Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Alternatives to Lily or Lillian

a purple lily : Flower Macro - IMG_0360
Photo by Bahman Farzad via Flickr

Lily has been a Top 20 name for the past three years and Lillian is not too far behind. Both names are soft and elegant, and will probably remain at the top for a while. When saying them, I am drawn to the sound, most especially the l, followed by a vowel, followed by another l. Maybe you are captivated by this sound as well, but don't want to use the popular names themselves. Consider these alternatives and their current U.S. rank...

Delilah #172 - a Biblical name that is currently more popular that it ever has been, but still feels fresh.
Galilea #997 - the feminine form of Galileo, meaning "from Galilee"; also the Spanish name for Galilee.
Layla #33 - has a variety of spellings (including Leyla and Leila).
Leilani #244 - means "heavenly flowers" in Hawaiian.
Leela (not ranked) - an Indian name and version of Lyla or Layla.
Lila #163 or Lyla #127 - entered the Top 1000 in 1998 and 2005, respectively, and rising fast.
Lilac (not ranked) - a rarely used flower name.
Lilia #859 - the Russian version of Lily.
Lilibet (not ranked) - a diminutive of Elizabeth, but strong on its own.
Liliana #115 - the Latin version of Lillian.
Lilith #923 - means "belonging to the night" and just entered the Top 1000 in 2010.
Lola #243 - a diminutive of Dolores.
Lolita (not ranked) - a diminutive of Lola.
Lulu (not ranked) - a diminutive of names the begin with Lou.
Soleil (not ranked) - means "sun" in French and is pronounced so-lay or so-leil.
Tallulah (not ranked) - of Native American origin.

Do you have a favorite, or would you rather stick with Lily or Lillian?

Thanks to Behind the Name for the above information.


Monday, February 25, 2013

Diverted by a Name: Fátima

Actress Fátima Ptacek via

So, what name jumped out at me during the Oscars? This year was particularly great with names like Joaquin, Denzel, Ang, Emmanuelle, and Quvenzhane in the mix. But the name that diverted me was said quickly in an acceptance speech for Best Live Action Short Film. That name was Fátima.

The actress Fátima Ptacek played Sophia in the short film Curfew, which won an Oscar last night. The writer/director/co-star in the film accepted the award and gave her work rave reviews. She also voices Dora in Dora the Explorer (so she speaks fluent Spanish). She was born in the United States, but I cannot find anything on how she got her name... her last name is Czech, but maybe her parents have Spanish roots? In any case, her parents saw the beauty in the name and chose it for their baby girl.

According to Behind the Name, Fatima or Fatimah is Arabic with the meaning "to abstain." It ranks in Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Catalonia, France, the Netherlands and Spain. It's also been ranked in the United States since 1973, and it ranked at #281 in 2011. The name Fátima is also a place name, with locations in Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Pakistan, Canada and Ireland. Our Lady of Fátima is a title for the Virgin Mary and has several references in Catholicism. Wikipedia lists many famous people with the name, but one that stuck out to me is a fictional one--Fatima Blush, a Bond girl from Never Say Never Again. I see the name given either with or without the accent over the first "a" and other variations of the name are Fatemah and Fatma.

What do you think of Fátima?


Friday, February 22, 2013

Diverted by a Name: Colm

Actor Colm Meaney via

Go ahead... call me a geek. :) The inspiration for this post came as I was watching a TV show called Stargate Atlantis, on which actor Colm Meaney had a small role. But I remember him from his role on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. His character name was Miles O'Brien, but his real name has had me diverted for years.

According to Behind the Name, Colm is Irish and a variant of Colum, which is an Irish form of the Roman name Columba. Columba is a saint's name and is said to be the saint that converted Scotland to Christianity. Its meaning is "dove." I've seen Colm pronounced "CULL-um", but I've also heard it pronounced like "culm." Other variations of the name include Coleman and Callum.

