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
October 25, 2016 08:08 AM
In Response to Can a name be ruined?

In the US I would say Benedict and Jemima were "ruined," although Benedict has been somewhat rehabilitated recently due to the ex-pope and Mr. Cumberbatch.  I think Jemima is still pretty much avoided.  I would have said that Delilah, Jezebel, and Lilith were ruined, but people are using them in spite of their heavy negative baggage.

October 24, 2016 08:35 AM

I can testify that Miriam works well over a lifetime.  It has cute nicknames for childhood and is digniified and elegant for a professional woman.  It is thousands of years old, well known, but not overused or trendy.  From your perspective, Miriam is in fact of African origin, albeit Ancient Egyptian.  I think it fits fine with the other family names.

October 20, 2016 08:12 AM

Cassopeia is a constellation with a woman's name.  Another constellation possibility is Lyra.

October 18, 2016 03:39 PM

Vivian/Vivien/Viviane is one of the variants of the name of the Arthurian Lady of the Lake.  She is also called Nimue, Nivian, Nyneve, among other possibilities.  These variants arose from the similarity of these various spellings in medieval handwriting.

October 14, 2016 10:00 AM

I went to school with a Marva--I suspect that name honored a Marvin.

October 13, 2016 09:50 AM

Just a note:  Gervaise, both then and now, was/is used for both males and females.  Alternate spellings Gervase and Gervais are generally male.  All forms are still in use, albeit very rarely.

Others I like: Enguerrand, Berengar/Berangeria, Jacquetta, Alcwin, Godelief, Clovis, Melisande, Amaury, Lambert, Ranulf, Avice.  And, of course, for lovers of Petrarch, Laura :-).

October 11, 2016 09:14 AM

Africa is a not unheard of Irish surname.  I have met someone with that surname.

October 11, 2016 09:13 AM

There is Zola Budd, the famous South African Olympic runner.

October 11, 2016 09:09 AM
In Response to Preschool Names

Hella/Helle is an old school Nordic/German name (a form of Helga).  I have encountered several women with that name. Helle is also a Greek mythological name.  My guess, little Hella is from a family of NW European heritage.

October 10, 2016 04:00 PM

How about a local South African place name?  Going down the Wikipedia list of South African place name list, there are many place names that are actually personal names like Adelaide, Alice, Amalia, Carolina, and so on.  Kimberley, the home of the iconic diamond mine, would be a name that says South Africa.  So perhaps there is a suitable place name that would be both name-y and meaningful.

October 6, 2016 11:02 AM
In Response to Baby Boy Name

It was my grandfather's and great uncle's name.  Says elderly Jewish man born in the 19th century 100% to me.   I personally have never run across it in any other demographic.

October 5, 2016 08:53 AM
In Response to Names like Bennett

Well, Bennett is a medieval form for Benedict, so if you want something in the same vein, Austin is a medieval form of Augustine and Ellis is a medieval form for Elijah.  However, Austin and Ellis perhaps fall short in the obvious nickname department.  That wouldn't bother me since nicknames often develop organically and may have little or nothing to do with the actual given name.  OTOH my father's nickname as used by his parents and siblings was Ellie, but that was long before every other little girl was an Ellie.

October 4, 2016 11:45 AM

I just met a young woman named Raleigh.

October 4, 2016 11:44 AM

Then you are also a direct descendant of the Plantagenet kings.  Break out the crown and scepter!

October 4, 2016 11:38 AM

Sketchy account of the Indo-European Divine Twins mytheme: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Divine_twins

October 4, 2016 09:23 AM

I wonder which part of the past Selma would be honoring? The part where peaceful protesters were clubbed senseless on the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday? Selma's associations do not make it an unambiguously wonderful choice for honoring the past.  BTW if Selma is a suitable "southern" name, Montgomery would do just as well.

Daniel Boone was born in Berks County PA, also my own birthplace as it happens. The Boones and the Lincolns were neighbors with close social ties.  Both Daniel Boone and the Lincoln family migrated through the Cumberland Gap into southern Appalachia, Virginia, North Carolina, and Kentucky (where Abraham Lincoln was later born).  Boone spent his latter years in Missouri, Lincoln most of his adult life in Illinois.  If Boone is an iconic figure of the South, then so is Lincoln :-).  A bit of an historical footnote: Daniel Boone's father and brother were both named Squire, a name which has certainly passed out of use.  The Boone family was descended from the Plantagenet kings of England.  Squire Boone the Younger in particular has a very large number of living descendants, all of whom can claim royal ancestors, although I imagine very few know it.

October 3, 2016 05:31 PM

Rowena is first mentioned, although not with that spelling, in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae in the twelfth century, if that's what you mean by a literature name.  It's not an invention by Walter Scott in Ivanhoe, but long predates it, although the appearance in Ivanhoe popularized the name.  In Geoffrey she is the daughter (and sometimes sister) of Hengest, the leader with his twin Horsa of a group of Germanic (Jutish) mercenaries hired by Vortigern, leader of the Romano-Britains, to fight the Picts and the Scots.  According to Geoffrey, Rowena managed to get Vortigern drunk and maneuvered him into marrying her and giving her the territory of Kent, thus beginning the Germanic adventus into Britain.

Hengest and Horsa were said to have flourished in the mid-fifth century CE.  Their names mean stallion and, well, horsie, and because of this many scholars believe that they were legendary figures reflecting a proto-Indo-European myth of divine twin brothers with equine associations (see Castor and Pollux).  Others think that they were in fact historical figures. Hengest and Horsa appear in Bede's Ecclesiastical History, and Hengest is mentioned in Beowulf.  Rowena does not appear in any historical accounts before Geoffrey and is assumed to be either legendary or fictitious.  There is no credible information about the source of the name.  There is just speculation based on little to no evidence. Some speculation has it as a  completely unattested Germanic name passed through Latin, and other speculation has it from a Welsh word for horse of similar sound because of the 'horsie-ness' of Hengest and Horsa.  What it isn't is a form of the rowan tree.  It is way oversstepping the evidence to say that Rowena has "nature connections."


October 3, 2016 02:59 PM

Rowena is not a nature name.  Its origin has no connection to Rowan.

October 3, 2016 09:13 AM
In Response to Trump Kids' Names

I just read that Tiffany was named just after He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named bought the air rights over the Tiffany Building or some such real estate deal.  This of course may be apocryphal.

October 2, 2016 10:45 PM

Loyce is a name which saw occasional use in the early twentieth century.  I don't know anything about the history/source of the name, but I do know that in some quarters Lois was/is pronounced like Loyce rather than with two syllables (loh-iss).