Analysis · Name Lists

Formal Names that Started Out as Nicknames

Let’s talk about nicknames. Currently, it seems that one of the biggest disagreements in baby naming centers revolves around the question of giving children formal names for the nicknames their parents will actually call them. For example, parents that want to call their child Jack or Ellie may be considering whether or not to put John or Eleanor on the birth certificate. I think there are good arguments both for choosing a formal option and not. The children may never use Margaret and William, so it makes sense just to call them Maggie and Liam. Alternatively, Liz hates her name and spends her whole life wishing she were Elizabeth, whether she’d prefer to go by no nickname or a different one entirely. Coworkers might be mildly confused to meet a Dan who’s not a Daniel, or they might call a Christopher “Chris” against his will. That’s not even going into what looks better on a resume or next to a professional title.

Here’s the thing, though. So many names that are now considered traditional formal options began their name lives as nicknames. When was the last time you met an Alison whose formal name is Alice, or a Megan that’s short for Margaret? A Robin who’s really Robert? Chances are that you haven’t met one. Some names have stood alone for so long that we’ve forgotten they’re nicknames. I guarantee that as time stretches on, more names will lose their diminutive status and be acceptable formal options. Some of them will even have their own nicknames!

Here is a list of formal names that either started out as nicknames or derived from them! Note that just because it’s a nickname doesn’t necessarily mean it’s shorter; certain endings like “ina” and “illa” turned names into their “cutesy” forms.

  • Aidan / Aiden – Anglicized spellings of Irish Aodhán, the pet form of Aodh. If Aodh means “fire,” then Aiden means “little fire.”
  • Alison – Medieval Norman-French nickname for a name that eventually developed into what we recognize as Alice.
  • Angelina – Via Angela, a Latin-derived name for “angel, messenger.”
  • Anita – Spanish and Portuguese equivalent of “Annie,” via Ana + “-ita,” a popular baby name in the U.S. until the early 2000s.
  • Antoinette – Feminine diminutive form of Antoine, the French form of Anthony.
  • Charlotte – Feminine form of Charlot, a traditional French nickname for Charles. Over centuries of (especially royal) use, Charlotte and her Latinized sister Caroline have served as the classic standalone women’s versions for the original name.
  • Colette – Short for Nicolette, itself an elongated nickname for Nicole.
  • Colin – One of Colin’s possible origins is as a medieval nickname for Nicholas, though this falls under the category of “when was the last time you heard it as a nickname?”
  • Daisy – While Daisy’s status as a flower name has let it stand alone for well over a century in some cases, in other cases it’s a nickname for Marguerite or Margaret. ‘Marguerite’ is the French word for ‘daisy.’
  • Ethel – A lot easier to swallow than longer Ethel names like Etheldreda and Ethelinda, however cool they are. Ethel is the Old English version of Germanic Adal (“noble,”) an element found in popular names like Adeline and Alice.
  • Ginger – Often short for Virginia, though you can also find it on its own because of the spice.
  • Heidi – Short for Adelheid, though very few people still give their children the formal version in the U.S. That said, the English equivalent to Adelheid is Adelaide, which *is* popular!
  • Jackson – Meaning “son of Jack,” this is a patronymic surname deriving from a nickname for John.
  • Juanita – Spanish equivalent of “Janie,” via Juana + “-ita.” Juanita was a popular baby name in the U.S. up until about 20 years ago.
  • Henrietta – Feminine form of Henry via the French Henriette, a pet form of Henri created by adding the “-ette” suffix.
  • Keenan – Anglicized spelling of Cianán, a nickname for Cian (Kean).
  • Kieran – Anglicized spelling of Ciarán, a nickname for Ciar (Keir).
  • Liam – Irish nickname of William. I do know of at least one William who’s called Liam, but this goes either way.
  • Lucille – French, from Latin Lucilla, the pet form of Lucia.
  • Marcellus – More or less, “Little Marcus.”
  • Margot – French nickname for Marguerite / Margaret. In Anglophone circles, I’ve never heard anyone discuss using it as a nickname. Popular alternative spellings include Margo (U.S.) and Margaux (France).
  • Max – Short for Maximilian, Maxwell, and other names.
  • Megan – Welsh nickname for Margaret that was popular for the latter half of the 20th century and early 21st until Maisie and Margot started trending.
  • Molly – This one’s a famous nickname for Mary, but it’s usually just Molly these days.
  • Natasha – Outside of Eastern Europe and Russia, Natasha often seems to remain separate from Natalia. Natalia is currently much more popular for babies born in English-speaking countries,
  • Nina – Short for many names including Antonina, but when was the last time you met a Nina that was short for anything?
  • Nixon – Means “son of Nick.” To be fair, Nixon is a lot more first name-friendly than, say, Nicholason.
  • Priscilla – Ancient Roman nickname/diminutive for Prisca, the feminine of Priscus.
  • Robin started off as a medieval nickname for Robert, but is now a classic gender-neutral option in the U.S. and U.K. Popular namesakes include Robin Hood, Robin Williams, and the bird.
  • Sadie is a vintage nickname for Sarah that now outranks its mother name! Even nicknames go through cycles…a few decades ago, Sally was Sarah’s top pet form.
  • Zelda – When not a Yiddish feminine form of Zelig (“Happy”), it’s traditionally short for Griselda, an medieval literary name from Chaucer and Boccaccio that was briefly popular between the 1970s and 1990s.

