Number Names

August 20, 2011 § 4 Comments

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Numbers are everywhere in life. From our age to the price of gas to the number of kids we have, we are immersed in numbers.

Numbers have existed in names for centuries, such as Pope John Paul II or Louis XVI, even if they were never known commonly by their number. But in a conscious effort to both follow and eschew traditions, some parents are getting a little more creative with the use of numbers in their child’s names.

Octavia Flynn, born March 2004, was the third child and first daughter of former Hercules star Kevin Sorbo and his wife Sam – but she was the eighth grandchild for his parents. A female commenter at People.com even shared that her own parents had seriously considered naming her Octavia because she was born on the 8th of the month. The name is Latin, meaning, of course, “eighth.” It’s the feminine form of Octavius, which was the surname of a clan of Roman emperors around the turn of the millenium between BCE and CE. The first Roman emperor, Augustus, served under Julius Caesar and was therefore another primary adversary of Mark Antony (whose wife, incidentally, was Octavia, whom he left to live openly in Egypt with Queen Cleopatra). Augustus ordered the murder of his “step-brother,” Caesarion, who was the son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra. Augustus eliminated any challenge to his throne as he had become Caesar’s adopted son through his last will and testament, leaving his entire inheritance to the man then known as Gaius Octavius. Though Mark Antony and Julius Caesar had ruled different dictatorships inside what became of the Roman Empire, competition among his successor, Augustus, Antony, and Marcus Aemilius, caused Antony to commit suicide with Cleopatra in Egypt, and Aemilius was driven into exile. Augustus and his Senate formed the Roman Empire and he served as its first emperor.

R&B singer-songwriter Erykah Badu and Outkast’s Andre Benjamin welcomed son Seven Sirius in 1997. (She later welcomed daughters Puma Sabti and Mars Merkaba.) She chose Seven for her son because it’s one of the divine numbers, that cannot be divided.

David Beckham touched on the number seven’s divine properties in explaining why he and Victoria chose it for daughter Harper‘s middle name. “Seven, you know, a lot of people have assumed its just because of my shirt number that I wore for many years and part of it is because I had so much luck around wearing that number, wearing it for England, wearing it for Manchester United. It was such an influential number throughout my career and a lucky number, but that wasn’t the main reason. The other reasons behind Seven was because it symbolises spiritual perfection, the Seven Wonders Of The World, seven colours of the rainbow and in many cultures around the world it’s regarded as a lucky number.”

She was also born in the seventh month at 7:55am, weighing 7lbs. 10oz.

As a word itself, seven sounds pretty and it flows beautifully. Almost any surname that jives with the first name Kevin would work with Seven as well. But to many, the word as a name just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Similarly with most (if not all) number names, using them is generally regarded as a naming mistake, which is why only the number seven has truly picked up any speed. There are little to no baby Threes or Fours out there, but it’s a bit more common in the world of pop culture. Actress Jenna Von Oy portrayed Six MeLeure on early 90s TV show Blossom, the fast talking best friend of the titular character, and Canadian author Mordecai Richler created the popular series of children’s books, and subsequent TV series, about Jacob Two-Two – a little boy who is the youngest of five, and has to say everything twice because no one can hear him the first time. The work was said to be inspired by his then-youngest son, Jacob, born in the early 1970s.

But there are ways to pay homage to ancestry and birth order without using the number, like Octavia Sorbo. Instead of the typical John Doe III, celebs like Usher and Allen Iverson have bestowed nicknames upon their sons that reflect their birth order, while also giving them a unique moniker that isn’t shared or confused with their father. Usher Raymond V is commonly known as Cinco, which is the Spanish word for ‘five,’ and Allen Iverson, Jr. is better known as Deuce.

And whether as an informal nickname, postscript Jr., or, in the case of British reality TV stars Katie Price and Peter Andre’s son Junior Savva Andrea, 6, their given first name, Junior has grown out of a mid-20th Century surge of the moniker as a pet name. Of Latin origin, it directly identifies the child as the (usually) son of their father. It’s a Latin name meaning “the younger one.”

Even 80s actress Connie Sellecca got into the number names by calling her firstborn daughter with Entertainment Tonight host/pianist John Tesh, Prima Sellecchia. Prima is an Italian name of Latin origin meaning “first one.” (It’s also Spanish for “beginning of spring.”)

Even recent celebrity baby Clover Elizabeth McDonough was named with numbers in mind. Actor Neal McDonough’s son Morgan selected the name after the four-leaf clover, and Clover was the actor and wife Ruvé’s fourth child. And there was Natalie Portman’s son Aleph, born in June. Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which is the perfect name to honour Portman’s Jewish heritage and that Aleph is her firstborn son.

Grown-up actress Winona Ryder and country musician Wynonna Judd (whose real first name is Christina) wear the Native American Dakota name for “firstborn daughter.” Music producer Quincy Jones‘ name is English and means “fifth,” and so does its variant form, Quinton – bestowed upon the adopted son of actors Burt Reynolds and Loni Anderson in 1988. Other recognizable names with numbers behind them include Cecil, from the Welsh seissylt, meaning “sixth,” Nona, a Latin name meaning “ninth” that has permeated English and Russian modern cultures, and Dixie. Though the name has uncertain origin, some believe that the name comes from the French word dix, for “ten,” which was printed on old Louisiana dollars, but may more likely be a description for 19th Century New York farmer John Dixie‘s sprawling Long Island home. He became known as a Union friend to slaves before the civil war. As a surname, Dixie derives from Old English, from the German first name Benedict.) It’s thought to have inspired the song “Dixie’s Land,” which was the unofficial national anthem of the Confederate States of America from 1861-1865, a song which touted slavery as a preferred social institution. Though the song managed to survive its original meaning to become an American classic, with the term going on to become standard slang for a person from the American south, especially female (former Designing Women star Dixie Carter was, aptly, born in Tennessee), African Americans rightly view the song as a racist relic of American culture – but it could also be a fitting tribute to a man who believed in their freedom.

My advice? Get creative. Number names can work, but this is a category where the more creative you can be if you’re set on a Number Name is a positive thing. Do you want a junior without the Roman numerals? Do you like math, but think pi makes an awful baby name? (It does.) Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin used Trig (in North America, that’s slang for trigonometry, but in Palin’s case it’s more likely to refer to the trigger of a gun) for her youngest son in 2008. To get started, check out this incredible list of number names from all over the world over at 2000 Names. Clearly, Asian and African cultures, among others, are quite used to using numbered inspiration to name their children, and the options are plentiful.

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§ 4 Responses to Number Names

  • cleo says:

    I think Octavia is my fav. number name. There is just something about it that I love. I might feel strange about using it on the first child or any child who wasn’t number eight. But on the other hand if you wait for number eight that child might feel like you ran out of ideas and just named them the number. Other then that I love the name. It’s just so nice sounding and goes with other popular names right now like Olivia.

    • namemuststay says:

      I love to break down old-fashioned names into more modern nicknames. My full name is old-fashioned, but I’ve always been known by my nickname. I’d be willing to consider a name like Octavia if I was allowed to call her Tavi. (Tah-vee) I know I’ll never get to eight kids, though, yikes I can’t handle the thought for myself, can barely feed ME! 😉 But if she were born in August or on the eighth day, she might think it sweet!

  • cleo says:

    Ah yes using the eight as an August or eighth day reference is good. I love the name Tavi ( one of my friends growing up was named Tavi) I think that would make a lovely nickname.

  • […] I stumbled upon this great post over at My Advice about number names. It’s a subject I’ve never really covered myself […]

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