Mystery baby name: Nerine

Graph of the usage of the baby name Nerine in the U.S. since 1880
Usage of the baby name Nerine

While we’re mulling over the case of Laquita, I’ll throw out another mystery baby name: Nerine.

Nerine was in the U.S. baby name data for four years in a row:

  • 1921: unlisted
  • 1920: 6 baby girls named Nerine
  • 1919: 13 baby girls named Nerine
  • 1918: 17 baby girls named Nerine
  • 1917: 43 baby girls named Nerine (the #1 debut name for girls)
  • 1916: unlisted

A variant, Nerene, also popped up in the data in 1917 and 1918:

  • 1919: unlisted
  • 1918: 7 baby girls named Nerene
  • 1917: 11 baby girls named Nerene [debut]
  • 1916: unlisted

What else can I tell you about Nerine? Well, it’s a flower name based on the word Nereid, a form of Nereus. It’s also the name of a consort of Mars, Nerine/Nerio (different etymology).

But I have no idea what made it fashionable in 1917. I can’t find a pop culture explanation, and usage of Norene/Noreen/Norine didn’t spike that year, so there wasn’t any piggybacking involved.


22 thoughts on “Mystery baby name: Nerine

  1. “The Twins of Bergamo” is a play featuring a Nerine. It appeared in “The Drama, Vol. 8,” published in 1918. Staged readings and dramatic arts were popular both within the community and at home a century ago.

    Gardening also had a craze in the post-WWI years, and “The Garden: an illustrated weekly journal of gardening in all its branches” is just one of the publications that mentions Nerines.

  2. Charly, thanks for your help!

    “The Twins of Bergamo” and the gardening craze I did not know about. The Moliere play I knew about, but, as you mention, I don’t know if any of these things would have had the mass appeal necessary to catapult Nerine from fewer than 5 babies in 1916 to 43 in 1917.

    State-by-state data from both the SSA and the SSDI indicate that Nerines were born all over the country, not just in one particular state/region.

    I’m not aware of data that ties baby names to parental income levels, though I think inferences could be made using census data (e.g. occupation, property ownership).

    SSDI data does list 3 Nerines born in December of 1916, which is interesting — maybe something happened at the tail end of 1916? Hm.

  3. I wonder if this could be a coincidence type of situation– naming children after flowers was very popular at that time, and the Nerine flower came to prominence around then as well I think (I wonder if it may have been that 1916/17 was a moment where the flower became more widely available, or something like that?

  4. Thanks for the comments, Maria and Flora!

    Nerines were available long before 1917, but perhaps they suddenly came into fashion around that time, and perhaps it had something to do with the World’s Fair. Certainly plausible. I’ve been looking for evidence, though, and I’m coming up short.

  5. Thanks, Nancy. I searched all the Vaudeville players, given the time-frame. BTW, I found the play of such interest; I had long forgotten about it. Were songs searched? Did I miss that?

  6. I searched for songs — I do my best to comb through all the main pop culture categories (movies, music, books, politics, etc.) — but didn’t have any luck.

  7. Thanks, Nancy, I figured you already had. I spent a little more time today on two more ideas to no avail, but I remember a Lady Nerine :) from my youth, so I will keep at this mystery along with you!

  8. Here’s something interesting I found over at Behind the Name:

    My name is Nerine, I am named after my 86 year old Aunt. My Grandfather had read a book right before she was born in 1918 and one of the persons in the book was named “Nerine” he liked the name and gave it to her. I would like to find out Any information concerning the book–She never asked and he has pass on. She is getting older also and I would like to reseach book for her. I know the name Nerine can be found in Greek Met. but he would not have been interested in reading that type of topic.

    This Nerine may have been named for the Nerine in “The Twins of Bergamo.”

    Or…she may have been named after a character in some other book that’s been eluding us all this time!

  9. The only book I’ve found so far is “Nerine’s Second Choice” by Adelaide Stirling. But it was published (and serialized in at least one newspaper) in the late 1890s, so it’s not a match on the year, unfortunately.

  10. Thanks for your further finds Nancy. This one is still on my mind and i keep looking into it from time to time!

  11. Me too! I wish we could figure this one out. I did try looking for a “Lady Nerine,” but didn’t find much.

    Here are the current SSDI numbers for people with the first name Nerine:

    • 1915 – 1 Nerine born
    • 1916 – 4 Nerines born
    • 1917 – 45 Nerines born
    • 1918 – 15 Nerines born
    • 1919 – 5 Nerines born

    More babies were named Nerine during July, August and September than during the other months of 1917, but this might just reflect the higher numbers of births during those months. (Source: In Which Month Are the Most Babies Born?)

  12. Hi! Please allow me to see if I can get this close to correct, as it involves ship lines and fleets. There was a ship built in 1896 — the ex-Maria Rickmers. In 1900, the ship was purchased from the Rickmers Line and renamed Helgoland. In war-time 1914, it was captured by Britain in the Mediterranean. That ship, in 1915, was renamed Nerine.


  13. That’s interesting, thanks Flora! I wonder if the renaming of the ship is somehow related to (or maybe foreshadows?) the baby name spike a few years later.

  14. Perhaps I was unclear or I’ve gotten something wrong after these long years!

    There were three, I think, Heligoland skirmishes. I’m referring to the WWI battle taking place the first week of August 1914, which was the first major naval victory of the British Royal Navy over Germany.

    The Brits captured a number of vessels–some destroyed; other overtaken and renamed. It’s a hard track to follow, with a few confusing links. However, that’s what lead me to a first Nerine of 1914.


  15. Oh, Nancy, I had meant to mention: I could not get quite how close the gap (month-wise) the naming events were separated between 1914 and 1915.

    [For clarity’s sake: The ship was captured in August 1914. Renamed 1915 month unknown. First recorded Nerine baby born, 1915 month unknown.]

    Unfortunately, I have no idea the what the convention was for the British renaming a captured enemy warship. Was a name already on a list? I searched the Captains and Naval officers (those I could obtain) wives’ names. However, I had no way to search the daughters’ names.

    My point, from what I could glean from the limited information, is that while the paperwork we have today appears to show a gap, we don’t have enough historical data to know. It was the first captured ship by the Allies, however, by its not becoming a Royal Naval Ship, but instead turned over to a shipping magnate, makes the research more difficult follow.

    At the time the capture occurred, however, it was a major battle win for the British.

    As I have remained looking around for our mysterious Nerine, when I get a chance; I shall pass on the shipping information to someone I know who is very familiar with WWI British Naval practices and history.

    If I cannot get further information there, I’ll keep looking here and there. Maybe I’ll have you an answer by 2020!


    P.S. I checked in today because of the Cyd
    Cherisse post. Cyd is one of my nicknames. Flora is my great-grandmothers name, which one rarely sees/hears anymore.

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