About A Name: Clover

August 17, 2011 § 2 Comments

Four-leaf clover

On Monday, former Desperate Housewives star Neal McDonough and his wife, Ruvé Robertson, welcomed daughter Clover Elizabeth in L.A.

Clover joined brother Morgan Patrick, and sisters Catherine Maggie “Cate,” and London Jane. The stylish sibset teeters on the edge of being common and uncommon, unique and trendy. And each name has it’s own distinct qualities, which gives each name its chance to shine. Clover, with the most uncommon name of the four, has been given a standard middle name. Like Rose, Marie, Lynn, Leigh, and Jane, Elizabeth is often used to highlight and soften unique names as much as it denotes family significance, which it does more so than its shorter counterparts.

McDonough told People.com after the birth that son Morgan had chosen Clover’s name, inspired by a four-leaf clover. “It has four leaves and this is our fourth child. Clover signifies good luck – I’m Irish and Ruvé’s favorite color is green,” he said.

The McDonoughs aren’t the first celebs to use the name Clover – pro skateboarder Tony Hawk and then-wife Lhotse Merriam called their daughter Kadence Clover in 2008.

The modern variation of the Old English name comes from the plant (“clafre”), which is a traditional symbol of luck and prosperity when four-leaved. Possible nicknames include the cutesy, not-right-for-anything-less-than-the-jet-set, Clovey, or the less exclusive, uber-casual Clo. It’s also a way to get to Cloey, albeit with a variant spelling.

The name is still too common a noun for most to consider it’s unique and special feminine qualities for a daughter, and the name is not in the top 1000 US names, or within the top 100 internationally. This name will still safely guarantee your daughter is the only Clover in her class – well okay, we’re 99.9 per cent sure ;). If you choose it for a son, he’s likely to go it alone as the only Clover he’ll ever know – the name is cutesy, and most plant names (aside from tree names), because of a flower’s delicate nature, are perfect for girls as they match society’s perception of women. Though some species of clover do flower, generally it is green and abundant in meadows the world over. Cattle, pig, and butterflies rely on clover for food.

While the 19th Century name has appeared as a surname, it isn’t incredibly common. Many believe that the surname derived from English, and is an occupational reference to cleavers – people who split boards, or cleves – a geographical reference to people who lived near a cliff. Variations of the name include the feminine Clova or the Latin name Clove, which means “nail.” Male forms are rare, but include Clovis (pronounced Chleuthwig), an Old German name meaning “renowned father,” that derived Louis and Ludwig. In history, Clovis was a German tribal leader who ended the Roman domination of what is now France and made himself king – the first Catholic to rule the region of Gaul – in CE 509.

The musically-inclined will generally start hearing the familiar notes of “Crimson and Clover” – whether by Tommy James and the Shondells or Joan Jett and the Blackhearts. The song has spanned a few generations, and has a moderately taunting chorus – “Crimson and clover, over and over” –  which could be easy for schoolyard bullies. Apart from the obvious advice of not naming a sibling Crimson, the reference may be missed by today’s kids unless there’s a Katy Perry version in the works.

Other references in pop culture include a minor character in Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women – a character named Katy has a younger sister, Clover. Angelina Jolie played “Clover” in 2006’s The Good Shepherd, though the name was just an alias. In the 19th Century, Dr. Joseph Clover was a pioneer in the field of medical anaesthesia. Joshua Clover is an award-winning poet and journalist, a frequent contributor to the New York Times.

My advice? Don’t for a boy, and go for it for a girl – the name is slowly gaining speed and is suitable for many different types of people in various walks of life. But it’s not quite there yet – and any name that is first in people’s minds as an improper noun can still be a tough sell.


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§ 2 Responses to About A Name: Clover

  • I think Clover is really sweet, but I have a VERY soft spot for plant names!

    Clover was the adoring younger sister to Katy, in “What Katy Did” by Susan Coolidge.

    Also the beautiful trusting horse in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

    • namemuststay says:

      THANK YOU! I knew I had read a book apart from Little Women with a character named Clover before but I couldn’t place it, and it was Animal Farm. Clearly I haven’t remembered it well enough, and it’s been probably since 8th grade that I picked it up!

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