Author Archives: Lou




Here’s the thing, I had a hard time choosing the final name to cover this week. There were plenty of fantastic names, but none that really felt like ‘the one’. In the end, I’ve gone with what could be considered a compromise choice, but one with plenty of fascinating things to say about her.

The first four names we’ve covered this week are ones you’d probably be somewhat surprised to meet someone with such a name, but Bryony is a name that enjoyed a reasonable amount of popularity in the 90s in England&Wales – enough that you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at meeting one.

But maybe you might be unlikely to meet a younger Bryony as in 2013 the name ranked at a lowly #1075 (with Briony faring not much better at #1707). The name Briony peaked at #334 in 2000, whilst Bryony peaked at #129 in 1996. Technically, this doesn’t make the name all that ‘offbeat’, however, whilst the name enjoyed Top 200 popularity in her Bryony form in the 90s – she still remains pretty unused elsewhere.

Now, a note on the spelling – as both are valid. Bryony is the usual spelling for the plant, with Briony a common enough variant. Another spelling, Bryonie, last ranked in 2011, and peaked at #1107 in 1999.

The Bryony plant – usually called Bryonia – is a type of vine native to Europe, which may explain her absence of use elsewhere in the English-speaking world. The name for the plant ultimately comes from the Greek bryo, meaning to swell. Growing up, I remember seeing Bryony in hedgerows whilst driving through the countryside.

Bryony’s heyday was certainly the 80s/90s, although she’s been in the British naming lexicon since at least the Victorian times. One of the most notable uses of the name is for the lead character in Atonement by Ian McEwan – a girl born in the early 1920s Britain. What’s notable is the the book was released in 2001, right near the end of Bryony’s heyday – although Mr McEwan used the less popular spelling of Briony for his character. Then there’s Bryony Shaw, born in the early 80s, who won a bronze at the 2008 Olympics in windsurfing.

These days, you could consider fellow nature name Brooke to have filled the gap left by Bryony, as she was climbing whilst Bryony was falling. Brooke currently ranks at #67, falling from her peak of #39 in 2009.

In the end, what you have with Bryony is a lovely floral name, sadly past her heyday, but since she never cracked the Top 100,she never fell foul of being ‘overused’.

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Going into day two of Week B, we’re looking at a place name local to my old stomping ground of Nottingham.

The village of Brinsley lies in the south-west part of Nottinghamshire, these days split into Old Brinsley and New Brinsley, with each belonging to a different parliamentary constituency. Old Brinsley lies in my old constituency, Broxtowe, which was a strong contender to feature this week, eventually losing out to Brinsley.

So I’ll make a quick mention of it now: the name Broxtowe is formed of two parts, and the second is a common place name suffix: stow, which is of Old English origins and simply means place. The first part derives from the Old English name Brocul, which unlike Broxtowe, does not survive to these days. If you’re looking for a quirky name with an oh-so-fashionable x, feel free to consider Broxtowe.

As for the name Brinsley, he is formed of a combination of two Old English elements:

  • brun, meaning brown
  • leah, meaning meadow

The name Brinsley shares his second half with many popular names of yesterday: think the likes of Ashley, Bradley and Stanley. These days, Stanley has made a resurgent into the Top 100, ranking at #70 in 2013, whilst Ashley has fallen from #40 to #288 (on the female side, Ashley currently ranks at #519) and Bradley fell out of the Top 100 in 2011.

The name can also be spelled Brynsley, and I do actually know a lad who bears the name spelled this way; he shortens it to Bryn. The name Bryn is Welsh name that means hill that ranks at #804 for lads.

Aside from that, you’re unlikely to meet a Brinsley or Brynsley, as the name fails to rank for either gender. At this point it’s worth making a reference to Bingham, another town which lies in Nottinghamshire, and think of the boost in interest that name got when Matt Bellamy and Kate Hudson chose it for their son born in 2011. However, I concede that it didn’t particularly translate into people actually using the name Bingham, with only 12 uses of the name recorded in the US in 2013.

What you get with Brinsley is a name that might have won fans in the time of Bradley and Ashley (i.e. the 90s, which explains why I know one), but these days might not be what parents are looking for.