I didn’t even mention any nicknames for Elizabeth, which offers several classic options that are now formal names: Lily, Lillian, Ella, Elsa, Lisa, Elise, and more. Then there’s Leo, which has a long standalone history but also shortens to Leonard, Leopold, Leodis. Sophie is often a pet name for Sophia (occasionally, also Sophronia), but it’s also it’s own, classic (French) name. The possibilities are endless!

Do you have any any favorite formal names that started out as nicknames? Can you think of any others? Let me know! And whether you decide you’d prefer to put a “formal” name or “nickname” on the birth certificate, know that a) you’re not alone, and b) compromises are possible! The names on this list are perfect middle-of-the road options to assuage both sides of this debate.

Classic, Old, and Traditional Names

Name Profile: Gertrude

Is it time for Gertrude to become a popular baby name again?

Gertrude is about as old-fashioned as it gets. Germanic, heavy on the consonants, and not-at-all frilly, it doesn’t sound like a name that could be popular for baby girls in 2022 or 2023. It’s quite rare, and many people probably treat it like the dodo – extinct! But I wonder if Gertrude‘s time is coming.

For one thing, it’s already more popular than it was 25 years ago. In 1998, only 5 baby girls were named Gertrude, which is the lowest count by far since the U.S. birth data starts in 1880. Just think – 100 years ago, several thousand girls were named Gertrude every year! While it hasn’t fully revived yet, you can now expect about 25-35 girls to receive the name each year and in 2021, the last year for which we have data, the count landed at 29 baby girls. There is no longer a major risk of Gertrude‘s name extinction. If anything, her long absence from the spotlight is a bonus because of the hundred-year-cycle, an idea that suggests names circle back around after a century. We’ve seen names like Evelyn return that way.

Another thing to consider is that Gertrude has fantastic nickname potential. There’s always classic Trudy or Trudie, which benefits from simultaneous cuteness and maturity. As it happens, today’s child is just about as likely to have Trudy as a legal name as they are to be called Gertrude (30 girls were named Trudy in 2021). Oddly enough, Gertie is starting to pop up again after a long absence (5 girls were named Gertie in 2021), so if you love old lady names you’re in luck! Geri might be too dated for a modern baby, but Gigi, Rudy, and Rue are adorable. Another nickname that makes Gertrude more accessible is True, a gender-neutral option which is wildly trendy thanks to Kardashian influence. You can also find that spelled without the ‘e’ (Tru), and sometimes with one extra (Truee) or even a second ‘u’ (Truu).

Bonus points for Gertrude include namesakes from Shakespeare (Hamlet’s mother), saints, Gertrude Stein, and Ma Rainey. Gertrude also gets to join the ever-growing compendium of Christmas baby names thanks to an adorable little girl in Violent Night, a 2022 Christmas movie that combines Die Hard, Home Alone, and other famous holiday movies to create a jolly dark comedy action flick. That character, named after her grandmother, goes by Trudy; funnily enough, her teenage cousin Bert’s full name is Bertrude (also after their grandmother, the family matriarch). Gertie itself boasts a modern, contemporary reference in the popular children’s book Gossie and Gertie about a pair of ducklings who are friends. If names like Gertrude, Trudy, True, and Gertie all have recent reference points in pop culture, it’s only a matter of time before they all start rising.

What kind of middle names suit Gertrude? Gertrude‘s Germanic root words mean “spear” and “strength,” which is just plain awesome! Methinks Gertrude pairs well with other strong and powerful vintage names like Hedwig (“war”), Queen, and Millicent (“work + strength”), but I also think it could be a great idea to balance it out with softer options like Evelyn, Estelle, and Winnie. Nature-related names also work well in the middle spot, such as Rose, Holly, and Sage. You can imagine a Gertrude Sage, can’t you? And when in doubt, Katherine, Marie, and Elizabeth pair well with everything!

