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.