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I’ve been a fan of the How To Train Your Dragon books since I was gifted the first book many, many Christmases ago. So, naturally, I was excited for the DreamWorks film franchise, and whilst a little bit horrified that my favourite character from the books (a girl named Camicazi) was replaced, I am mostly satisfied with the films because I see them as being inspired by the books, rather than an adaptation of them. Although it remains a shame that they’ve totally cast aside the King’s Lost Things storyline, which I think of as a better executed Horcrux plotpoint.

Where I’m going with this is that whilst in the books the characters have pretty ludicrous names such as Big-Boobied Bertha, Madguts the Murderous and Norbert the Nutjob, the film has brought in some fantastic Nordic-inspired names such as Astrid, Valka, Drago and Eret. And as a name nerd, I appreciate the touch.

Today’s name that we have kicking off Week B doesn’t feature in the films, but I think she’d fit right in as she’s another Nordic-inspired pick. She’s also a sound-alike to the ever popular name Freya.

But they’re not just sound-alikes, as Brynja shares Scandinavian roots with Freya; she comes from Old Norse and means armour. The name Freya also comes from Norse mythology, where she is the name of the goddess of love, beauty, war and death. As for meaning, Freya is decidedly more feminine: she means lady.

The name Freya is another one of those names that have been inside the Top 100 since what seems like forever (also known as 1998), so that means there are a lot of teenaged-to-little Freya’s running around England&Wales. Right now, the name Freya ranks at #20. On top of the many Freyas, there are a few little girls with the name Freyja and Freja, as the names rank at #699 and #1220, respectively.

This is all whilst the name Brynja fails to rank at all in England&Wales. However, it is worth noting that she ranks highly in Iceland: #48 in 2012, which makes a certain amount of sense given that Icelandic parents have a deep love of Scandinavian names.

The name Brynja is said how most would hopefully presume: BRIN-yah. Some may wonder whether the ‘-ja’ would cause problems, but names like Sonja and Freja seem to have little issue when compared to Sonya and Freya. Of course, there is the potential to simply respell as Brynya, if you so wish, although I think she looses some of her Scandinavian charm.

In the end, what you have with Brynja is a quirky Scandinavian pick that works as an alternative to Freya.

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Sibset of the Week: The Dumbledores

As played by Richard Harris, via

As played by Richard Harris, via

It was originally my plan to resurrect this series of posts with today’s edition, but I got impatient last week and slipped in an extra post. However, I’m very much aware that the sibset series of posts were a favourite read of many, and it’s been on my agenda to properly resurrect it for long enough now, but until this week I’ve never seen a more apt opportunity as a finale to a week of A names.

The idea for this post came about whilst I was brainstorming Week A, as a certain family came to mind that I couldn’t not talk about as it features a trio of fabulous A names that I could’ve easily talked about. As you’ll have noted from the post’s title, we’re talking about the Dumbledores.

For those who don’t know, the Dumbledores hail from the fictional world of Harry Potter, where the eldest – Albus – is one of the central adult characters. He mentions his brother from time to time throughout the series (often alluding to his apparent lesser intellect), but it’s only in the final installment of the series that we also hear about a sister.

Their names ?

Albus Percival Wulfric Brian



Whilst all three names share a first letter, they all hail from different languages. The first, Albus, comes from Latin and means white/pure. Brother Aberforth instead hails from the Welsh language and means from the river, whilst sister Ariana comes from the Greek name Ariadne, thus means most holy.

Of the three names, only Ariana ranks in England&Wales: in 2013 she was given to 282 babes and attained the rank of #186. I’m calling it now that within the next five years Ariana could really be a contender for the Top 100, as she’s has a particularly meteoric rise in the past three years (#332 in 2011, #233 in 2012).

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We finish Week A with another old name that I think seriously needs a second look at.

The similarity between Auberon and Oberon is notable, and the pair are almost certainly linked. The name Oberon is a literary one – coming from A Midsummer’s Night Dream, where the character of Oberon was the king of the fairies. The name is also celestial, as one of the moon’s of Uranus has been dubbed Oberon.

