How popular is the baby name Vera in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, see baby names similar to Vera and check out all the blog posts that mention the name Vera.
The graph will take a few seconds to load, thanks for your patience. (Don't worry, it shouldn't take nine months.) If it's taking too long, try reloading the page.
Last week’s post on Vera Zorina helped me discover another interesting name: Tanaquil (pronounced tan-a-keel). It belonged to French-born American ballerina Tanaquil “Tanny” Le Clercq (1929-2000) who, like Zorina, had been married to famous choreographer George Balanchine.
Tanaquil Le Clercq was named after the legendary Etruscan prophet Tanaquil, whose omen-reading abilities helped her husband become the fifth king of Rome (616-578 B.C.).
The Etruscan rendering of the name Tanaquil is “Thanchvil.” The Etruscans had a relatively small pool of first names (praenomina) to draw from, so it’s possible that many Etruscan women were named Thanchvil. In fact, the MFA in Boston owns a sarcophagus (dated 350–300 B.C.) for Thanchvil Tarnai and her husband Larth Tetnies.
The Etruscan language has long been extinct, so there’s no telling what Thanchvil means. (In lieu of that, here are some of the other Etruscan female names that we know about: Thana/Thania, Ramtha/Ranthia, Hastia/Fastia, Aula/Aulia, Vela/Velia, Setha, Arnthi, Larthi.)
Getting back to Tanny…tragically, her professional career was cut short when she was stricken with polio in 1956 at age 27. She was paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life. The “stranger-than-fiction twist” is that, at age 15, she had actually danced the part of a polio victim at a March of Dimes benefit, and Balanchine had danced the part of polio itself:
In the final movement — a sunny allegro — she reappeared in a wheelchair, children tossed dimes, and she rose and danced again. What at the time was a simple exercise in entertaining a charity audience acquired in retrospect the weight of an omen or a hex. Balanchine, who was deeply mystical, was haunted by the notion that he had somehow brought on her fate.
Makes the fact that she was named after a noted omen-reader seem rather foreboding, doesn’t it?
Bonfante, Giuliano and Larissa Bonfante. The Etruscan Language: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.
Looking for an under-the-radar girl name with a retro feel?
A few years ago I combed though a bunch of IMDb pages looking for interesting female names associated with old films (1910s-1940s).
Most of the names I spotted — names like Mabel, Maisie, Hazel, Hattie, Elsie, Selma, Bessie, and Betty — were ones I expected to see. But I did manage to collect thousands of rarities, many of which have never appeared in the SSA data before.
Want to check out all these unusual names? I thought so! To make things interesting I’ll post the Z-names first and go backwards, letter by letter.
Zabette de Chavalons was a character played by actress Bebe Daniels in the film Volcano! (1926).
Zabie Elliot was a character played by actress Mary Alden in the film The Broken Butterfly (1919).
Zada L’Etoile was a character played by actress Sylvia Breamer in the Cecil B. DeMille-directed film We Can’t Have Everything (1918).
Zena Dare was an actress who appeared in films during the 1920s and 1930s. She was born in England in 1887. Zena Keefe was an actress who appeared in films during the 1910s and 1920s. She was born in California in 1898. Zena was also a character name in multiple films, including The Code of Honor (short, 1916) and The New York Peacock (1917).
Vera Zorina, often credited simply as “Zorina,” was a German-Norwegian ballerina.
She was born Eva Brigitta Hartwig in Berlin in 1917 and was always called “Brigitta” by friends. But the public knew her by the Russian-sounding stage name “Vera Zorina,” which she adopted while dancing with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in the mid-1930s.
She was introduced to American film audiences in The Goldwyn Follies (1938). The next year, she had a starring role in On Your Toes (1939).
In response, a handful of American parents named their baby girls Zorina around that time, and the name ended up debuting on the U.S. charts:
1940: 6 baby girls named Zorina
1939: 6 baby girls named Zorina [debut]
Zorina’s film career — as well as her first marriage, to the famous choreographer George Balanchine — lasted until the mid-1940s.
The name, on the other hand, is still around. In 2015 it was given to 5 baby girls.
Looking for a surname-inspired baby name with a connection to Catholicism?
Here are more than 200 options, most of which come from Catholic Englishmen martyred during the 16th and 17th centuries.