Final thoughts: unlike most people, I’ve actually met a younger Gertrude and have wonderful associations with the name as a result. Associations are often the key.

What do you think of Gertrude? Do you have a favorite middle or nickname? Does it work as a baby girls’ name? Let me know what you think!

Classic, Old, and Traditional Names · Religious Names

Ebenezer: No Longer a Scrooge?

Everyone’s talking about holiday-themed and Christmas-themed baby names right now. Whether or not they’ll admit it, Ebenezer falls into this category! Just a few years ago, children named Ebenezer were practically unheard of. Until the 1990s, Ebenezer appeared only sporadically in Social Security Administration baby name data. That hasn’t been the case in the new millennium.

Ebenezer "Stone of Help."

At least 40 babies have been named Ebenezer every year since 2012. 2017 saw 55 boys receive the name, which is the highest usage Ebenezer has ever reached in the birth data extending back to 1880 (though said data isn’t necessarily accurate or complete until the 1930s). Its traditional nickname Eben frequently ranks higher, though in 2021 there was only a difference of one baby with 47 boys getting Eben and 46 getting Ebenezer. Historically, Eben‘s usage has been a lot more steady but peaked at 100 boys just a decade ago. Going forward, it looks like Ebenezer may be more stalwart than its more accessible short form. And hey, Ebenezer is no longer just for boys – over thirty girls have been named Ebenezer since 2008!

But what is Ebenezer‘s deal? None of us can forget the cultural icon that is Ebenezer Scrooge. A lonely old man who’s cruel to everyone, especially at Christmas? Whose main catchphrase is “bah, humbug?” This Dickensian character creation permanently tainted a fine Biblical name for many, but we should remember that Scrooge came around at the end. His experience with the three ghosts permanently changed him for the better, and so he’s not so much a villain as someone who needed a wake-up call. Moreover, nobody is born that bitter, but it takes a lot to overcome bitterness like that. A Christmas Carol is a story of redemption and healing. We all love that at the Holidays, don’t we? I’d argue that makes Ebenezer an awesome Christmas baby name.

Scrooge after the ghosts

If you’re cynical about the Holiday Season and are prone to complaining about it, Scrooge may still be the namesake you want. Naturally, the Victorian Grinch is everyone’s main association with Ebenezer. I personally have another association via the 1948 movie Portrait of Jennie, which is coincidentally another ghost story (though much more romantic). One of the main characters is an artist named Eben Adams. 

As to why the name Ebenezer has gotten a lot more popular than before, I have few ideas. It offers serious old-school Puritan and Bible vibes, which imports weight considering the widespread popularity of names like Noah, Elijah, Asher, and Ezra. Also…is it at all possible that Ebenezer is losing some of its association with Scrooge, in the way that Benedict isn’t always associated with Arnold now? It has an appealing meaning, too: “stone of help.”

Ebenezer has great nickname potential! Besides the obvious Eben, you could call an Ebenezer by Ben, Ezra, Benno, Benny, Bennett, and Benz. Because of its meaning, you could even go for Rocky! Middle names should ideally be one or two syllables, as in Ebenezer John or Ebenezer Samson.

What do you think of the name Ebenezer?

My sources were the Social Security AdministrationA Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, Behind the Name, and Nancy’s Baby Names.

Originally published July 21, 2016.

American Names · Modern names



Are you looking for a Christmas or Holiday-themed baby name that works during the rest of the year? How about Zuzu? Just nineteen baby girls were given this adorable name in 2021, according to Social Security Administration extended data. Zuzu is all kinds of fantastic – like Lulu with zest! It’s best associated with Susan owing to pop culture references, but may have derived from one of Susan‘s Central European relatives like Zsuzsanna or Zuzanna. Ultimately, all of those descend from Shoshannah, a Biblical Hebrew name meaning “Lily.” Zuzu also looks a lot like a Yiddish name (Zusa) meaning “sweet.” Considering its distinctive sound, rarity, positive meanings, and proximity to trending ‘Z’ names like Zora, Zola, and Zara, I’m surprised more parents haven’t jumped on Zuzu yet.