Colm is not very common in the United States. Here are the numbers of boys given the name Colm since 2000:

2000 - 22
2001 - 18
2002 - 16
2003 - 26
2004 - 20
2005 - 19
2006 - 19
2007 - 28
2008 - 11
2009 - 10
2010 - 15
2011 - 10

The 28 Colms born in 2007 were the most in any year recorded, and the name has been recorded pretty regularly since 1962. In Northern Ireland, it was tied at #245 in 2011 with 7 boys given the name. Callum was much more popular at #24 with 104 boys given the name. Colm is not a top 100 name in Ireland.

Besides Mr. Meaney, another famous bearer of the name is Colm Wilkinson, an Irish tenor who originated the role of Jean Valjean in Les Misérables and also performed as the title character in The Phantom of the Opera. There is also actor Colm Feore, who was in the seventh season of 24 and was King Laufey in Thor .

Colm could also be a great nickname for Malcolm, which means "disciple of Columba."

There are many Irish boy names that should cross the pond more than they have and I think Colm is definitely one of them. What do you think of Colm?


Wednesday, February 20, 2013


You know you've been there... playing Scrabble or Words with Friends and the only thing you see in your available letters is a proper name. Proper names cannot be used unless they also happen to be words, and by the way, did you know Jane was also a word? Yes, I've successfully played Jane. Wouldn't it be heaven to have a similar game that only allowed names!? Let's imagine...

As this exciting prospect ran across my brain, I realized that the biggest change from the original would be point values. In Scrabble-type games, the letters that are used less frequently in words receive higher point values. We would use that same logic in our game and some adjustments would be required to compensate for the differences between English words and names.

I conducted my own rudimentary analysis to calculate the number of each letter in given names. Using the list of names given in the United States in 2011, I did a search for each letter and wrote down the resulting number. Please note that this does take into account every spelling of every name recorded by the SSA for 2011.

Here are the results, from most used to least used. I have also shown the cutoffs for the point values I have assigned.

A - 36,876
E - 21,702
N - 20,104
I - 18,791
L - 14,554
R - 13,316
Y - 10,698_____1 point
S - 8,614
H - 7,995
O - 7,835
M - 7,007_____2 points
T - 6,214
D - 6,099
K - 5,428_____3 points
C - 3,952
J - 3,705
U - 3,163_____4 points
B - 2,788
V - 2,412
Z - 2,367
G - 1,938_____5 points
P - 991
F - 814
W - 794_____8 points
X - 576
Q - 319_____10 points

As you can tell, letter usage is quite different in names compared to English words. While the letter T is pretty common in words, it is fairly average when it comes to usage in names. Because of this difference, the point values I have assigned vary from the point values in Words with Friends, as you can see below (WwF values are in parentheses).

A - 1 (1)
B - 5 (4)
C - 4 (4)
D - 3 (2)
E - 1 (1)
F - 8 (4)
G - 5 (3)
H - 2 (3)
I - 1 (1)
J - 4 (10)
K - 3 (5)
L - 1 (2)
M - 2 (4)
N - 1 (2)
O - 2 (1)
P - 8 (4)
Q - 10 (10)
R - 1 (1)
S - 2 (1)
T - 3 (1)
U - 4 (2)
V - 5 (5)
W - 8 (4)
X - 10 (8)
Y - 1 (3)
Z - 5 (10)

The next steps in creating this game are determining how many tiles of each letter should be in the bag of letters and... a much more complicated task... how many/which spelling variations of each name should be allowed. ;)

What do you think? Is this a game you would play? Would you assign the point values differently?

How many points does your name score? KELLI scores a whopping 7.


Monday, February 18, 2013

My Favorite Polish Names - Boys

The Polish flag via Wikipedia

I have previously posted my top 20 Polish girl names. Now it's time for the boys! This list is heavier on the Slavic alphabet and sounds than the girls' list and may therefore be harder to pronounce in non-Slavic-language-speaking countries. But names from other languages are always filtering into English-speaking countries, so why not!?

