How popular is the baby name Flavilla in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Flavilla and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Flavilla.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Flavilla

Number of Babies Named Flavilla

Born in the U.S. Since 1880

Posts that Mention the Name Flavilla

The Story of Flavilla

Flavilla
Flavilla Doane Loring

Flavilla Doane Loring was just 13 months old when she died on October 12, 1847.

She and I clearly never knew one another. We aren’t related in any way.

And yet I’ve known about her for decades.

Pine Grove Cemetery, South Yarmouth
Pine Grove Cemetery
(Yarmouth, Cape Cod, MA, USA)
I grew up on Cape Cod, which gets notoriously touristy in the summers. So, when I went places as a kid, I took as many non-road shortcuts as possible to avoid having to walk alongside the backed-up tourist traffic.

One of those shortcuts was the Pine Grove Cemetery, which allowed me to bypass the busy intersection of North Main Street and Route 28.

Even back then I had a thing for names, so I often stopped to read the headstones.

It didn’t take long for me to discover Flavilla.

She’s buried next to her parents, Capt. John Loring and Hannah Loring, and three of her siblings: William, John, and Hannah. (I later learned that young John drowned at the age of 3 in Bass River — the body of water on the right side of the map.)

John, Hannah, William…these were names I recognized.

But Flavilla was totally new to me.

I remember staring it, trying to make sense of it.

That’s a name? Really?

It wasn’t like any name I’d ever seen before. The closest thing I could come up with was Priscilla, the name of one of my Dad’s aunts. But even that was a stretch.

How did she get a name like that? Where did it come from? What does it mean?

I felt like an archaeologist who’d just dug up some curious little artifact. I was eager to identify it, figure it out, give it some context.

I couldn’t, though. Not back then. The Internet hadn’t become particularly useful yet, and there weren’t any big research libraries nearby.

But now I can…

The Origin of Flavilla

It may look made-up, but Flavilla is legitimate name. And a very old one at that.

It was used by women in Ancient Rome, where it was a feminine form of the name Flavius, which was based on the Latin word flavus, meaning “golden” or “yellow.” (The original bearer of the name Flavius was likely a blond.)

The name has since been attached to a species of butterfly with yellow wings:

Nica Flavilla (Butterfly)
Nica Flavilla (Butterfly)

But none of this explains why a 19th-century New England couple gave this fanciful, non-Biblical name to their daughter.

The Flavilla Trend

I checked Flavilla Doane Loring’s family tree for possible namesakes, but didn’t find anything conclusive.

While doing the research, though, I did spot a few other Flavillas — all born in the 1800s.

This made me wonder whether the name Flavilla wasn’t simply a trendy name back in 19th-century America.

Turns out, it was:

  • The first Flavillas I found were born in the 1760s.
  • After that, usage increased.
  • Usage peaked in the 1840s and 1850s.
  • After that, usage decreased.
  • The last Flavillas I found were born in the 1930s.

I’m not quite sure what made Flavilla stylish in the mid-1800s (beyond sound), but I think I know what sparked the trend in the first place: a story.

The Story of Flavilla

“The Fatal Effects of Fashionable Levities: The Story of Flavilla” first appeared in the London periodical The Adventurer in 1754.

The protagonist was a young woman, Flavilla, whose flighty behavior ended up costing her dearly. Here’s a line from the last paragraph: “May every lady, on whose memory compassion shall record these events, tremble to assume the levity of Flavilla.”

The author, English writer John Hawkesworth (1715–1773), may have chosen the name Flavilla because of the romantic sound, or because of the consonance with levity.

The story was reprinted (under various titles) in story and essay collections for decades to come. It eventually made its way to the States — either in The Adventurer or in one of the subsequent compilations — and that’s about the time we start seeing the first baby Flavillas.

Bitten by the Name Bug

For years, Flavilla’s name remained a mystery to me.

But I never stopped wondering about it.

Whenever I cut through the Pine Grove Cemetery, I would stop at the Loring family plot just so I could see her name one more time.

Stumbling upon Flavilla’s name is what motivated me to start really paying attention to names.

It’s what got me hooked, you could say.

I started checking name books out of the library. I started visiting other graveyards. I started scanning news articles, phone books, encyclopedia entries — any chunk of text that might contain an interesting name.

And, many years later, I started this blog. :)

Sources:

Images:


Names on Cape Cod Gravestones – Kimball, Mehetabel, Sparrow, Temperance

Want to get a feel for the types of names used on Cape Cod in centuries past? Check out the names at Cape Cod Gravestones.

Most of the names are biblical, of course, and they range from those still used today (e.g., Abigail, Benjamin, Hannah, Joshua, Mary and Samuel) to those that have long since fallen out of favor (e.g., Barzillai, Dorcas, Gamaliel, Mehetabel, Peleg and Zipporah).

Some of the most interesting names listed at the site are:

Male Female
Almond
Andronicus
Archelaus
Argo
Bangs
Chillingsworth
Dillingham
Doane
Eros
Fessenden
Gambyses
Giraud
Greenleaf
Johnbeare
Kenelm
Kimball
Kiriathian
Knyvet
Moody
Odlin
Onesimus
Perez
Rosseter
Scamons
Snow
Sparrow
Squire
Southworth
Varanies
Vickery
Zazud
Allithena
Angmora
Arrozana
Berenthia
Casilda
Celestia
Celissa
Chylena
Deliverance
Dyantha
Emmeretha
Experience
Fear
Flavilla
Fostenna
Grisylda
Lucyette
Minnie-Mary
Mulfretta
Noraetta
Oregon
Phebbediah
Pruella
Roana
Sadie-Sarah
Silpha
Statire
Temperance
Thankful
Tryanna
Tryphosa
Vashti
Weltha
Zulette

The two funniest names? Thankful Sweat (female) and Moody Fish (male). Both Thankful and Moody were born in the late 18th century.