I have been trying to add Featured Names from those in the search terms, when possible. To celebrate the start of spring, I’m choosing ten names for each gender that people have used as search terms to reach my blog. I tried to concentrate on those that had been Googled multiple times, or which had questions attached to them, and I’ve chosen names which don’t make the Top 100.
Of course, if you would like to see a particular name featured on the blog, you don’t need to type it into a search engine and cross your fingers – you can always e-mail me directly and put in a request.
Arya is a unisex Indian name which means “noble, honourable” in Sanskrit. Common in India, it’s become known in the English-speaking world through two fantasy novelists. In George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice series, Lady Arya Stark is a beautiful free-spirited noblewoman who leads a very adventurous life. In Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance cyle, Arya Dröttning is an elf, later queen of the elves, and the romantic interest of the hero, Eragon. Both these characters are strong and independent, good at swordplay, horse-riding and taking care of themselves. Although there are several famous men and women in India called Arya, English-speakers probably think of it as a female name, because of the fictional characters. The Indian pronunciation is AHR-yuh, but both Martin’s and Paolini’s ladies say their names AHR-ee-uh (I’m basing this on how they are said in the TV series and the movie, as some written guides suggest AR-ee-uh or AYR-yuh). So there’s quite a selection of pronunciations. Arya recently joined the US Top 1000, and is currently #711. It would make a good heritage choice, or else an attractive literary name.
Mount Carmel is a mountain range in Israel, and its name means “garden”. Our Lady of Mount Carmel is the title given to the Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite Order. The first Carmelites were Christian hermits who lived on Mount Carmel during the 12th century, and built a chapel dedicated to the Virgin Mary. They were approved as an order devoted to contemplative prayer, but didn’t stay in the Holy Land for long. They soon made their way to Sicily and Cyprus, and from there throughout Europe. Carmel was first used as a name in honour of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, perhaps especially for girls born on or near her feast day of July 16. Carmel was in rare use in 1900, then climbed steeply to make the Top 100 in 1930. It peaked in the 1940s at #77, and was off the Top 100 by the 1960s. It hasn’t charted since the 1990s. Although this name originated amongst Catholics, Mount Carmel is a place name mentioned in the Bible, and is important in Judaism, Protestantism, Islam, and the Bahá’í Faith as well, so it is usable by anyone who feels a connection to it.
This is the Anglicised form of French Élodie, derived from the Spanish name Alodia; Saint Alodia was a 9th century Spanish martyr. The meaning of the name is uncertain, but it has been interpreted as Visigothic, from the Germanic meaning “foreign wealth”. In English it’s pronounced like Melody without the M, but the French pronunciation is ay-lo-DEE. There are several fashion boutiques in Australia with the name Elodie in them, giving it a self-consciously stylish air, and it’s a name often seen in birth announcements here, especially from Melbourne. This pretty name makes a good alternative to popular Eloise, and I can see it becoming another Amelie in the future (although a movie called Elodie would be a real help).
Saint Kinga was born a Hungarian princess, and her name is the pet form of Kunigunde, which is from the Germanic for “family war”. Kinga had several saintly family connections, because she was the niece of St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and the great-niece of St. Hedwig. One of her sisters became St. Margaret of Hungary, while the other, Blessed Jolenta of Poland, is still being considered for canonisation. Saint Kinga was married off to Bolesław V, who became High Duke of Poland; she insisted that the marriage remain chaste, and although her husband wasn’t happy about the situation, he reluctantly agreed. During her marriage, she devoted herself to charitable works, and after being widowed, became a nun and spent the rest of her life in contemplative prayer. She is the patron saint of Poland and Lithuania, and her name is a popular one in both Hungary and Poland. This name has turned up repeatedly in the search terms ever since comedian Merrick Watts and his wife welcomed their daughter Kinga Rose in December last year. It’s apparently pronounced KEEN-gah, and makes an unusual and attractive heritage choice.
This little name has several different origins. Mika is a Japanese girl’s name translated as “beautiful fragrance”. It is also a Native American word, meaning “racoon” in the Osage and Omaha-Ponca languages of Oklahoma and Nebraska. However, it’s an Australian Aboriginal word too, because mika means both “moon” and “month” in the Nyungar language of south-west Western Australia. This is a name I’ve seen used a lot in the past, although not so much lately. It often appears in variant spellings, such as Meeka or Meekah – presumably to make the pronunciation clearer, because it is said MEE-kuh, and not like the boy’s name Micah. However, it’s possible that these variants were trying to provide a phonetic spelling of the Dutch name Mieke, which is a pet form of Maria, and said exactly the same way. Mika is similar to popular names such as Mia and Mila; it could also be understood as a short form of Mikayla. Just to confuse things further, Mika is an unrelated boy’s name as well – it’s a pet form of Mikael, the Finnish form of Michael. I suspect the reason I see less babies with this name is the British singer Mika, who now makes it seem male.
