Where did the baby name Charis come from in 1924?

Illustration of the characters Charis and Jan from the book "Charis Sees It Through" (1924) by Margaret Widdemer.
Charis and Jan from “Charis Sees It Through

The name Charis debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1924:

  • 1926: 10 baby girls named Charis
  • 1925: 9 baby girls named Charis
  • 1924: 14 baby girls named Charis [debut]
  • 1923: unlisted
  • 1922: unlisted

It was the highest-debuting baby name of the year, in fact.

Here’s the Social Security Death Index (SSDI) data for the same period of time:

  • 1926: 4 people with the first name Charis
  • 1925: 9 people with the first name Charis
  • 1924: 12 people with the first name Charis
    • plus two more named Charisann and Charistine
  • 1923: 1 person with the first name Charis
  • 1922: none

What was drawing attention to this name back in the 1920s?

A novel by Pulitzer-winning writer Margaret Widdemer. It was called “I, Charis, Take Thee, Jan” when it was serialized in Woman’s Home Companion in mid-1924, but the standalone book, published the same year, was entitled Charis Sees It Through.

The novel started with the marriage of Charis Drayton, the daughter of an American college professor, to Jan Laszlos, who was both an engineering student at the college and an immigrant from Bohemia.

Miss Widdemer’s swiftly moving novel really begins when Charis and Jan — bride and groom — have to meet Jan’s peasant mother and sisters from Bohemia at Ellis Island.

As another writer put it, “Unfortunately Charis finds she has also married Jan’s Slovak family as well.”

Like Chloe and Chrysanthe, the name Charis (pronounced KAR-iss) comes from ancient Greek. It means “grace, beauty, kindness” and is related to the word charisma (which originally meant “favor, divine gift” before it came to refer to personal charm during the 20th century).

What are your thoughts on the name Charis?


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