Most of us have seen the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life, which turns seventy-six this year. For those who haven’t watched it yet, the premise is that an angel shows despondent George Bailey scenes from his life if he had never existed. I haven’t seen the movie in ages, but George had a daughter named Zuzu, which was probably short for Susan! Zuzu famously quotes: “Look Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” From what I could find, her nickname was supposedly a reference to Zu Zu Ginger Snaps, which were popular in the early 20th century. For more information on the cookies, they have their own blog – worth a read! P.S. – Watch the movie. It’s wholesome and a classic, and someone’s probably streaming it this time of year. 

I’ve also noticed that Zuzu is a character name in at least two children’s television shows from the last twenty years. In the British show Peppa Pig, Zuzu is a zebra with a twin sister named Zaza and an older sister named Zoe. The other show with a Zuzu is the Australian Zuzu and the Supernuffs. Their influence on the name is probably negligible, though since Zuzu first appeared as a baby name in the U.S. before either program hit the waves. Peppa Pig has only been around since 2004, and Supernuffs was released in 2013. The first time Zuzu (and not Susan or another formal name) appeared as a American baby name with at least 5 uses (the minimum for inclusion by the SSA) was 1999. If anything, the classic movie probably has the most influence besides internet name enthusiasts.

Since it’s already a nickname, you don’t need to worry about shortening it further! As far as potential middle names go, Zuzu stands out enough on its own that it might not need an equally rare or exotic second…though you’re certainly welcome to use one! If you use a standard middle name and call your child something like Zuzu Marie, Zuzu Rose, or Zuzu Lynn, she’s already going to be the only Zuzu in her class and might be the only one she ever meets. On the other hand, I could see something spunky like Zuzu Pixiebelle or Zuzu Tigerlily working if you want to go all-out. Monosyllabic names like Kate and Fay work great too! Anyway, here are a few great potential middle name combos for Zuzu

  • Zuzu Mae
  • Zuzu Noel
  • Zuzu Circe
  • Zuzu Frost
  • Zuzu Lux
  • Zuzu Frances

What do you think of Zuzu? Would you use it as a nickname or treat it as a standalone? Let me know! 

Originally Published November 13, 2016.

American Names

What Is It Short For?

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Do you have a nickname in mind but want something more formal?  Or maybe you’ve met someone who goes by a nickname but refuses to divulge the formal, and you’re increasingly frustrated because each of your guesses is met with a resounding “No!”  If it’s short for anything, here are some options. 

To find these nickname reversals, I’ve combed through the Social Security Administration’s extended baby name data for 2015.  That said, not all the names here are even used anymore.  The names that didn’t appear in 2015’s set are italicized (i.e. Annunziata or Beecher), and can be legitimately called “unique” baby names since they’re too rare to chart.  I color-code girls’ names with magenta, boys’ names in blue, and unisex in purple

Nickname -> Formal Names

Ace -> Achilles, Acheron, Acacius, Aceton

Annie -> Anne, Anthea, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthe, Anastasia, Annabel / Annabelle, Annabella, Athanasia, Anais, Anise, Agnes, Hannah, Anna, Moana, Annika, Anniston / Aniston, Annaliese, Annalee, Andromeda, Angelina / Angeline, Annunziata, Antigone, Tiffannie, MarianaLiliana, Luciana, Liviana, Luanne, Louisiana, Emiliana, Ameliana, Britannia

Beau / Bo / Bow -> Beautiful, Isabeau, Bonita, Rainbow, Deborah, Beauregard, Beauden, Beaumont, Beaufort, Bowen, Bowie, Bodhi, Boaz, Bowman, Bocephus, Cabot (depending on whether you pronounce the ‘t’).

Bee -> Elizabeth, Beatrice, Beatrix, Beatriz, Beata, Bedelia, Beecher

Bella -> Isabella, Arabella, Mirabella…for more, read Many Bellas!

Ben -> Benjamin, Bennett, Bentley, Benson, Benton, Benedict / Benedikt, Benicio, Benaiah, KorbenBenito, Benoni, Benzion* / Bentzion*, Ebenezer / Eben, Reuben / Ruben / Rubens, Benuel, Torben, Benno, Robben, Benoit, Bendrick, Benelli

Bert / Bertie -> Robert, Albert, Gilbert, Herbert, Bertram, Egbert, Aldebert, Wilbert, Adalberto, Norbert, Lambert, Dagoberto, Philbert, Dagobert, Theudebert, Engelbert, Adalbert, Ethelbert / Athelbert, Liberty, Roberta, Alberta, Bertha, Albertina, Bertrada