Probably one of the most noted pieces of TV this year is the fight between Prince Oberyn Martell and Ser Gregor Clegane on HBO’s Game of Thrones. I remember sitting in the kitchen when my friend’s upstairs were watching it together, and hearing a collective 5-person scream that marked the climax of the fight. Prince Oberyn Martell is probably one of the more famed uses of the name in the media at the moment.

The name Auberon derives from Alberich, a name which derives from two Germanic elements:

  • alfi, which means elf
  • ric, which means ruler

Hence, the name means king of the elfs, which is a mighty fine name meaning if I do say so myself.

As well as relations with Oberon the name Auberon is also related to Aubrey, whom also derives from Alberich. These days, you’re more likely to meet an Aubrey of either gender than an Auberon, with the name ranking at #850 for the girls and #959 for the boys in England&Wales in 2013, whereas Auberon ranks at #3822. In fact, if you meet a girl called Aubrey, she might just be spelling it as Aubree, which with a rank of #750, outranks Aubrey. This is a marked change from when in 2012, the names shared a rank of #1253.

It’s also worth noting that if you go to the USA, the chances of meeting a little girl named Aubrey is quite high as in 2013 the name ranked as high as #18, and #52 if spelled Aubree.

With the name Auberon you have a name that holds his own charms, despite these days been completely overshadowed by his more famous cousins. He’s a little bit quirky, but fabulous in his own rights with a meaning that kinda rocks.

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Today we’re looking to the literary world, specifically Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queen (1590), which uses both Arthegal and Artegal spellings of the name.

In the works, Sir Arthegal is a knight of the Queene, and he is trained by Astraea to be the champion of True Justice. During the course of the tale he meets Britomart dressed as a knight and defeats her in a swordfight, before falling in love with her. He also has a trusty companion in the form of Talus, who spends his days pursuing and killing any number of villains. A painting by John Hamilton Mortimer, named Sir Arthegal, the Knight of Justice, with Talus, the Iron Man (from Spenser’s ‘Faerie Queene’) depicts the two together, and can been seen in the Tate.

Where I think this name will find his fans is with those looking for something like Arthur, but not Arthur. If you’re a member of that select group, you’re in luck. The name Arthur has been in the England&Wales Top 100 since 2009, and continues to climb: in 2013, he ranked at #43, whereas Arthegal / Artegal / Arthegall does not rank.

The name Arthur has a fierce debate surrounding him as to his origins. I’m just going to run you through the possibilities, then feel free to pick your favourite.

The name Arthur could derive from Artorius, a name from Roman times. He could also come from Arcturus, the name of the third brightest star in the night sky after Sirius and Canopus; this name derives from the Greek arktos, meaning bear, and ouros, meaning guardian. Put together, the meaning of Arcturus is guardian of the bear.

As for the origins of the name Arthegal, it’s another topic for debate; some link the name to Ardghal, an Irish name meaning high valour, but I remain sceptical.

Either way, Arthegal remains an alluring literary choice without certain origins that joins the likes of Caspian, Gawain and Percival.

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We continue our week with a name who really seems like she should be popular – but isn’t.

First glance at Anelie and you can’t not draw comparisons to the current (2013) England&Wales top name: Amelia; especially when you consider Amelia’s french form of Amelie is only one letter different. But that one letter is all it takes. Whilst Amelie is riding off the curtails of Amelia, ranking at #52 in 2013, the name Anelie is not only a non-ranker, but a never-ranker, also. In my mind, that more than qualifies her for this series of offbeat names, since she’s so like such popular names – yet barely used in her own right.

The name Amelia first hit the top spot for girls in England&Wales in 2011, and speculation has it that her rise in popularity is due to Doctor Who companion Amelia ‘Amy’ Pond. Despite almost 1500 less girls being given the name in 2013, the name Amelia remains at the top spot.

Whilst both Amelia and Anelie share roots in the Germanic language, they do not share a common root. The name Amelia derives from the Germanic name Amala, which means work. Anelie on the other hand is a German diminutive of Anneliese; the name Anneliese is a combination of two names :

  • Anna. She comes from the Hebrew name Channah, and means gracious.
  • Liese. A Dutch and German diminutive of Elisabeth, who means my God is my oath.

