Politician Robert Marion La Follette (1855-1925) served as Governor of Wisconsin (from 1901 to 1906) and as U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (from 1906 to 1925).
In 1924, he unsuccessfully ran for U.S. President as a third-party candidate. He wasn’t able to overcome Coolidge, but he did win 16.6% of the popular vote (and he carried the state of Wisconsin, of course).
Dozens of baby boys — most born in the state of Wisconsin, unsurprisingly — were named in La Follette’s honor during the early decades of the 1900s. Some examples…
The fourth namesake on this list went on to be appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1966. (He was the second Native American to hold the position.) He was sworn in by Lyndon B. Johnson, who said:
This morning Mr. Robert La Follette Bennett — who bears this great name of an American who fought all of his life for the rights of his fellow citizens, named for a man who is revered from one end of the country to the other, and now his namesake — comes here to assume a position in which he will be able to carry on that proud tradition.
Dozens of other babies were given the first name La Follette. For instance, La Follette Marion Allen was born in Wisconsin in 1902. (His father was named DeWitt Clinton Allen, interestingly.)
Several months after Robert M. La Follette passed away in 1925, his son Robert M. La Follette, Jr., was elected to the U.S. Senate to fill the vacancy. La Follette, Jr., served in the Senate for more than 21 years before he was finally ousted in the mid-1940s by none other than Joseph McCarthy.
French military leader Napoléon Bonaparte may have spent his life trying to conquer a continent, but that life began and ended on islands.
He was born (as “Napoleone Buonaparte”) on the Mediterranean island of Corsica in 1769 — the same year that France took Corsica from the Republic of Genoa (now part of Italy). He died while in exile on the remote South Atlantic island of Saint Helena in 1821.
In between, Napoléon: attended military school on the mainland, began serving in the French Army, rose to prominence during the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars, became the de facto leader of France in 1799, declared himself Emperor in 1804, and proceeded to build a vast empire via the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
Needless to say, a large number of babies all over the world have been named “Napoleon” since that time.
I don’t want this post to get too crazy, though, so I’ve decided to collect namesakes from just two locations — France and the U.S. — and to stick to the years during which Napoléon was active.
Napoléon’s namesakes in France
Thousands of French babies were named in honor of Napoléon from the mid-1790s to the mid-1810s.
In contrast with namesakes in other countries (like the U.S. and England), most of his French namesakes were given only his first name — not both names — and it was typically combined with one or more traditional French names (e.g., “Louis Napoléon,” “Jean Baptiste Napoléon”).
With that in mind, I went out of my way to find combinations that were a bit more varied…
Napoléon Baillot, b. 1793 in France
Jacques Napoléon Desiré Campa, b. 1795 in France
Napoléon Stéphanie Joseph Therin, b. 1797 in France
Napoléon Joseph Buttin, b. 1799 in France
Napoléon-Jean Demeester, b. 1800 in France
Napoléon Nicolas Senelar, b. 1801 in France
Guillaume Napoléon Pelletier, b. 1802 in France
Willebrod Napoléon Désiré Degrave, b. 1803 in France
Charlemagne Napoléon Lambert, b. 1804 in France
Napoléon Louis François Richounne, b. 1805 in France
Napoléon Parfait Furpille, b. 1806 in France
parfait means “perfect” in French
Bienaimé Napoléon Le Cagneux, b. 1807 in France
bienaimé means “beloved” in French
François Desiré Prosper Napoléon Loiseau, b. 1808 in France
Napoléon La Paix Lemasson, b. 1809 in France
la paix means “peace” in French
Gustave Napoléon Fichet, b. 1810 in France
Esprit Napoléon Houdry, b. 1811 in France
esprit means “spirit” in French
Napoléon Bonaventure Dusautier, b. 1812 in France
Auguste César Napoléon Decoene, b. 1813 in France
Napoléon-Etienne Vernoni, b. 1814 in France
Fructueux Napoléon Artigue, b. 1815 in France
fructueux means “successful” in French
Almost all of the namesakes in this group were boys, but a handful were girls with feminized forms of the name (like Napoléonne, Napoléonide, and Napoléontine).