Cam -> Camila / Camilla, Camille, Camryn / Cameron, Cambria, Campbell, Camden / Camdyn, Cambree / Cambrie, Camellia, Camari, Camiyah, Camber, Camry, Camara, Cameo, Camilo, Camarion, Cambridge

Chris -> Christopher, Christian / Cristian, Cristiano / Christiano, Cristobal / Christobal, Chrishawn, Crispin, Chrysippus, Christina, Christine, Christiana, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthe, Chryseis, Christobel / Christabelle, Chrisley, Christabella, Chrisiyah, Christmas, Crystal

Ella -> Elizabeth / Elisabeth, Eleanor, Eliana, Ellison, Ellis, Gabriella, Daniella, Ariella, Antonella, Fiorella, Novella, Ellery, Ornella, Elodie, Elodia, Eloise, Eloisa, Elowen / Ellawyn, Ellasandra

Hal -> Henry, Harrison, Harry, Harold, Halen, Halston, Hallie / Halley, Harriet, Henrietta, Hallelujah, Halcyon, Halsey, Halibut (okay, maybe not that last one)

JennyJennifer, Jane, Genevieve / Jennavieve, Jenna, Jenesis / Genesis, Jenessa, Gentry / Jentry, Jennings, Geneva / Jeneva, Jeniyah, Genavie / Jenavee, Jennavecia, Jennabelle

Leo -> Leonardo, Leonel, Leonidas, Leonard, Leopold, Galileo, Napoleon, Leomar, Leovanni, Leoncio.  There are also some girls’ names that include “Leo” (Leona, Leontine) but it’s up to you whether you’d call her “Leo” or something more conventionally feminine.

Lou -> Lucy, Luna, Lucille, Luciana, Luz, Louisa / Luisa, Lucinda, Luella / Louella, Lucero, Lourdes, Lula, Lupita, Lucina, Lucienne, Lucilla, Lumina, Luthien, Ludovica, Lucrezia, Lucretia, Emmylou, Lilou, Louisiana, Bettylou, Guadalupe, Louis, Loukas, Caillou, Willoughby, Lucius, Luther, Luigi, Alucard, Lucifer, Ludovic

Maddie -> Madison, Madelyn / Madeline / Madeleine, Madigan, Madonna, Madrid, Maddox, Madden

Mae / May -> Margaret, Mary, Marilyn, Maybelline, Mabel / Maebell, Maybree, Maya, Amaya, Maylee, Mayra, Samaya, Macy, Mayla, Maylani, Maisie

Mel -> Amelia, Melanie, Melody, Melissa, Melina, Amelie, Emmeline, Melinda, Pamela, Camellia, Melania, Carmela, Melia, Melaina, Imelda, Melrose, Hermelinda, Mella, Pommeline / Pomeline, Melpomene, Melisande, Melvin, Carmelo, Jamel, Elimelech, Melchizedek, Melchior

Mo -> Maurice / Morris, Mohammad, Mortimer, Moses / Moshe, Morrison, Mosiah, Mostafa, Modesto, Mowgli, Monroe, Montgomery, Mona, Monique, Monet, Moana, Modesty, Momoka

Nora -> Eleanora / Eleonora, Lenora, Anora, Sonora, Leonora, Honora, Evanora

Ollie -> Olivia, Olive, Olympia, Olinda, Oliver, Olaf, Ollivander

Pip -> Piper, Pippa, Philippa, Epiphany, Epiphania, Peregrine, Pippin, Pippilotta (as in Pippilotta “Pippi” Longstocking), Philip

Rosie -> Rose, Rosalie, Rosalind, Rosaline, Rosalyn / Roselynn, Rosabella, Rosemary, Rosemarie, Primrose, Rosamond, Rosamund, Rosario, Milagros, Ambrosia, Melrose, Rosalba, Rosary, Roselani

Sacha / Sasha -> Alexander, Issachar, Alexandra

Do you have any favorites from this list?  Are there any nicknames you’re looking to lengthen for a baby or character, or out of sheer curiosity?  Let me know in the comments!

*Benzion and Bentzion are probably meant to be Ben-Zion and Ben-Tzion.  The SSA still doesn’t recognize hyphens.

American Names · Analysis


While I don’t think Winchester will grace the top 1000 any time soon, it’s hard not to see the potential this ancient place name carries as a baby name.  According to SSA data, this debuted in 2014 as the first name of just 5 baby boys; 9 boys were named Winchester in 2015.  Expect to see even more in the 2016 set!

