Posts Tagged ‘Sabrina’

Matilda in Australia and her husband have a little boy with the beautiful name of Peregrine.

Their great passion is travel; they love the outdoors and also enjoy reading. Matilda found out she was expecting Peregrine when travelling, and when her husband encountered the name, they thought it was perfect for their child, as they like unusual, but long-established names with a history.

Peregrine, with its meaning  “traveler,” fitted the bill perfectly.

They are now expecting twins and would like help in finding a name which has a similar sort of background to Peregrine, or sounds harmonious with it.

I’m very flattered to be asked my opinion, and these are my thoughts.

There’s certainly a lot of names of Latin origin, like Peregrine, which would complement Peregrine beautifully, and if the search is widened to include Latin’s close partner Greek, then there are even more beauties to tempt the discerning parent to be:


  • Aeneas (ǝ-NAY-ǝs/ǝ-NEE-ǝs) — Greek: ainê “praise.” The son of the Goddess Venus by a mortal, Aeneas according to Greek and Roman myth was one of the few Trojans to survive the Trojan war. The Romans believed he and his followers sailed from the smoking ruins to found a new home in Latium and was the direct ancestor of Julius Caesar and the Emperor Augustus. Virgil’s masterpiece The Aeneid chronicled that epic journey. In use since the 16th C, mostly in Scotland as an “English form” of Angus.
  • Felix — Latin: felix “auspicious” and “happy.” It was very common in the Roman world, and has also been used in the ESW since the 16th C. Seems to be rising in popularity at the moment, but at 122nd in the UK, and 331st in the US, I think it still falls in the not-common quality.
  • Hector — Greek: hektôr “holding fast.” The name of the champion of the Trojans. Although he was eventually killed by the Greek hero Achilles, he was held in high repute in the ancient world, considered an honorable, loyal, brave and noble man. Used since the 16th C, especially in Scotland, where it was used instead of the Gaelic Eachann (“brown horse”).
  • Octavian — English form of the Latin Octavianus meaning “belonging to the Octavius family (gens) “; the Octavii derived their name from octavus “eighth” from octo “eight” — a very auspicious number, associated with infinity. The two circles represent the joining of Heaven and Earth (or this world and the Otherworld, depending on your perspective). This was the Emperor Augustus’s name from the time of Julius Caesar’s death (and Octavian’s adoption as his heir in Caesar’s will) and the time he took the name Augustus on becoming emperor. Used from the 16th C, but always rare.
  • Philemon (FIL-ǝ-mǝn) — Greek: philêma “kiss.” Philemon and his wife Baucis entertained Zeus and Hermes as they traveled in mortal guise. As a reward they were blessed with long life and the gift that neither would outlive the other; at the moment of their death they were transformed into an oak and linden respectively. Philemon was used as a genuine given name in Ancient Greece, and has been found in the ESW since the 16th C. Although it begins with a “p,” like Peregrine, the initial sound is different, so I don’t think it’s a problen.
  • Ptolemy (TOL-ǝ-mee) — English form of the (Macedonian) Ancient Greek Ptolemaios. Ptolemy’s 2nd C Geographica is one of the most important sources of information on the geography of the Roman Empire to survive from the ancient world. It was only one of his works — he was a true polymath. Ptolemy was a very common name in the Greek world; it occurs in mythology and in history; another significant Ptolemy was the Macedonian general Ptolemaios Soter, founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt (to which Cleopatra belonged), and most of Egypt’s last pharaohs were also called Ptolemy. The only drawback of Ptolemy, in my view, is its origin; it derives from the Greek ptolemos, a variant of polemos “war,” and ptolemaios carries the meaning “belonging to war,” “hostile” and “enemy.” But this doesn’t have to be interpreted negatively — there are many things which are worthy to be hostile or an enemy of, including war itself, but also injustice, prejudice, intolerance, hatred, greed, etc., etc. And although it also formally begins with a “p,” that “p” is silent.
  • Rufus — Latin rufus “red.” Not just for red-heads :). The name can also be chosen for its positive associations with red. Like Felix, is definitely on the up at the moment, but still has a long way to go before it is in danger of falling out of the unusual category. Occurs as a nickname as early as the 11th C (a famous example being King William II — known as William Rufus), and as a genuine name from about the 16th.
  • Silvanus — Silas is very much coming into vogue at the moment, but I prefer Silvanus, the name from which it almost certainly derived. Silvanus is the Roman God of woods and wild places. Also used from the 16th C or so.
  • Theophilus — meaning “friend of (a) God/Divine Being,” Theophilus makes an interesting alternative to Theodore and, of course, shares the lovely short-form Theo. Used since the 16th C.


