Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Bachelorette Tandra Steiner

As I do, I was checking out the list of the new bachelorettes who will be vying for the heart of Chris Soules in the next season of 'The Bachelor'. Among the usual suspects (the Ashleys and the Brittanys) I noticed this rarity - Tandra.

Maybe you've met a Tandra. She first charted in the U.S in 1947, and made regular appearances up until 2009. She's never come close to cracking the top 1000 though.

But where did Tandra come from? I can't find any examples that explain why she came to people's attention in 1947 in particular. It's also interesting that it's seen as a girls name, as one of the most famous Tandra's was a male. Tandra Paparayudu was an Indian General and hero who was present at the Battle of Bobbili in 1757. So is Tandra an Indian or Sanskrit name? Maybe, although there isn't much evidence of this. Some sources cite that it's Indian meaning is 'daughter', which seems a little strange for a country where the name is associated with a male hero.

Other sources say that Tandra is a female name from Madagascar and means 'mole or beauty marks'. Not the most inspirational meaning. Others agree that it is African, but that it means 'sleep', or more specifically 'the feeling of drowsiness just before going off to sleep'. That's a little more poetic. Or maybe it could be a variant of Tandy, or even a nickname for Timandra (a Greek name used by Shakespeare).

Seems this is a name infused with mystery.

Then again, maybe the explanations of it's use in the U.S is a little more ordinary. Perhaps people were simply attracted to Tandra as an alternative to Sandra or Tanya. Sandra was after all at the height of her popularity and a top 10 name in the decade that Tandra started charting, so it's entirely plausible.

I like the sound of it. She feels a little girl-next-door, but with enough of a twist to hint at a fun and spirited personality. And we won't have to wait much longer to see what additional impressions this bachelorette will give us of the name. Maybe her appearance on the show will see Tandra back on the charts soon.

Chris Soules and his 2015 bacherlorettes

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Australian Christmas Names

Photo Courtesy of Mom Spotted

This time of year inspires many great lists of names inspired by Christmas and the festive season. And while the way Christmas is celebrated has many similarities across different (particularly Christian) countries, there are some very big differences between Australia and many other countries. By which I mean it is Summer here at Christmastime.  So while we also celebrate with carols, bells, light and Christmas Trees, names like Winter and Snow have no relevance to an Australian Christmas. We're not sitting by the fireplace drinking hot cocoa - we're more likely to be in the backyard cooking a barbeque.

With this in mind, I thought I'd compile a list of Christmas related names specifically for Australians. Let me know if there are any you'd add!

As mentioned above, most Australians use their barbeque a lot in summer - I know people who would happily cook all three meals of the day on it. But we rarely call it a barbecue. We like to call it a barby or barbie. It may feel a little dated or too plastic doll for you, but Barbie would be a great homage to Australian summers.

It's not unusual for Christmas day to be hot - really hot. So if you live by the coast, many people escape to the beach for a swim on Christmas day. It feels cruisy and relaxed - a possible sibling to Bodhi.

It's hard to imagine an Aussie Christmas table without cherries. They're in season, fresh and delicious. Not to mention that their bright red colour looks great on the table. If Cherry feels a little 80's (or let's face it, a little too stripper) for you, how about one of her international versions?  Cereza or Cerise are both gorgeous options.

I'm not sure about other countries, but Australians love their slang. Similar to Barbie, Chrissie is a common term for Christmas here in Australia, with common uses being "Chrissie Day", "Chrissie lunch", or the question "what are you doing for Chrissie?" She's a little more youthful than Christie, but still sweet and perky.

Beach Cricket

Cricket may be all insect to Americans, but to Australians (and many other countries) it's the ultimate Summer sport. After Christmas lunch, families all over Australia will get together for a friendly game of cricket, whether it's in the backyard or on the beach. And of course being summer, there are plenty of the insect variety available too. It's a name that will bring to mind long summer nights and fun with the family.

When Australian singer Christine Anu recently released her Christmas Album, she said:

"I can't erase my childhood (memories) of Christmas being in the summer, 
where it's pretty much a sensory overload of beautiful colour - everywhere. 
It's snowing jacarandas in my street. 
There's mangoes and watermelon, blueberries. All that colour."

Jacaranda flowers are blue to purple, and in rare cases white. it makes a for a lovely floral name - unusual yet not jarring when considered next to names such as Miranda or Jacinda.

If you've lived in or near Adelaide in South Australia, chances are you've made at least one Christmas pilgrimage to the town of Lobethal. Nestled in the Adelaide Hills, Lobethal (German for 'valley of praise') comes alive at Christmas time, and the line of cars starts for kilometers outside the town in the evenings leading to Christmas Day. The main attractions are the light displays, but there's also pageants, Christmas Tree competitions and a living Nativity.

We love Christmas Carols, and Carols by Candlelight is a popular event. Many councils and local areas have their own, but the two main televised events are the Sydney Carols in the Domain and the Melbourne Vision Australia Carols by Candlelight. One of my favourite performers has to be Marina Prior. A famous theatre performer in Australia, she's performed at the Carols for over 20 years and is a beautiful and classy person - a great Christmas inspiration.

Jen Hawkins and the 2014 Myer
Christmas Window Display
Myer may be a department store here in Australia, but the name is very closely linked to Christmas. From gift shopping, to Christmas Eve carols at the Myer Music Bowl, to the must see Myer Christmas window displays in Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne, the name Myer is associated with many happy Christmas memories. Particularly for Melburnians.

Our Christmas dinners are just as likely (and possibly more so) to include fresh seafood as it does the traditional roast. The craziness at the fish markets on the days leading up to Christmas are a testament to that. Prawns and Crayfish are the main favourites, but who wants to name their children Prawn or Crayfish. So how about Ocean? It's fresh, calming and a great summer holiday name.

