Lily, Daisy, Jasmine, Rose…Arbutus?
When I first saw Arbutus on the SSA’s baby name list, I’ll admit I had no idea what I was looking at. A myth name? A misspelling?
Turns out it’s a flower name.
“Arbutus,” the Latin word for strawberry tree, today commonly refers to the fragrant trailing arbutus, which was once (but is no longer) classified in the genus Arbutus.
Trailing arbutus (a.k.a. Epigaea repens, mayflower) is the official floral emblem of both Massachuetts and Nova Scotia.
The name Arbutus was given to dozens of baby girls every year from the 1910s to the 1940s. In 1927, it ranked 1,081st — within spitting distance of the top 1,000 (just 8 babies away).
[Some people even got “Trailing Arbutus” as a name. I’ve found two women in West Virginia marriage records named Trailing Arbutus, and H. L. Mencken mentions a Trailing Arbutus — last name Vines, sadly — in Tennessee.]
But the name Arbutus is rarely bestowed nowadays. It’s not stylish-sounding, it features the undesirable letter sequence b-u-t, and (I’m guessing) not many people know it refers to a flower.
Do you like the name Arbutus? Would you ever consider using it?