About Me

Per EVie's suggestion: Here is some information about me: Since personal names currently in use are derived from a multitude of languages and sources, no one can be an expert in all of them. My PhD is in Old and Middle English and Old Icelandic, and I also have had formal training in almost all the Germanic languages (Old and Middle High German, Old Saxon, Gothic, Old Low Franconian, Middle Dutch, Yiddish, Modern German, and Netherlandic/Flemish). In addition I learned Hebrew, Latin, and French before I left high school. Cobbling together my French and Latin, I know something about some of the other Romance languages (including Old French, Anglo-Norman, and Occitan), but I am no expert in Romance philology, although I have had formal training in Germanic philology. So that gives me a better than average background in many of the languages from which our current namestock is derived. However, what I know about Greek and Greek-derived , Balto-Slavic and Celtic names comes from my general knowledge of Indo-European philology, and my general knowledge of Indo-European philology does not really cover names from Sanskrit and other Indian languages and Persian. Knowing Hebrew gives me a bit of insight into cognate Arabic names, but I know nothing about Finno-Ugaric (happily we have our Hungarian sisters for that), Chinese, Japanese, the many indigenous languages of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

My Favorite Names

No favorite names yet.

My Recent Blog Comments
June 29, 2016 06:11 PM
In Response to Alicia?

There are two names: Allison (also a number of variant spellings) which is an English and Scottish surname of debated origin (but likely a patronym) and Alison (Alisoun/Alysoun) which is the diminutive of Alice.  Both Allison (the surname) and Alison (the diminutive) go back to the Middle Ages.  Allison has been used as a masculine given name, while Alison is always feminine.

June 29, 2016 09:40 AM

Jackamo/Jockamo is part of a Mardi Gras Indian chant.


I wouldn't recommend it as a name.

June 28, 2016 05:48 PM

My son's MIL's middle name is Monroe.  FWIW she hates it.  Monroe has a traditional alternate spelling Munro which means that Monroe is not entirely confusion-free.

June 25, 2016 08:30 AM

I suspect, without knowing their ages, that the female Laoghaires, were named for Gabaldon's characters.  As she herself admitted, she did a slipshod job of researching her first book--she really didn't expect it to become such a thing--and used the name Laoghaire in error.  There were no female Laoghaires in 18th century Scotland.  When she realized the error she was stuck.  Same with Sassanach.  It does not mean "outlander."  It is the Scots Gaelic form of Saxon and means essentially English who oppress us and whom we hate.  Black Jack Randall is a Sassenach.  The use of it as a term of endearment is beyond ironic, and the translation of outlander is just wrong.  Think a novel of World War I where an English soldier somehow meets and falls in love with a German fraulein and calls her Hun.  Just no, even if you take Hun as a pun for Hon(ey).

Anyone contemplating calling a girl Laoghaire should know that (a) it's a masculine name and (b) it's the Scots form of the the Irish name anglicized as Leary and pronounced almost the same.  Of course, in a world where girls are called James, anything goes.

June 24, 2016 05:26 PM

I don't see where Laura clearly says what you are saying.  She said these names were given to thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of thousands of babies in the 50s, and I took this to mean in toto, not that each name was given to over 1000 during the decade.  I still don't think the selection criteria are entirely clear.

June 24, 2016 05:13 PM

FWIW Laoghaire  is a  masculine name, anglicized as Leary and more Irish than Scottish.

June 23, 2016 03:41 PM

Well, your daughter will live 100 years, the dog not so much.....

June 23, 2016 03:38 PM

What is your source for this list?  The SSA list for the 1950s has, for example, in the top twenty Patricia, Deborah, Cynthia, Sandra, Pamela, Sharon, and Diane--not Patty, Debi, Cindi, Sondra, Pam/Pamala, Sharron, Diann. Kathleen is more popular than Kathy.  I was born in 1944, and I knew very few girls with these names.  I knew Luann and Terry (several). Otherwise it was Rhonda, Victoria, Lisa, Christine, Suzanne, Roxanne, Lynn and Jacqueline.