The inclusion of Summer is a no-brainer. She may not be as fresh as Winter, but Summer has become a modern classic. Just the word is infused with warmth, bringing to mind relaxed, fun days. As a name Summer is somewhat preppy, somewhat hippy - a great easy-to-wear crowd pleaser of a name.

Because Summer is all about the sun. Half the country even has daylight savings so we can make the most of the summer sun in the evenings too! For example, here in Melbourne today first light was at 5.24am and last light will be at 9.14pm. The name Sunny captures the enthusiasm and cheer we feel at this time of the year - it's full of optimism and positivity.

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


My husband was recently quite unwell. What I at first thought was just a typical bout of “Man Flu” turned out to require a visit to the Doctor – which he hates – so that’s when you know he’s really not well.

But what has this got to do with today’s name? Well, the Doctor we saw had the first name Conway. I took note for a couple of reasons, the first being that it isn’t a name you hear every day. But also that it is the surname of one of my husband’s bosses, and since he only refers to him as Conway I found it slightly amusing that he was seeing a Doctor with the same name as his boss. So it was already stuck in my head when I saw it come up in a recent birth announcement post on Names For Real. I like to think it was a sign that it would be a good time to look a little closer at Conway.

Pronounced KAHN-way, Conway hails from the UK, with various claims stating it is an Irish/ Welsh/ Gaelic/Celtic name.  It’s here that getting an exact meaning gets a little confusing. It seems that Conway means ‘hound of the plain’ to the Irish, coming from similar roots as the much more popular Connor (meaning ‘lover of hounds’). To the Welsh it is a place name, coming from the name of the River Conwy which is thought to mean ‘holy water’ or possibly ‘chief river’.

Indeed, Conway is a place name in many parts of the world. Plenty of places in the U.S are named Conway, as well as a river in New Zealand, a National Park in Australia and a coral reef in Fiji.

But so far this is one surname/place name that hasn’t had the same huge surge in popularity as many other names of this type making the jump to first names.  This could be set to change though.  In the U.S. Conway has experienced rises in popularity for the past 8 years. However the rise has been slow – in 2013 he was still a long way outside the top 1000 at position #2883. And Conway is so far uncharted for girls.

Yes, Conway could be seen as a fresh option for girls. While the few Conways that spring to mind are male – such as American Country musician Conway Twitty, American football player and coach Conway Hayman, Australian musician Conway Savage, British mathematician and scientist Conway Berners-Lee or even the fictional Pokemon trainer – young musician Conway (born Kassia Conway) could help parents see Conway as a viable girls name.

Conway feels like an approachable but somewhat dignified name. I can see it in the same league as Spencer or Thatcher, but with an added dash of roguish swagger. It's also great way to honour a Con (or Con related name) in your family tree. With the popularity of Connor it may be just a matter of time until Conway creeps into the top 1000 (or not) - use it now and you'll be ahead of the pack.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Australian Music Artist Sia

There are plenty of great girls names of the three-letter-ends-in-"ia" variety. The reigning queen for quite some time has been Mia - in Australia, the US and UK she was a top 10 name (at #5, #8 and #10) in 2013. But no-one loves her more than the Germans. In 2013 Mia was their number one girls name!

At the other end of the spectrum you'll find Sia, pronounced SEE-ah. In the US she was ranked #2979 in 2013, so is much, much rarer. Up until a few years ago you may not have heard of the name, but an Australian musician by the name of Sia has been giving this name a lot of exposure, albeit in an understated fashion.

You may recognise the name but have trouble placing her. Sia has been in the music industry for years, collaborating with many great artists. In 2010 she worked with Christina Aguilera, gaining a Golden Globe nomination for best original song from the soundtrack of 'Burlesque' and appearing as an advisor for team Aguilera on 'The Voice'. She had continued success with her next (and fifth studio album) 'We Are Born'. She was the vocals on the David Guetta track 'Titanium', and more recently had a chart topper with 'Chandelier'. And as an aside, if you haven't seen the Jim Carrey skit on 'Saturday Night Live' based on the video clip for 'Chandelier', you should. It's hilarious.

But where does the name Sia come from? Seems it has a few possible origins. Different sources claim it to be:

  • Of Indian origin, derived from the goddess Sita who represents the feminine virtues of dedication, self-sacrifice, courage and purity;
  • A Hebrew name meaning 'helper';
  • Derived from the Old Norse "sigr", hence a Swedish name meaning 'victory';
  • A Scottish word meaning 'six';
  • A variant of the Arabic name Zia, meaning 'light, splendour or glow';
  • Of Swedish origin, meaning 'prophesy'; or
  • Persian in origin, meaning 'one who brings joy'. 

Whichever it means, it feels like the time is right for Sia to rise. She's just different and quirky enough to feel fresh and cool, yet familiar enough not to be intimidating to parents debating whether it's usable. Or maybe you think this would make a cute and spunky nickname. In which case you might want to consider names such as Anastasia, Sienna, Elyssia, Alexia, Cassia or even Sophia for the birth certificate.

Give it a few years and I'm sure you'll notice many more Sia's turning up in birth announcements.

Friday, December 12, 2014

TV Name Quote

In this week's episode of 'Supernatural' titled 'The Things We Left Behind', King of Hell Crowley tells us what he really thinks of his (human) name.

Played by Mark Sheppard, Crowley was born Fergus McLeod in Scotland 1661. Fergus is in fact an old Scottish and Irish name, so quite fitting with his background. It is derived from the the words fear meaning 'man' and 'gus' meaning 'strength', so Fergus is said to have meanings such as 'man strength', 'strong warrior', 'man of force', or 'virility'.

