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’.