  • Althea — the Greek name for the marsh mallow, from althos “healing.” A name from Greek mythology, used by 17th C poets (most famously by Richard Lovelace in “To Althea, from Prison” (1642), containing the famous lines: “Stone walls do not a prison make/Nor iron bars a cage.” A more unusual “long-form” of Thea.
  • Amabel — from the Latin amabilis “loveable.” Amabel has been used since medieval times, though it was quickly eclipsed by its simpler form Mabel. Amabel never quite died out and saw a slight revival in the 19th C, but remains a rarity.
  • Beatrix — Latin: beatrix “she who causes happiness.” Much talked about in name circles, Beatrix is still rare (Beatrice is the more popular spelling, but still uncommon, ranked 834th in the US and 116th in the UK last year).
  • Felicity — Latin: felicitas “happiness.” Felicitas is the Roman Goddess of happiness and good fortune. It’s a name full of cheerfulness and positivity. In use since the 16th C, it has only made it over the parapet in America in the last decade (due to a TV series of the name, which ran 1998-2002), though it has enjoyed a fair amount of popularity in Britain (and Australia too, I think) in the mid 20th C, but is currently still only in quiet usage, ranked 195th in Britain last year.
  • Flora — from the Latin flos “flower”; the name of the Roman Goddess of flowers. Another name used since the 16th C, particularly in Scotland, this time in place of the Gaelic Fionnuala. One of the best-known bearers was Flora Macdonald (1722-90), who famously helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after his defeat in 1745, helping him “sail over the sea to Skye.” The related Florence is one of those names everyone seems to be watching at the moment, but Flora, although increasing, is still under the radar.
  • Hermione — I’ve featured Hermione a couple of times here at the Nook (here and here) and that’s because I think it’s such a beautiful and special name. Despite being catapulted to fame by Harry Potter, it’s not seeing very much use (yet). As essentially the feminine form of Hermes, one of whose spheres of influence was as the proctector of travelers, Hermione would make a nice choice for those for whom travel is important. It has been used as a genuine given name since the 17th C.
  • Ianthe (eye-AN-thee) — Greek: ia “violets” + anthos “flower.” The name of an Oceanid in Greek mythology. A favorite of the poets since the 17th C; Percy Bysshe Shelley called his daughter, born in 1813, Ianthe. Related are the equally attractive Ione (eye-OH-nee) and Iole (eye-OH-lee), both meaning “violet” and the 19th C hybrid of Iole and Ianthe — Iolanthe (eye-oh-LAN-thee).
  • Miranda — from the Latin mirandus “worthy of admiration.” I rather like Miri/Mirie as a pet-form.Used by Shakespeare for the heroine of The Tempest, the lovely noblewoman exiled since childhood with her slightly mad, wizard father on a magical island, which Caliban describes with exquisite beauty in one of my favorite Shakespearean passages:

… the isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears; and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.

  • Oenone (EE-nō-nee/ee-NŌ-nee) — from the Greek oinos “wine.” The name of a mountain-nymph, the first wife of Paris of Troy.
  • Zenobia — although interpreted as “life of Zeus” in Greek, the name is probably from the Palmyrean form of Arabic Zaynab, the name of a fragrant flowering plant, as the original Zenobia was a 3rd C Queen of Palmyra who defied the Romans. Although she was ultimately defeated, she was said to have lived out her days in Rome as a respected philosopher and socialite. Used since the 16th C, but always a rarity. The American actress Tina Fey called her daughter Alice Zenobia in 2005, but it doesn’t seem to have impacted very much on the name’s use.