Whilst the name Anelie herself does not rank, two slightly different respellings of her do (albeit not spectacular high up):

  • Annelie. Not only a German diminutive of Anneliese, but also Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. She ranks at #4050.
  • Anneli. A Finnish diminutive of Anna (not Anneliese) who ranks at #4739.

When it comes to nicknames, the obvious choices are Annie and Nell, who both enjoy reasonable mainstream success, ranking at #125 and #345, respectively. That lends a familiarity to the name.

I think the big thing that might hold people back from using Anelie is a worry that people will want to try to correct your babes names to Amelie. I think it’s a moot point, since only the other day I was on the phone to Virgin Media, and the customer services man decided that Louis suited me better than Lucy. Since I was more concerned with sorting out my broadband contract, I didn’t bother correcting him, although it’s bemusing to think that even my former Top 10 name can be misheard. But that could just be my accent, more than anything.

At the end of the day, Anelie remains an intriguing name that is desperately underused. If we can find it in our hearts to love the likes of Amelie and Amelia en masse, then surely there’s a place for Anelie, also.

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Yesterday we kicked off Week A with a name I’ve been pining to cover for a long time, whereas today we’re looking instead at a name that’s only very recently crossed my radar: Aveza.

And the use of the word airship appears apt, given that I came across this name via an airship called Dev Aveza, which you can mod into the game Skyrim.

The name Aveza might remind you of Ava, who ranked at #4 in England&Wales in 2013. And you’d be right to think of her, as the names are linked. Well, if you’re looking at the right origin of Ava, that is, for Ava has several.

The first is that if you meet an Iranian Ava, chances are she’ll tell you her name comes from Persian and means voice or sound, which she more than entitled to claim.

But you’re more likely to meet an Ava in the English-speaking world, for which the name has a few possible origins. The first is that Ava is a variant of the name Eve, a name which means life. However, it is the other possible origin which links Ava to Aveza: the name comes from Germanic origins, specifically from the Germanic element avi, which possibly means desired. The name Aveza is an Old Germanic name, also said to be derived from avi, hence the strenuous link between the two names.

Ava and Aveza are not the only names to derives from avi, either. The name Avice came over to England with the Normans, and it was occasionally used throughout the Middle Ages. Over time and with influence from the Latin word avis, meaning bird, the usual spelling became Avis, although in the modern world both Avice and Avis fail to rank in England&Wales.

The name Aveza, however, would make for a certainly unusual pick in today’s modern world, but I reckon with the likes of Ava, Eva and Evie all chilling in and around the Top 100, she pairs recognisable sounds with a pretty zippy ending.

And you could also consider the nickname Avie, who unlike Aveza, ranks #2313. The name Evie, who ranks at #14, also remains a nickname option if you’re looking for something more mainstream to compliment Aveza’s offbeat-ness.

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Welcome to the first post of many in our Offbeat Alphabet Series, and we’re starting with a name I’ve been dying to properly cover for a very long time. This is a case of a draft sitting in my pending pile for an embarrassing number of years (basically when this blog started way back on Blogger in May 2010, that’s over 4 years).

It seems apt then that I kick the procrastination bucket and actually post this. So, hello Artemis. Hope your wait wasn’t too much of a bore.

The name Artemis is a Greek name with a disputed meaning and a side-line gender crisis. So, naturally, I’m a huge fan.

When most hear the name Artemis, they likely think of the Greek goddess who presided over hunting, the moon, childbirth, wilderness, virginity and maidens. According to legend, she’s the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and has a twin brother by the name of Apollo. She is often depicted wearing a crescent moon on her head, and always carries her bow and arrow. Deer, bears, hunting dogs, and cypress trees are especially sacred to her.

In Roman Mythology, she was known as Diana. This lead some to speculate that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge might use Artemis as a middle name for a daughter to honour his mother. Personally, I feel it’s more likely that they’d simply use Diana.

It may seem odd that a Greek goddess’ name might be used as a male name, but there’s precedence for it, never mind the fact that two of the most prominent pop culture uses of the name are male.