Bogdan (BAWG-dahn) - No English equivalent; Bogdanek, Boguś
Florian (FLAWR-yahn) - Florian; None
Fryderyk (fri-DER-ik) - Frederick; Fredyk, Fredzio
Henryk (HEN-rik) - Henry; Henio
Jacek (YAH-tsek) - Hyacinth; Jacuś
Jerzy (YE-zhi) - George; Jerzyk, Jurek
Kacper (KAHTS-per) - Casper, Jasper; Kasparek, Kacperek, Kaspruś
Kazimierz (kah-ZEEM-yesh) - Casimir; Kazik
Lech (LEKH) - No English equivalent; None
Leszek (LE-shek) - Les; Lesio
Łukasz (WUW-kahsh) - Lucas; Łukaszek
Maksymilian (mahk-si-MEEL-yahn) - Maximilian; Maks, Maksymek
Marek (MAH-rek) - Marcus, Mark; Mareczek
Mirosław (mee-RAW-swahf) - No English equivalent; Mirek, Mireczek
Paweł (PAH-vew) - Paul; Pawlik
Ryszard (RI-shahrt) - Richard; Ryś, Rysiek, Rysio
Stanisław (stah-NEE-swahf) - Stanislas; Staszek, Stach, Stasio
Szymon (SHI-mawn) - Simon; Szymek
Tomasz (TAW-mahsh) - Thomas; Tomek, Tomko
Wisław (VEE-swahf) - No English equivalent; None

What are your favorites? Do you have another favorite Polish boy name that isn't listed here?

Thank you to Polish First Names and Behind the Name for the reference help.


Friday, February 15, 2013

My Favorite Polish Names - Girls

I had the pleasure of living in Warsaw, Poland for three years. While there, I heard different, but familiar, names everywhere I went. One of the first purchases I made after landing in Poland in 2009 was the book pictured above. It lists Polish names with their English equivalent (if applicable), where they originate, their meaning, a history of the name's use in Poland, and diminutives. It really is a fascinating book if you like Polish names or just want to find out more about them.

Poland has a unique place in Europe. It is located between two former countries that overtook it for a significant portion of recent history, and while being influenced by its experiences, it stayed true to itself and continues to flourish culturally. Similarly, names in Poland are either of Polish origin, such as Władysław, or a name that can be traced back to Christianity or other inspirations, such as Elżbieta (Elizabeth). I love the special twist in the names that make them distinctive, but completely wearable in the Western world.

Without further ado, here are my top 20 Polish girl names. I've also included their English equivalent and diminutives, which can also be considered as names themselves.

Agata (ah-GAH-tah) - Agatha; Agatka
Anastazja (ah-nah-STAHZ-yah)- Anastasia; Nastka, Nastusia
Beata (be-AHT-ah) - Beata; Beatka
Brygida (bri-GEE-dah) - Bridget; Brygidka
Danuta (dah-NU-tah) - Donna; Danka, Danusia
Dominika (daw-mee-NEE-kah) - Dominica; Domeczka, Dominiczka, Domka
Dorota (daw-RAW-tah) - Dorothy; Dora, Dorotka
Edyta (e-DI-tah) - Edith; Edytka
Ewa (E-vah) - Eve; Ewka, Ewunia
Halina (hah-LEE-nah) - Helene; Hala, Halka, Halinka
Irena (ee-RE-nah) - Irene; Ira, Ircia, Irka
Jadwiga (yahd-VEE-gah) - Hedwig, Heddy; Jadzia, Jaga, Iga
Justyna (yuws-TI-nah)- Justine; Justynka
Katarzyna (kah-tah-ZHI-nah) - Katherine; Kasia, Kasienka
Magdalena (mahg-dah-LE-nah) - Magdalene; Magda, Madzia
Marcelina (mahr-tse-LEE-nah ) - Marcellina; Marcelka, Celina
Renata (re-NAH-tah)- Renee; Rena, Renatka, Renia
Urszula (uwr-SHUW-lah) - Ursula; Ula, Uleczka, Ulka
Zofia (ZAW-fyah) - Sophia; Zosia, Zoska
Zuzanna (zuw-ZAHN-nah) - Suzanna, Susannah, Suzanne, Susan; Zuza, Zuzanka, Zuzka

What are your favorites? Do you have another favorite Polish girl name that isn't listed here?

Here is my list of favorite Polish names for boys!