Despite it's strong meaning Fergus is not a popular name. He's been falling in England and Wales in recent years, and has never been anywhere near cracking the top 1000 in the U.S. But he feels like he could be the next big thing for hipster parents. He's slightly old and fusty in a retro-cool name, and comes with the possible nickname Gus, which seems to be getting a lot of attention lately. And couldn't you just imagine little Oscar, Auden or Waldo with a brother named Fergus?

Or maybe you feel the same way Crowley does.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Tilda vs Tilly

Photo Courtesy of Pennystone Park Photography

Tilda and Tilly. Many would see these names and think they are only nicknames for Matilda, but both make for adorable names in their own right. Whether you are debating which nickname to use for your little Matilda, or simply which to give your daughter, it could be helpful to look at them side by side.

Origin, Meaning, Associations & Impressions
These are so intertwined that it's helpful to consider them together. Both Tilda and Tilly are considered to have originated as nicknames for Matilda. Matilda is an Old German name meaning 'mighty in battle', and hence this is also the accepted meaning for both Tilda and Tilly.

Tilda – Tilda is also possibly Nordic, thought to mean 'heroine'. She's said to be the slightly eccentric nickname for Matilda, sleek and stylish. I've also seen her described as warm, dignified and ladylike.

There is also a British Food manufacturer with the brand name Tilda, who are best known for their rice; and a Norwegian craft brand with this name that specialise in whimsical and romantic dolls, animals, fabrics and books.

Tilly – This name may seem cute and girlish, but she can be seen as so much more. I've seen her pop up on lists of names that are friendly, relaxed, hipster, vintage, girly, British and Jazz Age style. Both Tilly and Tillie are thought to be the bold option of the common nicknames for Matilda.

Tilly is also a place name, most prevalent in France but also found in Scotland, Belgium and the US state of New York. It is also the name of a poem by James Joyce, a novel by Frank E. Peretti, and a number of WW2 British Utility vehicles.

Famous Namesakes
Why your chosen name has made or make make the headlines.

Tilda – Worldwide, actress Tilda Swinton is the example that most readily springs to mind. She has quite an imposing yet respectable on screen persona, best known to younger audiences as the White Witch in 'The Chronicles of Narnia' movies. She was born Katherine Matilda, adopting the nickname as her stage name. Another famous Matilda come Tilda – this time fictional – includes Tilda Price of Charles Dickens' 'Nicholas Nickelby'.

There's also a young character named Tilda in the movie 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug'. And in Australia, young Adelaide actress Tilda Cobham-Hervey recently became the face of the “find wonderful” advertising campaign for department store Myer. Reportedly her parents were inspired in part by Ms Swinton when they chose her name.

Tilly – To a more infamous Australian figure this time – Tilly Devine. She was a prominent Sydney gangster in the 20'1, 30's and 40's, and 2011 true crime drama TV series 'Underbelly:Razor' focused on the gangland wars she played a prominent role in during the 1930's.

Tilly however is better known as a surname – actress sisters Meg Tilly and Jennifer Tilly are examples, or maybe you prefer the example of sociologist Charles Tilly, just to name a few.

And although mothers may think of Catherine Cookson's 'Tilly Trotter', young children are more likely to think of the main character from 'Tilly and Friends', about a five year old girl who lives in a yellow house with her five best friends.

Tilly and Friends

Pronunciation & Nicknames
Often when we've only seen a name written we may Some people fall in love with a name for it's nicknames. Others aren't too fussed.

Tilda – Pronounced TILL-dah, it doesn't need a nickname, although you could always use Tilly and this way you get to use both.

Tilly – Also has a straightforward pronunciation – TIL-lee. Another popular re-spelling is Tillie. If you must use a nickname you could go with Till or Lee, but you don't really need one.

Some want a name that is popular because it means it is familiar and well liked. Others prefer a name that is rarer, feeling it will help their child feel like an individual. Both Tilda and Tilly are much less popular than Matilda. In 2013, Matilda was #18 in Australia, #36 in the U.K, #95 in New Zealand and #645 in the U.S. In recent years it has also been a top 50 name in Finland, Sweden and Chile. But how do these two fare?
Tilda vs Tilly in the US
Chart Courtesy of
Our Baby Namer

Tilda – As many of the countries listed above don't release names past the top 100, it's hard to get a direct comparison in those countries. But it does seem to be the most popular in Sweden, where Tilde was #51 and Tilda #61 in 2012. Conversely, Tilde has never charted in the U.S, while Tilda remains a rarity. She was steadily used from the 1880's to the 1970's but then dropped into obscurity. It's only been since 2006 that small numbers of parents have rediscovered her – in 2013 only six girls were named Tilda, placing her at #16,245.

Tilly – In a time when Lily is a top 100 name in many countries, Tilly feels like she should be on the verge of big things. Yet the only place where she seems to be doing big things is the U.K. There Tilly was #86 in 2013 and Tillie was #383. You'll also find plenty of double barrelled options, such as Tilly-Mae, Tilly-May, Tilly-Rose, Tilly-Ann, Tilly-Grace, Tilly-Rae, Tilly-Louise and more. This has not yet caught on in the U.S., where Tilly was #2713 in 2013 and Tillie #3808, with not a double barrel in sight.

What do you think? Both are nicknames meaning 'mighty in battle' and both have a jazz age feeling. Tilda is much rarer has a Scandinavian-chic flair to her. But Tilly feels more friendly and approachable, and while not as rare as Tilda it's still unlikely your daughter would meet many other Tilly's at school. She's just different enough, in a good way. Which (if either) would you be more likely to choose?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Photo Courtesy of JME Portraits

I heard some boys on the tram recently calling their friend Langley. I'm not sure if it was his given name or surname, but I really liked the sound of it.