Non-classical names which I think also work well with Peregrine are:


  • Diggory — A name of a knight in Arthurian Romance. The meaning is very uncertain; the traditional interpretation has it from Medieval French de “of” + egaré “lost,” but this is unlikely. Diggory is probably a much mangled French form of a name which was probably Celtic in origin. There is a legendary king of Dumnonia (Devon and Cornwall) called Dungarth (meaning “deep love”), who might conceivably lie behind the character. Diggory has been used since the 15th C, especially in Devon and Cornwall, and was used by C.S. Lewis in The Magician’s Nephew, for the hero, whose fantastical journey led to the creation of Narnia and the Wardrobe.
  • Faramond — Old German: fara ‘journey’ + munda ‘protection’.
  • Guy — Old German: witu “wood” or wit “wide” (encompassing the sense of “widely travelled” as well as referring to experience, knowledge, etc).
  • Jago (JAY-go) — the Cornish form of Jacob.
  • Jasper — Jasper is the English form of Caspar, one of the names attached to the fabled three “wise men” in medieval times. Its etymology is not known for certain, but most favor a derivation from the Persian khazāndār “treasurer.” Jasper has been used since the 14th C, and Caspar (the Dutch form) since the 19th. The vampire of the name in the Twilight series has put it in the spotlight, and it is increasing in use, but hasn’t yet reached the top 150 yet.
  • Ludovick — from the Latin form of LouisLudovicus — in orgin an Old German name meaning “loud battle” or “renowned warrior.” As with Ptolemy, the martial element may not immediately appeal, but there are many battles of a non-violent kind to be fought metaphorically in life. Shortens to the fabulous Ludo.
  • Matthias (mǝth-EYE-ǝs) — the Greek form of Matthew “gift of Yahweh.” Depending on your religious persuasion, you may or may not be able to see past the meaning, but it certainly sounds magnificent. A related name which presents the same dilemma is Ozias (ō-ZEYE-ǝs) “strength of Yahweh.”
  • Orlando — an Italian form of Roland dating from the Renaissance, when it featured in two of the most important works of literature of the period, Boiardo’s Orlando Innamorato, and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso. It also had an outing in Shakespeare, and has been used in the English-speaking world since the 17th C. It was actually at its most popular in America in the 1970s (reaching the dizzing heights of 247th place in 1975), and although Orlando Bloom has raised its profile, he doesn’t seem to have affected its use all that much. It remains uncommon.
  • Rafferty — The wild-card. Rafferty is an Irish surname, but can be considered the Anglicised form of the Gaelic names behind that surname, both bynames, one meaning “wielder of prosperity” — highly auspicious — the other “spring-tide” — full of the promise of new journeys to be taken. Its use as a given name without connection to a Rafferty is quite recent, but its roots are old.
  • Torquil


  • Christabel — a literary creation of medieval times, a combination of Christ with the –bel ending of names such as Isabel. It returned to modest use in the 19th C thanks to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Christabel” (1816); his own granddaughter was named Christabel in 1843. The suffragette Christabel Pankhurst (1880-1958) is the most famous bearer.
  • Clemency — one of the Puritan names which was first used in the 17th C. With its attractive meaning, it remains a lovely choice.
  • Emmeline — a Norman-French name, starting out as a diminutive of the Germanic Amalia, from amal “work.” Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1928) was the leader of the Suffragettes.
  • Estrella — a Spanish name used in the English-speaking world since the early 19th C. Its roots lie with the Germanic Austrechildis “Easter battle,” but it has long been associated with the Spanish estrella  “star.” Alfonso and Estrella (1822) is an opera by Schubert.
  • Imogen — the heroine of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, one of the few tragedies with a happy ending. Imogen is a princess who undertakes a physical and emotional journey to be reunited with the man she loves. It is generally accepted that the name arose as a misreading of the Celtic Innogen, meaning “daughter.”
  • Jessamy
  • Rosamund
  • Sabrina — don’t let the teenage witch put you off this gem!
  • Topaz — the wildcard in the girls. The name of the precious stone. It derives ultimately from the Sanskrit tapas “heat” and “fire.” It is one of the gem names adopted at the end of the 19th C. Borne by the wonderful character of Topaz Mortmain in Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle (1949).

So what does everyone think? What would you choose?

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When I began Nook of Names, my notion of spam was limited to those irritating emails that choke up your inbox trying to sell you various funny pills from Canada.

But aware that spammers like to comment on articles and blogs — usually advertising dating agencies — I ensured I had Akismet up, along with comment moderation, and off I went in blissful ignorance.

All was well for a while, then, all of a sudden, with little warning, the spam started pouring in!

It quickly became apparent that flattery is the favorite tool of these spammers. Presumably they like to deceive the unwitting, getting a foot in the door by massaging your ego — and then slapping up the links to the dating sites and dodgy pharmaceuticals.

