I was almost giddy with excitement over a recent news release compiled by a dedicated team in the Tenn. Dept. of Health Div. of Vital Records and Statistics. These folks are responsible for records of all births, deaths, marriages and divorces. They are busy with issuing 3,200 certificates every week of the above.
They listed the most popular girl’s names by rank along with some background info provided by my intensive 30 minute research. Most of these popular male and female names were derived from Anglo-Saxon, Norman and Germanic with a few Hebrew thrown in.
- Ava — Aveline, Ava: Girl’s name meaning, origin, and popularity. A variation of Eve. I always think of the beautiful poster of Ava Gardner the actress.
- Olivia — Latin: Oliva meaning ‘olive.’ I always think of my favorite Olive Oyl, Popeye’s girl or Olivia Newton-John, the singer or Olivia de Havilland, the actress still alive at 103 years old and nicknamed ‘Livvie.’
- Emma — Germanic word meaning “whole” or “universal.” Two famous actors you might know are Emma Thompson and Emma Stone.
- Amelia — meaning ‘work’, and connotating industriousness. Those descriptions fit perfectly with Amelia Earhart, the famous pilot lost at sea.
- Harper — English, Scottish, and Irish: occupational name for a player on the harp. A famous novelist we all should know is Harper Lee (1926-2016) who wrote ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird.’
- Charlotte — This gal name dates back to the 14th century meaning “petite” and has been popular through the ages. Famous for the name are: Princess Charlotte of Monaco and author Charlotte Bronte who wrote ‘Jane Eyre.’
- Evelyn — is also sometimes used as an Anglicization of the Irish or Aibhilín and Éibhleann. A very famous local is Evelyn Bryan Johnson (1909-2012) whom I met at the Elizabethton Airport one morning. Nicknamed “Mama Bird”, Evelyn was the female pilot with the most number of flying hours in the world. She was the founding member of the Morristown, TN Civil Air Patrol squadron.
- Elizabeth — feminine given name derived from a form of the Hebrew name Elisheva, meaning “My God is abundance”. I always think of my column subject, Queen Elizabeth II, and also Elizabeth Taylor, who had more husbands than ‘Carter’s Little Liver Pills.’
- Isabella — is the Latin form of the name Isabel, which is in turn a medieval form of the name Elizabeth, (see above) There were more Queen Isabellas than “Carter’s Little Liver Pills”.
- Ella — Brought to England by the Normans. The famous singer, Ella Fitzgerald, comes to mind.
Tennessee’s top boy’s names:
- William — Of course this is my favorite name and means ‘resolute protector’. William is the most popular name introduced to England by the Normans. William the Conqueror comes to mind. Also, William Wordsworth and President William McKinley, who unfortunately was not a resolute protector and was assassinated in his second term.
- Liam — is an Irish name and everyone knows the actor, Liam Neeson.
- Noah — (Noach) meaning “rest, repose”. Yannick Noah is a famous tennis player.
- James — A classic boys’ name derived from the Hebrew name Jacob. Famous for their names are James Woods, James Dean, James Stewart, James Earl Jones, and LeBron.
- Elijah — From the Hebrew name (‘Eliyyahu) meaning “my God is YAHWEH.” A famous Elijah most of us have never heard of is Elijah McCoy (1844-1929) a Canadian-born African American inventor and engineer who was noted for his 57 U.S. patents, most having to do with the steam engine that transformed America.
- Mason — and it has nothing to do with the jar. It is a status and occupational surname which originally described a skilled stone mason. Famous men are Mason Williams, a guitarist, Mason Dickson, TV Editor & Director, (Not the Kingsport truck company) and Mason Rudolph, Champion Pro Golfer from Clarksville, TN.
- Oliver — from the French name Olivier, meaning olive tree, which itself comes from the Latin ‘olivarius’. Oliver Twist was a famous child who roamed the streets of London within a novel. Also a person who puts toothpicks through olives for dirty martinis.
- John — The name John is a boy’s name of Hebrew origin meaning “God is gracious,” Famous Johns include John Wayne, the actor, John Legend, singer, and John Lennon a Beatle. Like everything else the toilet name was derived in England. We can blame a lot on the English.
- Wyatt — the medieval male personal name found as “Wiot, Wyot and Gyo and since 1880 became popular. The most famous was Wyatt Earp, who shot up the OK Corral.
- Jackson — is a common surname of English and Scottish origin. Some famous folks named Jackson are: Jackson Browne, Andy Jackson, Bo Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson and a town in Tennessee.