My confusion as to whether it was his given name or surname is understandable - Langley has a very long history as a surname. It's known as a habitational or toponymic surname, which means it is derived from the location in which the family lived. In this case, that would be any number of the Old English villages named for a nearby long (lang) clearing in a forest (leah). This is where the meaning of Langley comes from - it means 'long meadow'.

If you think it sound familiar it's likely you have a Langley near you. The CIA in America is located in the Virginian town of Langley, and TV show 'American Dad' is located in the fictional Langley Falls. Or you likely know someone with this surname.

While there are a great many people with the surname Langley, it is much less common as a given name. In the U.S it has sporadically charted as a boys name since 1907. For girls it has been slightly more popular, charting consistently since 1990. This is most likely due to the birth of celebrity Mariel Hemingways' second daughter in 1989, who was named Langley Fox. But while this may have put Langley on the radar for girls, Langley remains rare, never given to more than 40 children (boys and girls combined) in a single year.

At Nameberry, Langley appears on a list of vampire names, as well as a list of cool, unusual girls names, showing the versatility of this name. I personally like the soft, jaunty, stately feel of Langley. And having seen it in use, can easily see it working on a modern child. If you have names like Avery, Blakely, Collins, Emerson, Hadley, McKenzie, Thackery, Thornton or Westley on your list, Langley could be a great addition.

Saturday, October 25, 2014


There's Blaine if you want an 80's preppy feel; Blake if you want a masculine, soap opera-esque feel. But if you want edgy and uber-macho, then Blade is the choice for you.

Blade first appeared on the U.S charts the year that Ridley Scott's cult sci-fi thriller 'Blade Runner' was released. It must have been a sound that people found very appealing, as a Blade Runner is a type of law enforcement role, not the name of a main character. Apart from 1984, Blade has charted every year since.

The movie had a dark, apocalyptic feel, which is a good fit with the menacing and almost threatening nature of the name Blade. This isn't overly surprising for a name the comes from the Old English word for a knife or sword.

Blade took on even more horror-cool cred when it became the name of the main character in the 'Blade' movies. Played by Wesley Snipes, Blade is a half-vampire-half-human vampire killer, determined to take revenge on all vampires for killing his mother. This was back when vampires were still vicious, dramatic and sexy, rather than sparkly, broody and introspective. Blade in particular exuded cool; treading the thin line between monster and good guy. This struggle made him all the more engaging and Blade remains an iconic movie character for many.

The three movies in this trilogy were released in 1998 ('Blade'), 2002 ('Blade II') and 2004 ('Blade: Trinity'). Although they helped increase the popularity of the name - and are credited for inspiring UK parents - it was not enough to push Blade into the top 1000, and it has been slowly decreasing in popularity since.

With vampire, sci-fi and sword/knife connections, it's easy to see why Blade would make for a suitably Halloween inspired name. Although one could always argue that it also makes for a nature inspired name if you look at it from the perspective of a blade of grass. Almost no-one would believe that this was the intention when you choose to name your little tough boy Blade though.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Six Spooky Doll Names For Halloween

With the release of the movie 'Annabelle' this month, it seemed like a good time to look at the names of some of the spookiest real and fictional dolls. They're a surprising mix of classic names and familiar nicknames, with some very non-scary meanings! So do their spooky namesakes make these names un-usable? You decide.

Think of Annabelle in the same way as Amity – a very pretty, feminine name that just happens to be associated with a scary story made into a horror movie. 'Annabelle' is based on the true story of a doll possessed by an evil spirit who terrorises her owners until being locked away by paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. In the movie, Annabelle is a menacing looking blonde doll, however the real Annabelle is actually a Raggedy Ann doll. Annabelle is her real name though, likely chosen because of the type of doll she is.

The origin of the name Annabelle is not clear. It's possible she is an elaboration of French name Amabel, meaning 'lovable'. Or perhaps it is a combination of Anna (meaning 'grace') and Belle (meaning 'beautiful'). Annabelle has been rocketing up the US charts – breaking into the top 1000 in 1995 and reaching #81 in 2013. Let's see if the movie does anything to stall this.

You may not be familiar with the 2007 horror 'Dead Silence' starring Ryan Kwanten and directed by the man behind 'The Conjuring', James Wan. The evil entity in this movie was the ghost of a ventriloquist named Mary Shaw. She had no children, but her love for her collection of 101 dolls (mainly ventriloquist dummies) was well known. Billy was her favourite, and in death she uses him to carry out some pretty grisly murders.

Billy is one of the original nickname-come-given names, starting as a nickname for William (meaning 'resolute protector') but becoming very popular in his own right. He may not be the height of fashion, but he is never out of style, being a constant entry in the top 1000. Variant spelling Billie is the preferred option for girls.


Mention the term “evil doll” and this famous movie doll is bound to be the first on everyone's lips. Chucky is the iconic bad guy of the 'Child's Play' movies – a talking doll given to a boy for his birthday who just happens to be possessed by the soul of a serial killer. The character was reportedly inspired by Hasbro's My Buddy dolls, and his full name – Charles Lee Ray – derived from famous killers Charles Manson, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray.

Chucky is a form of Chuck, a nickname for the classic and popular Charles, and all mean 'free man'. Chucky is the least popular of the three, managing to sound immature and threatening at the same time.

This is another real-life scary doll. Joliet has been passed down through four generations within the one family. She is said to be cursed, causing the sons born to the female owners to die when they are three days old. The family also claims to have heard giggles, screams and cries coming from the doll.

Joliet (pronounced JHOW-lee-eht) comes from the French word jolie, meaning 'pretty'. It's only been getting use in the U.S in the last 15 years, and only for very few girls. This seems almost surprising for a name so close to the classic Juliet, and with such a positive meaning. But the word takes on a very different meaning for most Americans, primarily associated with Joliet Prison in Joliet, Illinois.

