My Favourite Names of 2012

January 1, 2013 § 10 Comments

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I may have failed myself with blogging this year (so many real life changes!) but it’s one of my resolutions for 2013 to be better. Much better. I owe it to myself, because I truly enjoy maintaining this blog. Of little credit to me, my blog’s popularity grew this year with many thanks to the lovely ladies at Nameberry for hosting my political names guest post in the spring, with great appreciation to Abby at Appellation Mountain for highlighting my post on Malala this fall, which proved to be my biggest post of the year, and with ongoing affection for Anna at Waltzing More Than Matilda, whose site continues to be my most consistent referral source, links wise, and she is far and away my top commenter. And of course, I’m grateful to each and every one of you who reads, comments, and shares the posts you love. You guys inspire me, full on, and your support is not taken for granted.

To close out 2011, I compiled my favourite names from overall trends of the year, and though I haven’t blogged as much as I should have, I’ve paid attention in 2012. A few of these names earned posts of their own this year, but many didn’t, so bear with me. And you know the drill – please don’t leave without sharing your own favourites from the past twelve months.

Happy New Year to you and yours, and let’s all look forward to a big year of names in 2013. What traditional names will be bestowed upon the royal baby? Will baby Kimye get a K name? Will Biblical boy names make a comeback or fall even further out of favour? So many questions, so bring it on!

This year’s list of names looks nothing like last year’s (well it might, if you’ve read enough of this blog to catch on to the name biases I try not to have):

- Koa. I love to travel, but this year I only made it to one place – Hawaii. So it seems fitting that the first name on my 2012 year end list is a Hawaiian name-on-fire. Simple enough to feel familiar, yet exotic enough to stand out, nature name Koa, which sounds like Biblically “unfashionable” Noah, kept trending for boys in 2012. Australian marathon swimmer Ky Hurst welcomed a son named Koa in November.

- Aoife. This Irish name, pronounced EE-fah, was bestowed upon the daughter of Irish-born pop singer Una Healy of The Saturdays, and her English rugby star boyfriend Ben Foden in March. It means “beautiful,” and was suggested to the couple by Healy’s father. (Adorable Aoife’s middle name is the Latin name, Belle, which means her parents gave her a name that means “beautiful beauty.”)

I find Irish Gaelic names to be too challenging to use, personally, despite some Irish heritage in my family tree, but this one stood out this year in a crowded pack of selections more easily read by my North American sensibilities. And Healy wasn’t the only celeb to honour her Irish heritage with her baby name – How I Met Your Mother star Alyson Hannigan welcomed her second daughter in May, and named her Keeva Jane (an Americanized spelling of Caoimhe). Alternately pronounced Kev-ah, it means “gentle, beautiful beloved,” the feminine form of Kevin.

(more after the jump)

- Winter. A few years ago, actress Gretchen Mol welcomed a daughter named Winter Morgan, which was a much more easily celebrated name than that which she bestowed upon her son – Ptolemy John. And this year, the name popped up on a couple celebrity baby birth certificates. Swedish DJ Steve Agnello welcomed daughter Winter Rose in April (a little sister for Monday Lily), and in early December, German-Australian model Annelies Seubert welcomed daughter Camille Winter O’Farrell.

Despite (or perhaps because of) living in Canada, I’m not a big fan of winter. In this country, we have a cheesy joke about the weather: Our four seasons are Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and Construction Detours. And in the dead of winter (like today), the saying feels all too true (especially when my ANZAC friends on Facebook post photos from the beach or the swimming pool, or talk about topping up their tans). But as a noun name, I like Winter, which feels peaceful and pure for it’s connection to cozy nights by a fireplace or a blanket of fresh snow. Summer and Autumn have been shining on birth certificates for decades, but Winter could be on it’s way to joining them in mainstream popularity, and I, for one, think it’s great.

- Alternatives to Isabella, Sebella and Isabetta. When a name gets so popular, it’s often obvious why. Isabella, which is a Spanish variant of Elizabeth, from Hebrew elisheva meaning “consecrated to God,” is universally gorgeous and provides a long list of nicknames to suit any type of girl, from tomboyish Izzy to fanciful Bella. Isabella’s popularity is sky-high, well within the Top 50 (often higher) in countless countries, English-speaking or not, around the world, and that’s because the name is very well loved.

But parents looking for something more original will often resort to alternative spellings or lesser-used variations to set their daughter apart from other kids, and two celeb-introduced (to me) alternatives to Isabella caught my eye this year. In January, Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sanchez and her actor husband Eric Winter welcomed Sebella Rose. An Americanized spelling of Sabela, it’s an Isabella alternative originating from the Galicia region of northwestern Spain. And in May, Survivor winners Rob Mariano and Amber Brkich surprised us with the birth announcement of their third daughter in three years, Isabetta Rose.

(Etta, too, saw some action this year in different ways, perhaps fittingly following the death of legendary R&B singer Etta James on January 20th – Carson Daly and girlfriend Siri Pinter welcomed daughter Etta Jones in September, the same month Levi Johnson welcomed Breeze Beretta, though it was a gunmaker that inspired him, instead. Australian cellist Tim Nankervis welcomed Mietta Susan in February, and comedian Alex Borstein had daughter Henrietta in October. Maybe old-fashioned Etta, Greek and English for “pearl,” will begin to challenge Ella as the feminine name suffix du jour – Upswing Baby Names thinks it’s possible.)