Thank you to Polish First Names and Behind the Name for the reference help.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Red Heart
image by BlueisCoool via Flickr

Having a Valentine's Day baby but don't like any of the "love" names out there? Just find a name in the letters!



I know there are more! What can you find? Remember... you can only use each letter as many times as it appears in "Valentine's Day".

Happy Valentine's Day!


Monday, February 11, 2013


photo (49)

I love taking pictures. I love names. Why not put the two together?

Blame it on Instagram. I've been using the cell phone app quite a bit lately to exercise my creative muscle. Instagram is a great way to share your pictures with those who have similar interests as well as a place to find some really fun photos. As I've touched on before, Starbucks customers love to share pictures of the names written on their cups, written either correctly or incorrectly. It can be such a treasure trove and makes me wish I could see more from fellow name-lovers. So, this is a formal invitation to you. Think of all the names you see while you are out and about, and how your handy-dandy mobile can capture them for all of us to view!

Names can also be turned into art. I have used PicsArt a lot, but I know there are a ton of other photo apps out there. If you aren't happy just taking a picture of a name, turn it into something even more visionary! But really, a name alone is something of tremendous creation. :)

I will be the first to tell you that I am no professional photographer, but always learning and willing to try. Don't let other people's abilities keep you from participating. Stretch your creative juices and have fun! If we can get enough contributors on board, maybe we can do photo challenges such as capturing/creating a picture of a name that starts with K or finding a wearable name on a street sign.

My Instagram username is @namefreak. Follow me to see my pictures and other name goodies. Tag your name pictures with the hashtag #namefreak so we can see what you've seen/created!

If you are not on Instagram or don't like using a camera phone, don't let that stop you from participating! Take pictures with your regular camera, edit them on your computer if you desire, and then post them on my Facebook page. I will share some there as well.

And speaking of cool ways to disperse information, don't forget that I'm on Pinterest. If I am online and see a name displayed in an interesting way, a great personalized product, a way to decorate with a name, or just a name I would like to share, I pin it. Just another fun way to share my love of names with you!


Friday, February 8, 2013

Little Women - A Sibling Study

Two-volume Roberts Brothers printing, from the early 1870s via Wikipedia

On my Facebook page, I recently asked fellow NameFreaks what they thought would be the name of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy's little sister. I'm talking Little Women, of course, and the suggestions were fantastic. It made me want to look into the sisters' names a little more.

If we are going to look at the novel's characters, we should first take a glimpse at the one who named them. Louisa May Alcott was born in Pennsylvania in 1832 to Amos Bronson and Abigail May Alcott. In 1838, her family moved to Massachusetts, which is also the setting for her most famous novel. In fact, Little Women is said to have been based on Alcott's childhood. Louisa was the second of four sisters: Anna Bronson, Louisa May, Elizabeth Sewall and Abigail May.

For the four girls of Little Women, the nicknames go together so perfectly that when put together it is actually an alternate title to the book. But when you look at their full names, the youngest definitely stands out. It's short, doesn't have a nickname, and as you will see below, probably wasn't as popular as the other three at the time the book was written. I had a similar observation about a TV family, the Crawfords from Downton Abbey.

Little Women was published in 1868, but unfortunately, the earliest we can look at name rankings is 1880:

Margaret #6
Josephine #50
Elizabeth #4
Amy #108

Margaret and Elizabeth were (and Elizabeth still is) consistently on top. Josephine is a bit lower, but still a strong classic name. Amy sits outside the Top 100. Even Amelia, a name for which Amy can be a nickname, was ranked #96 in 1880. Amy's numbers get lower after 1880, so maybe the name was ranked higher in the 1860s.

Since the sisters in the book were modeled after the real-life sisters, let's compare:

Anna/Margaret - Anna was a very popular name in the late 1800s (#2 from 1880 until 1900). Maybe she chose Margaret because she heard it as much as she heard Anna. The fictional oldest daughter shared her mother's name, while the real youngest daughter shared hers.

Louisa/Josephine - Louisa was ranked #130 in 1880 and wasn't even the least popular name of her sisters (Abigail was #492, but also shared the name with her mother). I don't see a connection between Louisa and Josephine. Maybe she just liked it, or wanted a name with a boyish nickname to go with the tomboy character.