It may be hard to hear the name Mandy without thinking of the Barry Manilow song, but Mandy is also the name of a porcelain baby doll who resides in the Quesnel Museum in British Columbia. She is said to be the cause of the mysterious disapperances and reappearances of lunches and stationery and footsteps when no one is around. Mandy can't be placed with other dolls as she hurts them. She also likes to cause trouble with cameras when people try to photograph her.

Mandy has been a constant presence in the U.S girls charts, although in 2013 was at her lowest rank ever; #2234. It originated as a nickname for Amanda, meaning 'worthy of love' or 'lovable'. She has a friendly, popular girl vibe, but has gotten a reputation among many as a “trashy” name. Mandy is the first name mentioned in the 2012 movie 'Ted' when Mark Wahlbergs' character is trying to guess the “white trash name” of Ted's new girlfriend.

Another haunted doll that causes trouble with photographic equipment is perhaps America's most famous scary doll, Robert. He can be seen at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West. People must ask his permission before photographing or filming Robert (which he grants by tilting his head) or he will curse them. The curse can however be lifted by begging Robert for forgiveness.

The doll himself was a cursed gift from a disgruntled maid to a boy named Robert. He caused the family a lot of trouble, moving furniture and scaring his owner during the night. Reportedly Robert moved on his own, could be heard talking and giggling, and even changed expressions.

Robert is a well known name of German origin, meaning 'famed; bright and shining'. It was introduced to England by the Normans and has been in use ever since. Robert is also quite popular – it has never been out of the U.S top 100 since 1880. Some may say this makes for a boring and over-used name, but to others it is simply classic and handsome.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Photo Courtesy of Lisa Visser Fine Art

When we think of Halloween, we think of nighttime and shadows. It's black bats, black cats, black birds and black spiders. And while I wouldn't necessarily recommend calling your child Black, names with dark meanings are a great way to give a nod to Halloween without being cheesy.

Sable fits the bill perfectly. It's dark and mysterious; attractive and strong - great for a boy or a girl. Sable is just that little bit different enough to get people's attention, but not weird enough to make them screw up their faces. And if you're looking for rare, look no further.

Pronounced SAY-bel, this name started as many names did, as a word name. Of Slavic origin, it comes from a small animal that was originally found in Russia, Poland and Scandinavia. It's fur has been highly valued since the early Middle Ages due to it's rich colour and glossy appearance. It is also a unique fur as it retains it's smoothness however it is stroked. The fur is how the word came to England, where it was a favourite among royalty. Henry VII was said to be a particular fan, decreeing that sable fur was only allowed to be worn by nobles.

It's unclear whether Sable originally meant black and was the name given to the animal because of the colour of their fur, or vice versa. It continued to be used as a name for black though, particularly in French and English heraldry.

Although I could see this as a name for either gender, so far it's usage has been mainly female. In the U.S. she charted sporadically until becoming a regular in 1984. It was further boosted by it's appearance as character Sable Scott Colby on 'Dynasty' spin-off 'The Colby's'. She was played by Stephanie Beacham, and in 1986 she boosted Sable to her highest position and one and only appearance in the US top 1000 to date. Other famous Sables include American jazz artist Sable Winters (love this name!) and American model and professional wrestler Sable.

It's not a name without it's problems - I could see a Sable being mistaken for Isabel a lot. And it rhymes with a lot of words, luckily most of them fairly innocuous though, such as table and cable. And hope that they don't have a long face, or kids could get quite creative with some stable jokes. But none of these are major red flags that should prevent a Sable from being quite happy with their name.

I have to admit to being strangely attracted to the intriguing Sable. Possibly it's due to its' sleek simplicity, or maybe its' noble mystique. Most likely it's both. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mythical Creature Names for Halloween Babies

A Cerberus doesn't have to be scary - fantastic artwork by Evolvana

It's October again, which means another month of Halloween themed names! To ease into it, I thought I'd run a list that I wrote for Nameberry last October, but haven't posted yet on here.

Initially they may seem a little strange and outlandish, but when you look closer at these names inspired by mythical creatures you might feel that they're not quite as unlikely (or unlikable) as they first seem.

This three headed dog (or hell-hound) seemed a lot less intimidating in 'Harry Potter' when named Fluffy and guarding a trapdoor rather than the gates of the Underworld. The most commonly accepted pronunciation is SUR-ber-uss, meaning 'formidable guard' or some variation of this. Cerberus has never charted in the U.S, but it would be a very cool name for a boy.

Pronounced ky-MEER-ah, this one sounds like a smoosh of girls names Chiara and Mira. Thought to be a creature composed of lion, snake and goat parts that breathes fire, it's also used as a generic term to describe creatures that are composed of various animal parts. Despite the grim creature association, it has a pretty sound and could make a good girl's name.

Dragons capture our imagination like few other creatures, with depictions ranging from fiery vengeful beasts to wise advisors and companions. Dragon has only ever charted as a boys name, maybe this is because on a boy it comes across as a compliment, conjuring images of strength and might, whereas calling a female a dragon is generally meant to be slight, that her anger and “fiery” nature are uncontrollable.

Fauns generally aren't thought of as dangerous or malevolent creatures. But they embody the Halloween tradition of trick or treat, as they're thought to help or hinder people depending on their mood. Fauns are half human, half goat, with famous Fauns being the Greek God Pan and Mr Tumnus of Narnia. Spelling Fawn (meaning 'young deer') is more popular, but there is a history of this version being given to girls too.

Griffin has been charting regularly for both genders for over 30 years, but remains far more popular for boys. The Griffin was thought to be a very powerful, majestic creature as it is composed of the body, tail and rear legs of a lion (king of the beasts) and the head, wings and talons of an eagle (king of the birds).  In heraldry they denote strength, courage and leadership.