Several dozen more boys — most of them born early on — were given only the surname:
Jacques Dominique Bonaparte Venkirch, b. 1796 in France
Augustin Bonaparte Joseph Galle, b. 1797 in France
Jean Baptiste Bonaparte Mollard, b. 1798 in France
Séraphin Adolphe Bonaparte Decorne, b. 1799 in France
Alexis Sébastien Bonaparte Poirée, b. 1801 in France
Napoléon had usually been called “General Bonaparte” or “citizen Bonaparte” before mid-1802, when the people of France went to the polls to decide: “Should Napoléon Bonaparte be consul for life?” Millions voted yes, and, after that, “he was generally known as Napoléon rather than Bonaparte.”
Napoléon’s namesakes in the U.S.
Napoléon didn’t wage any wars on North American soil (though he did sell a lot of that soil in 1803, when he let go of the Louisiana Territory for $15 million). Nonetheless, U.S. newspapers paid close attention to him:
Americans were clearly impressed by Napoléon’s achievements, judging by the hundreds of U.S. namesakes born in the late 1790s and first decades of the 1800s. Many of these babies received both his first name and his surname:
A few of the people named Bonaparte (but not Napoléon) did have other given names — like Lucien, and Jerome — that could have been inspired by other members of the Bonaparte family. I found a Josephine Bonaparte Evans (b. 1815), for instance, who was probably named after Napoléon’s first wife.
Other famous men named Napoléon Bonaparte (including Napoleon III) also had namesakes, but it was the original Napoléon Bonaparte who put these two unusual names on the map.
So…what do they mean?
The Italian forename Napoleone has obscure origins, so the meaning isn’t known for certain. One popular theory is that it’s made up of the elements Neapolis, the original name of Naples, and leone, meaning “lion.” When Bonaparte was born in 1769, the name was “relatively common around Genoa and Tuscany,” though it was spelled a variety of ways (e.g., Nabulio, Nabulione, Napulione, Napolionne, Lapulion). The name had been used in his family before; his father’s uncle, for instance, was also named Napoleone.
The Italian surname Buonaparte, on the other hand, is much more straightforward: it’s made up of the elements buona, meaning “good,” and parte, meaning “part, share, portion.”
Was anyone in your family tree named after Napoléon?
Spring is here! Let’s celebrate with some flower names.
But let’s do something a little different. Instead of the same old suggestions, like Lily and Rose, let’s check out some relatively modern flower names that ultimately come from Latinized surnames (via genus names).
Here’s a list of 20. Most of these are rarely used for humans, so if you’re looking for an unexpected nature name for a baby girl, this is a good place to start.
Abelia flowers are white or pink, and usually scented. The genus Abelia is part of the honeysuckle family (Caprifoliaceae).
Abelia was named for British surgeon and naturalist Clarke Abel (1780-1826). Clarke’s version of the surname Abel is likely based on the Hebrew name Abel, meaning “breath.” An identical German surname is based on a pet form of Albrecht, made up of elements meaning “noble” and “bright.”
Camellia flowers are white, pink, red, and sometimes yellow. The genus Camellia is part of the Theaceae family. Leaves of the species Camellia sinensis are used to produce tea.
Camellia was named for Czech Jesuit missionary and botanist Georg Joseph Kamel (1661-1706). The surname Kamel is derived from a word meaning “camel.” Camels are not endemic to Europe, but they were commonly used on house signs in central Europe during the later Middle Ages.
The baby name Camellia is currently ranked 2,597th.
Cattleya flowers come in a range of colors: purple, orange, white, yellow, etc. The genus Cattleya is part of the orchid family (Orchidaceae).
Cattleya was named for English merchant and horticulturist William Cattley (1788-1835). The first element of the English surname Cattley is based on either Catta, a personal name, or a word meaning “(wild) cat.” The second comes from the Old English word leah, meaning “woodland; clearing.”