For example, the Greek goddess Demeter is the source of the name Demetrius. Then we have the fact that Marie remains a note-worthy middle name for the male population of France (think: Jean-Marie, Philippe-Marie), as a nod to the Virgin Mother.

A few months back I introduced a close friend to the anime show Sailor Moon. The show is based on the manga which is considered one of the defining works of the genre for it’s depiction of kick ass girls with magical powers using said powers to fight evil. Despite this, my friend was unimpressed with the amount of crying the titular character does, and much preferred Cardcaptor Sakura. However, he was a huge fan of the feline characters, who in the English translation are all given names related to the moon: Luna, Artemis and Diana. The cats can talk and dish out guidance to the troupe throughout the series; Artemis is a male cat, not female.

Outside of Japanese manga, the most famed use of Artemis in the UK is in children’s literature. The Artemis Fowl series of books are written by Eoin Colfer and first came to a good bookstore near you back in 2001, and the last one is made it’s début in 2012. The series of books has been compared to Harry Potter – but Mr. Colfer prefers for the series to be referred to as Die Hard With Fairies.

Artemis Fowl revolves around the antics of a teenage mastermind by the name of Artemis – a male teenage mastermind. It may seem odd to those with preconceptions that Artemis is a female name – the character himself mentions the gender dispute a few times – but Artemis was good enough to be given to one of Alex James’ twin sons. During the books, Artemis takes on an alter-ego named Orion, who is almost his exact opposite – notably being carefree and optimistic. Artemis was the Greek goddess of hunting, whilst Orion is the name of a legendary Greek hunter.

Despite all this talk of Artemis’ dude-cred, the name in 2013 only ranked for girls born in England&Wales at #1639. The Russian/Ukrainian/Belarusian name Artem, which traces it’s origins back to Artemis, ranked at #1539 for the boys. However, with a film adaption of the Artemis Fowl books in the pipeline, all that could change.

As for the origins of the name, it is possible that the name stems from the Greek: artemêse, meaning safe; artamos, meaning butcher; artios, meaning complete; artemia meaning recovery; or even arktos, meaning bear. Suffice to say, it’s pure speculation when it comes to the meaning as, with many aged names, this one’s is long lost with the passage of time.

A similar name to Artemis is Artemas, sometimes touted as the male form of Artemis, he actually derives as a short form of Artemidorus; he means gift of Artemis.

What you have with Artemis is an ancient Goddess name which in this day and age could work for either gender and as long as you’re not bothered by not knowing what exactly the name means, you’re sure to appreciate him/her.

Categories: The Offbeat Alphabet Series | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The Offbeat Alphabet Series

OffBeat Alphabet

Today I’d like to announce a forthcoming series of posts to come to the blog that should keep me busy for the rest of the year (and probably well into the next), which I’m entitling The Offbeat Alphabet Series of posts. Due to my keen ability to name series of posts, you should already have an idea about what this entails.

Each letter will have an entire week devoted to it, however, due to my pretty hectic schedule coming up I can’t promise these will be consecutive weeks, there will be gaps. Also, I’ll probably want to post about other things and space it out to ensure the usual eclectic mix of variety you’ve all become accustomed to on this blog.

During the week I’ll post about various names starting with the letter of the week, which I’ve classed as offbeat and interesting enough to have a little said about them.


For the purposes of the series, I’m classifying offbeat as names either pretty unique to the England&Wales demographic (i.e. Freya, Seren) or names who’ve never been within the Top 200 of England&Wales since 1996.


My other half hails from a family where it’s a thing to name newborns after a deceased relative. I’m mostly okay with this for the simple reason that they just use first letters, rather than the actual name. For those who don’t know, the use of family names is hugely controversial in my own family due to a (my grandmother’s especially) firm belief that children should get their own name, because yay individuality.

However, the short of it is that I’ve been musing a lot about quirky names that share a first letter with various family members, and from that the idea for this series was born as I came across many delightful, hardly used gems that I couldn’t not share.

Sharing those gems and others begins on Monday as Week A kicks off, and then finishes up with the triumphant return of Sibset of the Week series.

Categories: The Offbeat Alphabet Series | 2 Comments

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