Winchester, Virginia

Winchester fits within several ongoing American trends.  As I’ve mentioned, Winchester is a place name.  Several cities and many more municipalities bear the name.  Personally, I consider these two locations the most important – Winchester (U.K.), an ancient city that boasts one of the largest cathedrals in Europe; and Winchester, Virginia (U.S.A.), which was an important spot in the Civil War and the hometown of musician Patsy Cline.  Geography always seems to inspire baby names, though the favorites change.  Some of the big cities like London and Paris are starting to seem like they’ve already hit their peaks as baby names, though other city-names like Memphis, Cairo, and Adelaide are still climbing the charts.

The appearance of Winchester in the SSA data probably has nothing to do with the cities that share its name, but with Winchester-branded rifles and shotguns.  Guns are “in” as baby names.  Remington is trendy for both genders, ranking #299 for boys and #621 for girls.  Wesson, like Winchester, debuted with only 5 boys – that was in 2004.  Now, over a decade later, Wesson is poised to make a top 1000 debut.  If the future is this bright for gun names, Winchester probably won’t be in single-digit usage much longer.

“Win” names themselves are apparently trendy.  Winston is making a comeback (though he never really left).  In the 1990s, Winslow was given to fewer than ten boys each year; now, it’s unisex!  Royal Windsor is also unisex, though increasingly female.  Even Winifred made huge gains in 2014 and 2015!   Will Winchester ride on the coattails of these other “winners” to establish himself?

Finally, Winchester has decent nickname potential.  You can call him Chester or Chet.  If Winchester eventually emulates other “win” names and goes unisex, you may encounter the nicknames Winnie and Winter too!

What do you think of the name Winchester?  Do you think Winchester has the ammunition to succeed like Remington and Wesson, or maybe via the impending success of other “winners” like Winston and Winifred?   Or, do you think Winchester will remain rare?

American Names

Uncommonly Tiny Names

Do you love the brevity of Max and Ada, but think they’re too popular?  Here’s a list of rare, tiny names comprising only two or three letters!    

Aj – 71 boys, 7 girls in the U.S. in 2015.  (Numbers come from Social Security Administration)

Aja – 84 girls.

Ale – 5 girls.  In case you really like your beer…

Aoi – 8 girls.  This is a Japanese name. 

Axe – 8 boys.  Hopefully the kind Gimli offers to Frodo and not the body spray.  Either way, it’s a weapon!

Bay – 58 girls, 11 boys.  Include this with other spice names like Cayenne and Paprika; Old Bay is delicious.

Bea – 25 girls.

Blu – 14 boys, 9 girls.  When Blue isn’t blunt or artsy enough. 

Bly – 5 girls.  Nellie Bly was a famous investigative journalist.

Bob – 14 boys.  Nowadays this is more of a meme than a name because of how generic it is.  That, and Bob the Builder.

Bow – 17 boys. 

Cub – 7 boys. 

Cy – 60 boys.  A nickname for Cyrus that personally sounds more like the Greek letter “psi.” 

Dat – 9 boys.  Dat name tho. 

Dev – 105 boys.  It seems that “Game Dev” gives us the latest professional name, joining Taylor and Sailor.   

Dov – 107 boys.  Hebrew name meaning “bear.”

Dua – 33 girls.

Emi – 166 girls.  Standalone Japanese name, but could also be a nickname for Emily.

Ewa – 9 girls.

Fox – 193 boys, 6 girls.  Makes me think of Joe Fox and his bookstore from You’ve Got Mail

Gal – 6 girls.  If Guy has a twin sister, I think we’ve found her.  Though, I bet you could make Gal short for Galadriel

Gem – 8 girls.  A literal gem name, or maybe a nickname for Gemma

Gus – 163 boys. 

Guy – 153 boys.

Fia – 25 girls.

Han – 22 boys, 19 girls.  Considering how blatantly Star Wars this name is, it’s really surprising that so many girls have the name.

Ida – 159 girls.  Once in the top 10, Ida hasn’t even been in the top 1000 since the 1980s.  Here’s hoping for a revival! 

Ibn 16 boys.  Arabic word meaning “son,” precedes a man’s father’s name.  Equivalent of Latin “filius,”  Hebrew “ben,” or Welsh “ap.”  I wonder whether any parents of Ibn’s actually intended it as a first name.

Ike – 93 boys.  “I like Ike” is a famous presidential campaign slogan. 

Io – 6 boys, 5 girls.  According to mythology, Io was transformed into a cow because Zeus took her as a lover.  Naturally, the quintessential problem in all Greek myth is Zeus’ romantic escapades.

Ion – 11 boys.  Ion is a good choice if you like particles or Plato. 

