How popular is the baby name Spartacus 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 Spartacus.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Spartacus


Posts that Mention the Name Spartacus

Revolutionary baby names in France: Pomme, Jonquille, Mort aux Aristocrates

Painting of the storming of the Bastille in 1789.
The storming of the Bastille, 1789

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that, up until the 1960s, the citizens of France were forced to obey a restrictive baby name law that was enacted in 1803.

Why did that law exist?

In order to curb the very non-traditional baby naming practices that had evolved during the years of the French Revolution.

It all started in September of 1792, one day before the French National Convention abolished the monarchy. On that day, a decree was issued. The decree allowed the citizens of France to change their forenames quite easily — all they had to do was “make a simple formal declaration before the registrar of their local municipality.”

Many people took advantage of this decree and chose new names with a revolutionary flavor (i.e., names that referred to nature, to the new republican calendar*, to republican virtues, to republican heroes, or to antiquity).

And, of course, they started giving their children revolutionary names as well.

Examples of these names include…

NameTranslation/Significance
Abeille“Bee” / refers to the date Germinal 15 (Apr. 4)
Abricot“Apricot” / refers to the date Thermidor 13 (Jul. 31)
Agricola-Vialarefers to Joseph Agricol Viala, child-martyr of the French Revolution
Ail“Garlic” / refers to the date Messidor 27 (Jul. 15)
Amour Sacré de la Patrie l’an Trois“Sacred Love of the Fatherland Year III”
Armoise“Mugwort” / refers to the date Thermidor 7 (Jul. 25)
Aubergine“Eggplant” / refers to the date Vendémiaire 26 (Oct. 17)
Bararefers to drummer boy Joseph Bara, child-martyr of the French Revolution
Belle de Nuit“Four o’clock flower”/ refers to the date Vendémiaire 16 (Oct. 7)
Betterave“Beet root” / refers to the date Brumaire 4 (Oct. 25)
Bitume“Bitumen” / refers to the date Nivôse 3 (Dec. 23)
Brutusrefers to ancient Roman politician Brutus
Carmagnolerefers to the song “La Carmagnole
Carotte“Carrot” / refers to the date Vendémiaire 7 (Sept. 28)
Calasrefers to executed merchant Jean Calas
Catherine Laurier ThimCatherine “Laurier-thym,” or “Laurustinus” / refers to the date Pluviôse 6 (Jan. 25)
Citoyen Français“French Citizen”
Cresson“Watercress” / refers to the date Brumaire 17 (Nov. 7)
Décadi“Tenth day” (of the ten-day week) / refers to the day of rest that replaced Sunday
Dix-Août“10 August” / refers to the insurrection of August 10 (1792) that overthrew the French monarchy
Dixhuit Fructidor“18 Fructidor” / refers to the Coup of 18 Fructidor in Year V (Sept. 4, 1797)
Droit de l’Homme Tricolor“Right of Man Tricolor”
Égalité“Equality”
Étain“Tin” / refers to the date Nivôse 26 (Jan. 25)
Faisceau Pique TerreurFasces,” “Pike,” “Terror” / refers, at least partially, to the Reign of Terror
Fédéré“Federated”
Fleur d’Orange Républicaine“Republican Orange-Flower”
Floréalbased on fleur, “flower” / one of the springtime months of the republican calendar
Fraise“Strawberry” / refers to the date Prairial 11 (May 30)
Franchise (frahng-sheez)“Frankness” / the root word, franc, is semantically associated with both “freedom” and “Frenchness”
Fructidorbased on fructis, Latin for “fruit” / one of the summertime months of the republican calendar
Fumier“Manure” / refers to the date Nivôse 8 (Dec. 28)
Guillaume Tellrefers to folk hero William Tell
Helvétius Mablyrefers to French philosophers Gabriel Bonnot de Mably and Claude Adrien Helvétius
Houlette“Shepherd’s crook” / refers to the date Floréal 30 (May 19)
Humain“Human”
Isabelle Civilis Victoire Jemmapes DumouriezIsabelle, “Civil,” “Victory,” Jemmapes [sic] refers to the Battle of Jemappes, and Dumouriez refers to general Charles François Dumouriez
Jonquille“Daffodil” / refers to the date Germinal 8 (Mar. 28)
Lagrenade“The Grenade”
La Loi“The Law”
La Montagne“The Mountain” / refers to a political group
Laurent Sans-culottesLaurent “Without Breeches” / refers to the common people
Le Peletierrefers to politician Louis-Michel le Peletier
Liberté“Freedom”
Lucius Pleb-EgalLucius “Plebeian-Equality”
Maratrefers to journalist and revolutionary martyr Jean-Paul Marat
Maratinerefers to journalist and revolutionary martyr Jean-Paul Marat
Marat, ami du peuple“Marat, friend of the people”
Marat, défenseur de la Patrie“Marat, defender of the Fatherland”
Minerverefers to Roman goddess Minerva
Mort aux Aristocrates“Death to the Aristocrats”
Mucius Scaevolarefers to ancient Roman youth Scaevola
Peuplier“Poplar” / refers to the date Pluviôse 9 (Jan. 28)
Philippe Thomas Ve de bon coeur pour la RépubliquePhilippe Thomas “Go with a good heart for the Republic”
Phytogynéantropeaccording to one source, it’s “Greek for a woman giving birth only to warrior sons”
Pomme“Apple” / refers to the date Brumaire 1 (Oct. 22)
Porte-arme“Weapon-holder”
Racine de la Liberté“Root of Freedom”
Raifort“Horseradish” / refers to the date Frimaire 12 (Dec. 2)
Raison“Reason”
Régénérée Vigueur“Regenerated Strength”
Rhubarbe“Rhubarb” / refers to the date Floréal 11 (Apr. 30)
Robespierrerefers to politician Maximilien Robespierre
Sans Crainte“Without Fear”
Scipion l’Africainrefers to ancient Roman general Scipio Africanus
Seigle“Rye” / refers to the date Messidor 1 (Jun. 19)
Simon Liberté ou la MortSimon “Freedom or Death”
Spartacusrefers to ancient Roman gladiator and military leader Spartacus
Sureau“Elderberry” / refers to the date Prairial 17 (Jun. 5)
Thermidorbased on thermon, Greek for “summer heat” / one of the summertime months of the republican calendar
Travail“Work”
Tubéreuse“Tuberose” / refers to the date Fructidor 6 (Aug. 23)
Unitée Impérissable“Imperishable Unity”
Vengeur Constant“Constant Avenger”
Victoire Fédérative“Federal Victory”

