The First Appearance of Fiona

fiona, movie, 1940s, baby name
Fiona in the trailer for The Gay Sisters (1942)

The name Fiona — coined during the 18th century by Scottish poet James Macpherson, who based it on the Irish word fionn (“white, fair”) — is relatively common in the U.S. these days. Rank-wise, it’s been hovering around 200th place for the last few years.

But — like Siobhan, Maeve, Bronwen, and many other Celtic names — it didn’t arrive with the immigrants. Instead, it was introduced to America later on, via pop culture.

Fiona first popped up in the data in 1942, and it stuck around for several years:

  • 1945: unlisted
  • 1944: 7 baby girls named Fiona
  • 1943: 19 baby girls named Fiona
  • 1942: 9 baby girls named Fiona [debut]
  • 1941: unlisted

What boosted it onto the charts that initial time?

The movie The Gay Sisters, which came out in August of 1942. The main characters were the three Gaylord sisters/heiresses: Fiona, Evelyn, and Susanna. Fiona, the eldest sister, was played by popular actress Barbara Stanwyck (birth name Ruby Catherine Stevens). The film didn’t do well at the box office, but it clearly had an impact on expectant parents.

The movie was based on the book of the same name by Stephen Longstreet. Longstreet was also the writer behind Stallion Road, which was similarly made into a movie and introduced audiences to a woman named Rory (traditionally a male name) later in the ’40s.

Do you like the name Fiona? Would you use it?

Sources:

  • The Gay Sisters – TCM
  • Hanks, Patrick, Kate Hardcastle and Flavia Hodges. A Dictionary of First Names. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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