Ira – 196 boys, 97 girls.  Biblical name!

Ivo – 15 boys.  I play enough Crusader Kings II to be reminded of an obscure 11th-century Norman named Ivo de Taillebois.  Needless to say, Ivo is an old name.  Depending on the origin, it’s related to either Yves or Ivan.

Jad – 168 boys. 

Jo – 27 girls.  Jo March is a character in Alcott’s Little Women.

Job – 87 boys.  Something we all need.  As a name, this probably references the Bible character, and is pronounced more like the name Joe with a ‘b’ at the end. 

Jr – 29 boys.  Jr, Jr.  Uh oh…unexpected Jar Jar Binks! 

Kal – 55 boys.  Not like Cal or Calvin…more like actor Kal Penn.

Kc – 27 boys, 15 girls.  Usually this stands for something.  I don’t know what KC is these days, but when I was in high school and college the ‘c’ almost always stood for Casey, regardless of gender.

Kia – 15.  Car names! 

Kim – 71 girls, 11 boys. 

Kip – 46 boys. 

Koi – 22 boys, 18 girls.  I never thought of fish as a namesake, unless you count Marlin and Nemo.

Lex – 67 boys.  Although Lex is traditionally short for Alexander, most people probably think of Lex Luthor.

Lux – 99 girls, 32 boys.  Latin word for “light.”

Md – 27 boys.  I initially thought about doctors when I saw this, but now I wonder if this is shorthand for Mohammad.  Traditionally, common men’s names had truncated written versions; i.e., William was sometimes Wm, Jonathan was Jno, etc. 

Neo – 80 boys. 

Nil – 10 girls, 5 boys.  A tad nihilistic, don’t you think?

Nox – 15 boys.  Latin word meaning “night” – therefore equivalent of NyxNox is also a spell in Harry Potter, which is used to end a Lumos charm…that is, to put out the light. 

Nyx – 16 girls.  Nyx is the Ancient Greek personification (goddess) of Night.  Perfect for Halloween? 

Om – 86 boys. 

Oz – 24 boys. 

Paw – 17 girls.  Genuinely interesting…wonder where this comes from?

Pax – 63 boys, 6 girls.  Latin for “peace.” 

Pia – 73 girls.

Poe – 9 boys.  Not too long ago I would have assumed Edgar Allan Poe was the namesake, but now Poe Dameron is a possibility! 

Ra – 9 boys.  Egyptian sun god. 

Rae – 94 girls. 

Ram – 30 boys.  As in the animal or RAM space? 

Ren – 71 boys, 12 girls. 

Rye – 39 boys, 8 girls.  Could be a nickname for Ryan that’s influenced by Kai, but it undeniably reminds me of delicious rye bread.  Hmm…scratch off “Reuben Rye” and “Rye Reuben” from the list of usable name combos. 

Sir – 54 boys.  “Yes, sir.” 

Su – 15 girls.

Tam – 10 boys, 9 girls.

Tom – 67 boys.  “It was…Tom Bombadil!”

Uri – 29 boys. 

Vir – 22 boys.  Vir is the Latin word for “man.”

Von – 45 boys.  I’m just imagining a trip to a German-speaking country and having to explain that Von isn’t the first part of a surname. 

Vy – 27 girls.  Short for Viola or Violet?

Win – 5 boys.  Could be used as a nickname for Winston or Winslow.

Xoe – 26 girls.

Zia128 girls.  Italian word for “aunt,” but as a name might be a variation of Sia or Xia.

Zo – 14 girls.  Basically, Zoe without the invisible umlaut.     

What do you think of these names?  Let me know in the comments!

American Names · Analysis


An acquaintance recently named their son ThanosThanos is traditionally short for Greek Athanasios, which means ‘immortal’ or ‘without death.’  On the other hand, you can probably make it a nickname for Thanatos, which does mean ‘death’ and was the Ancient Greek personification/minor god thereofUltimately, all of these names are rare.  Recent appearances of Thanos in the extended data don’t necessarily correspond to religion or heritage. 

Waterhouse’s depiction of Thanatos and Hypnos, called “Sleep and his Half-brother Death.”

This name benefits from the Marvel treatment.  Thanos is basically an evil space alien who looks a bit like Azog from The Hobbit – if Azog were built like a football player, that is.  Thanos has a cameo in the Avengers (2012) and then shines in 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron.  With the Marvel Cinematic Universe as popular as it is right now, that’s a lot of exposure for a rare name. 

