|Photo courtesy of Beth Wade Photography
For years, Atlas had been somewhat of a sleeper name. Since 1880 it has charted more years than not in the U.S., both for boys and girls. Generally it was given to 10 or so children in the years it appeared. it was ever so slightly on the increase, and then Anne Heche bestowed the name on her second son in 2009. The next year the name Atlas almost doubled in use for boys, and was used in similar numbers again in 2011 and 2012. 2012 also saw Atlas reappear on the charts for girls after a 78 year absence.
It seems Anne simultaneously tapped into a rising trend, managing to both bring attention to the name and give people who were doubting it's suitability as a name the courage to use it.
The name Atlas originated from the Titan from Greek mythology who held the heavens on his shoulders. He is the Titan of astrology and navigation, and often associated with the moon. His name was the basis of the Atlas mountains in Northwest Africa, The Atlantic Ocean and the legendary island city of Atlantis. In architecture, an atlas is also a name for a support sculpted in the form of a man. Interestingly, the Titan Atlas was not the inspiration behind the common name for a book of maps and charts - that honour went to a king of Mauritania who was said to be skilled in philosophy, mathematics and astronomy and thought to be the inventor of the first celestial globe. It is the celestial globe that the Titan Atlas is most often depicted holding, rather than a world globe.
It is the legend of Atlas that makes this seem like a "heavy" name for a child to bear for many. The idea that a child will be figuratively carrying "the weight of he world on their shoulders" is a deterrent for many, and has probably contributed to it's rare usage. It is possible though to look at this imagery as a positive rather than a negative. It shows a faith that your child will have the strength and fortitude to handle the pressures that life throws their way.
As to what Anne Heche had in mind when she chose the name, it's hard to say. I've heard that when she suggested the name to James Tupper (Anne's partner and Atlas' father) he said "Okay, cool name, but people will totally make fun of you', to which Anne replied "Okay, I'm used to that. Let's name him Atlas!". I'm also guessing though that for a someone born in a town called Aurora, with an alternate persona named Celestia, the name Atlas would have some personal symbolism for her. Plus it helps that it works well with her other mythologically related son, Homer.
I love the name Atlas. It's strong, rare but not too strange, and would be great for people who like mythological and constellation type names. Atlas also feels like a very modern sounding name. Personally I prefer it for a boy, but I can see how it also has the makings of a great girls name. It makes me think of an Amazonian warrior princess. What do you think? Is Atlas too much, or is it just right in today's namescape?