The baby name Cattleya is currently ranked 1,684th. It was very rare until a character named Cataleya was featured in the 2011 movie Columbiana. The character’s name was based on the genus name.
Clintonia flowers are white, red, or green-yellow. The genus Clintonia is part of the lily family (Liliaceae).
Clintonia was named for U.S. politician and botanist De Witt Clinton (1769-1828). The English surname Clinton is based on one of two different place names. One place name was derived from Old English words meaning “enclosure, fence” + “settlement,” while the other means “Glyme (river)” + “settlement.”
Pronunciation: DAL-yuh (first syllable can rhyme with “gal”, “doll,” or “dale”)
Dahlia flowers come in a wide range of colors. The genus Dahlia is part of the daisy family (Asteraceae).
Dahlia was named for Swedish botanist Anders Dahl (1751-1789). The Swedish surname Dahl is based on the Old Norse word dalr, meaning “dale, valley.”
The baby name Dahlia is currently within the top 1,000, ranked 719th.
Pronunciation: for-SITH-ee-uh or for-SIETH-ee-uh (chiefly British English)
Forsythia flowers are bright yellow. The genus Forsythia is part of the olive family (Oleaceae).
Forsythia was named for Scottish botanist William Forsyth (1737-1804). The surname Forsyth is based on Fearsithe, a Gaelic personal name made up of the Gaelic words fear, meaning “man,” and sith, meaning “peace.”
Gardenia flowers are white or pale yellow and strongly scented. The genus Gardenia is part of the coffee family (Rubiaceae).
Gardenia was named for Scottish-born American naturalist Alexander Garden (1730-1791). The English surname Garden is based on an occupational name for a gardener. It ultimately comes from the Old Norman French word gardin, meaning “garden.”
Kerria flowers are bright yellow. The genus Kerria is part of the rose family (Rosaceae).
Kerria was named for Scottish gardener and plant hunter William Kerr (d. 1814). The Scottish surname Kerr is a topographic name referring to a patch of wet ground overgrown with brushwood. It ultimately comes from the Old Norse word kjarr, meaning “copsewood, brushwood, thicket.”
Magnolia flowers are fragrant and come in white, pink, red, purple or yellow. Because they predate bees and butterflies, they’re typically pollinated by beetles.
The genus Magnolia was named for French botanist Pierre Magnol (1638-1715). The French surname Magnol may be based on either the Latin word magnus, meaning “great,” or on a French place name of uncertain derivation.
The baby name Magnolia is currently within the top 1,000, ranked 831st.
Monarda flowers are various shades of red, pink, and purple, and highly scented. The genus Monarda is part of the mint family (Lamiaceae).
Monarda was named for Spanish physician and botanist Nicolás Monardes (1493-1588).
Plumeria flowers (also known as frangipani) are very fragrant and come in several colors. The genus Plumeria is part of the dogbane family (Apocynaceae), like Allamanda.
Plumeria was named for French botanist Charles Plumier (1646-1704). The French surname Plumier is based on an occupational name for either a feather dresser or a plumber. The former occupational name ultimately comes from the Latin word plumarius, meaning “embroidered with feathers,” while the latter comes from the Latin word plumbum, meaning “lead.”
Zinnia flowers come in a wide range of colors (red, purple, orange, buff, yellow, etc.) and shapes. The genus Zinnia is part of the daisy family (Asteraceae), like Dahlia and Gazania.
Zinnia was named for German anatomist and botanist Johann Gottfried Zinn (1727-1759). The German/Jewish surname Zinn is based on an occupational name for a pewter worker or tinsmith. It ultimately comes from the Germanic word zin, meaning “tin, pewter.”
All of the above were listed just once. Notable names that appeared more than once in the book include Almira/Elmira, Bathsheba, Dewitt, Doritha, Elbridge, Epes (relatives of Epes Sargent), Gamaliel, Gershom, Gillam, Increase, Jotham, Keziah, Louisiana, Mehitable/Mehetable, Nabby, Pamelia/Permelia, Persis, Rozamond/Rozamund, Silence, Sylvanus and Tamzen.