According to data from the Social Security Administration, Thanos was the first name of 12 baby boys last year, up from 5 in 2014.  I find it interesting that Athanasius also peaked in 2015 at 16 uses, up from 5 the previous year too.  Original Greek Athanasios was down from a few years earlier at 18 uses.  It wouldn’t surprise me if the concurrent rises of Thanos and Athanasius are merely coincidental; one now strongly associates with a fandom and the other has deeply religious connotations.  Catholics designate St. Athanasius of Alexandria as a “Doctor of the Church.”  This begs the question: did anything significant happen last year with him?  It isn’t impossible that Athanasius became more popular to conceal the Marvel connection, and it isn’t impossible that Thanos became more popular just because Athanasius was trending; but I don’t buy either theory by its lonesome.  Neither explains why Athanasios is trending downwards. 

What do you think of ThanosAthanasius?  Do you think either will pick up more steam?

Personal musings: I don’t think my acquaintance is Greek or particularly religious, but the baby seemed to have a middle name from another fandom.  Sure, the Marvel character’s a villain, but my inner nerd loves this.  Congrats on becoming a parent, and kudos for the epic appellation!  

Links for name data:


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

Wise William

William is one of the most popular names around!  In America, it ranks #5 nationally, but ranks #1 in D.C., Utah, Montana, and every Southern state except Florida.  Interestingly Liam, an Irish nickname for William, ranks even higher on the national level.  Liam comes in at #2, and ranks #1 in more states than the overall #1, Noah (which is probably only first because of California and Texas).  William also ranks highly in other English-speaking countries, and is currently the most popular boys’ name in all of Scandinavia.  That tidbit is especially curious when you consider that Scandinavian languages share their own form of the name (Vilhelm), yet speakers apparently prefer the English cognate! 

William the Conqueror at center

Besides near-universal popularity, the name William also boasts longevity.  The Normans brought it from France to England in 1066, when William the Conqueror invaded and became king.  However, the name predates even that date.  One earlier William that comes to mind is William of Septimania, born in 826 AD.  He’s not particularly important on his own, but his mother Dhuoda addressed a book to him (incidentally, she’s the only female writer of the Carolingian era whose work survives!).  Nor was he the first William in his family.  Ultimately, this name has existed for at least 1200 years!

Those 1200 years of Williams are continuous and plentiful.  The name belongs to four U.S. Presidents, four (eventually five) English kings and more PMs, Shakespeare, saints, writers, actors, athletes, etc.  You will encounter Williams in every profession.  In America at least, William is popular in every age group too; it’s never been outside the top 20. 


Why use a name that’s popular in every age group?  William certainly is ubiquitous and wizened.  But, parents, let me say this: William is timeless; tried-and-true.  He never sounds too old-fashioned or too new.  The only thing that really changes with age is the freshness of the nicknames that accompany William.  Few children will answer to Bill or Willie, I think.  The young Williams I know are mostly called William or LiamMaybe Will or Billy

What do you think of the name William



Ancient and Classical Names · Religious Names


Depiction of St. Perpetua’s Martyrdom

Some names are so beautiful that their rareness escapes all logic.  Perpetua, I perceive, falls in this category.  This name derives from Latin and means “continual” or “everlasting.”  Pronunciation-wise, the last two syllables ‘tua’ can be said like “chew-uh” or “tyoo-uh.”  Possible nicknames for Perpetua include Perri, Pet, Petra, and Petal

In 2015, only 13 baby girls were named Perpetua in the U.S.  That’s still comparatively high when you realize that it’s only appeared in the SSA birth data in the past 10 years.  Peak usage was in 2013 with 17 girls.

Perhaps strangely, Perpetua doesn’t even appear in the latest England/Wales data.  Why do I say ‘strangely?’  Well, I was under the impression that Perpetua was something of a British-ism.  Off the top of my head, I immediately think of the Bridget Jones character Perpetua (who admittedly was snobbish, though she’s somewhat redeemed by her approval of Bridget’s telling off Daniel) and the Harry Potter Chocolate Frog Card figure Perpetua Fancourt…both obviously British, or at least not American.   

That aside, I do believe most modern usage is religious in nature.  Perpetua semi-frequently appears on Sancta Nomina, which is a Catholic baby naming site (do check that out, even if you’re not Catholic.  Lovely naming styles!).  Indeed, Perpetua is the name of a famous early saint who was martyred at Carthage in the early 200s, during the reign of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.  St. Perpetua is also believed to be one of the earliest female Christian writers; she wrote a prison diary, which you can read here.

What do you think of the name Perpetua