Also surnames as given names in the top 100:

Beverly: toponym>surname>masculine given name>feminine given name

IMO how these 61 names in particular made the list needs clarification, because it's not the fifties list either I or the SSA remembers.  To me the list looks mostly like creative spellings of names that were more popular in their standard spellings.

June 23, 2016 03:04 PM

If you want Nordic:  Dagmar/Dagny, Aud, Birgit/Berit, Inger, Lovise, Solveig, Liv, Malin

More international: Adelaide, Mathilde, Hild/Hildy, Agnes, Heidi, Martine, Margit, Yvonne

June 23, 2016 02:34 PM

To me Zanna is a nickname for Suzanna and hence is incomplete.

Ziva is a possibility for a girl.  It's a Modern Hebrew name derived from a root meaning light.  It was also the name of a popular tv character.  Zev is a Modern Hebrew masculine name from the word for wolf.

"Zeno seems to be pronounced Zee-nawn"--Here in the US anyway it is pronounced Zee-noh, no as in go.  There are other pronunciations in other languages.  My daughter-in-law has a much older half-brother named Zeno.  He apparently liked his name so much that there is a Zeno, jr., and a Zeno III.

June 23, 2016 02:18 PM

There is a woman named Zephyr Teachout who ran a strong, albeit losing, campaign for governor of New York against Andrew Cuomo.  She is currently running again for state office. She doesn't have to struggle for name recognition--once you;ve heard Zephyr Teachout, you are not likely to forget it.

June 20, 2016 12:30 PM

Margaret is an obvious fit with those criteria:  Maggie/Mags, Meg, Peg/Peggy/Pegeen, Margie, Greta/Gretchen/Gretel, Maisie, Margo, Daisy, Madge, Midge, Mae/May, Mamie, Retta, Rita, even Mimi.

June 19, 2016 08:52 AM
In Response to Video about names


I am not vouching for the authenticity of all of these, but Praise-God Barebone is certainly famous, having given his name to Oliver Cromwell's Nominated Parliament.  Teachable Moment and Mindfulness certainly seem like modern-day versions of the same naming impulse....

June 18, 2016 05:20 PM

I believe it is the middle name of both.  There were no hyphens in the news articles, and there was nothing else mentioned that looked like a middle name.

June 17, 2016 01:26 PM

Seriously, Maiden? An 80-year-old-Maiden how sad!  IMO that's going too far in search of a "unique" name.  Cf with Madchen Amick's parents who were in a position to know better according to Wikipedia: Amick's parents are partly German;[3] the nameMädchen (in German pronounced [ˈmɛːtçn̩]), which means "girl" or "maiden" in German, was chosen by her parents, because they wanted an unusual name.[4] 

Back to the original post, I went to school with a Harilyn which I assumed at the time was an honor name for a Grandpa Harry formed on the template of Marilyn.

June 17, 2016 01:18 PM

What's new and trendy about Austin and Bennett?  They are Middle English versions of Augustine and Benedict respectively and have have certainly been in use for generations here in the US (where I am).  No newer and trendier than Louis.  Nolan is an Irish surname turned given name, like Ryan, and as such it is newer as a given name than Louis, Austin, and Bennett which in their current forms go back to the Middle Ages and in their original forms even further.  I wouldn't call it any newer or trendier than Ryan.

June 17, 2016 08:12 AM
In Response to Due with #2

Just a note:  If I saw Sabine on a list, I would wonder whether to pronounce it with two syllables or three.  As it happens all of the very few Sabines I knew were three syllables and were German speakers.  So there is some pronuciation ambiguity there: French style or German style.  Sabina is, of course, unambiguous, but if you want the French pronunciation, there may be need for explanation/correction.

June 16, 2016 11:58 AM

I would group it with Zinnia, Willow, and Juniper as botanical names with relatively recent and limited use, as opposed to Rose and Lily, longer in use and more widespread.

June 16, 2016 10:03 AM

If I read the Deed Poll Service's policies aright, it would be illegal to change one's name to Mary Jane or Molly.

June 15, 2016 03:30 PM

I knew a brother and sister named Gandalf and Pandora.  I think they would be in about their mid- to late-thirties by now.