Fortunately, they’re clearly all so busy working their way around forums and blogs that they don’t actually stop to read what they’re commenting on. And so, while at first, I debated long and hard over whether a comment might be genuine when attached to an article I’d spent a lot of time and effort writing, alarm bells rang loudly indeed when as yet empty pages in the index were getting Olympian praise!

Still, as I always say, name inspiration lies everywhere, and, being a name geek, I couldn’t help pause to reflect on my spammers’ names (chosen names, anyway, as I’d be surprised if any real names ever get used in Spamland). So, in tribute to all the spammers out there, spending their free hours thoroughly cheesing off bloggers and readers of every kind, here’s a look at the stand-out spam.licio.us names I’ve had so far:

  • Azia — very Arabian nights. A respelling of Asia. In Portuguese azia means ‘heart-burn’ — quite appropriate for a spammer.
  • Bubbie — Bubbie? Or Boobie?
  • Chamomile — pretty, and quite pertinent choice for a spammy comment at Nook of Names. 9 out of 10 for trying. Still overall ‘fail’ though.
  • Chynnavariant spelling of China. The  ‘yn’ names are popular among the spamalots. Others I’ve had include Geralynn and Geralyn, Jayne, Jolyn, Kalyn and Suzyn.
  • Darrence — born from a demonic coupling of Darren and Clarence; guaranteed to start a migraine… here come those flashing lights!
  • Dayanara — Quirky Latin American respelling of the Greek Deïaneira meaning ‘destroying men’. Name of a Puerto Rican actress.
  • Dreama — shouldn’t you be doing your homework, not spamming a blog about names?
  • Essence — great name, up their with Chamomile. Still spam.
  • Gwenelda — kewl! Has actually since very limited genuine use in real life since the 19th Century. Essentially, an elaboration of Gwen with the -elda of Griselda, etc. Very witchy! 🙂 for effort.
  • Honney –- can’t make up my mind whether this is a deliberate respelling of Honey or not. Normally, I give people the benefit of the doubt,  but since dreadful spelling seems to be one of a spammer’s most essential life skills, I fear the double ‘n’ in this instance is purely accidental.
  • Namari — straight from Japanese manga. Namari does, however, remind me of the beautiful elven Namárië — ‘farewell’ in Quenya (one of Tolkien’s invented languages). But I suspect that Namari Spam plucked his/her name from the manga.
  • Stone — ooo, what’s this? Might this spammer have delved deeply enough into the Nook to think a nature name might convince me he/she was genuine? Doubt it.
  • Tessica — inventive cross between Tess/Tessa and Jessica, elaboration of Tess or Tessa + the suffix -ica, or variant of Jessica, under the influence of Tess/Tessa. Quite liked this one. There are a handful of genuine Tessica’s out there; the first appearing in the early 30s.
  • Tyanne — Knot? No doubt conceived as a variant of Tiana.
  • Valinda — great vampire name, Valinda — which rather suits a spammer, since spammers are a kind of an online equivalent of vampires. Valinda’s actually been around since the 19th Century, and is an elaboration of the Val- of Valentine, etc with the popular literary suffix -inda. I suspect it may feature in some piece of Victorian fiction, but nothing obvious leaps out.
  • Zavrina — exotic! Zavrina is the feminine form of Zavrin, a Slavic surname. Some baby-name sites like to call it a form of Sabrina — but fail to indicate in which Earth language.
  • Zubris — it’s life, Jim, but not as we know it. Beam me up, Scotty! Now! Please!

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This 6th Century BCE dinos (wine-mixing bowl) by Sophilos shows a procession of Greek Gods attending the wedding of Peleus and Thetis

There seems to be a bit of a controversy in Pagan circles about the use of the names of Gods and Goddesses, either for children, or as a new name for oneself.

There are those who argue that it is inappropriate. Even hubristic.

But as with most aspects of Paganism, much of the answer to this question comes down to your own personal beliefs, and how you view the Divine.

And this, of course, will play a big part in whether you think it is acceptable or not to use a God or Goddess’s name.

If you are a polytheist — if you consider the Gods to be distinct, individual entities, completely separate from mortal life — perhaps you might agree that using their names is inappropriate.

In which case, you should, of course, avoid, or choose names which contain a deity’s name, or carry the meaning ‘belonging to such-and-such’, rather than the deity’s name itself.