Lamia is the name of a queen from Greek mythology who became a child-eating demon. It was used as the name of the evil character played by Michelle Pfeiffer in the 2007 movie adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 'Stardust'. Pronounced lah-MEE-ah it has a pretty sound despite a far from pretty inspiration.

Those looking for a formal name for a young Levi that aren't keen on Leviticus may instead be interested in Leviathan. In the Bible the Leviathan is a sea monster, but in Modern Hebrew it has come to simply mean 'whale'. Their appearance in season 7 of 'Supernatural' has helped a lot to give this name a more sexy, dangerous image.

A type of “wolf man” originating from Transylvania, Lycans can choose when to shift into wolf form rather than be controlled by the cycles of the moon as a werewolf is. Lycan has a similar look to Lucian and Lorcan, and the super hot “an” ending for boys which should make it a winner. But it's scary meaning and unfortunate similarity in sound to lichen (fungus) may be what has stopped this name from really taking off. The 'Underworld' movies have helped to overcome this and put Lycan on the SSA charts in recent years.

The Phoenix is a bird renowned for dying by spontaneous combustion, only to rise again from it's own ashes, hence it is a symbol of rebirth and immortality. 30 years ago this name was an exotic rarity, but these days it is a top 1000 name for both genders in the U.S. It still carries a high cool factor, and has been getting recent use by celebrities such as Tammin Sursok and ex-Spice girl Mel B.

Not to be confused with Rock, a Roc is a giant mythical bird that terrorized sailors and could carry an elephant. The streamlined Roc feels like he has the ability to make it to the top 1000 eventually, alongside other modern looking, masculine three letter choices such as Max, Jex and Zac.

Saturday, September 27, 2014


Walt Longmire, played by Australian actor Robert Taylor

Since watching the TV show 'Longmire' (based on the Walt Longmire mystery novels by Craig Johnson), I've slowly been falling more and more in love with this name. A few years ago, all it made me think of was Disney. Now however it makes me think me think of a stoic, steadfast cowboy.

The meaning of Walt seems to point more towards this impression of the name too. Walt is a form of Walter, a Germanic name meaning "commander of the army" or "ruler of an army". Although with the empire that Walt Disney has created, there's no denying he must be a pretty good leader and commander himself.

The popularity of Walt and Walter is quite interesting. Walter was brought to Britain by the Normans and has been used fairly steadily there for the past 900 years. It seems to have been much more popular in the U.S though. Walter has never dropped below the top 400, and was actually a top 20 name until 1931, and a top 100 name until 1973. I've seen some say that thanks to the character Walter White on 'Breaking Bad' and a current love of "grandpa" names, Walter is ready for  revival. But can it really be called a revival when it seems Walter has never truly fallen completely out of fashion?

Walt on the other hand is a very different story. It feels like a largely American name, mainly because the two most famous bearers are American. One being Walter "Walt" Elias Disney (1901-1966), founder of The Walt Disney Company; and the second one being poet Walter "Walt" Whitman (1819-1892). But note that it's two most famous bearers are actually Walters, and maybe it's easier to understand why Walt is rarely seen as a given name. It is extremely rare outside the U.S, but even in the U.S it is by no means common. Despite being given to more than five boys in a year almost every year since 1914, it has only cracked the top 1000 a handful of times in the 40's, 50's and 60's. This is possibly an indication that the Walt Disney connection is just too strong for many to think it is usable.

But I don't think this has to be the case. One thing I like abut Walt is that it feels like be would fit in well with many names styles. He could be a cowboy with friends named Hoyt, Duke and Cord; a preppy boy who hangs out with Tripp, Ames and Spencer; a mate to Will, Rafe and Ned. I could go on, but all you would have to do is picture him alongside the names on your own list to see if you agree.

What do you think - is Walt an under-appreciated gem that deserves more attention, or does it remain rarely used for a reason? And if you were choosing between Walter and Walt, which would you choose?

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Photo Courtesy of Mali Workman Photography

Laurel is one of those names it seems like I've always admired. Unlike some names though, I can't quite pinpoint where I first heard it, or even when I first started liking it.

Possibly I've just always liked names with the "Lor" sound. As a child, I had a Barbie name Laura and another doll named Lori. Lorelei is another long time love - elaborate and "fancy" but not too delicate.

But Laurel remains my favourite. As down to earth and friendly feeling as Laura and Lori, not quite as elaborate as Lorelei but reminiscent of her charm. In my eyes she's preppy but not snobby, not too popular, but not at all weird. A nature name with enough history as a name that you almost forget it's also a nature word. In many ways she reminds me of Ivy, and with Ivy on the rise in much of the Western World (it rose in Australia, the UK and the US in 2013), could it be possible that Laurel may not be far behind?

Laurel herself has enjoyed some modest popularity over the years. In the US she has was a fixture in the top 1000 from 1917 to 2008, peaking at 241 in 1956. In 2013 she was #873. This steadiness is one of the appealing points about this name. It means that Laurel doesn't feel tied to a particular age group, whereas these days a Laurie is most likely to be a grandma while a Lauren is probably becoming a mother herself.

Pronounced LAWR-el or LORE-el, Laurel is a Latin nature name, given to many different plants. By far the most recognisable is the Grecian or Bay Laurel, the tree whose shiny green leaves were used to make the wreaths awarded to winners in the ancient Olympic Games. This symbol of victory is behind the saying "to rest on one's laurels", meaning that one stops trying because they are so satisfied with their past achievements.

