We're in love with baby names that describe the best in all of us, and though virtue names aren't new, they have evolved over time to embrace both an old-fashioned feel and modern sensibilities. Today's most popular virtue names are Grace, Faith, Hope, Serenity, and Justice. They are all beautiful, but we're interested in virtue names that are harder to find. It's a style that is perfect for a little experimenting, with rich word-based names that melt our hearts and encourage our spirits.
Amity: From the Latin word for friendship, Amity is one of the few virtue names that describe a relationship. Between its sweet, subtle meaning and its darling sound, Amity is a beautiful, undiscovered choice that's full of charm.
Clarity: Beautifully clear and perfectly trend-worthy, Clarity has a familiar flavor that capitalizes on the popularity of Claire and Clara. It makes a luminous statement but it's also quite rare.
Honesty: This idyllic name is gaining a bit of traction behind the scenes of the top 1,000 girls' names. Its fresh sound balances out what could be puritanical associations, while its similarities to Serenity and the fading choice Destiny keep this name grounded.
Honor: The daughter of Jessica Alba and Cash Warren made a splash when she was born in 2008, but her name remains out of the top 1,000. Honor is a sweet and simple choice with a respectable meaning and a truly one-of-a-kind feel.
Loyal: On the heels of Royal (one of the fastest rising names of 2014), Loyal is a fantastic word with a similar sound that sums up an admirable quality for any little one. Names like Lionel or Lowell may be outdated, but they have built a foundation that makes Loyal far from a wild choice.
Mercy: At first glance, Mercy may seem a bit antiquated, but its trend-worthy sound is bringing this choice from the days of yesterday's handmade bonnets into today's boutique bows. It can sit quite comfortably next to Lucy and Macy, and if that weren't enough, it has charitable connotations without all the popularity of Grace.
Noble: If Mabel can come back, there's hope for Noble too. It's a word that goes beyond royalty into high ideals and principles. Suddenly we're wondering why we don't see more of this creative choice, which was given to 129 boys last year.
Pax: Simply meaning "peace," this stylish choice was brought to our attention by the Jolie-Pitt family in 2003. It's right on trend and simple, but the x at the end packs a certain punch that any kid would wear proudly.
Revere: A true undiscovered gem, this name makes a striking impression both in its reference to a reverent attitude and to the famous patriot of the American Revolution, Paul Revere. Its respectful spirituality makes the perfect counterpart to its boyish charm.
Serene: Names like Serenity and Serena are more popular than this rare choice, but since we're looking for creative virtue names, Serene was a perfect match for its unusual and peaceful qualities. This name was used in the video game Riviera: The Promised Land where she's grouped with a Fia, Lina, Cierra, and Rose.
True: It's hard to top this creative virtue name in terms of both sweetness and straightforwardness. While it appears only on the occasional birth certificate, True shows up more often for boys than girls, with similar choices like Truely going to the girls and Truett going to the boys. Any way you look at it, True has fantastic appeal in its significance, sound, and brevity.
Unity: With admirable values and a sense of goodwill, Unity sets the stage for a peacemaking child who can bring everyone together. It's quite a unique choice, as only 21 girls were given this name last year.
Valor: In 2013, actor Emile Hirsch announced this name for his son and baby name lovers everywhere took notice. It needs no definition, but it's not a word we use a lot in our everyday language, giving it the perfect qualities for a virtue name. There aren't enough parents choosing this name to start a trend, but clearly, Valor isn't for everyone (just the brave, of course).
Verity: We think it's time to take this one back from the Puritans. With roots ultimately in Latin and a meaning of truth, any potential heaviness this name might have communicated is lifted by its undeniably pretty sound.
Wisdom: This one is rare, and it's no wonder—it has a hurdle to overcome in its lack of nicknames and potentially overdone meaning. It may be a tough one for a kid to live up to, but this name displays high ideals and a value for moral character that's boldly inspirational.
When it comes to name style, I try not to take sides. My job is to help parents find the name that's right for them, not to play fashion judge and jury. But today, I feel compelled to take a stand on a pressing issue of the day:
The name Denise is so wrong for a Muppet pig.