But if you are a pantheist — if you believe that the Divine is in all things, making us all essentially ‘divine beings’ — then choosing the name of a God or Goddess might be seen as not just acceptable, but suitable and respectful.

Using the actual names of Gods and Goddesses is not a new phenomenon.

Several names from ancient Paganism have long become established as given names in the English-speaking world. These include  Aurora, Branwen, Bridget, Diana, Felicity, Flora, Freya, Irene, Iris, Lilith, Luna, Maia, Phoebe, Rhiannon, Sophia and Victoria.

The names of male divinities used for boys is less common, but there are still some, which have seen varying amounts of use, such as Adonis, Augustus, Dylan, Hercules, Julius, Odin — and Jesus. This last may be principally found in the Spanish community, pronounced ‘he-SOOS’  and used in reference to a Catholic festival, but nevertheless, it’s still the name of a figure considered divine by many, and currently ranking 92nd in the US.

In some religions, such as Hinduism, it has long been considered not just acceptable to use the name of a God or Goddess, but desirable, because it is believed that the child will grow to be like the deity, as well as be protected by them.

And incorporating the name of a divinity within a given name is a tradition as old as writing — take a look at my articles on Sumerian names Part 1 and Part 2 to see some of the earliest.

There’s also the power of the positive. Call it ‘good’, ‘light’, ‘love’, ‘karma’ whatever. It seems common sense to choose names with as much positivity as you can.

And, let’s face it, you can’t get much more positive than the names of the Divine itself!

There are literally tens of thousands of named Gods and Goddesses across the world, and my only caveat when choosing a God or Goddess’ name would be to select one that you not only like the sound of, but also feel an affinity with.

Here is just a small selection from some of the world’s principal mythologies:

Greek: Aphaia, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athene, Atlas, Bia, Chaos, Coeus, Cratus, Cronos, Demeter, Dionysus, Eos, Epimetheus, Erebus, Gaia, Geras, Hades, Harmonia, Hebe, Hecate, Helius, Hephaestus, Hera, Hermes, Hestia, Hyperion, Iapetus, Iris, Leto, Mnemosyne, Morpheus, Nice, Nyx, Oceanus, Pan, Persephone, Phoebe, Phoebus, Poseidon, Prometheus, Proteus, Rhea, Selene, Tethys, Themis, Tyche, Zephyrus, Zeus

Roman: Abundantia, Aesculapius, Anna Perenna, Apollo, Aurora, Bacchus, Bellona, Bona Dea, Caelus, Carmenta, Ceres, Cloacina, Consus, Cupid, Deverra, Diana, Egeria, Fauna, Felicitas, Flora, Fortuna, Fulgora, Hilaritas, Hora, Janus, Juno, Jupiter, Justitia, Larentina, Liber, Libera, Libertas, Lucina, Luna, Lupercus, Mars, Mater Matuta, Mercury, Minerva, Neptune, Ops, Pax, Pietas, Pluto, Pomona, Priapus, Proserpina, Quirinus, Robigus, Saturn, Silvanus, Sol, Tellus, Terminus, Trivia, Vacuna, Venus, Vertumnus, Vesta, Virbius, Volumna, Voluptas, Vulcan

Egyptian: Aken, Aker, Ammit, Amun, Amunet, Anhur, Anubis, Anuket, Apis, Ash, Aten, Bast, Geb, Ha, Hapi, Hathor, Hedetet, Heka, Heqet, Horus, Huh, Iabet, Iah, Imentet, Isis, Kebechet, Khepri, Khnum, Khonsu, Ma’at, Mafdet, Mehen, Menhit, Meret, Min, Mnevis, Monthu, Neith, Nekhbet, Neper, Nephthys, Nut, Osiris, Pakhet, Ptah, Qebui, Rem, Renenutet, Satet, Seker, Sekhmet, Serket, Seth, Tatenen, Taweret, Tefnut, Tenenet, Thoth, Wadjet, Wosret