Niamh is an Irish name meaning “bright, radiant”. In Irish mythology, Niamh was a goddess, the daughter of the god of the sea, and a fairy queen in the Otherworld known as the Land of Eternal Youth. Called Niamh of the Golden Hair, she lured the poet Oisin away to her own world, and together they were the parents of two children, Oscar and Plúr na mBan (meaning “flower of women”). Oisin thought he had been with Niamh for three years, but when he returned to Ireland, he found that three centuries had passed. Niamh gave him her white horse to ride, and warned him not to let his feet touch the ground, or he would never return to her. Later, he accidentally fell off the horse, and the three hundred years caught up with him; he became a very old man, near death. According to legend, his grave site is in Scotland. Depending on accent, the Irish pronunciation is either NEE-av or NEEV, but English-speakers tend to opt for NEEV as easier to say. This fairytale name is Top 100 in England/Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland, and you can see why.
This Germanic name is derived from the name of the Saxons, a tribe from the north of Germany. We know them well, because some of them migrated to the British Isles and merged with the Angles to become the Anglo-Saxons of English history; their lands were in the south of England. The name of the tribe may come from the seax, a type of knife that the Saxons were known for using as a weapon. The seax is still an important symbol in the English counties of Essex and Middlesex, both of whom feature three seaxes in their ceremonial emblem. The Saxons who stayed behind in Germany resisted the Christian Franks for some time, but were defeated by Charlemagne and forced to convert; their lands became the Duchy of Saxony. Saxons also gained territories in the Netherlands and northern France. The name became famous through Saskia van Uylenburgh, who was the wife of the Dutch artist Rembrandt vn Rijn, and often served as a model for his paintings. In Australia the name is well known because of the actress Saskia Burmeister, who appeared in the film Hating Alison Ashley, and from the British-Australian children’s TV series Noah and Saskia, where Saskia is the Australian girl. Here the name is pronounced either SAHS-kee-ah, or SASS-kee-ah, and can be seen as a Dutch heritage choice.
This is a modern Welsh name meaning “star”, and it’s said SEH-ren. It can apparently be used for both sexes, but in Wales it is highly popular as a girl’s name and doesn’t chart for boys. Its similarity to female names such as Sarah, Serena and Serenity probably makes it seem more feminine. I’m including this one because amongst the most common search terms I receive are those asking for baby names which mean “star”, and I think this is a very pretty and simple one. Seren is also a popular unisex Turkish name, which, according to a Turkish dictionary I consulted, refers to the spar of a boat, which juts out from the sail. I’m not sure if the name is taken directly from the word, though. This might be a good name for yachties to consider – especially as boats once used the stars to navigate.
Tuppence means “two pennies” in the pre-decimal currency or old money. We use the word tuppence to signify a very small amount, as in the phrase, I don’t care tuppence, and is also used in the same way as my two cents to indicate you are proffering an opinion (“Well, that’s my tuppence worth”). Tuppence is theoretically unisex, and in Australia “Tuppence” was the nickname of Desmond Moran, from the notorious crime family. However, it’s usually seen as feminine, as in the British actress, Tuppence Middleton, or the nickname of Agatha Christie’s detective, Prue Beresford, in Tommy and Tuppence. Little Tuppence was a New Zealand fashion doll sold throughout Australasia in the late ’60s (a slight rip-off of American Penny Brite), and this gives it a definite girly flavour. To me it seems distinctly vintage, with a touch of English eccentric. It’s Penny to the power of two!
Zaria is a goddess of beauty in Slavic mythology, and her name means “dawn” – the time of day when people would pray to her. She is a goddess of warriors, and was invoked to protect against death in battle. The Dutch royal family have a little Countess Zaria, aged six; she is the daughter of Prince Friso and Princess Mabel of Orange-Nassau. Although her first name is Joanna, she is officially known as Zaria, and was named after the goddess. Zaria seems like a great alternative to popular Zara, and very much like Azaria without the baggage. In the US, Zaria has been Top 1000 since the mid 1990s, and is currently #753.
(Picture shows actress Sienna Guillory in the role of Arya from the movie Eragon)