American Names · Analysis

Names Inspired by Animals

Today is World Animal Day – here are some people’s names associated with animals!  

  • Agnes – This has religious associations with the similar-sounding Latin word for lamb, agnus. Agnes is currently rare in the U.S., as only 229 girls received the name last year. But, that’s fairly close to the top 1000 threshold, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s popular again before 2020.
  • Arachne – If the story is anything to go by, the animal is inspired by the name! The word “arachnid,” which refers to spiders, comes from Arachne. There’s no record of this name in Social Security birth or death data; has this name ever been used in modern times? Probably not, since few people like spiders. If you love the sound of Arachne but not the association, try Ariadne instead.
  • Avian – 88 boys and 9 girls got this name last year, which is an adjective referring to birds.  My only concern about using this as a name is the potential for flu jokes.  It’s almost like calling your child Rubella.  Pretty…deadly! Use Ava, Avi, or even Aviana instead.
  • Bear – 186 boys were named Bear in the U.S. last year, and he’ll probably enter the top 1000 in 2017. There’s a more extensive piece about Bear‘s trajectory over at Nancy’s Baby Names, while Appellation Mountain has a post about bear-related names in general!
  • Bjorn – The English rendering of a Scandinavian and German name meaning “bear.” Depending on the country/language, you may see it spelled Björn or Bjørn. The U.S. and other native English-speaking countries don’t usually acknowledge diacritical marks, which mainly alter pronunciation (some people may use them in daily use). Regardless of the rendering, SSA data shows that 150 boys were named Bjorn in the U.S. in 2016. Like Bear, this name is also a fast riser. (P.S.: the ‘j’ is pronounced like a ‘y.’ Bee-yorn.)
  • Caleb – Popular Bible name which is usually thought to mean “dog” in Hebrew. Current U.S. rank: #44.
  • Drake – A male duck. Current rank: #445.
  • Ellie – I think this is a cute name for elephant-lovers. Remember, you can always lengthen it! I personally love when Ellie is short for Eleanor or Elizabeth, but any longer “El-” name should do. That includes unisex options like Elliott and EllisonEllie‘s current rank: #43.
  • Epona – Celtic horse goddess. Although I haven’t found Epona in SSA birth data, the Social Security Death Index tells me at least 3 women had the similar name Eponine, which is from a character in Les Miserables.
  • Fox – Newly popular in America, this animal word-name ranks #746.
  • Giles – 17 boys. According to Behind the Name, Giles derives from a Greek word meaning “young goat.”
  • Halcyon – Derives from a Greek word meaning “kingfisher,” which is a type of bird. I personally prefer the form Alcyone, but Hallie‘s a cute nickname!
  • Io – 16 girls in 2016; usually pronounced “eye-oh.” Io was a lover of Zeus who was transformed into a cow.
  • Jael – Biblical women’s name meaning “ibex/mountain goat.” 145 girls and 140 boys were named Jael in 2016.
  • Kitty – Nickname for Katherine, borne by one of the Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice. Only 7 American girls were actually named Kitty last year, but Katherine is still in the top 100.

    When in Rome, take random cat photos.
  • Lark – 40 girls and 7 boys were given this avian name in 2016.
  • Lionel – “Lion” is a strong nickname. Lionel fell out of fashion in the early 2000s, only to be revived by soccer several years later. Current rank: #579
  • Melissa – Ancient Greek name meaning “bee.” Rank: #257.
  • Philippa – The feminine form of Philip, which derives from Greek and means “friend of horses.” 74 girls were named Philippa in the U.S. last year making it rare here; in England, Philippa ranked #333.
  • Remus and Romulus – Mythological Remus and his twin brother Romulus were nursed by a wolf. Fictional Remus Lupin was a werewolf. Last year, 19 boys were named Remus and 8 were named Romulus.
  • Swanhild – Girls’ name that means “swan battle.” Awesome! As for usage, I counted 59 women with the first name Swanhild in the SSDI, not including all the people named Svanhild and Svanhilde.
  • Taurus – 11 boys. Taurus means “bull” and is an astrological symbol.
  • Tigerlily – 25 girls. Lily is beautiful, but Tigerlily is ferocious! And yes, Tigerlily is a flower too.
  • Vanessa – This name belongs to a genus of butterflies. Rank: #197
  • Wolfgang – 117 boys. Wolfgang is an old German name that’s mostly associated with Mozart and translates to “wolf path.” Wolfie is an adorable nickname! 
  • Wren – a fast-rising bird name. Rank: #524.
  • Xanthippe – Unknown usage. Xanthippe originally meant “yellow horse” in Ancient Greek, but nowadays it mostly means “shrew.” Some of you will know this name because of the perpetually angry character on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, who goes by the surprisingly sweet nickname “Xan.”

Do you have a favorite animal name, or human name that’s somehow related to animals? Let me know! 

2 thoughts on “Names Inspired by Animals

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