Hindu: Aditi, Agni, Arjuna, Aruna, Asura, Bhadra, Bharani, Bhavani, Bhudevi, Brahma, Chamundi, Chandra, Daksha, Danu, Dhumavati, Durga, Ganesha, Garuda, Gayatri, Hanuman, Hari, Indra, Kali, Krishna, Lakshman, Lakshmi, Lalitha, Mahavidya, Matangi, Mitra, Mohini, Nandi, Narada, Narayana, Nataraja, Navadurga, Padmavati, Parasiva, Parvati, Prajapati, Rama, Rati, Rudra, Rukmini, Saraswati, Sati, Shakti, Shatarupa, Shiva, Shree, Sita, Soma, Surya, Tara, Uma, Ushas, Varuna, Vasu, Vayu, Vishnu

Celtic: Abellio, Adsullata, Agrona, Alaunus, Alisanos, Andarta, Andraste, Arausio, Arduinna, Artio, Belatucadros, Belenus, Belisama, Bormana, Bormo, Brigantia, Camulos, Cernunnos, Cissionius, Cocidius, Coventina, Damara, Damona, Epona, Esus, Fagus, Grannus, Icovellauna, Lenus, Leucetios, Lugus, Maponus, Moritasgus, Nantosuelta, Nemausus, Nemetona, Nodens, Ogmios, Robor, Rosmerta, Sabrina, Sirona, Smertrios, Sucellos, Sulis, Tamesis, Taranis, Toutatis, Verbeia, Veteris, Vindonnus.

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Yesterday, I drove from North Wales to Telford. Most of the journey was along the A5, which, despite being a major trunk-road, still has stretches untouched for centuries – even millennia. Ancient hedgerows line the road, and the verges are rich with wild flowers – sunny buttercups and scarlet poppies, mauve thistles, stately hogsweed and swathes of ox-eye daisies. Beyond, the crops of wheat, oats and barley ripen, and cows and sheep graze in seas of midsummer green. Ruined castles and Iron Age forts brood on the hills; still keeping watch over the road and all who pass beneath them. And twice the road crosses the Severn, a river which has played its part many times in British history, and is steeped in myth and legend – as well as being the source of the name Sabrina.

Sabrina was the Roman name for the Severn, and English Severn evolved from it. Although most people today take it as read that Sabrina was a Goddess, there is actually no definitive evidence. However, we know that other rivers were considered Goddesses, and so it is highly likely Sabrina was regarded as a Goddess too. The fact that the important temple complex to the God Nodens — a God of the sea, hunting  and healing — happens to be situated close to where the great river becomes the sea is further evidence that the river had religious significance to the Pagan Celts.

The Severn’s Welsh name is Hafren – a strong clue to its probable origin. In Modern Welsh, haf means ‘summer’. It derives from the Proto-Celtic *samo- ‘summer’, which is also the ancestor of Irish Samhain. The second element is most likely from the Proto-Celtic *renwo- ‘quick’ and ‘fast’ – i.e. ‘fast summer river’. The Severn still belts along at a fair old pace in summer today, especially after heavy rain, so it is a very apt name.

In his largely mythological History of Britain, the 12th Century Welsh historian Geoffrey of Monmouth recorded the medieval legend of how the river got its name. He said that it was named after a princess called Habren, the daughter of King Locrinus and his second wife Estrildis, a Saxon. Unfortunately, Locrinus’ first wife was still alive, and after he was killed in battle, she killed Habren and Estrildis and threw their bodies thrown into the river. The murderous former queen, in a token gesture to acknowledge Habren’s innocence in the whole messy business, named the river after her.

It was the English poet Edmund Spenser who revived the form Sabrina in his late 16th Century epic poem The Faerie Queene. John Milton then used the name in his masque Comus (1634), in which Sabrina featured as the name as a mermaid. It contains the famous lines:

Sabrina fair

Listen where thou art living

Under the glassie, cool, translucent wave

In twisted braids of lillies knitting

The loose train of thy amber-dropping hair,

Listen for dear honour’s sake,

Goddess of the silver lake,

Listen and save.

It was these lines that inspired Samuel Taylor’s play Sabrina Fair (1953), which became the classic film Sabrina the following year. Although Sabrina was first used as a genuine given name in the 17th Century, it is no surprise that it was not until 1954 — when Sabrina suddenly became associated with Audrey Hepburn — that it first appeared in the US Social Security Administration list of 1000 most popular names, jumping into the ranks in 795th place. The following year, it leapt to 245th.

Today, Sabrina is mostly associated with the TV sitcom Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It started out as an Archie Comics comic strip in 1962, which inspired the show, which ran 1996-2003. Both the comic strip and the TV show influenced Sabrina’s use, positively and negatively; it peaked in 1997 in 53rd place, and it has been used a little less each year ever since.