- Camden. It made a bit of a splash this year, used by Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler and reality TV star Kristin Cavallari in August (Camden Jack), and then just one month later by singer Nick Lachey and TV presenter Vanessa Minnillo (Camden John). It’s not new – it’s a borough in London, a baseball field in Baltimore, and the among the latest surname-names to make the jump for baby boys, but it’s notoriety exploded this year on the heels of these two announcements. I like the associations and think it’s a solid alternative to dated Cameron, which has been somewhat intercepted for girls, even if I’ll never use it, myself. Another modern choice that’s somewhat similar phonetically is Anden, a name I really dug this year.

- In addition to Sebella, I saw quite a few stunning S names that struck my fancy this year. Traditional choices like Sarah and Sadie made room for lesser-used choices like Saskia, Senna, and Sawyer (which is a personal favourite, high on my actual list for both boys and girls). Scarlett, too, had a particularly good year (so did Ruby, perhaps proving that red is the most popular colour choice despite the much-discussed Blue Ivy, though Violet is still going incredibly strong, too). For those counting, Scarlett appeared on no less than 6 celebrity baby birth certificates this year: actress Elise Donovan welcomed Scarlett Avery Bigelow in May, shamed News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks welcomed daughter Scarlett Anne Mary via surrogate in January, comedian Rob Schneider welcomed Miranda Scarlett in November, Texas-based rockers Darren King and Stacy DuPree had daughter Scarlett in October, American reality TV stars Dr. Will Kirby and Erin Brodie had Scarlett Brodie Kirby in September, and Filipina TV presenter Pia Guanio had daughter Scarlet Jenine Mago in August.

Senna made waves in the naming world, it’s small bump in popularity this spring attributed to Cinna, Katniss’ costumer in The Hunger Games. It’s a name that has been in use in Europe for a while, but is beginning to grow on those in the English-speaking world. Lady Davina Windsor, a member of the British royal family, had a daughter named Senna in 2010, and there was an Amazonian vampire named Senna in Breaking Dawn, the last book in the American Twilight series. According to the ladies at Nameberry, Senna was the top trending name in the first half of the year and I simply adore it, even if it’s all but disappeared from mainstream consciousness since (while sound-alike Sienna remains a more popular choice). It’s the name of a flowering herb that’s used as a laxative, but Senna is also Arabic for “brightness.”

Saskia Heller was the name given to the daughter of actress Anne Dudek, born in February (little sister to her son, Akiva). Aussie actress Saskia Burmeister made headlines in May when she welcomed son Jackson Croft. The name is of debatable origin: it could be Dutch for “knife” (and it’s popularity in the Netherlands has been traced to Saskia van Uylenburg, the wife of 17th Century painter, the most important in Dutch history, Rembrandt van Rijn); of German origin meaning “Saxon woman”; of Danish origin meaning “valley of light”; it might even be of Slavic origin and mean “protector of mankind.” With so many possible inspirations to choose from, it’s not hard to find something to like about Saskia.

There’s nothing really new about Sawyer. Since Lost first aired in 2004, it’s been trendy thanks to fan favourite James “Sawyer” Ford, portrayed by Josh Holloway. The character derived his name from the conman who caused his parents’ deaths as a child, and that conman was inspired by Mark Twain’s fictional boy hero, Tom Sawyer. The surname as a first name (Old English for one who saws wood) has been around a lot longer than Lost, and Baby Name Wizard has made the case that Sawyer’s true meaning is that of a submerged tree along the banks of the Mississippi River. If there’s anything really new to say about Sawyer, it’s that it’s becoming distinctly more and more unisex. This year, Today Show correspondent Courtney Hazlett welcomed daughter Sawyer Ruth Marrs in January, while celebrity stylist Anya Sarre welcomed son Sawyer William in July. I love it for both; I don’t think it too feminine or too masculine, and befitting many a wearer.

- Rebel. Not technically a baby name of note (not yet), it’s still a name that got a lot of attention in 2012, thanks to breakout Aussie comic actress Rebel Wilson, who people everywhere have fallen in love with. It’s suitably similar enough to girl’s names like Rachel and Raquel to feel familiar, while being undoubtedly unique. If nothing else, I’ll be interested to see if this noun name bumps up in 2013. Rev names have been trending a while (actor Josh Lucas had son Noah Rev Maurer this June), and Rebel could easily fit for a boy or an edgy baby girl.

So that’s it. If I thought you’d want to read all day long, I would have also included Cyrus, Poppy, and Tucker. But my posts are usually long enough as is.

What names did you love this year?

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§ 10 Responses to My Favourite Names of 2012

  • I’m a big fan of Koa and Camden – Koa is traditionally a female name in Oceania, but I’m enjoying the boys doing a little “name stealing” from the girls! I’ve only seen one Camden in a BA last year (I think), but it’s an awesome choice.

    Saskia has long been a favourite of mine, and would be very high on my personal list if hubby had not nixed it – he thinks the S-s sound in names is too slithery and snake-like.

    Senna is a name I just don’t get, probably because my mum was a big fan of giving us senna to improve regularity.

    Scarlett is popular here, so not so fresh, and sadly, even though it’s still rare, Winter is one of those names which get talked about so much on name boards etc that I’m already slightly tired of it! Terrible, I know.

    I’m glad to hear we will see more of you in 2013, and thanks so much for the mention; you’re very welcome. :)

  • Blue Juniper says:

    So many names to choose from! I also liked Camden, but I think my favourite Celebrity baby name of 2012 was Reese Witherspoon’s Tennessee James. There’s something so romantic and gentlemanly feeling about Tennessee…

  • mykka says:

    Koa has to be one of my favorite names, I just love it for a boy. I wouldn’t mind it if it became the new Noah.

  • My niece was born in 2010 and her name is Noa. It’s a popular modern Israeli girl’s name.

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