Names of the Week: Shiloh and Serena

Serena Williams in action, from

Unless you’re a Bible Scholar, it’s likely that you first heard the name Shiloh when Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt wlecomed their first daughter in May 2006. It is a classic case of a name sky rocketed into public concious because of a high profile couple giving it to their offspring. Whatever the case, the Shiloh train has predicatably moved faster in the States than in England&Wales.

In the States, Shiloh entered the Top 1000 in 2007 at #787 and peaked at #596 in 2009, followed by a fall to #620 in 2010. That’s as a female name, whilst on the male sides of things Shiloh hasn’t ranked in the Top 1000 at all for the past 100 years.

So, if we skip across the pond to England&Wales, how are things shaping up? Well, the initial reaction is quite notable if we take a look at the rankings, first table is the boys one:

  2003 2004 2005 2006
Rank 1771 1878 3208 1643
Births 8 8 4 11
  2007 2008 2009 2010
Rank 926 1085 1008 1144
Births 27 23 26 23

And then the female table:

  2003 2004 2005 2006
Rank n/a 3725 n/a 1862
Births n/a 4 n/a 12
  2007 2008 2009 2010
Rank 1073 1065 916 946
Births 27 28 36 36

So, prior to 2006 the male usage was relatively steady and higher than the female one, which went in and out of unranking altogether. In 2006 they were used equally for each gender, respectively. Perhaps even more interesting it that Shiloh remained higher for a lad in terms of ranking, and entered the Top 1000 the following year. In recent years, however, the name has picked up steam as a female name.

This does rather prompt the question, which gender do you prefer for Shiloh? I’ll admit, whilst preferring it on a male, I am still open to it’s use for a female. Either way, I like the name and it’s great to see it being used.

Now, the meaning of the name Shiloh is as grey as the gender issue. There are soucres which say the name derives from the same sources as shalom, the hebrew word for peace. Equally, the name could mean he who is sent, which references to the Messiah but this is subject to debate due to differing interpretations and translations.

Either way, it’s easier to define this week’s female name, Serena. Once more, one of the better known bearers is an American, this time the younger of the Williams sisters who have dominated female tennis in recent years.

Serena Williams has been the world no.1 five times, claiming the title for the first time in 2002 and more recently in 2009. Whilst be considered one of the best players, she is also one who suffers for her art, having to withdraw from the sport numerous times due to injury. She made a return from her most recent injury at Wimbledon 2011, but was beaten in the forth round. As a result, her world ranking dropped to the less-than-impressive #175. She’s now at #79 following her winning her first title of 2011 at Stamford, beating the player who knocked her out of Wimbledon.

As a name, Serena derives from the latin word serene, meaning tranquil. When it comes to rankings, Serena is up and down:

  2003 2004 2005 2006
Rank 292 278 276 301
Births 136 149 156 149
  2007 2008 2009 2010
Rank 373 423 359 345
Births 112 101 121 133

As you can see, in the past few years she’s dropped down in ranking and births, but has clawed back a few places since 2008.

You may think that the name Seren is the Welsh form of the name, but it infact means star. The name is hugely popular in Wales, sitting at #5 if you factor out the England rankings. Factor them in, and she sits at #137.

Categories: Names of the Week | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Names of the Week: Shiloh and Serena

  1. Awkward Turtle

    I don’t mind Shiloh on either gendar. It’s not quite my style, but it works with more daring families (like the Jolie-Pitts, I guess :p).

    I think Serena is a lovely name but something about it just seems a bit grand, maybe? I’m not quite sure.


    • I get what you mean about her being grand. For me, shorter names have always been top, I even have a three-syllable rule, whereby any name 3-syllables or longer needs to have a viable nickname I like before I’ll really let myself fall for it. Serena falls foul of this rule so I’ve never considered her seriously. Either way, she’s pretty but I can’t really ‘connect’ with her.


  2. Hmm, I must be very Bible-y as to me Shiloh is a place name, not a person name. It’s also a place where something awful happened in the Bible, so to me it doesn’t have positive connotations.

    Most people I know love the name Serena, but I can’t get excited abut it. To me it sounds a bit smug.


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