What gave the baby name Eris a boost in 1923?

The book "Eris" (1922) by Robert W. Chambers

According to the U.S. baby name data, the name Eris saw its highest-ever usage in 1923:

  • 1925: 53 baby girls named Eris
  • 1924: 103 baby girls named Eris [rank: 728th]
  • 1923: 226 baby girls named Eris [rank: 457th]
  • 1922: 16 baby girls named Eris
  • 1921: 15 baby girls named Eris

It was the fastest-rising girl name of the year, in fact, and it managed to reach the girls’ top 1,000 twice.

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

What caused this sudden interest in the name?

A story called Eris by Robert W. Chambers. It was published as a book in 1922, but, more importantly, it was serialized in McCall’s magazine in 1923 (from February to August).

The main character was a young woman named Eris Odell, who, after growing up on a farm, ran away to New York City to try her luck in motion pictures.

Just like the story of Athalie, which was also written by Chambers, the story of Eris started with the character’s birth (in the year 1900) and an explanation of her name:

His wife said to the doctor, in her painfully distinct voice: “I want she should have a name that no other baby’s got, because — that’s all I can giver her… Something no other baby’s got… Write it, Doctor.”

Dr. Ward wrote “Eris” on the birth certificate. His expression became slightly ironical.

“Eris,” he repeated. “Do you approve this name?”

Odell shrugged assent.

“Yes,” said the woman. “She’s mine. All I can give her is this name. I give it.”

“Eris was the name of a Greek Goddess,” remarked the doctor. He did not explain that Eris was the Goddess of Discord. “I’m very sure,” he added, “that no other baby is named Eris, though plenty of ’em ought to be… “

“Eris” — described as a “lovely, ominous name” about halfway through in the book — was indeed the name of the Greek goddess of strife and discord. The Roman name for this goddess was Discordia.

Fun fact: Eris was the goddess whose golden apple — inscribed: “to the fairest” — sparked the rivalry between Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena (Juno, Venus, and Minerva) that precipitated the Trojan War.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Eris?


6 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Eris a boost in 1923?

  1. Oh interesting. They don’t sound the same to me, but I can see how they would sound the same in certain accents.

    Reminds me of Erin/Aaron — they sound identical to some people, distinct to others.

  2. I dislike both Aaron and Erin, but they sound different from each other in my accent, too. Although one thing I dislike about Aaron is that most Americans pronounce it like Erin. Maybe I would like it, otherwise.

  3. So, is Erin pronounced EH-rin and Aaron pronounced AIR-in (or AIR-rin)? Is there a difference on whether the r is attached to the first or second syllable?

    Or is the difference really with the second syllable — “in” for Erin vs. “on” or “un” for Aaron?

    I’m asking because I’m pretty sure I pronounce both names the same. I know a man named Aaric and I pronounce the first syllable of his name the same way as I do the first syllable of Aaron and Erin.

    All of this makes me think of Darren vs. Darrin, which I do pronounce differently.

    Full confession: I also hear and pronounce Mary, marry, and merry the same way.
    I live in the upper Midwest (near a Great Lake that starts with M) so maybe a geographical/ethnic demographic influences my pronunciation?

  4. I say the first syllable of Aaron like the short A in cat; it’s hard to explain it a different way. And then Erin I say like AIR-in. My accent has a different sound for Mary and marry, but Mary and merry are the same.

    I think it’s pretty common for Midwesterners to not have a difference between Mary, merry, and marry. I’m in the midatlantic area (Baltimore) and we have some of the worst accents on earth, so I do not say any of this in a braggadocious way!

  5. @ab – The difference I’ve heard in Erin vs. Aaron is with the first syllable — EH vs. AIR. But it’s fascinating that you’re bringing up the second syllable. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard anyone pronounce names like Darren and Darrin differently. (To me, those second vowels are both schwa sounds.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.