It doesn't hurt that my favourite
artist - Alphonse Mucha -
created this beautiful piece
titled 'Laurel' in 1901

But Laurel is not just a nature name - in many parts of the U.S she is also a place name. There is also a class of ships with this name, a 17th century English coin; and a car made by Nissan. Plenty of famous faces also bear this name, both as a first name and a surname. Examples include:

  • Comedian Stan Laurel (of comedy duo Laurel and Hardy)
  • Author Laurell K Hamilton
  • Former Philippine President Jose P Laurel
  • Astronaut and Doctor Laurel Clark
  • Character Laurel Lance in TV show 'Arrow', played by Katie Cassidy; and 
  • DC comics superhero Laurel Gand, a.k.a. Andromeda.

It's worth noting at this point that I do keep referring to Laurel as a girls name. It doesn't have to be used exclusively for girls - there are male Laurels out there. Not many, so if it's a unique boys name you want Laurel could be a great choice. It's not too far removed from Laurence, and of course Lauren and Loren were originally male names which have since become "stolen" by the girls. This is another case where the fact that Laurel has never been a chart topper is a benefit, as it doesn't mean it's overwhelmingly entrenched as a girls name.

Saying that though, I personally have always loved it as a girls name.

One of the things I did notice about this name is that quite a few (female) Laurels have added their endorsement of the name on the Baby Name Wizard entry for this name. Often on popular names you'll find a couple (sometimes a few) replies under "Personal Experiences with this name". I think the fact that this has so many responses means that people have real affection for this name. As one Laurel puts it, "if you are attracted to flower names but don't want your daughter to sound too dainty, this is a nice choice".

But of course Laurel is not without it's problems. The fact that Laura and Lauren are much more popular means that many Laurels often have their name confused for one of these options. Rhyming words include Oral, Moral and Immoral, which could possibly be used for teasing. Or people receive a lot of Laurel and Hardy jokes. But generally Laurels seem happy to overlook this, and appreciate having a different, "unique" and pretty name.

Love it or hate it, it's hard to deny that the stylish Laurel is a subtly dignified name that still hints at a fun personality. She's a name that wears well in many walks of life and would delight many a girl.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Quick Hello

Just a quick post today! I feel like I need to apologise to my regular readers as it has been a few weeks between posts now, which is pretty rare here at Baby Name Pondering.

Without going into too much detail, we've recently done our first cycle of IVF. I found it to be quite an emotional time, and the hormones left me feeling sore and tired most evenings, when I usually write posts. As I like to keep things mostly upbeat here, I just wasn't in the right frame of mind to be waxing lyrical abut what I find interesting and beautiful in names.

Unfortunately our first attempt was unsuccessful, but we plan to keep trying until it works for us. In other news though, I've started a second blog called Everything Else, which will basically chronicle those other things in my life besides names. It will definitely include our IVF journey, so if you are going down a similar path feel free to stop by. Hopefully there will be good news to share there before too long. I'll also share some of my craft projects, maybe the occasional recipe and probably some gratuitous photos of my adorable cat Luna and my Christmas decorations (which I have an unexplainable obsession with). And whatever else takes my fancy at the time.

And of course there will be new name posts coming soon here - I promise! There are still plenty of names and name related topics that I want to explore, so stay tuned. And most of all, thanks for reading

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Photo Courtesy of Lindsay Wright Photography

Here's another pretty name from the floral world that is rare as hen's teeth. So rare she's never been given to more than 5 girls in any one year in the U.S, and is pretty much unheard of. Yet if blooms with exotic sounding names such as Wisteria, Amaryllis and Amarantha are seen as attractive possibilities, why not Lisiantha?

Lisiantha (pronounced LIZ-ee-an-thah or LISS-ee-an-thah) is a variant spelling of lisianthus. I have to admit to being a bit biased when it comes to this flower - I had lisianthus in my bridal bouquet when I got married, so it has a very sentimental place in my heart. I used two different shades of purple blooms (mixed with ivory roses), but the lisianthus also comes in pink, white and blue. It's also known by its' genus name Eustoma (meaning 'beautiful mouth'), Texas Bluebell, Prairie Gentian or Tulip Gentian.

The word Lisianthus comes from the Greek words lysis, meaning 'dissolution', and anthos, meaning 'flower'. Which seems somewhat ambiguous as a meaning, although popular thought is that this translates as symbolic of an outgoing and divisive nature. Other opinions are that the lisianthus symbolises appreciation; or deeply felt romantic attachment; or even old fashioned values and sentimentality because it often grows wild as a prairie flower.

So why has this pretty bloom been largely overlooked as a name option? It's possibly because the flower itself has not enjoyed the widespread popularity that many other flowers such as the rose has had. Word among growers and florists though is that demand for this flower has been increasing over the past decade, so looks like it may be just a matter of time before lovers of this flower start putting this flower name on birth certificates.

While technically the flower name is Lisianthus, I have a feeling that variants Lisiantha/Lysiantha and Lisianthe/Lysianthe (pronounced LIZ-ee-an-thee) will be the ones to watch. Names ending in "us" tend to be mostly masculine, whereas "a" endings are popularly feminine. They feel like a fresher update of Lisandra, while or the "the" ending makes it feel like an elaboration of names like Ianthe or Xanthe. Both could make great nickname options, with other possibilities being Anthe, Antha, Liss, Lissa, Liz, Lizzie, Ann or the less obvious Sia.

Sia is actually the nickname used by the character Lisianthus in the Japanese series 'Shuffle!' 'Shuffle!' started as a visual novel, and has been adapted into video games, manga and anime. It's a great source for floral naming inspiration, as "all of the characters' names are references to flowers in some way".

Lisiantha would be a charming, different but not weird floral option for a girl today. It feels pretty and feminine; soft and lacy; with just enough spunk to be interesting and refreshing. It's the kind of name that would receive plenty of compliments, and leave people wondering why they haven't heard this name used more often. What do you think - is Lisiantha bursting with unfulfilled potential, or has she remained overlooked and largely ignored for a reason?

