It turns out the Mayflower passengers inspire us in more than their persevering spirit and incredible vision. Embarking in 1620, parents from Delfshaven, Holland and London, England sailed the Atlantic at great risk in order to establish a New World. While many of them liked traditional names such as William and Mary, there are plenty of surprises among the baby names chosen by these first colonists.
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GIRLS ABOARD THE MAYFLOWER
What the Pilgrims intended for a moral lesson, we now think of as nostalgic and sweet. Unfortunately, this name is so far out-of-the-box that it’s not likely to be used anytime soon.
The parents of a little Damaris running around the Mayflower likely chose her name due to its single mention in the New Testament. It’s still just as unique today as it was back then.
This stern-sounding virtue name falls in line with what we’d expect from the Pilgrims. They were definitely expressing their values without concern for the burden the child might bear along with her name. Today, we’re much more likely to name our daughter Heavenly than Humility.
Poor Priscilla just can’t shake its “prissy” image. Before that happened, though, Priscilla was a biblical choice dripping with femininity and proudly sitting with the popular girls around the bonfire.
In the 1600s this name was only beginning to gain steam. For some of us Dorothy will always be wearing ruby slippers, but we think it’s due for a comeback. After all, Dot and Dottie are adorable nicknames!
This sweet virtue name doesn’t feel vintage enough, due to its popularity in the 50’s. The pilgrims, and many before them, used Constance to evoke a steady, strong image balanced by the feminine nickname Connie.
BOYS ABOARD THE MAYFLOWER
Pilgrims were more creative than we usually give them credit for. Oceanus is a surprising, lyrical name to give a son born on the Atlantic seas during an epic voyage.
Grit and determination definitely come through in the name Resolved. This is a virtue name that’s unheard of today and was likely quite unusual in the 1600s too.
Most of us wouldn’t consider Love for a boy, but that wasn’t always the case. We tend to see this as a cuddly, romantic choice, but Puritans may have had another idea. Love for freedom, country, and faith were likely the thoughts behind Truelove’s given name.
This saintly name meaning “foreigner” was another good fit for a Pilgrim’s son. This one is completely out of the norm in America today, but it has potential.
Giles is the perfect name for a British librarian (Hi, Buffy fans!) as well as a little boy living in Puritan times.
Perhaps the most shocking on the roster of Mayflower passengers, Wrestling was the son of a theologian and English teacher (source). This one was probably a creative virtue name based on the idea of wrestling with authorities and sin.
If you were embarking on a sea voyage, what would you name your children? What names would you recommend to the Mayflower parents if you could?
Two of America's most fashionable boys' names have a lot in common. They're trim, light, and Irish.
Liam, an Irish short form of William, has risen from rarity to mega-hit in the in the space of a single generation. It's now America's #1 boy's name. What's more, Liam's popularity as a nickname has helped keep William near the top of the charts even as other boys' classics have plummeted.
Finn, a Irish name meaning "fair" or "white," didn't even crack America's top-1,000 name list in the 20th Century. Today it's not only a hit on its own, but the engine behind the rise of names like Finley and Finnegan.
The quiet secret behind both names' appeal is balance. They're fresh, but rooted. They have a smooth, light sound, but are reliably masculine. They're petite, but not cutesy or diminutive. They're Celtic imports, but easy to spell and pronounce. Put that all together and you have a great recipe for success—one that has powered a steady stream of light Celtic favorites like Sean, Evan, Owen, Ian and Ryan.
If you're looking for more names with that same feeling, we've rounded up all of your top options. None of the Irish, Scottish and Welsh names on our list rank among America's top 100, and each has a spark of the light, contemporary-yet-timeless spirit that makes Liam and Finn shine.
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Light Celtic Boys' Names
This is not your usual royal baby naming dilemma.
When British royals William and Kate were preparing to name their first heir, tradition was the byword. The baby would be directly in the line of succession, so their name choice was, as I wrote at the time, "a statement of public identity for the royal family; a branding opportunity for the British throne." That made for a tightly limited set of name options. They had to select from the purest pool of British regal heritage and national pride.
For the younger Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan Markle, name options are wide open—by royal standards, at least. First off, with three young cousins ahead in line, no one expects this child to take the throne. What's more, Harry has already shown with his choice of bride that he's willing to step outside of tradition and follow his heart. But there's yet another huge wild card in this decision: Meghan is American.
When she became Duchess of Sussex, Meghan took on the trappings of British Royal life. Her daily life, wardrobe, and professional activities now dutifully follow British protocol. But taste in names is hard to shake. As any couple with different backgrounds can tell you, hitting two cultural targets with a single name is a challenge.
For the royals, or for any English/American couple, here's a quick guide to the style hot spots like to spark clashes in taste, as well as the points of overlap that may offer solutions.
Names American parents love that English parents reject:
• Country/Western names. Americans, don't expect to talk your English partner into names like Waylon, Brantley, Remington, Barrett, Gracelynn or RaeLynn.
• Inspiring word names. Legend, Journey, Lyric, King and Justice are American hits, but not often heard across the pond.
• TOO English names. You have to be subtle. Only Americans name their babies London or Beckham, and believe it or not, a young Nigel is more likely to be American than English.
Names English parents love that American parents reject:
• Cuddly-cute little nicknames. American parents are wary of them as nicknames, let alone full names. Tough sells include Teddie, Ralphie, Albie and Bertie for boys, and Kitty, Dolcie, Dolly and Pixie for girls
• Two-part girls' names. English parents have flocked to names like Amelia-Rose, Ava-Grace, Bella-Rose and Lily-Mae. American parents, not so much.
For baby names both countries can get on board with, look to traditional, old-fashioned full names with a sense of fun.
• For girls, sweet but not diminutive old-fashioned names. Consider Penelope, Violet, Evelyn, Iris, Olive, Esther, Iris, Eliza, Rosalie and Clara.
• For boys, little but full names names with an offbeat cool factor. Consider Milo, Ezra, Leo, Finn, Luca, Jude, Levi, Miles, and Enzo.
• And for both, a handful of more strictly formal classics. Try Theodore, Alexander, Victoria, Eleanor or Arabella.