How popular is the baby name Posthumous in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Posthumous.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Posthumous


Posts that Mention the Name Posthumous

Babies named for the Battle of Waterloo

Battle of Waterloo (June 18, 1815)
Battle of Waterloo

The Battle of Waterloo — which marked the final defeat of Napoleon and the end of the Napoleonic Wars — took place on June 18, 1815, near the village of Waterloo (located south of Brussels).

Fighting against Napoleon were two forces: a British-led coalition that included Germans, Belgians, and Dutch (all under the Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley) and an army from Prussia (under Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher).

Hundreds of babies were given the name “Waterloo” — typically as a middle — during the second half of the 1810s. Most of them were baby boys born in England, but some were girls, and some were born elsewhere in the British Empire (and beyond).

  • William Wellington Waterloo Humbley*, b. 1815, in England
  • Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon †, b. 1815, Belgium
  • John Waterloo Todd, b. 1815, England
  • Fredrick Waterloo Collins, b. 1815, Wales
  • Jubilee Waterloo Reeves (née Davis), b. 1815, England
  • Dent Waterloo Ditchburn, b. 1815, England
  • Joseph Waterloo Hart, b. 1815, England
  • Henry Waterloo Nickels, b. 1815, England
  • Sophia Waterloo Mills, b. 1815, England
  • Henry Waterloo Prescott, b. 1815, England
  • Richard Waterloo Renny, b. 1815, England
  • John Waterloo Posthumous Brittany, b. circa 1815, England
  • Charlotte Waterloo Grapes, b. circa 1815, England
  • Louisa Waterloo France, b. circa 1815, Belgium
  • James Waterloo Clark, b. 1816, England
  • Henry Waterloo Johnson, b. 1816, England
  • George Waterloo Holland, b. 1816, England
  • Charles Waterloo Wallett, b. 1816, England
  • John Waterloo Wilson, b. circa 1816, Belgium
  • Frederick Waterloo Jennings, b. 1817, England
  • William Waterloo Horford, b. 1817, England
  • George Mark Waterloo Smith, b. 1817, England
  • Edward Waterloo Lane, b. 1817, England
  • Robert Waterloo Cook, b. 1817, England
  • Eleanor Waterloo Whiteman, b. 1817, England
  • Ann Waterloo Barlow, b. 1818, England
  • Wellington Waterloo Teanby, b. circa 1818, England
  • William Wellington Waterloo Jackson, b. circa 1819, England

Interestingly, babies were still being named Waterloo long after the battle was over. Many more Waterloos were born from the 1820s onward:

The place-name Waterloo is made up of a pair of Middle Dutch words that, together, mean “watery meadow.” Since the battle, though, the word Waterloo has also been used to refer to “a decisive or final defeat or setback.” (It’s used this way in the 1974 Abba song “Waterloo” [vid], for instance.)

The Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) followed the French Revolutionary Wars (1792-c.1802), which followed the French Revolution (1789-1799), which gave rise to a number of revolutionary baby names in France.

Sources:

*William Wellington Waterloo Humbley was born on the day of the battle (while his father, an army officer, was abroad taking part). He was baptized the following summer, and the Duke of Wellington himself stood godfather. Several years after that, in 1819, his parents welcomed daughter Vimiera Violetta Vittoria Humbley — named after the battles of Vimeiro (1808) and Vitoria (1813).

† Isabella Fleura Waterloo Deacon’s father, Thomas, had been wounded in the previous battle (Quatre Bras, on the 16th). Her mother, Martha — who was traveling with the army — searched the battlefield for him all night. Eventually she discovered that he’d been transported to Brussels, some 20 miles away, so she walked there with her three young children. (Through a 10-hour thunderstorm, no less.) She reached Brussels on the morning of the 18th, located her husband, and gave birth to Isabella on the 19th.

The baby name Posthumus

In the middle of the 16th century, English babies whose fathers had died before they were born started getting names like “Postumus,” “Posthumous” and “Posthuma.”

The idea of styling a child by this name, thus connected its birth with the father’s antecedent death, seems to have touched a sympathetic chord, and the practice began to widely prevail.

Here are the earliest examples I’ve found:

  • In 1566, Thomas Posthumus Hoby was born.
  • On February 10, 1572, Posthumus, son of Robert Pownoll, was christened at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, England.
  • On April 9, 1581, Posthumus, daughter of John Strowde, was christened in Eastwell, Kent, England.
  • On January 1, 1583, Posthumus, son of Rawlf Coulton, was christened in York, England.
  • On March 5, 1597, Posthuma, daughter of John Grubbs, was christened in Little Plumstead, Norfolk, England.

Shakespeare even featured a character named Posthumus Leonatus in his play Cymbeline (circa 1611).

For centuries, names like these were used as firsts and middles, for both boys and girls, in England and elsewhere (U.S. included).

The practice started winding down in the late 1800s; I’ve only found handful of babies named Posthumus born post-1900.

Update, 11/2013: Looks like the original version of the word, Postumus, was used as a given name in ancient times as well. During the years that ancient Rome was a Republic, “the praenomen was a real personal name” (not so later on) and some of the praenomina used during this period reflected birth circumstances. One example is Postumus, “a child born after his father’s death.” Another is Vopiscus, “the sole survivor of twins.”

Update, 3/2022: Recently came across a 15th-century king called Ladislaus the Posthumous.

Sources:

  • Bardsley, Charles Wareing Endell. Curiosities of Puritan Nomenclature. London: Chatto & Windus, 1897.
  • Wilson, Stephen. The Means Of Naming: A Social History. London: UCL Press, 1998.

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