue name that is both virtuous and doesn’t have an explicit sexual connotation.  Chastity, and quite a few others, are excluded from my list from failing that second qualification.  For (perhaps obvious) other reasons, I also discourage using Deliverance

One last note: Destiny and Miracle are not virtue names.  A virtue is usually the noun denoting a good personal quality.  Sometimes virtue names are adjectives or verbs (like Frank or Cherish).  Destiny and Miracle mere word-names.  They might be good, but they are not personal qualities.  This said, Gunner also isn’t a virtue name because it’s an occupational name. ‘Virtue’ implies a normative judgment that a quality is good; occupational names merely are