My beautiful wedding bouquets with purple lisianthus
Made with love by my mum ☺

Sunday, August 17, 2014


Hazen Audel on 'Survive the Tribe'

Recently Nancy shared some of her name predictions, in which she mentioned Seanix, who is on the show 'Treehouse Masters'. I was intrigued - it certainly seems like the kind of name that would catch on in our era of all boys names "X". But while checking out this show, I also stumbled across one called 'Survive the Tribe'.

This show stars Hazen Audel, a survivalist who visits remote tribes to live with them as they do. He seems like quite an interesting person. He's an adventurer, explorer and biologist who has worked as a survival instructor, jungle guide and high school biology teacher. Oh yeah, and he's also an artist. Busy man.

Hazen strikes me as such a cool name - I have a feeling Hazen could be a real winner. He's not totally unheard of, but is pretty rare. He has charted more often than not in the U.S since 1896 but has never been given to more than 52 children in a year. That was in 2011, and they were all boys, although there were three years in the past decade when it charted for girls too. It has the potential to rise much higher though. Girls name Hazel has been climbing since 1994, currently charting at #157. Sound-alike boys name Hayes has also been rising - it entered the top 1000 in 2009 and has continued to climb since then. So there's no denying that Hazen has a sound that many people find attractive.

Speaking of Hayes, most sources claim that Hazen (pronounced HAY-zen) is a variant of Hayes, and hence has the same meaning as Hayes of 'hedged area'. It's also possibly a form of Sanskrit name Hasin, which means 'laughing', although for Western use it's more likely it was adopted from surnames Hayes and Hazen. It's most likely that you'll have seen Hazen as a surname, although famous faces with Hazen as a first name include baseball player Hazen "Kiki" Cuyler, Canadian politician Hazen Argue and American politician Hazen S Pingree. It's also a place name in many parts of the U.S.

Maybe one of those places has a personal meaning to you. Maybe you like the cool nickname possibility Haze. Or maybe you just really like it's sound. There are plenty of things to like about Hazen. He feels at home among nature choices like Oakley, Moss and River; or classic names like Jasper, Brooks and Noah. What kind of vibe do you get from Hazen - and would you use it?

Monday, August 4, 2014


All too often we find that we never give a name a second thought until something happens that makes you see it in a different light. That happened to me this weekend with Taggart.

Like many people, I was spending some time browsing Pinterest when I came across this pin of a cute personalised teddy bear from Etsy store World Class Embroidery.

I was sold - I could totally picture a baby Taggart with his cute little monkey.

And why not? He fits in so well with the surname trend. Taggart is roguish and rascally, a rough and tumble lad with intelligence and charm in spades. Somewhat how I'd envision a modern day Tom Sawyer to be.

Taggart (pronounced TA-gurt) is a Gaelic name derived from McTaggart/MacTaggart. These surnames are Anglicisations of the Gaelic phrase "Mac-an-t-Sagairt" meaning 'son of the priest (or prelate)'. So how did it get to be such a  widespread surname when priests weren't legally allowed to marry after the 12th century? Apparently these laws were often ignored and priests frequently married anyway. It's also possible it was given to people who were simply suspected of being the son of a priest.

Photo Courtesy of
Kimberley G Photography
Taggart is not often seen as a given name in the U.S. It first charted there in 1964 and in 2013 was ranked #3152, the highest it has ever climbed. This still make sit quite rare, and you don't have to go too in depth to get a couple of notions as to why that may be.

Firstly, there's the suggestion that it sounds like discount store Target. Or that there are at least two rhyming options that would lead to inevitable schoolyard teasing. I've also seen it derided as sounding like a name that Sarah Palin would use, closely followed by the observation that it actually is the name of Mitt Romney's son (he goes by the preppy nickname Tag). Then there's the TV show that was my first association with Taggart. 'Taggart' is a serious Scottish detective drama featuring main character Detective Taggart. Unfortunately he's not quite the young, brooding, handsome sleuth we often see on TV these days. The show was very popular though and ran for 28(!) years, ending just a few years ago.

Despite these, I think Taggart could be quite the surprising hit. I could easily see him as a brother to Rafferty, Killian, Kendrick or Llewellyn. Then I saw this last little tidbit that I adore. Apparently the Taggart motto is "Ratione non vi", which means "By reason, not by force". I can just picture it printed above a young Taggarts crib in his nursery. And what a beautiful sentiment it is to raise a child by.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Cheesy Baby Names

Like Penryn, another building that I pass everyday on the way to work is named Monterey. It's such a lovely sounding word, one that would probably work well as a persons name. And why not? Back in the 80's, I was a big fan of a cartoon called 'Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers'. The show featured the existing chipmunk characters of Chip and Dale, plus their new friends Gadget Hackwrench, a young female mouse and the team's pilot, mechanic and inventor, and little housefly and sidekick, Zipper. But my favourite was the burly adventuring Australian mouse named Monterey Jack – Monty to his friends, and Cheeser to his mum.

So I find it easy to see Monterey as a name. Cheeser or Cheese not so much. And apparently most people have similar feelings. Headlines were made late 2013 when BabyCenter released results of a survey of half a million American parents that revealed that three of those parents named their child Cheese in 2013. Three is not enough children to show up on the official SSA lists, so we can't really verify if that is true or not. We can only hope that those three responded incorrectly as a joke.

Although Cheese as a given name leaves a child open to ridicule, there are plenty of other ways to subtly honour your love of (or obsessive cravings for) cheese with your choice of name for your child. And it's been a while since I did a “just-for-the-fun-of-it” list, so here goes!


Thanks to Cheese.Com and Wikipedia for the great ideas

What do you think – would you consider using any of these? Or is the idea just too “cheesy” for you?