Because the goal was to include as many realistic baby names as possible, I interpreted “surname” and “saint” liberally in some cases. Xavier is not technically a surname, for instance, and many of the folks below are not yet full-fledged saints.
The hyperlinked names will take you to popularity graphs.
Edward and Lucinda Favor of Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, had at least a dozen children from the late 1820s to the early 1850s:
Orville Burton, born in 1827
Vera Ann, born in 1828
Danville Bryant, born in 1830
Edward D., born in 1833
Josephine Augusta, born in 1835
Daniel Webster, born in 1837
Edward Webster, born in 1839
Angevine June, born in 1841
Eugene Sue, born in 1844
Zachary Taylor, born in 1847
Franklin Percival, born in 1850
Fannie Eva, born in 1852
It’s easy to guess where a name like “Zachary Taylor” came from, but what’s the story behind Angevine June?
On the afternoon of October 22, 1841, the Favor family went to see the circus. They were so impressed that, when Lucinda gave birth to a baby boy the very next day, they decided to name him Angevine June after the company that owned the circus: Angevine, June, Titus & Company.
Several newspapers including the New York Times reported that his full name was “Angevine June Titus and Company Favor.” While I can’t refute this, I also can’t find any official records to back it up.
Angevine “Vine” Favor left home at the age of 19 to serve in the Civil War. After that he made his way west, working as a stagecoach driver. By the late 1860s he was a landowner in Washington Territory, and in 1882 he platted the Washington town of Pataha City, which was briefly known as “Favorsburg” in his honor.
The surname Angevine can be traced back to the Old French angevin, meaning “man from Anjou.”
It said that a “correspondent of leisure” had kept track of all the female names that appeared in the Marriages and Deaths column of the Glasgow Herald during the second half of 1913. He spotted a total of 208 different names (shared among 3,500 women) during that time. The two most popular? Margaret and Mary. The next-most-popular were Elizabeth, Agnes, Janet and Isabella. The least popular were the 73 that appeared only once, including:
I don’t normally watch television, but I’m visiting my Dad right now and he’s got his TV on all the time, so I haven’t been able to help it lately. :)
The other day I was walking past the TV set and heard the word ‘Alaska’ — a place I’ve long wanted to visit. So I stopped to see what was on. Soon I was hearing names like Atz, Atz Lee and Otto.
Who were these people? Where did they get such interesting names?
Turns out it was a reality show called Alaska: The Last Frontier, and the cast members were part of the locally famous Kilcher family.
Atz and Otto are the sons of homesteaders Yule Farenorth Kilcher (b. 1913) and Ruth Kilcher (b. 1920). Yule and Ruth left Switzerland for Alaska in the early 1940s. Yule went on to serve in the Alaska State Senate during the 1960s.
Yule wasn’t born “Yule Farenorth.” He was originally Julius Jakob [YOO-lee-us YAH-kob] but he changed his first and middle names after immigrating.
Yule and Ruth had a total of eight children — two boys and six girls. Here are the names:
Wurtila Dora (Wurzy)
Attila Kuno (Atz)
Sunrise Diana Irene
Stella Vera Septina (Bonnie)
Many of the above also gave their own children distinctive names, such as Cornelius, Davin, Ecaterina, Gawan, Olga and Saskia.
One of Atz’s children is pop singer Jewel Kilcher, a.k.a. Jewel. Her popularity in the mid-1990s helped push the baby name Jewel back into the U.S. top 1,000 in 1997:
1999: 453 baby girls named Jewel [ranked 557th]
1998: 490 baby girls named Jewel [ranked 516th]
1997: 330 baby girls named Jewel [ranked 665th]
1996: 168 baby girls named Jewel [ranked 1,098th]
1995: 154 baby girls named Jewel [ranked 1,141st]
And, moving forward another generation, one of Wurzy’s grandchildren is actress Q’orianka Kilcher, whose appearance in the movie The New World (2005) made Qorianka a one-hit wonder on the baby name charts in 2006.
(Q’orianka told the press that her name means “golden eagle” in Quechua, and it does seem to be based on the Quechua words for “gold,” quri, and “eagle,” anca, but I’m not sure whether it’s a legit Quechua name or a modern invention.)
So do any of you guys watch Alaska: The Last Frontier regularly? Have I missed any other good Kilcher names?