Medieval Names for Modern Girls

May 29th 2018

Finding the right balance of femininity and strength in girls’ names can be tough - why not take inspiration from the people of the Middle Ages? These monikers adorned princesses and peasants, saints and socialites, with unique sounds and interesting etymologies. Elegant and unusual, these historic names prove that the best modern choices can come from ancient sources.

Image: archeon/Flickr

Agnes. Though it was once a commonplace pick, adorable Agnes has yet to re-enter the Top 1000 after dropping off in 1973. Vintage yet unexpected, Agnes is a lovely name with a long history of namesakes and modern celebrity endorsements.

Thomasine. One of the few feminine forms of Thomas, stunning Thomasine exudes a combination of sophistication and friendliness. Beatrix Potter and Thomas Hardy used the name for characters in their writings, giving the name extra literary flair.

Iva. Simple and chic Iva manages to be extraordinary while also meshing well with current playground trends - Ava, Eva, and Ivy, for example. While the name has a complicated etymology, Iva feels substantial and ageless in a contemporary context.

Rosamund. With “Rose” names getting renewed interest, beautiful Rosamund merits a second look - even though it comes from a different linguistic background, meaning “horse protection.” English actress Rosamund Pike has helped this name rise, but it’s novel enough to work for a modern girl.

Petronella. Historically popular in the Netherlands, Petronella has a gorgeous melody dating back to its creation in Ancient Rome. This bold, romantic choice could work as an uncommon route to the nicknames Petra or Nell, but its full form is better on the birth certificate.

Sabina. Just one letter off from glamorous Sabrina, Sabina’s sound is a bit softer and more compassionate. It’s fairly well-used in a few European countries, but attractive Sabina hasn’t ranked on US popularity charts since 1926.

Melisende. The original French form of Millicent, pretty Melisende works much better today, with its ancient roots and mellifluous air. One notable namesake was Queen Melisende of Jerusalem, a strong female leader and a great patron of the arts.

Philippa. This bright choice is the first name of “Pippa” Middleton, giving this enduring name more context in the modern world. While the Brits have long appreciated peppy Philippa, it has never been given to more than 75 girls in any year in the United States.

Euphemia. A striking option for name aficionados, Euphemia comes from the Greek for “sweet speech,” and is the original source of the name Effie. This rare choice may raise some eyebrows, but Euphemia’s illustrious history and pleasing sound give it a firm foundation

Nicola. Despite Nicole’s popularity in the states, feminine Nicola never quite achieved the audience it once found on the British Isles. It’s a fantastic option for those looking to honor an Aunt Nicki or Uncle Nicholas, and it’s been worn by athletes, actresses, and authors.

Mathilde. Clunky-yet-cool Matilda has won the hearts of Anglophones - might its French variant one day ride up this spirited name’s coattails? Mathilde currently ranks in the top 50 in France, and could appeal to fans of names like Nathalie or Madeleine.

Isolde. A tragic heroine in Celtic legend, Isolde was the true love of Tristan, and their story influenced countless subsequent romantic sagas such as that of Lancelot and Guinevere. Isolde fits in well with the recent trend towards heroine names, such as Athena and Khaleesi.

Christiana. What a difference an A makes: Christiana manages to update Christina as well as join the ranks of Anna names popular today, such as Juliana and Adriana. A favorite choice among the royals of Europe, Christiana is a fun mix of nobility and modernity all in one.

Edith. The most popular name on this list (at least in the United States), Edith’s strength comes partially from its meaning: “prosperous in war.” Friendly nickname Edie helps with day-to-day use, but Edith’s inherent confidence and uniqueness are sure to impress.

Sibilla. The Italian form of Sybil, Sibilla is a pleasant compromise that keeps the name’s mythological roots while feeling fresh and unusual. This charming name has only been recorded once for girls in American name history - 5 girls were given the name in 2013.

Amata. From the Latin for “beloved,” Amata is a graceful name that renews the likes of Amy and Amanda. Though it’s never been recorded in US history, Spanish variant Amada has received similar attention for its simplicity and femininity.


These names only have ii's for you

May 24th 2018

Look out, -eigh names! There's a new "ee" sound in town, and it's gaining on you. The hottest new name suffix for American girls is -ii, as in Aubrii and Harmonii.

Historically, the -ii ending has ranged in popularity from scarce to non-existent. The first -ii name to ever appear in the U.S. statistics was Vickii in 1948, when a Vicki boom was in full swing. The suffix popped up just occasionally in the decades that followed, always as part of a nickname with a popular -i ending like Patti/Pattii, and always in small enough numbers that typos might have accounted for the majority of the instances. Notably, in 1963, at the all-time peak of American girls ending in the letter i (think Lori, Terri, Tami), zero girls ending in -ii registered in the national baby name stats.

Now take a look at what's happened in the past 20 years.

That's a 37-fold increase. It's bucking the tide of "ee"-sounding suffixes overall (-y, -ie, -eigh, etc.) which are at a historical low point.

Looking at the individual names, the new ii's look different from the age of Vickii & Pattii. They span style categories, and the ii's can now replace any ee-sounding ending. Some examples from the most recent year's stats:

Word names: Journii, Harmonii, Honestii, Legacii

Traditionally female names: Naomii, Zoii, Melanii, Leilanii

Traditionally male/unisex names: Remii, Kennedii, Averii, Makenzii

And more: Zurii (from the Swahili for "beautiful"), Demii (a short form of the Greek name Demetria), Kawaii ("cute" in Japanese culture)

The trend is still small, but it's revealing nonetheless. In reaching for this new suffix, parents seem to be deliberately casting off familiarity. Beyond its newness in names, ii-pronounced-ee is virtually unknown in English vocabulary. (The only common usage is in the borrowed state name Hawaii.)

The effect of the double ii's can be stark, and a little startling. Other letter combos have been selected for impact or surprise value, like the recent "xx" trend or the ae that's popular in fantasy character names. But ii goes a step further, taking us beyond tradition, beyond names, beyond even words into a world of pure image and concept. Whether you love it or loathe it, the essence of the style is unmistakably new.


Ask the Name Lady: To P or Not to P?

May 23rd 2018

Ask the Name Lady

Q: All of my kids' names start with P. Should I change it for this one? 

     –Princess P 

A: As with everything else in baby-naming, there are no hard and fast rules about themes like this one. But there are some principles to consider, which might help you make a decision about your new baby's name.

Two is a coincidence, three is a theme: How many P names do you already have? If this new baby is number 4, 5, 6, or more, then you're pretty committed to that theme. You may want to stick with it, rather than making this new baby the odd one out. Then again, if you think you’ll have more children down the road, this could be your opportunity to make a switch.

There's a reason to our rhyme: Did you choose the older children's P names for a reason? Maybe your own name starts with P, or you wanted to honor another family member by using that initial. If so, you could stick with P to keep to this tradition you’ve established—or pivot to another initial that honors someone else. 

Rethink the theme: Maybe you're out of P names you like, but still want to link your kids' names together. Look for another theme or thread you can draw on to create a connection. For example, siblings named Paxton, Payton and Dawson sound like a cohesive set, as do Prince, Pharaoh, and Reign; they all share qualities beyond their first initial. 

A recent Baby Name Wizard post looks at the Gaines family (of "Fixer Upper" fame) as they confront the to-theme-or-not-to-theme issue.  It may help you sort through your feelings, too, as you pick the perfect name for your new prince or princess.


Have a name question or dilemma of your own? Ask the Name Lady!