It’s rather sad that Sabrina has not been able to shake this last association, unlike its witchy twin Samantha. Why Samantha has managed to cut loose its TV ties and Sabrina – which has far weightier credentials (if such things rock your boat) – has not, is puzzling. Perhaps it’s because Samantha didn’t feature in the title of the show which rocketed it to fame, forever saddled with a distinct and not entirely complimentary epithet like teenage. Perhaps it’s just a matter of time, and people will forget eventually. But if you can shrug off the tiresome teenage-witch jibes (a mention of Spenser and Milton should do the trick — ideally accompanied by a withering stare) – Sabrina is well worth serious consideration. It has a number of very wearable pet-forms too, such as Sabby, Brina, Brinny and Brin. Or if Sabrina’s baggage is a bit too heavy, why not consider the Welsh Hafren – or even the English Severn? Which brings us nicely back to where we started.

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A number of boys were called George Washington in 1776 after the great American hero of Independence.

It’s Independence Day today on the other side of the Pond, and to celebrate, I thought I’d explore the names given to babies the year that the Declaration of Independence was signed. Using the records available online at FamilySearch (a great genealogical resource provided by the Church of Latter Day Saints), I waded through over 1000 records to take a snapshot of what newly independent Americans were naming their offspring in 1776. Unsurprisingly, the commonest names were John, Joseph, William and James for boys, and Elizabeth, Mary, Sarah, Hannah and Ann(e) for girls — but what was surprising was that  these names didn’t dominate quite as much as expected. It turns out, there was a lot of variety in naming practices in America in 1776.

There were some absolute gems — names which might have just stepped out of the pages of Charles Dickens — or even Harry Potter. Abigail Root, Alpheus Dodge, Amaziah Rice, Betsey Boon, Eliphalet Whittlesey, Gamaliel Pardee, Hephzibah Crouch, Howel Stocking, Ichabod Tuttle, Olive Doolittle, Permilia Pettingale, Polly Griswold, Sabrina Craft, Tryphena Blodgett and Zadock Steel would all have been perfectly at home on a shopping trip up Diagon Alley…

Most of the names fell into distinct categories (I have standardized spellings):