Elizabeth/Elizabeth - Louisa's sister died in 1858 and it is said to have been a pretty emotional event for the family. The character of Beth's death had a similar impact on the March family. I could make a guess that Louisa wanted to keep the honor of her sister's name in the book. The family called the real Elizabeth "Lizzie", however, I have seen in a journal entry written by Louisa in which she refers to her as "Beth".

Abigail/Amy - The youngest, Abigail, was called Abba and Abby as a child, but decided to be May once she reached her twenties (the 1860s). As some of you may already know or now realize, Amy is an anagram of May. So, that's where the odd one out came from.

I really have no idea if Alcott, or any author, is this analytical when choosing their character names, especially when the characters are so personal. But it's still fun to analyze. ;)

How have these names performed since the novel? Margaret has made a gradual and incomprehensible fall since reaching #3 in the early 1900s. Josephine had its lowest numbers in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s before it started to rise again. As already discussed, Elizabeth is the only one of these names that stayed consistently at the top, never ranking below #26 as it did in the 1940s. Amy also reached its depths in the 1940s, but climbed to its peak in the 1970s, even reaching #2 for a few years. Amy is now on the decline.

So, would these make good sister names today? Here are their 2011 ranks:

Margaret #187
Josephine #182
Elizabeth #11
Amy #143

Would you have guessed Margaret to be the lowest ranked of the four? Elizabeth may be considered "too popular" for this bunch, and Josephine is the only one on the rise. But I think no matter what the ranks are, the first three names go very well together.

As for a little sister to Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, the following were suggested by NameFreaks:

Katherine (Kit, Kitty, Kate)
Nancy (Nan)
Charlotte (Lettie)
Helen (Nell, Nellie)

My personal pick would be Harriet (Hattie).

Do you have any other suggestions? And please share any other tidbits of name information you may have about Miss Alcott, her sisters or Little Women. I'm always wanting to know more. :)

The information above was retrieved from and Wikipedia.


Monday, February 4, 2013

Diverted by a Name: Kiernan

Actress Kiernan Shipka via her website

As I was perusing fashion pictures from the SAG awards, I came across an actress named Kiernan Shipka. She is an adorable girl with a name that had me diverted, and since I'm one of the few people who doesn't watch Mad Men, I had to look her up. Her full name is Kiernan Brennan Shipka and she evidently goes by Kiki. Upon first hearing it, the name Kiernan seemed very Irish to me and it turns out Miss Shipka's mom is Irish. It also seemed like a boy's name, and the actress' full name would also give you pause upon hearing it. The name Kiernan is given to more boys than girls in the United States, but as Nameberry mentions, it is close to Kieran AND Kiersten making it very wearable for both genders.

In looking at the birth numbers, you could say Kiernan Shipka was a key reason the name spiked for both boys and girls in 2008, as Mad Men debuted in 2007. Here's a look at the birth numbers since 2000:

2000 - 24 68
2001 - 28 60
2002 - 34 67
2003 - 25 69
2004 - 19 56
2005 - 17 67
2006 - 16 49
2007 - 21 65
2008 - 27 77
2009 - 23 65
2010 - 22 74
2011 - 14 60

I have not been able to find it on any list for Ireland, Northern Ireland, England/Wales, Scotland, or Australia, where I would think it would be used as well, so I'm not sure how popular it is or has been in other countries. It is also not listed on Behind the Name, but from what I can find it is a surname of Irish origin as well as an anglicized version of Ciarán.

Kiernan is not on the rise currently, although it is used now more than it was twenty years ago. It is surprising to me that it hasn't caught on more as it has a few components that could make it a favorable choice for today's parent: it starts with the trendy K, it ends with an n, and it has a cute nickname in Kiki for a girl.

What do you think of the name Kiernan? Do you prefer it for a boy or a girl?


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super (Bowl) Names

The Vince Lombardi trophy via Wikipedia

Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday! This festive time of year has inspired the following list. Want a winning name for your son? Check out the winning quarterback names from the Super Bowls!

