Sunday, September 29, 2013

Not Quite Animal Names

A couple of months ago there was a birth announcement at Waltzing More Than Matilda that caught my eye. You may have noticed it too - it was for new baby girl Tigerlily, a sister for Wolfgang. Judging by the comments I wasn't the only one impressed by this sibset. I love that they are both slightly offbeat, quirky names with definite animal references without actually being animal names.

Wolfgang is an Old German name meaning 'traveling wolf'. It's most popular in German speaking countries, but is familiar throughout the world thanks to famous Wolfgangs Austrian composer Mozart, German poet Goethe, and more recently chef Puck. Cool nickname Wolf also makes this a very accessible name for todays parents. It has seen regular use in the U.S. since the 50's but has never gotten close to cracking the top 1000.

Whereas Wolfgang may have a slightly old and fusty image, Tigerlily is fresh and playful. For many, Tiger Lily is the name of the princess of a tribe of Native Indians living in Neverland in the classic 'Peter Pan'. Then in 1996 Paula Yates and Michael Hutchence made headlines when they named their new daughter Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence (half sister to Paulas other daughters Fifi Trixiebelle, Peaches Honeyblossom and Little Pixie). She goes mainly by Tiger or Tiger Lily.

Although the name was the subject of much debate, it made people start to think of it less as an outlandish Princess name and more as an actual possibility for a child. Tigerlily appeared on the U.S. charts in 1998, and has continued to be rarely used. It's a floral-esque choice, and like Wolfgang it comes with cool animal nickname Tiger, but the possibility of Lily is also there if your daughter should be more of the quiet type.

But I have to admit, what caught my imagination most about this pairing where would the parents go with subsequent children? So here's a few suggestions that could hold their own with the distinctive Wolfgang and Tigerlily. If you have any more to add to this list, I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.

This variant of the Old French / German name Bernard gets the bear reference in there but is still a legitimate name with history, similar to Wolfgang. The name means 'strong, brave bear', which I love and is hard to go past if you're looking for names related to fierce animals. Bearnard has never charted in the U.S. but Bernard was a top 100 for many years and only dropped out of the top 1000 in recent years. It feels like it could fit right in with the hipster crowd these days.

I loved these flowers growing up! Foxglove would make a whimsical floral choice. Usually use of the name Fox seems to be reserved for boys - it has certainly only ever charted for boys. Foxglove could be a great way to get a fox name onto girls. It's also a very off the beaten track choice for those wanting a rarer floral name.

A stately, scholarly surname name, Oxford means "from the oxen crossing'. Nickname Ox might be one of the more difficult animal names to wear, but there is always Ford if they don't feel very Ox-like. Oxford is very well known largely thanks to the famed University and the Dictionary, yet it seems this has led people to avoid it as a given name. It would fit right in with the current wave of preppy surname names though.

Like Tigerlily, Pendragon is best recognised from a work of fiction, as Arthurs surname in the legends of the Knights of the Round Table, reportedly meaning 'head dragon' or 'dragon's head'. It is yet to chart in the U.S. although I have seen it suggested as a possible name by Abby of Appellation Mountain and discussed in a couple of forums on Nameberry recently, so it may soon start appearing on people's radars in the next few years. I love that this has a romantic yet strong feeling, and nickname Penn makes this name feel a little more wearable.

When looking for animal related names that can easily be worn by the girls, it's hard to go past the florals. Again, Snapdragon would be a rare floral choice for a girl - it has never charted, and I don't think I've ever heard of one let alone met one. What I love about Snapdragon is the contrast of the sound of the name against it's image. The flowers are sweet, cheerful and delicate, yet the name suggests almost the opposite. This would be a cute yet fierce name for a girl.

Yes, I realise that thanks to the coffee chain this name is pretty much unusable. Unless you are a big 'Battlestar Galactica' fan. Suddenly this name is a lot more tempting - in fact, it has only charted in 1979, after the original series started airing in 1978. In those days Starbuck was a male, but in the 2004 reincarnation of the show Starbuck was famously portrayed by Katee Sackhoff, so this name feels suitable for either gender. There are also several other famous fictional Starbucks, such as the first mate of the Pequod in 'Moby Dick' (who the coffee chain was named after), the main character in Bernard Cromwell's 'The Starbuck Chronicles' series and Dana Scully of 'The X-Files' -  Starbuck was the nickname her father had for her. With a rich history of fictional namesakes Starbuck doesn't neccessarily feel like a totally off-the-wall or off-limits name option.


  1. I probably would not use any of these, but I do like more standard animal names like Bear, Wolf, Hawk, and Eagle for names (for boys). For girls Gazelle or Meadowlark, etc. are nice. I like the idea of Pendragon as a middle name though. And I love Bernard, just not the spelling Bearnard. Oh, I also like its derivatives for girls: Bernice, Bernadette

  2. I agree I probably wouldn't use any of these name, perhaps for characters. They are pretty cool though, my favorites are Pendragon and Foxglove.

  3. Replies
    1. Dandelion would be a great addition to this list!