This week brought the news that a rebooted "Muppet Show" will feature a new pig as rival to the venerable Miss Piggy for the heart of Kermit the Frog. Take a moment to consider the names of the two classic characters I just mentioned. Consider also Gonzo, Rowlf, Fozzie Bear, The Swedish Chef, Sam The Eagle, Zoot, Animal, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and Beaker. Now consider the new leading piggy's name, Denise. Yes, Denise, that staple of mid-century American baby naming:
Muppet names can take many forms: descriptions, pop-culture references, puns, or simply zany nonsense. But there are some things they never sound like. Those include your fourth-grade teacher and the mom next door.
There's a reason for that. Mom names fall squarely into the most human slice of the name spectrum. When I analyzed trends in dog and cat names, I noted that pets' names were increasingly drawn from the human name pool, but not just any human names. We give our dogs old-fashioned nicknames like Molly and Max to show that they're cuddly. We give them colorful names like Bruno and Lola to show that they're fun. We give them preppy surnames like Bailey and Tucker to show that they're sporty. We do NOT give them middle-aged names to show that they're mature and responsible. As I wrote at the time, "Have you ever heard 'These are our dogs, Kenneth and Jeanette'?"
When it comes to Muppets, there's an even deeper problem with common, typical grown-up names. They're just not funny.
When comedians talk about kids, they still reference the long-gone kiddie generation of Little Timmy and Little Susie (the "Mid-Century Normative Child"). Typical small-town couples in comic strips get exaggeratedly prosaic, outdated names like Ned and Velma. The extremes of modern name style are even surer sources of laughs. But the everyday names of actual adulthood are so familiar that their style barely registers. They're culturally toothless.
Typically human? Culturally toothless? The Muppet Show??? A frog-pig romance we might be able to get on board with, but never this.
One of the truest demonstrations of fandom is to commit your child's name to your favorite fantasy world. Not just any name, mind you. Even the most casual viewer might pick up a fashionable name like Bella or Jasper from Twilight. It's the unlikelier names that show off a fanbase's true colors -- names like Daenerys or Ollivander that make a fellow fan glow in recognition.
That's how we're going to put the most beloved science fiction and fantasy franchises to the test. The challenge: how many previously unused names has each franchised launched into current use, and how popular are they? After an initial baby-name screening that eliminated contenders like Star Trek, Twilight and the Marvel Universe, we identified five powerhouse finalists:
Game of Thrones
The Hunger Games
The Lord of the Rings
The ground rules: We count any names that came out of nowhere in the stats, along with names that were previously outside the top 1000 and rose by at least 500% within five years of their first screen appearance. (We're comparing entire fictional worlds, so names from spinoffs like "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" do count.) We found 38 qualifying names from our franchise finalists:
Scoring: Award a base of 100 points per name. Extra 150 point bonus for a name given to at least 200 babies last year (Khaleesi through Anakin above); 100 point bonus for 100+ babies (Thorin-Arwen); 50 points for 50+ babies (Daenerys-Hermione) and 20 points for 20+ babies (Primrose-Stark).
And the #1 Fandom Is…
Harry Potter, by a whisker over Game of Thrones.
The Game of Thrones names totalled more babies, but Potter inched ahead with more different names launched. GoT fans, if you feel robbed keep in mind that we gave you the name Stark for House Stark of Winterfell, even though Marvel's Tony Stark (Iron Man) also holds a claim to it. Hardcore fans may also argue for the hit GoT name Arya, which didn't qualify for this list, but the non-qualifying Potter hit Luna balances it out.
Looking ahead, the arrow could move in many directions. Game of Thrones is still on the air, and the new Star Wars movie due out in December could give that franchise new name momentum. The biggest wild card, though, may be Harry Potter. Potter fans start young enough that not all of the diehards who were up at midnight waiting for their copy of "Deathly Hallows" in 2007 are even old enough to vote today. That could point to a whole generation of Hermiones and Dracos yet to come.