  • Bart (Starr, Packers) - born Bryan Bartlett Starr, 1934; 2 Super Bowl wins
  • Joe (Namath, Jets) - born Joseph William Namath, 1943
  • Len (Dawson, Chiefs) - born Leonard Ray Dawson, 1935
  • Johnny (Unitas, Colts) - born John Constantine Unitas, 1933
  • Roger (Staubach, Cowboys) - born Roger Thomas Staubach, 1942; 2 Super Bowl wins
  • Bob (Griese, Dolphins) - born Robert Allen Griese, 1945; 2 Super Bowl wins
  • Terry (Bradshaw, Steelers) - born Terry Paxton Bradshaw, 1948; 4 Super Bowl wins
  • Ken (Stabler, Raiders) - born Kenneth Michael Stabler, 1945
  • Jim (Plunkett, Raiders) - born James William Plunkett, 1947; 2 Super Bowl wins
  • Joe (Montana, 49ers) - born Joseph Clifford Montana, Jr., 1956; 4 Super Bowl wins
  • Joe (Theismann, Redskins) - born Joseph Robert Theismann, 1949
  • Jim (McMahon, Bears) - born James Robert McMahon, Jr., 1959
  • Phil (Simms, Giants) - born Phillip Martin Simms, 1954
  • Doug (Williams, Redskins) - born Douglas Lee Williams, 1955
  • Jeff (Hostetler, Giants) - born William Jeffrey Hostetler, 1961
  • Mark (Rypien, Redskins) - born Mark Robert Rypien, 1962
  • Troy (Aikman, Cowboys) - born Troy Kenneth Aikman, 1966; 3 Super Bowl wins
  • Steve (Young, 49ers) - born Jon Steven Young, 1961
  • Brett (Favre, Packers) - born Brett Lorenzo Favre, 1969
  • John (Elway, Broncos) - born John Albert Elway, Jr., 1960; 2 Super Bowl wins
  • Kurt (Warner, Rams) - born Kurtis Eugene Warner, 1971
  • Trent (Dilfer, Ravens) - born Trent Farris Dilfer, 1972
  • Tom (Brady, Patriots) - born Thomas Edward Patrick Brady, Jr., 1977; 3 Super Bowl wins
  • Brad (Johnson, Buccaneers) - born, James Bradley Johnson, 1968
  • Ben (Rothlisberger, Steelers) - born Benjamin Todd Rothlisberger, 1982; 2 Super Bowl wins
  • Peyton (Manning, Colts) - born Peyton Williams Manning, 1976
  • Eli (Manning, Giants) - born Elisha Nelson Manning, 1981; 2 Super Bowl wins
  • Drew (Brees, Saints) - born Andrew Christopher Brees, 1979
  • Aaron (Rodgers, Packers) - born Aaron Charles Rodgers, 1983

The quarterbacks for Super Bowl XLVII are:

  • Joe (Flacco, Ravens) - born Joseph Vincent Flacco, 1985
  • Colin (Kaepernick, 49ers) - born Colin Rand Kaepernick, 1987

Other notables from the list of losing quarterbacks:

  • Fran (Tarkenton, Vikings) - born Francis Asbury Tarkenton, 1940
  • Dan (Marino, Dolphins) - born Daniel Constantine Marino, 1961
  • Boomer (Esiason, Bengals) - born Norman Julius Esiason, 1961 (nicknamed Boomer by his mother while he was still in her womb because of his constant kicking)
  • Jim (Kelly, Bills) - born James Edward Kelly, 1960
  • Kerry (Collins, Giants) - born Kerry Michael Collins, 1972
  • Donovan (McNabb, Eagles) - born Donovan Jamal McNabb, 1976
  • Rex (Grossman, Bears) - born Rex Daniel Grossman III, 1980

Fun finds:

  • Twenty of the 29 winning quarterbacks went/go by a diminutive form of their first or middle name. 
  • Two Super Bowl quarterbacks have the middle name of Constantine. 
  • The most common Super Bowl-winning quarterback name is Joe (Joseph) with three, and possibly four if the Ravens win tomorrow. :)

What do you think... do any of these names split the uprights?

Thanks to Wikipedia for the above information.