  • Classic ‘English’ names — names which had gone over with the first settlers, having been in use for centuries back in Blighty before that: Agnes, Alice, Allen, Amy, Arnold, Barbara, Catherine, Charles, Christopher, Dorothy, Edmund, Edward, Frances, Francis, George, Gilbert, Giles, Henry, Justin, Lawrence, Leonard, Lucy, Mabel, Margaret, Margery, Martin, Miles, Millisent, Nicholas, Olive, Oliver, Parnel, Ralph, Richard, Robert, Roderick, Roger, Rosie, Stephen, Sybil,  Ursula, Walter.
  • Pet-names — Alison, Betsey/Betsy, Betty, Cate, Dilly, Dolly, Fanny, Katy, Lina, Molly, Nancy, Patty, Polly, Sally. Some people think that using short or pet-forms of names as given names in their own right is a new phenomenon – but it’s not, as this list shows; Alison was first used independently of Alice in the Middle Ages.
  • Biblical names — probably the largest category. As well as the familiar Bible names, the late 18th Century Americans were just as cheerfully trawling through the dustiest corners of the Old Testament to find obscure names for their children as they do today. All of these featured, a great many of them more than once. Aaron, Abel, Abiah/Abijah, Abiel, Abigail, Abner, Abraham, Abram, Achsah, Adonijah, Amasa, Amaziah, Amos, Andrew, Ard, Ariel, Asa, Asahel/Asael, Asaph, Asenath, Azariah, Azubah, Barnabas, Bathsheba, Benajah, Benjamin, Benoni, Beriah, Bernice, Beulah, Bithiah/Bethiah, Caleb, Cyrenius, Cyrus, Dan, Daniel, David, Deborah, Dorcas, Ebenezer, Eleazar, Eli, Eliab, Eliakim, Elias/Elijah, Eliasaph, Eliel, Elihu, Eliphalet, Elisha, Elizur, Elkanah, Enos, Epaphras, Ephraim, Erastus, Esther, Eunice, Ezra, Festus, Gad, Gamaliel, Gershom, Gideon, Hephzibah, Hezekiah, Hiel, Hiram, Huldah, Ichabod, Isaac, Isaiah, Israel, Ithiel, Jabez, Jacob, Jared, Jason, Jedediah, Jehiel, Jemima, Jephthah, Jerah, Jeremiah, Jeremy, Jerusha, Jesse, Joanna, Job, Joel, Jonathan, Josiah, Judith, Julius, Justus, Keturah,Kezia, Lemuel, Levi, Lois, Lot, Lucius, Lydia, Mahalah, Malachi, Marah, Marcus, Martha, Mehetabel, Merab, Micah, Michael, Miriam, Moses, Naomi, Nathan, Nathaniel, Nehemiah, Noadiah, Noah, Obadiah, Oren, Orpha, Ozias, Pelatiah, Persis, Philetus, Phineas/Phinehas, Phoebe, Rachel, Rebecca, Reuben, Reumah, Reuel, Rhoda, Ruah, Rufus, Ruhamah, Ruth, Salah, Samuel, Sapphira, Selah, Seth, Shadrack, Shubael, Silas, Simeon, Simon, Solomon, Susannah, Tabitha, Talitha-cumi, Tamar, Thaddeus, Thomas, Timothy, Tryphena, Vaniah, Zachariah, Zadok, Zebulon, Zelotes, Zenas, Zeruiah. Phew!
  • Puritan names — Charity, Deliverance, Desire, Freegrace, Freelove, Friend, Grace, Mercy, Patience, Prudence, Relief, Submit, Temperance, Thankful. Vine.
  • Names from the Classical World — Aeneas, Alethea, Alpheus, Augustus, Aurelia, Chloe, Cynthia, Darius, Doris, Drusilla, Flora, Irene, Juliana, Lavinia, Lucretia, Minerva, Parthenia, Penelope, Philo, Philomela, Phyllis, Polyxena, Roxana, Selina, Silvia, Sophia, Statira, Thalia, Urania, Zeno. A number of the names in the biblical list are also of Greek or Roman origin, but in most cases, their use in 18th Century was due to their appearance in the Bible – which is why they’re on that list, not this.
  • Names from literature — Clarinda, Clarissa, Fidelia, Horatio, Lorinda, Lucinda, Matilda, Miranda, Orinda, Sabrina, Violetta.
  • 18th Century fashionistas  — Ada, Amelia, Anna, Charlotte, Frederick, Harriet, Matilda, Theodosia.  Most of these were actually in existence before the 18th C, but it was in this century when they came into their element.
    Surnames – Alvan, Arbus, Avery, Bemsley, Bradford, Briggs, Buckley, Calvin, Chauncey, Chester, Church, Clark, Clarry, Denison, Dudley, Elvin, Grant, Gordon, Halsey, Hazard, Howard, Howel, Hubbard, Johnson, Leaman, Lewis, Lothrop, Montgomery, Moore, Palmer, Payson, Percy, Prentice, Roswell, Royal, Rue, Russell, Salmon, Selden, Sheldon, Sterling, Wait, Ward, Warren, Warriner, Wells, Willis, Wilson, Woodruff. A pet bugbear of many people today is the use of surnames as first names – but it is an old practice, as these names demonstrate.
  • Children of the Revolution — George Washington, Freedom, Independence, Liberty, Joy — and Lament? Lament may belong in the Puritan category, but Little Lament Hall was born on July 12, and I can’t help wondering whether his parents had not been quite so pleased about the Declaration! Perhaps Rue belongs here too!
  • Unique names — these gems and marvels may be scribal errors rather than genuine names, as I have not been able to verify them.  Ammarilla, Ammedilla, Ason, Azara, Bani, Barna, Beraliel, Clarine, Cylinda, Darkis, Dency, Elafan, Elazander, Etrania, Farazina, Finance, Heman/Himan, Hubbil, Ketchell, Lodamia, Lorain, Lowly/Lowley, Luanna, Lurannah, Lurany, Milete, Orange, Orra, Permilia, Philena, Prua, Rena, Sabin, Sabra, Salem, Saniel, Sule, Susa, Vienna, Welthy, Willeborough, Willibee, Zebriah.

And what about children actually born on the 4th July 1776? Not that many actually. Bethiah Gray, Charles Loomis, Gideon Cruttenden, Ruah Weed,  Selah Scovill – and (how could there not be?) Independence Booth!

Happy Independence Day!

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