Though it’s impossible to estimate just how many revolution-era babies got revolutionary names, the number seems to be well into the thousands, judging by statements like these:

  • “[I]n the winter and spring of 1794 at least 60 per cent of children received revolutionary names in Marseilles, Montpellier, Nevers, and Rouen.”
  • “[I]n Poitiers…only 62 of 593 babies born in the year II [1793-94] were named after saints in the ancien régime manner. Instead, they were given names reflecting the contrasting sources of political inspiration.”

About a decade later, however, all this creative naming came to an end.

Under Napoleon Bonaparte, the French government enacted a law that restricted French given names to “names used in various calendars” (that is, the names of Catholic saints) and “names of persons known from ancient history.” In essence, the law was meant to “put an end to citizens bearing absurd names that signified inanimate objects, forms of vegetation, membership of the animal kingdom and abstract concepts.”

….And this was the law that gave the Manrot-le Goarnic family so much difficulty when they tried to give their children Breton names a century and a half later.

*The French republican calendar, in use from 1793 to 1806, was a secular take on the Catholic Church’s calendar of saints. The months “were named after natural elements, while each day was named for a seed, tree, flower, fruit, animal, or tool.”

Sources:

Names for baby buffalo: Bosco, Rufus, Mike Byson

bison

The buffalo herd at Shelby Farms in Memphis welcomed eight calves this year.

The names of the baby buffalo, chosen via online poll, were officially announced on Saturday. The calves will now be known as Atticus, Bosco, Buckley, Cocoa, Mike Byson, Rufus, Rushmore and Spartacus. (The “overwhelming winner” in the poll was Mike Byson.)

Names that did not make the cut include Biscuit, Brutus, Conan, Echo, Otis, Rockefeller, Ruby, and Stephen Colbison.

Source: Party christens latest additions to buffalo herd at Shelby Farms

Image: Pixabay

Where did the baby name Varinia come from in 1961?

The character Varinia from the movie "Spartacus" (1960).
Varinia in “Spartacus

So far, the baby name Varinia has appeared in the U.S. baby name data just three times. The first two appearances were in the early 1960s:

  • 1963: unlisted
  • 1962: 7 baby girls named Varinia
  • 1961: 5 baby girls named Varinia [debut]
  • 1960: unlisted
  • 1959: unlisted

What put this rare name on the onomastic map?

The 1960 film Spartacus, which starred Kirk Douglas as rebellious Thracian slave Spartacus. Varinia, played by Jean Simmons, was a slave girl from Britannia who become Spartacus’ wife.

The movie was based on the 1951 novel of the same name by Howard Fast. The author invented the character Varinia (originally Germanic, not Britannic) for the book.

Though we know that the real-life Spartacus had a wife — she’s mentioned by Plutarch — we don’t know what her name was. The name chosen by Fast is a form of the Roman name Varinius, which might be based on the Latin word varius, meaning “various, variegated.”

Incidentally, this wasn’t the first time that Jean Simmons played a name-influencing character. In 1954, she was appearing in theaters as both Désirée Clary and Corby Lane.

Source: Spartacus (1960) – TCM, Varinius – Behind the Name

Baby name story: Romeo

Tony and Elaine Romaeo of Cardiff, Wales, named their first son Romeo Casanova Valentino (so, ‘Romeo Romaeo’). Here’s how Elaine explained the name:

We knew we wanted to give our children unusual names from the start. My husband used to be a male stripper and his stage name was Romeo so we decided to call our first son after the three greatest lovers of the world.

Their other four children are named Venus Valentine, Angel Aphrodite, Isis Ise, Achilles Spartacus Mars. Baby #6 — to be named Caesar Augustus Constantine — is due in a few weeks.

Update, Nov. 2021: Romeo Romaeo went on to become a professional boxer for a time (2013-2016), and Venus and Angel both became elite gymnasts.

Sources: Mythology inspires six baby names (BBC), Our children are gods, legends and great lovers (Wales Online)