American Names · Classic, Old, and Traditional Names · Religious Names

Virtue Names

What is a virtue name?  Virtue names are a subcategory of word-names that suggest parents’ aspirations for their children in the form of having a desired quality.  In common usage, these are names like Faith, Temperance, and HopeThey are especially beloved in the American naming tradition – the Puritans were famous for them.  Long before the Reformation, these names were personified as minor deities in the ancient Mediterranean.  Even today you’ll sometimes find their statues in European churches and cathedrals because they became personified virtues in later centuries.  Essentially, then, virtue names tend to be religious in connotation; however, in a modern context they can be and often are secular in usage. 

There aren’t too many virtue names currently in the top 1000, but a few are very popular.  Most of the popular names that would be considered ‘traditional’ virtue names are feminine.  I had to really think about ‘male’ virtue names.  The boys’ names tend to be what I consider ‘modern’ virtues; i.e., Ace and Maverick.  For the girls, this includes Serenity and Cherish.

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There have been others, over the decades.  Chastity became a pretty popular name in the 1970s due to Chaz Bono, but that name is no longer in the top 1000.  Supposedly the Puritans wouldn’t touch that name with a 10-foot pole, which says something.  I also suspect that Honesty may soon be popular.  

I could have included names like Gloria (Glory) and Irene (Peace) in my visualization, but the thing about virtue names is that they tend only to be virtue names in their language of use.  As they are respectively Latin and Greek, they aren’t English virtue names.  Glory and Peace would be, though.  Of course, Irene additionally is character in Greek mythology, so she’s not strictly a virtue. 

If you ask me what my favorite virtue names are, I’ll say that my favorites are currently Temperance, Charity, and ProvidenceGenerally, I like any virtue name that is both virtuous and doesn’t have an explicit sexual connotation.  Chastity, and quite a few others, are excluded from my list from failing that second qualification.  For (perhaps obvious) other reasons, I also discourage using Deliverance

One last note: Destiny and Miracle are not virtue names.  A virtue is usually the noun denoting a good personal quality.  Sometimes virtue names are adjectives or verbs (like Frank or Cherish).  Destiny and Miracle mere word-names.  They might be good, but they are not personal qualities.  This said, Gunner also isn’t a virtue name because it’s an occupational name. ‘Virtue’ implies a normative judgment that a quality is good; occupational names merely are

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